Village life in Huila
Trip Start Sep 25, 2007
50Trip End Jul 25, 2008
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The bus journey from Bogota was long, stunning but cautious, where I was specifically told not to talk to or trust anyone. I got slightly ripped off with the bus fare (- I now know you have to bargain with even bus prices) and was squashed into a tiny seat. The first guy who sat next to me told me he was on his way to a village to rescue his baby boy from witchcraft. He said that apparently there are several witches living in that particular village who can cast curses and use the baby´s innocence. He kept on asking me whether I was scared of travelling on the bus alone and reiterated not to tell anyone I was a foreigner.
After weaving through different climates, mountains and the long river, we passed a village with uniformed soldiers, armed with huge guns, stationed around the streets
Anyways, I finally arrived in Gartzon, where Angela and her sister greated me. It was great to see her after so long...and we took a taxi up to her particular village. Leaving the houses behind, we wound up the mountain in the dark. The taxi hooted as we were drawing closer to her house, and I was given the warmest welcome by her parents and her 6 brothers and sisters, who were all lined up outside the house beaming. They were genuinely excited to have me...and couldn´t stop asking questions about my background, India, the UK and my travelling as I was fed a huge welcome dinner.
The next few days were like step back in time. The house is simple but pretty, and has a farm producing coffee, lulu (a delicious local fruit), peas, avocados and sugar cane. The kitchen had a wooden fire stove giving a great burning wood smell to the place. There was a singing and talking parrot at the back of the house perched on a tree
We spent our time going on long walks up the mountains to visit friends...as the houses were quite dispersed. Sometimes it rained heavily so we were practically sliding down the steep muddy paths. Angela´s mother made the nicest arepas...so food was plenty!! I felt so welcome...and the family was overly generous, although they were living difficult lives. I was surprised by how hard they all worked. The boys and the father worked in the farm from Mon to Fri, starting as early as 6am, and returning in the evening. The mother and the sisters spent most of the day tidying the house, sorting out food and doing chores. There seemed to be very little resting time for them.
Some nights, we danced in the living room to salsa, merengue and regueton
On Friday Angela´s boyfriend´s parents arrived to stay for the weekend. We ended up going to play Tejo in a nearby local bar...a traditional Colombian game where you through a heavy metalic ball into a vertical clay pit, trying to target the centre. If you hit the centre, you let of a small bang as they placed 2 exploding pieces of card in the central ring. I managed to set of a few explosions myself (such a great feeling...and its like getting automatic applause as everyone hears the bang of your success!) It was so much fun...and we just spent hours drinking wine, beer and playing. Later in the evening we got back to the house to dance until the early morning.
The next couple of days, Angela´s oldest brother got back from the plot he looks after during the week, and taught me how to ride his motor bike! We went down the hills, beyond Gartzon and visited the River Magdalena. It felt amazing riding the bike through the green valleys...with absolutely nothing else around. Quite stupidly, as we had come to the end of our biking journey on the second day, I stepped off the bike on the wrong side to take a photo...but ended up burning my leg on the exhaust!!! It still looks pretty bad.
We also went on a family trip to an outdoor swimming pool in Gartzon as Angela treated her family to something special before she was due to leave...and then went to an Evangelical gathering as her mother practices this religiously
The night before Angela was due to leave her family, we were awoken by music being played outside her window a 1am. Her mariachi friends in the village were serenading her before she was due to leave, and had written a song especially for her. After they had almost finished the first song, she opened the wooden shutters...and we just all sat on her bed gazing out of the window at the two guitarists singing ballads. We invited them into the house, and sat there for another hour or so listening to various folkloric tunes...some of which they had written for previous occasions such as her sister's 15 birthday, and the day when her mother´s son (by another father) had come to visit her after 13 years of being apart. They then dedicated a song to me titled "ojos grandes" (big eyes)...which was so moving and beautiful it brought us all quite close to tears. When Angela finally left for Bogota, it was really moving. She and her family were crying as they would probably not see eachother for another couple of years as she was heading back to London, from where she works to help support them. I was genuinely impressed and touched by how they all look out for eachother...and the kind of responsibilty Angela has taken on for her entire family.
The next day, I decided to head of to San Augustin, a couple of hours away. I got on so well with the parents, and all her brothers and sisters, that it was heartbreaking to leave them on Monday morning. Her brother took me down to Gartzon on the motorbike, and I tried to take in all the surroundings...hoping that I would be back there sometime soon to visit them again.
Photos to come soon........