Published: August 25th 2012August 25th 2012
I have just recently celebrated a year here in the Colombian Amazon
, and what a year it has been. There have been a lot of great moments and a lot of absolutely terrible ones. But if you asked me would I do it all again I would say yes in a heart beat.
I came to the Amazon with the hope of starting an ecotoursim business. The year prior I had scouted out possible locations and came across the native community of San Martin. Here I met a couple that were looking to transform their camping ground into more of a lodge, however they didn't have the funds nor the know how to go about doing it. I immediately realized that this could work out perfectly for me so I proposed we work together and that was the starting point for this enterprise. I arrived in July of 2011 and right away went to work with them building the washrooms, the cabin, the dining room and the kitchen. I bought a boat to transport myself and materials and despite the fact that I was spending and not generating income I was hopeful, but as the months went by and this continued I began to worry and as the costs continued to increase with no tourists on the horizon I really became stressed. It is not the most enjoyable situation in the world to have worked for 5 months and spent X amount of dollars and still not know when you will start to make something back on your investment. Fortunately when I was feeling totally done I got invited on a 3 week vacation with no cost to me. It was nothing fancy but it was enough to refuel my motivation.
The New Year brought new hope and finally my first tourists. And since then I have had a group almost every month funds have still been tight but it has been at least I knew I wasn't going to starve. However this year has brought a ton of its own stresses and some from last year have replayed themselves out as well.
The tropics have their own lovely set of illnesses and many of them are transmitted by biting insects. Unfortunately for me I seem to attract any mosquito or other blood thirsty bug in the vicinity and so it was just a matter of time before I was infected with something. When there was an outbreak of Dengue fever I knew that I was going t o get sick and it wasn't long before I was in bed, in pain and hoping that I wasn't going to have hemorrhaging which is a common symptom of the disease. Fortunately that never happened and it was just a matter of putting up with 4 days of pain. The next 2 times that I got infected with the disease it was the same. So by the end of the year I had had dengue 3 times and my only other serious medical incident was when I had to manually free an otter from a fisherman’s net and he decided to bite me repeatedly resulting in some nasty infections. But I survived 2011, with some new scars but in good health and good spirits.
2012 started off well, work and continued progress at the lodge however things in April took a strong turn for the worse. It began with the theft of my boat, a large economic loss and an emotional blow as I had become attached to this vehicle that had provided me so much freedom, Soon after my bike was stolen. Within a couple weeks I had a number of disagreements with the native couple I was working with, which got to the point that we almost severed times which would have meant the end of my business. Not long after I had my first run in with Malaria after spending some time on the Brazilian side of the Amazon. I found Malaria much more frightening than Dengue, you feel terrible with Dengue but you don't feel like your life is in danger. Malaria on the other hand definitely gave me that feeling. My fever went so high that I became delirious and incoherent. However after 6 days of being sick I was quickly back on my feet. A month went by and I again got sick, this time though the symptoms were not typical of Malaria nor where they typical of Dengue. High fevers, chills which racked my body for hours at a time and a total lack of energy could be indicative of a few diseases but the way they were presenting themselves was not typical of any. After a few tests the reason became evident. I wasn't sick with just one disease, I had Malaria and Dengue at the same time. So after about 2 weeks of feeling sick and a month of treatment I was finally 100%.
Despite the many trials this year has been incredibly satisfying. For the first time in my life I am applying myself totally to something. I have had the chance to see my vision made reality. I have gotten to see an incredible amount of wildlife with still a ton left to see. I have lived more experiences in this last year than many people do in 10. Regardless of what the future holds for my business it has been worthwhile and the future seems to hold better things to come.