Are we doing a good job as parents?

It’s been quite a journey – this thing called parenthood.  Your main purpose is to raise your children to be the adults you wanted them to be – honest, hardworking, loving, gentle, strong, worthy…  You didn’t always get it perfectly right.  There were many mistakes along the way, but at no time did you give up.  At no time did you stop loving them unconditionally, for this is the foundation on which you build their dreams, their hopes, their future.  Plain and simple LOVE.

I remember quite some time ago, discussing with my dad the trials and tribulations of raising my kids.  There were so many frustrations and questions.  None of which he answered, by the way.  He never offered any sage advice. He would just sit and listen.  Nodding the knowing nod.  Shaking his head appropriately and on queue.  As if to say – ‘Well it’s your turn now.  It’s not easy, but you will get there’.

And then one day he said, quietly and unexpectedly – “You’ll know if you’ve done a good job when your kids have their own kids.  I think I did a good job.”  And he continued staring ahead at the view as we always did on his weekly visits with me.  It was enough affirmation for me, that I wasn’t doing such a bad job.

And so, as I too now watch my boys raise their own.  Watch them be the ever-present, ever-loving father, instilling in their sons, the important virtues of honesty, gentleness, love – I too feel proud.  I too believe, finally, that I really didn’t do such a bad job after all.

Your heart is at peace …

It’s still dark at 5 am.  Venus is shining bright straight ahead of you in the dark sky.  The world is silent. And your heart is at peace.

The creatures begin to stir slowly.  At first you hear the Whippet birds calling out to each other.  Then as the sky brightens you see the Magpies scouring the lawn for their first meal of the day.  Their young following them, learning, by example, how to take care of themselves.

First you hear them with their distinctive laughing call, then you see them as the Kookaburras appear in the veggie patch, picking at the moist earth searching for unsuspecting worms as they too start their day hunting for food.

The clouds move slowly to allow for the rising sun and everything is awash with its golden light. And you know that it’s going to be a great day.

You wait patiently for the pitter patter of the little feet you kissed good night looking forward to the early morning smile and hug.  The simple things in life mean the most.

It’s been two years in the making.  The waiting game is over.  You’ve cried enough tears.  Many prayers have been answered. And your reunion with your grandchildren has finally taken place.

Your heart is most certainly at peace.

It is going to be a great year…

Because I said so…

I am tired of the doom and gloom that has pervaded our lives over the past two years. Tired of that one topic that seems to find its way into every single conversation. Tired of keeping my distance from my family and friends. Tired of the sadness. We seem to have lost what little control we thought we had of what tomorrow could possibly bring.

Like everyone else, my 2021 plans were turned upside down. But with my positive thinking-cap on, I have convinced myself that they may not have been the right plans for me at that time anyway. Instead 2021 allowed me the opportunity to spend time delving into some of the things I’ve always wanted to do and never had the time to do (or the will, whichever is the real reason). In my first year of retirement, I was allowed to reconnect with family and friends. To truly R E L A X. To literally sit and and watch the grass grow, as they say – or the waves roll onto the shore. To take the time to rebuild my garden, my sanctuary, my pride and joy. To enjoy my hummingbirds who from time to time awake me from my reverie to remind me to refill their feeders.

I’ve reconnected with my creative side and reacquainted myself with my sewing machine. We have once again become good friends and we are happy together. I have become a student of the University of YouTube where there are no limits to what you can learn to do. And most of all I have learned that the roller coaster that is life can change its speed, and that’s OK.

With your positive thinking-cap on, the world is a much better place. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel as small as that light may be, the good things outshine the bad, and you are able to move forward one step at a time, slowly but surely.

2021 was great and 2022 will be even greater, as I will soon be on my way to meet my three grandsons, two of whom I am yet to meet personally. FaceTime has become an integral part of my relationship with them and as grateful as I am for being able to watch them grow from afar, it is time for that ever important transfer of love through the hugs and kisses I’ve been storing up over the past two years. We will all be overwhelmed when we finally meet, but it will be good.

It is going to be a great year, because I said so…..

Glamping, Lumbre style…

I remember as a child watching the movie “Sound of Music” over and over again.  I shamelessly admit that I’ve also seen it as an adult multiple times.  And every time that I’ve had the opportunity to hike across the ridge of a mountain, my mind goes back to that scene when the Von Trapp family leave Austria and escape to Switzerland.

Lumbre offered that experience, with cows grazing on the hills, open landscape as far as the eye can see, and as a special treat, what seemed like a secret hike through the forest to an enchanting waterfall – our own private escape.  Such a perfect way to spend a beautiful sunny morning just oustide the small quaint town of Salento nestled in the Cocora Valley.

For those of us who think they want to go camping but aren’t quite ready to sleep on the ground, who want to enjoy the simplicity and beauty that nature has to offer, to wake up to gentle breezes and the chirping of the birds, to be pampered and catered to by the most gracious of hosts, Glamping at Lumbre will fulfil all of your desires and more.  With hiking trails just 100m away, horseback riding at your whim and even the extreme pampering of a masseuse, if you so desire.  A treat for bird watchers.

Our short 3 night stay wasn’t enough.  If there’s one place you want to put on your bucket list – this is it.

Salento – Touring the Wax Palm Forest in the Cocora Valley

We arrived in Salento late into the night, in pouring rain, cold, damp and hungry.  What was supposed to be a 5-hour drive from Jardin stretched into an 8-hour journey due to unforeseen traffic and road works.  Needless to say we were tired and after a quick dinner, bundled into our ‘Glamping accomodation’ and fell asleep before anybody could say “Jack Sprat”.

As we emerged from our tents in the morning, the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the sound of the birds chirping and the cows mooing in the distance immediately erased any displeasures we may have experienced the day before. We were on the Lumbre farm in the Cocora Valley situated in Quindio, Colombia, located in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains.  What an absolutely beautiful morning view.  And the day had only just begun.

For we were about to embark on a tour of the Carbonera estate known for its Wax Palms and amazing views.  We chose however to do this tour with a local guide (www.salentocycling.com) in what could only be described as an unconventional way – not only hiking through farm lands bordering the Wax Palm forest, but exploring what is known as the Cloud Forest on dirt road bikes.

We met our exuberant guide Eduardo in Salento and once fitted with our gear, climbed into the back of a Jeep and made our way 20 km up to 11000’ up into the estate.  Rumbling along the rocky dirt road we eventually arrived at our first point of decent – an 8k downhill bike ride which took us to the start of our trek to the Wax Palms.

Amazing views awaited us as we climbed up and down the gentle slopes back to the top where we picnicked relishing in the peace and quiet of the nature that surrounded us.  And then the adventure really began as we were carried back up to the top and jumped on our bikes to make the final 20k ride downhill back to Salento.

The cloud forest, at a temperature of roughly 18C provided mystery at every turn as we could see just 10 meters ahead at any one time.  As we descended further the views of the Cocora valley opened up once more and we were treated to the mooing of cows and even accompanied by a couple of young foals who galloped alongside us for part of the journey.  The excitement building, adrenaline pumping as we had just experienced the tour of a lifetime.

The pictures speak for themselves, and the memories etched in our minds forever.

Jardin – A small town with a big heart

We pulled up in front of our hotel perfectly located on the picturesque square, El Libertador Park,  of the small town of Jardin, located in northwest Colombia.  We gasped at the imposing presence of the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception which towered over the square in all its glory.  The square was encircled by tents with vendors of local food and art, restaurants full to the brim of customers enjoying their Sunday lunch, parents sitting amongst the rose gardens, while their young children ran around chasing the birds, laughing with their friends.

We smiled, and immediately fell in love with the sheer beauty of Jardin, known for its brightly painted houses, colorful floral displays and milk candies.  We too began to laugh and chit chat as we wandered in and around the stalls and shops making our way to the nearest local restaurant for lunch.  A normal Sunday, in a small quiet town.

As the afternoon continued, we began to notice young children in their costumes, likewise teenagers and some adults.  It was Halloween we were reminded, but nothing prepared us for the unfolding events that would take place as the sun set on what we thought was the sweet quiet town of Jardin, Antiquoia.

While relaxing on our balcony overlooking the square, we noticed crowds lining the streets under our noses, music from bands began to play on the other side of the plaza, the stalls that were selling local art and candies filled the air with the inviting smells of street food.  The town had come alive in a way totally unexpected.

And then we realized that we were about to witness a parade of Halloween bands, not unlike the Carnival parade of ‘Ole Mas’ bands we are accustomed to in our small twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. This parade however not only featured the well orchestrated bands as they marched or danced pass but also included a large contingent of motorcyclists showing off their road skills.   The revving of their bikes, intermingled with the sounds of the orchestra, the costumed participants of all ages and the varying methods of expression, made for a highly energetic display much appreciated by all.

We were thoroughly entertained and left this sweet town with its unsuspecting vitality imprinted on our hearts.

La Piedra, Guatape

675 steps up to an altitude of 200m to witness what is claimed to be the best view in the world.  A panoramic vista as far as the horizon towering above the town of Guatapé Antioquia.  Fresh water lakes formed by a hydro electric dam interrupted by small islands, dotted with what you can only imagine to be vacation homes and the odd boat speeding from one island to the next.  You can almost see vacationers tanning on the decks with children splashing in the water enjoying the brilliant sun shiny day that it was.

It is known as “La Piedra” and has been the reason for many rivalries between the towns of El Peñol and Guatapé over the years.  This is highlighted by the letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (leaving the letters GI) painted on the western face of the rock.  The two towns had long disputed ownership of the rock and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters.  It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work and a large mob was assembled to stop it, leaving behind the unfinished graffiti.*

According to geologists the rock is approximately 65 million years old.  The indigenous Tahami, former inhabitants of this region, worshipped the rock and called it, in their language “Mojarra” or “Mubarak” (rock or stone).   The landform is a granitic rock remnant that has resisted weathering and erosion.

Climbing the rock is not for the faint hearted.  Yet it’s a challenge that many take on as the view literally takes your breath away.

* Wikipedia

La Comuna 13

Children should not be working in the streets, but on their dreams.

Comuna 13 was considered one of the most dangerous communities in Medellin if not the world.  Many may remember our fear of even so much as visiting Colombia due to the rampant drug trafficking and the violence that surrounded this trade.  Stories abounded with kidnappings, drug lords taking over small communities, the crime rate soaring.  After the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993 however, the government decided to intervene in the ongoing destruction of its youth in Comuna 13 one of the hardest hit communities where a life of violence and crime seemed to be the only option open to its residents to climb the social ladder, or so they were led to believe.

Investment was made in the infrastructure of the community allowing everyone access to schools and public transport instilling in them not only a new vision for their future but a sense of pride in themselves and their community that has transcended from generation to generation.  A community that truly embraces the spirit of ‘each one help one’.

Today Comuna 13 is considered one of the safest districts in the world, its walls covered in graffiti art depicting not only the struggles faced by their inhabitants and the evolution of its community, but also embodying messages of peace and unity amongst its people.  As you walk the streets, you are entertained by self made dancers, hip hop artists, singers – all intent on making an honest living while promoting a life of honesty and integrity.

We thought we were going to visit an exhibition of the finest street art Medellin has to offer.  Instead we were silenced by the beauty and humility of its people, the exuberance of a new culture of youth who look out for each other and who understand the value of community living.  We felt safe and secure exploring the ins and outs of the many shops and thoroughly enjoyed the talents of the local artists who performed on demand for our voluntary contributions.

You can visit on your own or with a tour guide (Aeroturex).  You will be welcomed with open arms at all times.

An overhead view of la Comuna 13, courtesy our Tour guide Aeroturex

No Dejes Rastro

These three little words follow you wherever you go in el Canon del Rio Claro situated west north west of Bogota, Colombia.  Its owner intent on ensuring that the natural environment is kept as pristine as possible.  But in its own way, this place unknowingly leaves traces of serenity and beauty in your heart and soul.

A mere 5 hour drive from Bogota, traversing the undulating terrain and beauty of the Central range of the Colombian Andes, el Canon del Rio Claro is tucked away in Antiquoia.  As you enter you are immediately transported to what can only be described as a place of peace and quiet.  As you drive alongside the rambling river of Rio Claro to the reception area, you are surrounded by natural forest and can see small waterfalls, and hear the chirping of birds along the way.

The buildings are tucked away in the forest and made of natural materials.  Your connection to the outside world is limited, there are few ‘new world’ amenities but you willingly forego what you consider to be ‘must haves’ in your modern world and embrace the simplicity of life as you truly have all you need to relax in these surroundings.

Our day was magical, exploring the Rio Claro from many different angles.  It began with a short but invigorating run along the river, the trail carrying you through stone paths, across wooden bridges, alongside huge rock formations and down onto small beaches beckoning you take a quick dip in the flowing waters of the Rio Claro.

Then we literally zipped across the river through the canopy of the forest surrounding the river enjoying the expansive overhead view of the terrain wishing that we could do it again and again.  Ending with a quiet but exciting rafting on the river itself, jossling over the rapids, cruising under the waterfalls, and of course taking a quick swim in refreshing water.

This place is used as a weekend retreat for the locals, visited by many young Colombians who want to enjoy the daily activities as well as bird watchers from around the world who want to get a firsthand view of what the forest has to offer in a more intimate manner.

We did manage to leave some traces in Rio Claro, our worries and pieces of our heart.

Beauty just around the corner…

We’ve been hiking the Paria Trail for very many years now, enjoying our treks with the rainforest on one side and the waves crashing on the north coast on the other side.  The pelicans and parrots accompanying us on our journey.  A lovely hike with its fair share of challenging inclines.  A trail well-travelled by many an adventure seeker.

And just like that, with a glint in her eye, one of our neighbours living on the trail let out a well-kept secret of a hidden waterfall nearby.  Not far off the trail.  Around some rocks.  Crossing a beach covered in pebbles.  Look to the right and follow the river.  And right there, without any fanfare, a small but pristine waterfall, welcomed us.

Happiness for any hiker.  Clear refreshing pool of water.  A gem found.  Just around the corner.