Dry Clothes and Warm Hearts
None of us would get out of bed if we didn’t think that the day had the possibility of being better than the day before. It was with that thought that I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag and started packing our wet clothes. The roosters crowing, the dogs barking, and the sun light beaming into our room also helped.
Even though it was 6:30 am, the children I had seen the night before were no longer in the house. I don’t know if they were out doing chores around the farm, or had already started their long journey to school.
When I sat at the table our driver, Oscar greeted me with a big warm smile, oblivious to the afternoon and evening we endured. When Ivan translated to Oscar, that I was so wet and cold yesterday, that I thought I would die, he had the largest belly laugh. His laughter was so heartfelt that it was contagious. I found myself trying to explain the concept of “too soon”.
I was a little taken back that the juice I drank was hot. I guess when it is so cold it is necessary to warm everything. Surprisingly I found myself wanting a second glass. In this humble abode, I had the first perfectly cooked egg of our trip. My body and heart were slowly warming.
It was during breakfast with the help of my newly adopted son Ivan, that I could ask all of the questions that I had contemplated since our arrival. I truly wanted to learn about this community. I had read of their struggles. Oscar shared his fears about the possibility of the park closing and I heard about the interests of the government, the indigenous people, and the citizens of El Cocuy.
Oscar also shared his personal story about life under the occupation of the guerrillas. He told of the sheer terror of the conflict that forced many in his community to finally surrender their homes, businesses and in some cases their daughters and their wives. He talked about being forced to leave and start a life in the big city of Bogota, when the only life he had previously known was the beauty, peace and tranquility of the mountains.
The entire community was just now getting back on their feet and they were now afraid of losing the park’s tourists. I suddenly felt so ashamed of my anger. The hardship we endured yesterday seemed so petty and small. I suddenly saw everything in a different light, including my surroundings.
Trust and getting to know people from different cultures is what travel is about. I needed to trust that our guide knew more than I did about which family on this mountain was more in need of our pesos. I needed to be thankful for where we were staying and for the sacrifices of this family.
We said goodbye to our host, piled back into the jeep and drove to the other side of the park to our next stop at Kabanas Kanwara which is at 3,950 meters elevation. It was a beautiful day and we could see many of the glacial peaks. Oscar pulled over and would tell us the names of the mountains and the stories of the area. One such story was about the sheer cliff that the indigenous people jumped to their deaths rather than be ruled by the conquering Spanish.
We dropped Evan and Ivan off at the trailhead that was directly in front of Kabanas Kanwara for a hike to the glacier and Oscar continued to drive Ol and I up to a beautiful overlook. We had an hour until Don Fernando the owner of Kanwara would arrive, so we took the opportunity to dry out our gear and sit and visit with Oscar.
Though he spoke no English, we communicated by way of photos on our phones. We shared photos of our families and homes. Oscar also took great delight on seeing photos of our recent hikes in the mountains of Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and California.
Oscar spotted Don Fernado’s SUV down on the valley floor so we packed up our drying clothes and headed to meet him. Ol and I were both surprised to see the vehicle unload with workers and food. It seemed all of this fuss was just for us. We were introduced to the staff and then shown to our lodging. I was in heaven when I saw the fireplace and the view was stunning. Our romantic trek was back on track!
We quickly settled in and were brought tea. We were told told that lunch would be prepared shortly. Ol and I both just wanted to bask in the warmth of the sun and let our muscles recover from the previous day. Just as we settled in, we saw Oscar walking over with a mat. Before we knew it he laid down next to us and was quickly snoring. Now my laughing was heartfelt.
In the afternoon we had a wonderful lunch of grilled trout with Ivan, Evan and Oscar. We then said our goodbyes as Ivan had to get back to Mexico. Señor Fidel came with a load of firewood and we uncorked the red wine we had bought from the vineyard in Villa de Leyva and settled in for a romantic night. What a difference a day can make!