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The Life of a Sufi

The Desert Winds of Cabo

COLOMBIA | Monday, 5 October 2015 | Views [590]

She always wears the same checked blue dress.  Her name is Rosasila and she’s eight years old.  She lives with her grandmother, Conchita, and her bed-ridden great grandmother.  I don't ask where her parents are.  Perhaps like many indigenous Waayu people, they've left to find work in Uribia.  It's the closest city on the other side of the desert in La Guajira, a three hour drive from where Rosasila lives in Cabo de la Vela, in the north-east of Colombia.

Rosasila is a happy child and her play mates are chickens, cats and stray dogs.  The Caribbean sea laps the shore a thirty second walk from her family home.  Like many kids her age, she’s innocently unaware of her future, yet determined enough to know that she doesn’t want to go to school.  With or without an education, Rosasila’s future will likely be different from Conchita’s.  But what won’t change are the winds, salt and sand that blow constantly across the bay.  They’re a part of life here and what these fierce winds bring are tourism and money. 

For adventure seekers, Cabo is becoming a hotspot for kite and windsurfing.  So in its ramshackle village centre, you'll find dotted around a few surf schools.  The vendors of locally-made bags, mochilas, seem happy enough with a brisk trade.  As Colombia opens up to tourism, I can’t help but ponder the possible impact on the Waayu and this rugged, natural part of the coastline.  Of course, Cabo isn’t unique but as the travel industry pushes boundaries more than ever and I’m a fully fledged member, it provokes the thought.

But not everyone is here for the winds.  Santiago is a revered Colombian photographer and a frequest guest of Conchita's.  He wakes early most mornings and walks beyond the nearby landscape armed with his camera and weather-worn tripod.  He's published books on the Waayu culture, capturing the people, their dress, customs and land with a delicate and respectful eye.  He enjoys the peace and remoteness of Cabo as much as its early morning light.  He travels a lot with his work.  I now ask myself if this type of exploitation of the Waayu is any different from the burgeoning surf scene?  I choose not to dwell as I pick up my camera and pry on Conchita’s kitchen.

Well, if sports or photography aren’t your thing, just lie back in a hammock and embrace the simple pleasures of nature.  Wind is included for free.  And that's what I did.  Conchita’s livelihood relies on the surfers, Santiago and other travellers.  She offers basic accommodation, food and a hard bargain on mochilas.  It's not five-star luxury.  If the generator is out, have a torch handy and don't hold out for running water.  Self flushing is all the rage.  Yet the warmth of the Waayu and the fresh seafood will fill you up nicely.

At night, our group play charades under the moonlight with the help of a couple of torches and the company of a local stray.  On this trip, that's part of the real allure of Cabo and the Waayu.  Its remoteness forces you to return, to accept a simpler life and natural rhythm.   Okay, it may not be cavemen round a fire but charades by torchlight has a similar feel for us.  It soon gets pretty competitive and we call it a night.  The hammocks beckon and offer protection from the chill of those winds.  As I drift off, I wonder where Rosasila's future will lie.  In Cabo?  Or Uribia?  Or in Colombia's bigger cities?  Perhaps she'll take over from Conchita.  Or maybe she'll be seduced by the surfing.  Or she might learn how to snap away and pry on her own people for the world to see.

Tags: cabo de la vela, colombia, la guajira, wayuu


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