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New Horizons

Saturday 3rd Feb,

Luis and Miguel organised a ‘minga’ for the weekend; communal work on the new farm, La Finca Nuevos Horizontes, where friends and family gather to help out. I was in and joined a Fabian and Lara in their car to bounce along the mountain track to the farm.

Although the farmland follows a ravine, it is still 1100 metres above sea level which keeps the temperature very moderate. Descending the hillside from the parking area down to the river, we look down on a grove of Banana, orange and Papaya trees and further up parallel to the river to the encampment.

Apart from the compost toilet, the kitchen is the only structure yet established on the land: a bamboo shelter with a black polythene roof with two tents one side and a yurt and tent the other. Crystal clear mountain spring water flows constantly from a pipe resting on the river bank and is extended to irrigate the bananas, Oranges and papaya. Facilities are basic but it’s all we really need. Nothing else is required. The water needs no filter and tastes cool and sweet straight out of the ground. The flow is persistent and the unfamiliarity of watching the flow looks wasteful but is the epitome of abundance. Nature provides all we need and the water never stops flowing.

The water tastes clean and pure and keeps us energised throughout the day. I take a machete and rake to help mulch the trees with fresh cut grass from around the grove and the cutting activity clearing the overgrown land further up the river bank. My ankles itch despite frequent application of the insect repellent that I’m trying to ration for lasting the weekend.

After lunch, it’s “river time.” The land levels out under some trees near some rapids. The water here is fresh and cool spilling over time-worn boulders singing its song of relaxation to the people lounging in the hammocks in the trees on the bank. It’s a long break after a delicious lunch and I grab an extra 20 guilty minutes sleep in the hammock when everyone resumes work. It was much needed and I took a little more energy to my tasks.

The people here are half my age and twice as energetic. Steve and Mitchell are from the UK. Steve, an ironman enthusiast and Mitchell both attending regular CrossFit sessions in San Gil, as well as physical labour. There are some people from Bucaramanga here too that don’t speak English but we all work together happily

5pm comes and we knock off work retiring to the kitchen shelter.

The tent needs no mosquito net, the bugs that cause the problems are strictly daytime pests and my ankles drive me crazy until I fall asleep.

I’m awake at dawn but lie in until the breakfast bell at 7.30 and resume raking and watering. The sun does little to help dissipate my generated body heat. I drop down to the river bank where there is a flat boulder about 2 metres by 1 where I can strip off and plunge into the river.

I don’t need a towel, the sun and air are warm and dry and I sit on the rock to air dry for a couple of minutes and get dressed. My ankles don’t itch now but the bites were looking angry.

After lunch, it is river time and no more work is done for the rest of the afternoon. We pack up and load up the Jeep to go back to La Palmita. It’s only 12 Km but it takes half an hour as the track is so rough. My right ankle is swollen and painful and I duck out of going back to Nuevos Horizontes the next day.

Sunday, I take to the hammock under the maloka reading Neale Donald Walsh’s “Conversations With God” napping in-between times. I feel a bit guilty for not helping at the farm. The residual effect of decades of work-a-day conditioning even though there is no pressure here to do anything.

My swollen ankle is painful to stand on and needs some respite from the sandflies. I keep it elevated for most of the day.

Monday, the swelling has gone down and the itching is not so bad. It’s a half hour walk to San Gil and I look for an outdoor or camping shop. Nothing! The adventure capital of Colombia does not cater for the adventurer. I return in my flip flops with insect repellent instead of hiking boots and socks.

After a day in a hammock at La Palmita, I was back at La Finca, legs sprayed up with deet. It was quiet and there is no pressure to work but still, a lifetime of ‘employment’ conditioning to look busy when the boss was about is hard to shrug off and my mind lugs my tired body over the land.

Feb 7th, More people arrive now, mostly from the Aloha Ke Akua retreat a week or two back. and we clear a square for the new maloka, Many hands make light work and within an hour or two, a square is cleared…

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