Happy one month of traveling to us!
There are some adventures that will stick with you for a lifetime, and our whitewater trip down the Rio Verde is one of them. We spent 3 days with our friends Expedition Colombia, who put together a special adventure for just their amigos.
One raft and 6 kayaks in what felt like the deepest corner of Colombian jungle but what was really only 3 hours from Medellin. Day one, loaded up the official Expedition Colombia Vehicle, added in the kayaks then squeezed the entire crew in as well.
On the way to San Francisco (our starting point) we stopped at a small Colombia Queso & Charcuterie along the side of the highway to stock up on good cheese. We have a love/hate relationship with Colombian cheese, which is very soft, has a nice crumbly texture, and goes well with many dishes. However, it is very bland and after nearly a month of it we are craving a bit more depth in flavour. This tiny cheese store sold only Colombian made cheeses, but they replicated all the classics from Europe – buffala, Parmisano, soft goat, wine rind. The entire crew went a little crazy.
Once in San Francisco, a tiny mountain town which has a dark and bloody history as the entry point for some of the regional coke production, we needed food and mules. The boys went off to find the men with the mules, and then we took off down an increasingly shoddy mountain road to the school to off load the trucks and reload the pack animals.
Since no other raft companies explore this region, the children at the school (photo above) were very interested. Watching shyly from the jungle gym, then creeping ever so slowly to the fence, then under the fence, then crowded around us asking so many questions. They thought we were pretty crazy.
I’d like to point out we were still on top of the mountain, and we needed to go to the bottom where the water was. The mules took most of the group equipment (ex: Raft and food) but the kayakers had to carry their kayaks (which slowly made me realize that there definitely will be some rivers that I cannot kayak because I simply couldn’t get my kayak to the river) and the rafters had to carry the additional gear. Mules and kayaks don’t mix, they’ve tested this theory.
2 hours later, down hill, on a donkey trail, which has apparently gotten much better then a the muddy death trail from before. But despite the heat (it was HOT), and despite the rocky down hike, each turn brought spectacular views of the jungle valleys. It felt like we were going into the center of the earth.
At the bottom, as the crew slowly trickled across the small bridge, everyone immediately jumped into the river. Supposed to be one of the cleanest in South America, but we would have jumped into a parking lot puddle if we had to. From this location, we were to set up camp about a 20 minute hike away but this time on a legitimate jungle trail. Mud, pack mules, & the most incredible leaf cutter ant super highways.
We set up camp amongst the bamboo stand along the river. Hammock city! Then proceeded to gorge ourselves on our cheese. It was entirely consumed. Dinner was served and we spent a wonderful night by the fire. At night, the humidity, the deafening insect chorus and the frog chirps didn’t necessarily rock us to sleep but they added to the sense of remoteness. It felt like the jungle was smothering us.
Rest assured, Dan isn’t a Colombian farmer come to massacre us for trespassing, although Brett thought he was Mexican for the longest time. He’s making dinner.
In the morning, it was river time. What a day. The water was a bit low, but made for a bit more of a relaxing day for the people a little nervous about whitewater or just getting their feet wet with kayaking. Jungle surrounding us on all sides, toucans, giant river spiders, and beautiful class 3-4 rapids.
We even explored a secret waterfall.
Our camp for the second night, closer to the water and more scenic. We ate like kings!
Adele and Lisa – which have become Jessica’s trifecta here in Medellin, and our fearless river guides Jules, Mael, and Mika (Owner of the rafting company & River guides).
All along this river there are small encampments of gold miners who pan for gold and use floating contraptions loaded with motors which suck up the sand at the bottom of the river for separation. A man literally swims around with an airtube digging holes to suck up with this machine. Their entire livelihood is endangered due to the looming creation of a 130 meter dam by Celsia, a member of the Arbus Group. Supposed to start in 2016, but they have now been encountering environmental licensing issues. This dam threatens last clean free-flowing river of Antiquia. You can watch Jules, of Expedition Colombia and more on the dam project here. He is heavily involved in trying to stop this project.
On the second morning we found the river had risen significantly. Apparently its not unheard of for the river to rise 20-30 feet over night. Don’t worry, our hammocks were perched high up the river bank! This meant the second day on the water was really exhilarating, class 4 big water. Huge rapids with big stretches of gentle cruising in between.
It was a shorter day for our final raft out, but the biggest waves. These nerds are totally happy.
We want to thank Expedition Colombia with all our hearts for this amazing trip. It opened our eyes to the adventure potential in Colombia, and will always remain one of the best memories from this trip. We are sensing a bit of Colombian property along a river may be in our future.