What Goes Arriba, Must Come Abajo…

As I sit in my kitchen, fingers suspended over laptop keys, I have paralyzing a thought. 9/10 a sequel is never as good as the first go ‘round… Oh well! Here’s my attempt to make tonight’s waxing gibbous blue.

To my fellow millennials (and Disney lovers alike) I ask you to think back to your childhood and remember the opening scene of the Emperor’s New Groove. A deject Kuzco is sitting in the middle of an undisclosed tropical forest, rain pouring down, there’s an unforeseeable number of miles that separates him from home, and to top it off he’s completely unsure of the path that will lead him home. Basically he’s an all-out sorry sack. Well make that undisclosed tropical location the top of the Andes Mountains and you’ve got me.

Just like Kuzco, allow me to back up. About a week ago, my brother Alex and I traveled to Colombia (not South Carolina) to visit our cousin Sam. He has been living and teaching English there for the past year. In all we spent time in Medellin, Jardín, and Cartagena. This particular predicament occurred in Jardín. Against the warning of the three 90’s sirens of pop, Alex, Sam, five of Sam’s friends, and myself decided to go chasing waterfalls, specifically “La Cueva Del Esplendor” or “The Cave of Splendor.” This is a waterfall that flows through the middle of a cave, on top of a mountain. Now that’s what I call a triple threat. Seriously, how freaking cool is nature!? Unfortunately she’s an elusive little devil. Thank the lord Sam and the others were Spanish-speaking greengos* or else we would have been stuck up a mountain without a paddle… or something like that.

Any woozle, I’m getting ahead of myself again. We were told the promised land was a three hour hike up the mountain. Even though I’m a born and raised beach girl, MANY a family vacation growing up consisted of packing the minivan, heading west, and hiking the NC Mountains. In my naive little mind, I thought “three hour hike? No problem.” Spoiler alert: I was wrong.    DSC_0721
8am, the journey begins annnd five minutes after we got to stepping we popped a u-ey and backtracked towards (what we thought) was the right direction. To those who know me all too well, I know what you are thinking. No, I was not leading our bumbling brigade. (Rita Serra fun fact: My sense of direction never developed. I am actually so bad with directions I once was on the way to visit a friend in the hospital, put the correct address in my GPS, yet I managed to end up at the wrong hospital. Double the fun fact: you probably shouldn’t ever use me as your emergency contact either.)
10:30 am, About five wrong turns, one bonus waterfall, and an attempt to forge our own path later, we finally embarked on the correct path. I can’t say for certain if this is the path less traveled, but it is definitely not the path most easily traveled. Y’all this trail is a relentless rocky incline trail that snakes up the mountain at a menacing grade. With every bend my heart sank inversely proportional to the continusly rising path. Steeper, and steeper we trudged. Meanwhile my calves, hamstrings, and glutes were having a contest to see who could scream the loudest, by the end it was undoubtedly a three way tie. Not to mention somebody turned the sun on full blast that morning. Being in a country that touches the equator, talk about a sticky situation. Along the path we passed markers, but instead of colored splotches dabbed on trees, this path was marked by 3 foot neon crosses. Definitively puts a whole new spin on walking the straight and narrow. I found this particularly ironic because in this predominantly Catholic country, many people probably travel this path in order to get closer to God. Meanwhile I’m huffing and puffing and thinking to myself, “ohh God, oh God when will this end?”

As much as it sounds like we subjected ourselves to cruel and unusual punishment, I promise it wasn’t all bad. Every time I stopped for a breather it became increasingly difficult because the view took away what little breath I had left.

DSC_0776A lot of people say it’s not good to walk around with your head in the clouds, but if you ask me it’s exactly where I want to be.

DSC_0767Along the way we passed goats, and dogs, and cows, Oh… mud pie? To the left we have Alex and Totes (what I named my goat, get it?) After a while we found ourselves in an open field with no cave in sight. Not exactly a field of dreams. Normally I am a fan of endless possibilities, however just not when that applies to ways of getting lost. Luckily a cow header happened to pass by, so with a yell of directions and a quick shimmy under an electric fence we were back on the road again. 

Six hours after we began; I am tired, I am sweaty, and I am not sure if my skin is burnt, flushed, or halfway in between, BUT none of that mattered because we found the falls! Oh and did I mention the last 5 minutes of the walk was a muddy decent with ropes tied to the trees as handrails to keep us from slipping to our deaths. So was it worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely!

DSC_0794We splashed around until my legs went numb. Around the base of the falls the sheer power of the pounding water was so great it literally took my breath away. Nothing like being humbled by nature.
Well play time lasted about 20 minutes then it was time for the climb down because oh yeah, we had a bus to catch. However, the good vibes quickly dulled as thunder began to roll in. Life tip: the winds of change will always shift, but that doesn’t mean they will blow in your favor. On the walk up I gladly would have done a rain dance if I knew one (and had any energy to spare.) Now with dripping wet hair and damp clothes, we had our wind, rain, and lighting too. Oh what fun…

Alright now that I have caught y’all up on the rising action, we are back to the point where this post began. 

The rest of our ragged crew seemed to muster a second wind, but for Alex, Nic, and myself our second wind was more akin to a stale puff. Just as I was contemplating putting all the wilderness skills I learned from Girl Scouts to use and living off the side of the mountain, the fates smiled us. (Good thing too becasue the last two years I was only in it for the cookies.) We happened upon the tiniest of ranches complete with horses. Nic acted as our liaison and for a mere 20 mil ($6.00) our saving grace came in the form of four legs. After ten minutes, the rain passed and the three of us saddled up. Oh what a difference a ride makes. I could now fully enjoy the magnificent view, you know without the sweat from my brow blurring my vision.

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To put in perspective how grueling this hike truly was, halfway through the ride Nic, whose idea it was to ride the horses, tells me “I’m very allergic to horses, I took a Claritin this morning, but it’s not really helping” Y’all this girl risked her throat closing on the side of a mountain just so she didn’t have to walk back down, we were THAT TIRED. (Fear not everyone makes it out of this story alive.) About 45 minutes later we made it to another ranch. The owner told us this was where we hopped off and a car would take us the rest of the way back to town. Lo and behold it just so happened as were arriving so was the rest of our crew. As we were sitting on the side of the road feasting on peanuts and taking stock of our bug bites an empty banana truck pulled up. Sam jokingly motioned for us to hop in, in return they gave us a sincere head nod. Without hesitation, we scrambled into the back of the truck, the engine fired, and suddenly we were off! On a wild and bumpy ride laughing all the way like kids at an amusement park. I’m sure we were quite the sight for sore eyes when we reached town. Picturing us mud tracked, dust stamped gringos climbing out of the back of an empty banana truck still makes me chuckle. 

Eight hours after our voyage began we finally made it back. I learned an important lesson that day: just because what goes up must come down, doesn’t mean you have to take the same ways and means to get back. I have plenty more to say about Colombia (and I will) but I think this post has rambled on long enough. With that, I will bid y’all a buenas noches, but first a word from one of my favorite authors:

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ~Jack Kerouac

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*Greengo: a term used in Latin America or Spain to refer to a foreigner, especially one of U.S. or British descent

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