Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rafting in Tobia

Many Bogota residents rarely venture beyond the mountains and hills that surround the capital. Today was my first day to see the Colombian countryside. I traveled over an hour by bus with about 20 fellow-English teachers and friends to the small town of Tobia. I enjoyed looking at the tall, pointy green mountains and deep valleys along the way. It reminded me of the Sierra Maestras in Cuba or the mountains in southern Italy. The bus was moving too fast to capture any good photos so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

It was an all-day trip that everyone seemed to enjoy. My bosses, Adrianna and Oscar, were nice enough to arrange the trip. It wasn’t the type of trip for people who hate getting wet and dirty. A sixteen-year-old local girl guided us up a river, literally. She was quite the guide and had the biggest pair of feet I’ve ever seen on a female. They looked bigger than mine. Anyhow, she tied knots around trees on the sides of a few rock cliffs and aided us as we pulled on the rope up an otherwise untraversable slope. On the river we hopped from one rock to the next. Along the way we swam across a desolate pool of murky water, jumped off the side of a cliff into a water hole, and slid down a smooth rock slide. The hot sun beat down on the warm water.

In early afternoon we walked down a dirt road to another river. As we walked, it began to rain. By the time we put on our life-jackets and helmets, it was pouring and cold. Six people rode with a guide in each big inflatable raft. Everyone had one paddle and one Spanish-English translator. Granted the directions weren’t difficult to translate: forward; back; stop; team. The weather suddenly changed just a little way down the river and it sun shone again. We were the slowest rowers, but no one cared. Well, no one but our skinny, 17-year-old guide. A few times he yelled above us as we conversed in English, not paying attention to his instructions. I liked looking at the steep green mountains and a few woman washing their clothes in the river as we passed by. As we paddled under a bridge, two young boys jumped off, a good 25 feet or so. Other small children swam in the water. One guy on our raft said how he thought it would be fun as a child growing up in Tobia. I had to agree. There were so many outdoor activities and the locals, like most people in the country, lived a low-key and relaxed life. The only activity I saw that we didn’t do was repel along a cable wire high, high above the river, from one mountain peak to the other. We finished the day with a good home-cooked meal by the pool-side where we first arrived. This day only reminded me of how much more I want to see and do in Colombia.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Brett, you actually were posing next to Aristides Gomez, a well known Tobiano old-timer. It's good to read that you had a great time in Tobia. I actually was born and grew up there, and can attest that indeed I had lots of fun growing up in Tobia and interacting so closely with the environment and mother nature. Many a times, I swam in the Rivers that drain the region, and actually pioneered the rafting activity by using car tire tubes and daring the rapids down the river with other kids my age. I hope you can go back to visit!

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