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White-water and sleepy villages

COLOMBIA | Friday, 20 June 2008 | Views [531]

What a contrast from the chaos that is Bogota! When we arrived in San Gil, a town of about 40,000 some 6hrs (but only 250km!) from Bogota, the locals were enjoying the balmy evening by sitting in the town square, chatting away and drinking cerveza.  Although it was a place of much violence in the 40s and 50s, it is a peaceful and relatively wealthy place now thanks to the rich farmlands in the surrounding valley.  After three attempts at making it up the phenomenally steep hill leading to our hostel, our conked-out taxi finally puttered to the distination with that fantastic (sarc!) accordion music blaring so loud that it must have been the actual cause of the lack of horses under the bonnet.  San Gil is becoming known as Colombia´s adventure sports capital.  Dee already has one up on me in that she has rafted the biggest, most dangerous commercially rafted river in the world; the White Nile in Uganda.  So, when the offer came up to join a group on a class 4 and 5 river, I had no choice but to accept...

With reggae-tone coming load from the stereo (music and latinos go hand-in-hand and it has gotta be load!!) our motley crue headed towards river, thankfully in company of most of the Colombian rafting team!  After frantically trying to remember all the commands like ¨high side left, left forward-right back..¨ we headed towards certain destruction down the rapids.  What a buzz!!  You get thrown around like a cork in a wild ocean holding on for your life to your flimsy rubber raft...awesome!! To make it better, the pictures and video make it look far more scary than it was; I only had to change my undies once.

Apart from the adrenaline rush activities, there are also some really quaint little villages nearby.  We visited one of these with a group of guys from the hostel.  On one of the cobble-stoned streets amongst the pastel coloured houses we met two elderly men who we started talking to.  They told us of another village one and a half hours walk away; they would show us the way and then we could visit one of their houses to see some artwork which one of the men´s wife had painted.  Instantly our alarm bells rang; what was the catch?  Regardless, we started walking with the eldest of the men who, at the tender age of 78, was tearing up the track at the helm.  At each point that the road met the path the other man waited in his car to see that we were OK.  We felt suspicious but continued and eventually arrived at a beautiful sleepy village called Guane.  We were lead to one of the men´s houses who was evidently pretty wealthy judging by the size of the place and his possessions.  We met his wife and daughter, had a drink, saw his wife´s artwork and spoke about Colombia.  No catches, just genuinely friendly, hospitable and curious people.  The daughter, who turned out to be a medical student, even offered to show us around a hospital in Medellin where she was studying! Neither Dee nor I don´t know if we have ever been to a friendlier country than this.. 

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