Will We Ever Learn?

Yet another beautiful day, full of adventure (quite scary actually). This place is gorgeous and now filling up with other travelers. There are only six cabins here but we have people from Australia, Argentina, Scotland, Italy and Colombia. It’s really fun to talk to everybody. It feels like a community sharing the bond of this place. Many people are here for a repeat visit. They love the feeling of being unplugged from real life (and thus really alive).

The girls have decided to put on their circus act for everybody here. They were kind of shy about it but passed out tickets. The other guests oohed and ahhed over the beautifully made tickets and expressed their excitement over the upcoming show. There isn’t much going on here so the girls definitely have a captive audience. I am amazed at their self confidence.

Meanwhile, we had quite a scary, that turned out well, adventure today. Once again, it involved horses. The reserve has some horses and Siena really wanted to ride. I also thought that a ride on this gorgeous, wild beach could be great so I agreed to accompany her. The owner of the reserve wanted to accompany us since the horses aren’t ridden much. “They are a little wild,” he warned.

Yes, these horses were not like the placid horses at Parque Tayrona. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. All was well however for the first ten minutes of our ride until we got to a stream that had turned into a small river due to the recent heavy rains. This river fed into the rough sea right at the point where the owner wanted to cross. I wasn’t sure this was a good idea but before I could voice my concerns, we were crossing the river on horseback.

I bet you can’t even guess what happened next. The bottom of the river had turned into mud and the horses sank in up to their knees. Being a little wild, these horses freaked out and struggled to free themselves of the mud. They raised themselves on their hind legs. It was terrifying and very hard to hold on. In a split second, Siena lost her grip of the saddle and was thrown off the horse… straight under my horse. I screamed envisioning her being trampled to death but there was nothing I could do as my horse buckled trying to free herself. The owner was also thrown off his horse and upon hearing me scream, ran to Siena and grabbed her out of the water. She had rolled under my horse and was under water heading towards the sea. She doesn’t know how to swim very well, especially in rough waters like these.

My horse made it out of the river and I jumped off to hug Siena. The whole episode probably only lasted about ten seconds but ten seconds is a long time when you are terrified. Siena was OK though. She was wet, covered in sand from head to toe and a little shaken. What was amazing was that when I suggested that we go back to the reserve, she said “But Mom, the horseback ride just started. I want to go some more.”

I looked at the owner, who said “Well, it’s the best thing for her to get back on that horse. That way she won’t be left with a memory of a scary experience.” I thought about it for a second and realized he was right. I agreed to continue on the condition that we would cross all rivers and streams on foot. Meanwhile, the owner lost his shoes in the water and they floated out to sea. More importantly, his horse ran off after it freed itself from the river mud. I gave him my horse so he could go find his horse and we set off again.

This time, we were super careful. We got off our horses and crossed even the tiniest streams on foot. It was actually a spectacular two hour ride. Picture a wild beach, nearly deserted save for a few tourists and some indigenous families in traditional clothing. In the background were palm trees as far as the eye could see and gorgeous mountains. It really doesn’t get more beautiful than this!

As we got to a gorgeous river, we saw a lone soldier with a machine gun patrolling the beach. He stopped to pet Siena’s horse. When I asked the refuge owner why there was a soldier there, he reminded me that only a few years back this was prime coca growing land. With military intervention, it has all been pushed deeper into the jungle. Don’t kid yourself that it’s gone. As long as there is demand, there will be supply, but at least it’s out of the big cities and touristy areas. Meanwhile, the military keeps patrolling.

As we rode back to the refuge, the owner, a man from Bogota, told me his story of having to flee another area of the country due to the violence. He bought this land here only to find that the whole area was controlled by paramilitaries. He said the key was just to go along with whatever they wanted. If they showed up asking for a cabin (for free, of course), he just said, “Claro que si” and stayed out of their way. Whatever it took to survive. Again, it’s hard to reconcile this beauty with all of the atrocities that have been committed here.

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