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Published: August 26th 2011
So, after 4 months in Colombia, I have finally left the country, reluctantly. I did not think that I’d enjoy one country to the extent that I could imagine doing business or even living there for a while. I was sceptic at first, very aware of safety issues and so on. G showed us the family life of uncles, aunts and the holy Easter week celebrations in Popayan. This was a great time. Mainly because everyone was so hospitable and interested in G’s international friends. We were served fabulous Colombian food, made fresh juices, driven around to see the best local attractions and viewing points, bars and what have you. It was a great time. And with G as our local Colombia guide, we were ensured to be given the best prices for all things.
Once we got to Santa Marta and it became apparent Max could work in the Brisa Loca hostel and I had found work with Fundacion Mariposas Amarillas, things fell into place. Who would have thought we’d stay for 3 months? For the first couple weeks G was still there with us before heading back to his family. This time, to me, seems AAAges ago! I still remember the first weekend, the 2 year anniversary of the Brisa Loca, where everyone got onto a hired Party Chiva Bus, a bus with simple wooden benches, blinking party dancefloor, loud, blasting music, people dancing on the roofs and so on. It’s a Colombian classic – in Cali they even have Live Bands on the roof. The bus then normally drives through town with all guests dancing aboard to the music! We went to the beach that day with all you can drink in Rum and Coke! What a brilliant memory!
For me there have been 2 very different phases of Santa Marta. The first was characterised by living in the Brisa Loca hostel, Max working at the bar and a lot of great people living in the hostel and working with me in the foundation. Liz and Ric, Gemma, Susie, Clinton, Nathalia, Max, Ollie, Robbie, Finn and Phil and Claudi and many many more. It was a great atmosphere – everyone got along perfectly and there was a lot of drinking and going out involved, if it was a Tuesday or a Saturday night, the routine of downing Rum and Cokes for Brisa’s happy hour was the same. This was a very cool time, as I think we both made actual real friends and often people would sit on the hostel roof together after hours and Clinton and Robbie would play the guitar and all others would sing along!
In the 2nd Phase of Santa Marta, after the above people had all left, the crowd changed too. Jana left for a few weeks, and new people like Mae, Renee and Daniella, Lina, Pippa.. arrived. It was a new crowd. Although we still went out, it was a different feel. People were very passionate about our work. Not that this wasn’t the case before, but I was impressed by the amount of thought, planning, passion and effort that went into everyone’s job in the foundation. Weekly meetings, agendas, writing annual plans, producing and selling T Shirts, coordinating volunteers, writing complete sex ‘ed classes in Spanish, yet always volunteering to help someone out although they had too much work to do themselves and so on. Everyone did such a great, difficult job yet was in such good spirits that I can, looking back, say that I don’t think I have ever worked in a more supportive, better team in my life. Despite managing a huge amount of work, we all had an amazing time and became really good friends. Also we hung out a bit more with people actually living in Santa Marta, which was a great experience and makes me even sadder that we’ve left now.
Yet once these great people, one by one, started to leave, Max and me also, felt that maybe it was time to go. We had seen Santa Marta and it’s beautiful surroundings like Minka, Costeno Beach Surf Camp, Los Angeles Beach, Palomino, Playa Concha, Taganga and many other things. We had a fabulous couple of goodbye parties and finally jumped on the Night Bus to Bucaramanga.
Before this however, in typical CLaudi style, we had a ‘surprise visit’ from my land lady whose apartment I have lived in together with Lina, Mae and Pippa over the last month. She was very nasty saying the apartment was a mess and we still owed her a huge amount for bills (completely unreasonable amount) and that she is disappointed how people she thought had a good heart and work for a foundation could turn out so nasty and just leave without paying and fuck over nice Colombians. Needless to say that this is not what we were trying to do. When asked if she had any actual bills supporting that the amount she askes for is legitimate, she said no. In the end, we had to call the police and escort her of the premises. This was not exactly how I imagined my last couple of hours in Santa Marta, but hey.
In Bucaramanga, our first stop after leaving, we stayed in the KGB Hostel, a beautiful spot to chill and enjoy, and met Richie, the owner. He also was friends with Ryan and Evan from the Brisa Loca as well as Molly and Nacho from El Santo. We tried ourselves in Paragliding there too. Max thought it was boring, I think I might have found a new hobby. I thought it was really good fun and also there are competitions in which, almost like a treasure hunt, you have to get to different places as quickly as possible, over a distance of 100km and do different tasks/ challenges at each, like slalom and so on. Definitely want to do it again! In contrast to what I thought before though, it is really relaxed in the air and you feel safe. We did a few tricks and had a few turbulences which added the necessary adrenaline kick. Awesome!
Max and myself then went on to San Gil, where we knew the owners of the El Dorado hostel, who took us on a Caving and Abseiling trip the next day. I don’t think I realized what I had signed up for. We actually went down a proper, narrow, pitch black, scary cave. You had to squeeze through holes, walk over ‘black holes’ that seemed to have no bottom to them, swim in cold clay water in the dark and were surrounded by bats. Whoever has seen the movie ‘The Descent’ can remotely imagine the amount of fear I was in. Anyway, I did it. Once back out, I could relax again...only to be thrown into the Abseiling bit of the trip. We went down backwards 40m high waterfalls with nothing but a rope. Since we’d done that before in Ecuador I knew that they look scary from above, but once you’re doing it, it’s actually really good fun. Apart from that we spent our days cycling and relaxing together.
We then went further down to Sogamoso, where we wanted to stay in XXXX , however, once we got there we found that it was rather empty AND they did not offer the volunteer a couple of hours and stay with us for free deal anymore..which is kind of why we came in the first place. Instead we visited the highest vineyard in world and tried some fabulous glasses there.
We were initially going to join this Shaman ceremony, that was on the following weekend near Bogota. The Shaman, the oldest in the Amazonian region, was going to give his last ‘audience’ so to speak in this weekend event. The only thing though was that we would have had to do it with this Colombian from the above Hostel in Sogamoso. Although he was nice, he was kind of strange too. H
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