This morning began with some beautiful Colombian coffee overlooking the Caribbean. It was an early as we were about to meet our horses for a ride through the rainforest and onto Pueblito, a set of Tayron Indian ruins.
My horse Guajiro, who was named from the region it comes from called Guajira, was strong, brown and wild-eyed. We made our peace quickly and he got me through the first bit of our journey towards Pueblito just fine.
We saw a couple beach areas with hammocks, cabanas, cheap restaurant and the standard fare of backpacker/travelers. They were scruffy, unkempt and free just like the familiar characters around any other cheap Latin beach enclave. The difference was that they were all Colombians on their Semana Santa break. I only saw a few travelers with that gringo look to them such as Swiss, Australian or Canadians.
We cantered through the main trail past the café and onto the beach. A long, desolate one except for a few tanned bodies soaking up rays.
I ran Guajiro up and down the beach a few times while my cameraman filmed and shouted directions into the wind. The wind was beautiful and the blue of the ocean even more so. It all felt wild and lawless, like Mexico of old years back.
We rode another hour and a half until we reached another beautiful bay hidden by the thick rainforest we were sweating through.
We tied the horses, wiped the sweat and began our trek by foot for the rest of the journey to the Tayron ruins of Pueblito. The trail rose quite sharply in altitude and was riddled with lose rocks and crevices along the way. Most of the rocks were original laid by the Tayron 1500 years ago, as were the stones in machu Pichhu or the Maya world.
We finally arrived to the ruins and were greeted by Manuel, a Tayron Indian descendant who lives on site. He was a proud man, with long black hair and dressed ion a long white gown. He spoke slowly and with purpose while he explained some of the details about his huts, children and traditions. One thing that stuck in my mind was how he called modern society “hermanitos”; this means brothers. He said “we” were raping the earth and taking too much without giving anything back. The Tayron Indians, as all indigenous peoples would only take what they needed to live and that kept the important balance with nature. Now society takes for all the wrong reasons and he sees the earth in trouble and he is deeply saddened.
Manuel spoke with such urgency about this plight.
I spoke with him a bit more on camera, perused the grounds and saddled up on our horses, which were brought in while we trekked up. The journey back was steep and narrow, which frightened the horses at every turn.
We made it back to Eco-Habs at dusk where we ate, drank, showered and slipped our aching bodies into the soft beds.
Another day in Columbia came to an end.
My next adventure was to be in Africa. I jetted off to Brazil from Columbia to catch a flight to Johannesburg! South Africa! I’d read and heard so much about this place from epic surf trips to apartheid. Here I was, excitedly poised to visit the lost continent for the first time.
Long flight, bad food, economy cramp brought me in to a Mecca of shops in the terminal. I wanted lions, giraffes, dusty trails, but first I would have to wade through the modern conveniences and consumer fueled hallways.
Two hours later I caught a flight to L______ , Malawi. We landed on tiny Likoma Island on a dirt landing strip cut out from the bush. Cool landing, all the kids rushed to see us as we deplaned with their smiling faces and curious gestures. The sun was setting and we had amazing light for some beautiful photos… I was tired, but things were beginning to make sense. Now I was really in Africa.
After a two-hour boat ride on lake Malawi with a stop to the thatched immigration office, we arrived at Nkwichi lodge on the lakeshore. It was dark by now as we stumbled off the boat and into the candle-lit lodge.
This was by far the most eco-friendly, sustainable place we visited so far. I was impressed with the owner Patrick’s vision he had of community involvement and green operations of a lodge for travelers. He ran the whole show with a $60,000 solar system which powered the freezers’ lights and water pumps. The lights were LED’s by the way which used only 3 watts per light!!! The showers were heated by fire and water was brought in by the lake and them filtered back into the ground where it would return back to the lake eventually.
The most impressive part of the places was the commitment to supporting and strengthening the local communities. All the villages in the area were Nyaja people who had fished and farmed for centuries. Now they were being empowered by this slender South African named Patrick who was passionate about creating a balance with his environment by bringing in guests to experience a new culture whilst making sure the locals were learning and progressing as well.