• Day119

    Weeks 16/17: Volunteering with a twist..

    July 2, 2017 in Colombia ⋅ ⛅ 37 °C

    For 2 weeks I volunteered at a project in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta close to Tayrona national park. Hanna and Octavio, an Australian and Spanish couple had bought some incredible land on the jungle hillside with off-road access and great views over the hills. Since February they had built a large central kiosk to be their home, and had various other projects running on their land with volunteers helping every step of the way. Their dream is to create the perfect home complete with guest cabins, natural pool, yoga studio, and in the future rent out the place(s) to tourists. I was excited to be a part of it and help out.

    As it happened, I met Hanna in Santa Marta and we took a 1-hour bus to the start of a dirt road in the Sierra Nevada mountain jungle. As soon as we got off the bus, a tropical storm unleashed terential rain for the entire 30 minute walk up the steep hill, and we even had to cross a wide thigh-high river, all whilst carrying 2 backpacks and food for Hanna. The rain stopped just as we reached the house, it was getting dark, and we were drenched, but we certainly arrived in style and with a smile. I set up my home (tent) under a tree, with a view over tayrona, before my first meal where I got to know Hanna, Octavio and the other workawayers. There were 4 other volunteers when I arrived; an Argentinian, a German, and a Belgian couple, and throughout the next 2 weeks several people came and went; a Canadian, a Scot, and 2 french,  but there were constantly 5-7 volunteers.

    Normally, the day would start around 7am when all the volunteers stumble out of their tents and gather in the main lodge for breakfast. By 9am we would all be working on different projects, sometimes with a few Colombian builders. When I arrived in mid-june there was a lot going on; We needed to build a huge water-tower from bamboo, The large natural swimming pool was half finished, a shelter was needed for the new clay oven, I built a chicken nesting box, one volunteer was painting a large mural on the front of the lodge, and there was lots of other jobs like cleaning and oiling bamboo ready for the tower and other projects like future cabins and a Yoga studio. Basically, there was a lot to do, and sometimes the days were long with a lot of hard work and manual labour in the humid jungle under a hot sun. I would usually be topless and dripping with sweat, but it was great to be a part of such an awesome project, and with so many other volunteers from around rhe world. Hanna and Octavio are also amazing, and fantastic hosts for the many volunteers that they recieve (The food and hospitality here beats other workaways).

    Aside from work, we went to the nearby 'pozo-del-amor' waterfall a few times, but spent most of our spare time around the lodge relaxing, socialising, playing frisbee, and I also spent my weekend off on a trip to Minca (up in the mountains) with a couple of volunteers (Check out blog 16: Minca). In the evenings we would drink beer and play cards, but there was one particular night worth telling; at the summer equinox (June 21st) there was to be an indigenous festival/party at night, and we all wanted to go. There were 10 of us in total, this place was almost an hour drive away, and we only had a 2-seater 4x4 pickup. No problem - 7 in the back, 3 in the front. What a journey - Octavio threw the 10-person-full car down the off-road track, through the river, and out to the main road on the other side, where we drove 45 minutes in pitch black (with the wind battering our faces) to arrive at the party that was cancelled 2 days ago. Shit. However, this was all whilst drinking cans of beer and we obviously weren't going home now! We found a shop, bought a lot of beer and rum (which lasted half an hour at best) and drank out front of a random Albanian guys house, before driving to Charlie's bar on Costeño beach around midnight. Too many drinks later I remember we saw a wild cayman up close on the beach before making the same incredible journey back in the trusty Nissan pick-up but this time all pretty hammered, and lightning storm would drench us the whole way back. Strange night, but fucking awesome.

    All in all, i loved the place so much i stayed for 2 weeks, but I could have stayed longer. It was great to work hard alongside other volunteers, especially in such a beautiful environment, with great hosts and amazing food! Now, thanks to the reccomendation of Hanna and Octavio, I am heading for the desert in La Guajira. But, I'll be back. Mark my words... (Actually I'll be back anyway as I kept half of my stuff there...)
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