We woke up to gifts from Santa today. Everybody got what they asked for: Jade, some knitting yarn and needles; Saige, a rocking sheep (well, she didn’t really ask for it but she gets so excited whenever she sees a rocking horse that I figured she would ask for it if she could); and Siena, a horse for her American Girl doll. This horse is about three feet long and two feet high and she insisted on bringing it on the trip with us! I said “no” but apparently Esteban didn’t hear me and said “yes.” So into our tiny 2-door Chevy with its teeny trunk, we had to squeeze not only 5 people, a portable crib, a stroller and all of our clothes (our space is so limited that we pack our clothes in plastic grocery store bags so we can tuck them in wherever there is room. There is no room for a suitcase or a duffle bag), but also a horse.
Despite the space crunch, we had a great five hour drive. Or at least, we adults did in the front seats. The kids were squeezed in the back, fighting over every inch of space. The horse was taking up too much room and every few minutes, we would hear Jade yell, “Siena get that horse out of my face.” The high pitched yelling grated on our nerves but it was hard to blame Jade for being so frustrated. I myself almost lost it when I rolled down the window (did I mention that this car doesn’t have AC and we were driving through “hot country”?) and Siena whined for me to roll it up because the wind was messing up her horse’s hair!?!!! But hey, we were the responsible adults who allowed her to bring it, so what can we say?
Anyway, back to the drive or at least, the scenery out the window. It was breathtaking! We crossed two mountain chains, passing small villages along the way. In some places, the road was a bit perilous, having been washed out by recent heavy rains, but overall it was a gorgeous drive. The five hours just flew by.
We arrived at Rio Claro Nature Reserve (a private nature reserve on a beautiful clear river in the jungle) by the afternoon and were ready for a dip in the river. The woman working at the reserve suggested a nearby waterfall/swimming hole that is calm and perfect for the kids to swim in. We tried to find it but couldn’t see the trail. There were huge red ants everywhere. Esteban was grumpy from the heat and the mosquitoes. Poor guy gets attacked by mosquitoes wherever we go. The rest of us don’t get any bites and he is covered in minutes. He got fed up with this really quickly and went back to our room with Saige while the older girls and I went to explore the river.
What can I say? The river was beautiful but not clear. The recent heavy rains made the water light brown and the current was super strong. It was so strong that the only way to get in was to hold on to a metal cable attached to the river bank. It seemed iffy but we got in, holding on tight, and watched the local teenagers cross this river and frolic while holding on to the cable. It seemed super dangerous to me but without liability lawsuits, people can do what they want here.
So we were watching the locals and they were watching us. We were definitely a curiosity here and the little kids eventually approached us to find out where we were from. We told them and they ran off to tell their elders. We could literally see the news spread. Some adults came over to inquire who we were and what we were doing in Colombia. I must say one of the exciting things about living here is how few foreigners there are. Wherever we go, we are usually the only foreigners and locals seem curious about us and very friendly. They haven’t yet been jaded by demanding, complaining tourists and have a really welcoming attitude. Plus, I think that seeing tourists is a sign that their country is doing better and is perceived as being safer by the outside world, and this is very welcome too.