Before I continue with the adventure, I must mention Colombia’s deadly snail we were all warned to avoid. That’s right, a snail. I think it has a nickname with the world “diablo” in it, it may simply be “el diablo”, I can’t remember. We saw a couple in the village. I have lost all my pictures from the jungle, however, I still have a photo of the warning sign from Arvi Parque in Medellin. Achatina Fulica – or the Giant African Snail, is considered potentially deadly. Our guide Karina had no idea what would happen if it was touched and had no interest in finding out – all she knew was that it was dangerous.* Of all the ways you could possibly die in Colombia, especially in the jungle, a snail has to be the most embarrassing. As I told my friends on the trip, “If a snail kills me, please tell everyone it was a jaguar, or at least a poisonous snake”.
Back to the trip. The morning consisted of a painful and sweaty walk along the sharp rocks. We went to various small waterfalls, with little ponds surrounding them. The first waterfall was closer to a glorified shower with a one nozzle spray of water. The rest had proper jets of water shooting down. It was always a relief to arrive at one, dive in, and cool off from the Colombian sun. At one such pond, I was a little too enthusiastic and dived in with my cap still on my head. I didn’t realise it until we were about to leave and it had sunk. Johan and I had a go swimming around with goggles, diving to the floor looking for it, but no success – I have been hatless ever since.
The path we walked wasn’t as tiring as I thought it was going to be, but it was treacherous. Two girls fell at two separate points, one seemed to sprain her ankle. It made us all more cautious as we walked, while Johan strolled along finding various snakes, birds, spiders, and the highlight, a sloth.
We returned for lunch at a restaurant in San Cipriano – fish, rice, beans, and the ever-present plantain. Pretty good for Colombia.** The lady running the restaurant actually forgot to serve me – well she served me but when I moved one seat over to make space I left my plate for the other person. She proceeded to bring everyone else food, and I waited my turn until she sat down to watch TV. Then I asked for my lunch which arrived with an apology.
In the afternoon we went tubing. I thought we were going to be pulled by a boat, but we just went down the river in our plastic rings. It was a lot more physical work than I expected because the river wasn’t always strong enough to push us, and we also had to paddle to avoid rocks. Plus, the bulky rings made the position of our bodies very awkward when we had to stretch our hands over the sides to paddle, so we couldn’t generate much power. The English/Colombian couple seemed to go slower than everyone else, for reasons they nor we could fathom. We had to help them out a few times. And everyone hit the rocks at various points – a painful part of the fun.
*It seems this snail often carries a parasite that can infect humans with meningitis – a potentially life-threatening disease. And while it can be transferred simply by touching the snail, it’s more common from eating – not safe, but not as dangerous as I first thought.
**Colombians are very proud of their food, and the tropical fruits and some dishes can be quite good, but it’s nothing close to cuisine in the Mediterranean countries, and often quite boring.