When I was a child I loved the adventure movies. Romancing the Stone, The Gods Must Be Crazy, Indiana Jones and The Jewel of the Nile were just a few of the films that inspired my imagination and my dreams. At the time I always imagined myself on a trek in the jungle for places unknown.
That dream has slowly become my reality over the last couple years as I gave up my position in the American rat race for a life abroad. Brazil was a good warm up. I went on a bike ride through the coffee fields, hiked down trails that led to waterfalls and visited many exotic beaches and cities.
Yesterday I took it all to a whole new level with my first jungle trek here in Colombia. Our destination: San Jose del Palmar, El Choco. Known as the wettest place in the world El Chocó has 523.6 inches (13,300 mm) of rain fall per year, unexploited natural resources and is literally the rain forest of Colombia.
When my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to visit his family’s “finca” or farm I readily accepted with images of a drive to a small town with a trip down a dirt road to the final destination. When he handed me a pair of rubber boots and parked his motorcycle at the end of that dirt road I knew that this would be a different kind of adventure.
After crossing a small footbridge my trek began. The trail started as a path that gradually inclined upward, each time we passed another finca it got smaller. Every 10 or 20 meters we crossed small streams. Some of them were clean drinking water, I learned how to use a leaf as a cup and ate various plants that I learned are edible for energy boosts.
After we passed the last finca the trail suddenly became narrower and steeper, after the first hour of trekking I was starting to feel winded but not too bad. After the second hour we reached the first finca of his family, by this time we were walking up a much steeper trail and exhaustion was setting in. The vegetation up til this point was tropical forest not quite full jungle. We rested for about 30 or 40 minutes before starting the trek to the finca where his mother lives, by this time we had ascended quite a lot and were passing through jungle areas. The trail became a much smaller trace and there was much debris to step over and around. Then we reached the stream.
Due to volcanic activity and rain in the region a large segment of trail had washed away leaving a deep cut that we had to traverse. Jaime having grown up in this place still wasn’t sweating much however my Gringa ass was soaked.
Every time I thought I could not go another step we ascended more, every time I felt like just collapsing I continued to climb. After another hour of climbing straight up we arrived. Far below in the distance was the bridge we had started from, obscured by several mountainsides that we had traversed. I cannot remember a time in my life when I had gone such an extreme distance or traversed such extreme terrain. Even now as I write this I look out over the view of the mountain I climbed to get here and I am absolutely shocked, stunned and disbelieving that I actually came so far.
I look forward to the descent with a combination of dread and anticipation as it will most definitely be a similarly difficult trek. This adventure is much more than just a walk. It’s a mental exercise to see just how much grit I truly have in me. It’s a giant game where my body and mind will try to say no as my will and determination says “YES, I will!”
The entire experience is too much for words alone. Here I am completely detached from civilization in the Choco region of Colombia. I am staying at a farm that has running water but no electricity. Many of the farms out here can only be reached by foot or horseback. I am eating food that was raised or grown on the farms here.
In the morning we ate arepas made from maiz that was literally ground up right before being formed into the corn cakes and then cooked over an open flame. I ate frijoles and sancocho while drinking fresh made panela lemonade. At night we lit candles and listened to the battery powered radio, played games or talked. Each day I took a different hike to waterfalls and streams, jungle and field. We heard small monkeys high in the trees and saw massive butterflies like the ones you imagine from Alice in Wonderland.
The life here is hard and the view spectacular beyond imagination! This is the stuff that adventure novels and action movies are made of. During the next few days I became oriented with basic jungle survival skills and trekking techniques. Overall this is the most extreme hiking experience of my life, and I have only just begun.