Jungle Jaunt to La Catedral

Pastel de pollo in one hand. Tropical fruit cup of piña, mango, and papaya in the other. Washed it all down with a tinto.

Envigado metro station breakfast.

…Blake’s first tinto:

“Oh this isn’t so bad. It’s fine actually.”

“Nevermind. You can only drink this stuff when it’s hot. It’s turning terrible.”

The group of Couchsurfers we were meeting gathered and we all hopped on a bus. Like literally, hopped.

bus

 

Our friend Zouben, the Canadian Couchsurfing wizard, invited us to join an eclectic group of CSers and hike through the jungle to explore waterfalls and the infamous La Catedral, Pablo Escobar’s self-made prison.

The final 10 minutes of the bus ride felt eerily similar to riding up a roller coaster, slowly clicking and ascending to the crest, just before a big drop. That’s the breaks when you’re following a tractor up the steepest pitch [at least a 30 degree slope] of the road, and you’re inching along at barely 10mph.

Those leaves were the size of boogie boards…whoa!

rio

When we started hiking up the river, Blake and I did the thing that most outdoor guides would do: we tried to keep our feet dry for as long as possible.

Within 5 minutes I realized that this would be an impossibility. I surrendered to wet feet and squish shoes. Blake however, gymnastically maneuvered and tiptoed, albeit quickly, for a good 35 minutes. When he slipped into the river and soaked half of his body, it was game over. Valiant effort amigo!

waterfall

After hiking for an hour, we happened upon the first epic waterfall. It seemed like we had been hiking for at least 2 hours. Yhon winked at us and we began to climb the vertical mud hill. This trail was fierce! Looking uphill:

uphill

A lo mismo tiempo, looking downhill! [thanks for the photo Zouben]

downhill

After the mud slog slip fest, the terrain transitioned to uphill pine needle ice skating. Bizarre, pine forest and jungle. Together.

We truly were an eclectic, self-organized group: Me and Blake, a Canadian, a Swede, a Mexican, a Venezuelan, a Spaniard, and three Colombians. Yhon, in the neon green shirt, was our volunteer guide…doing this for FUN not for money. So rad.

group

Blake and Mauricio [venezuela] took naps in the pine needle forest while the rest of us traversed a non-existent trail to the second waterfall. Gerardo only fell off the trail once. I definitely will not be bringing young people on this hike. No waivers, no problem!

“What first aid supplies did you bring?” -Blake

“I have duct tape on my waterbottle and you’re wearing a tshirt. That’ll have to do.” -Me

Lock eyes. Nod heads. Keep walking.

“It’s only a 10 minute hike to the waterfall!” -Yhon

Following the “trail.”.

non-trail

The final pitch of slippery boulders required some hair raising maneuvers…especially because the main boulder for support was perched atop a 50′ drop…to the pool below. Yikes!

climbing-to-the-falls

Finally, epic second waterfall, exhale. Inhale. Love it.

waterfall2

That boulder. That’s the one. Yikes!

descending-the-falls

A few rock climbing moves and thorny handholds later, we met back in the pine needle forest. Almost there? Maybe?

final-pitch

Finalmente, bienvenidos a La Catedral!

view

The trail we hiked is apparently a similar route that Escobar descended when escaping the government raid on La Catedral.  He and his hitmen escaped through a tunnel that led into the jungle, and then they hiked down through the rivers and riparian thicket. The first building we encountered upon entering the property, which is now a monastery, housed Pablo Escobar’s famous circular, rotating bed. It’s all weird. The whole thing.

catedral1

The buildings are rather in ruins, however they have been brightly painted and mosaics are everywhere. The parking

catedral2

The parking lot is paved over the infamous soccer field.

soccer-field

Pablo’s heli-pad and the view north of the great city.

heli-pad

Blake made friends with the only guard at the entrance. Blake makes friends easily.

blake-cat

To catch the same bus back to Envigado, we hiked 4 miles down the winding road. The whole day we switched between speaking Spanish and English the exchange was insightful and entertaining. Looking back on La Catedral, nestled among the trees:

la-catedral

“The spirit of cross-cultural connection, free of commercial influence, is still alive and well thanks to networks like these.” -Blake

Upon return to the city, we swapped our mudcaked shoes for dancing shoes. Blake’s last night in town before a 6am departure meant…he ate dinner and went to bed by 9pm.

A few of us from the hike gathered on Setenta and watched Saturday night come to life. My friend Diana had invited me to a sweet DJ dance set across town so when we felt ready, we headed there. You should probably turn up the volume of your speakers and listen to this playlist:

How could we say no to a DJ set by the Freakster Sisters? We couldn’t. 

An epic combo of salsa and rock and everything in between, in a smaller club surrounded by industrial buildings…no other tourists in sight: Cuchitril Club. What a wild evening of dancing! 

Super thanks to Diana, Samantha, and Linda for teaching me some salsa basics at our apartment dance fiesta the other evening. I wouldn’t have survived without them.

cuchiri

When I got home and turned out my light, I heard Blake get up and start to get ready to catch his taxi to the airport.

Solid sesh, bromigo! Hasta pronto!

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