August 3rd, 2010
*We hosted our first official guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen. All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco, making them the San FranTastic Four. These are their adventures.
After five wonderful days with the ladies of San Fran, the exciting climax was upon us: rappelling down a 200-foot waterfall. Although I had done it once before, even I didn’t know the magnitude of the adventure that awaited us. Bring yourself up to speed on what is involved with waterfall rappelling by reading about my first experience and watching the video.
We awoke at 6 am and by 8 am we were suited up and ready to go, along with four other Colombians who would be joining us. Thanks to the cloud cover, our two-hour trek started out nicely without too much perspiration and before we knew it we were practicing rappelling techniques off the side of the gazebo (that won’t make sense if you didn’t read about my first time.)
After thirty minutes of traversing the cloud forest and scaling the rock wall (the ladies later commented that the hike was almost as demanding as rappelling itself) we finally arrived at the cascade. Much to my surprise, the waterfall had changed dramatically in the three months since I last saw it, thanks to a very rainy wet season. The waterfall in April looked like a trickle compared to the gushing water of the present. I suddenly felt like I hadn’t adequately prepared our guests for the intensity they were about to experience; I didn’t feel prepared myself!
I stayed behind as two by two everyone made their descent and made it safely to the bottom until it was time for Colleen and I to brave the waterfall. Because there was so much mist coming off of the waterfall we were FREEZING as we got hooked up to the ropes, but the second we lowered ourselves over the edge the adrenaline took over and the shivers were gone.
Just as the waterfall had changed drastically since April, so had the experience itself. Before, I had ventured across the cascade and relished the sensation of the water falling on my legs. This time I stayed to one side where the water was less abundant and still had trouble seeing my feet under the rushing water. Before, I had descended at a leisurely pace, savoring every moment. This time I proceeded with a greater sense of urgency, trying not to think about what would happen if I got stuck. Before, I had whooped, hollered and yelled with excitement. This time, I was so completely concentrated on every step, every move, I completely forgot to make a peep. Before, I had reached the bottom thinking it was easy peasy, lemon squeezy. This time I reached the bottom feeling like I’d really accomplished something, like I’d really earned some bragging rights.
At the bottom, the rest of the crew was relieved when I reassured them that what they had just experienced was far more intense and difficult than what my video had advertised. Joanna said it was just as scary and adrenaline inducing as skydiving. I was so proud of the four ladies and Noah, most of whom had never rappelled before but navigated the waterfall with confidence and enthusiasm. The ear-to-ear grins were enough to tell me they had really enjoyed themselves.
Upon returning to the finca we received the best welcoming we could imagine: a delicious bowl of beans, chicharón, and freshly fried plantains thanks to the wonderful and talented Mari. While Colleen, Joanna and I relaxed with a book on the lawn, Noah, Haileigh and Ashley went for a horse back ride through the countryside. When they returned, Ashley had a dirty knee and a story to tell. Her horse had lost its footing while galloping and quick thinking Ashley opted to jump and roll into the bushes rather than risk being thrown from the horse. Both Noah and Haileigh attested that Ashley had all the style and grace of a ballerina ninja. There was still a bit of time before sunset so I hopped on Ashley’s horse and rode out with Noah and Haileigh who had bonded with her horse and wasn’t ready to stop. The sunset over the valley was gorgeous and truly unique and I think this photo will show you why:
Our last night was a great end to our time together. It was a warm, cloudless night with a full moon and millions of stars. We grilled my favorite cut of beef on the outdoor grill along with corn on the cob and potatoes and washed it down with wine and aguardiente. The musical stylings of Carlos Vives accompanied us once again and we danced and talked until we (or maybe it was just me) literally fell asleep under the stars.
We returned to Medellín the next afternoon, fed the ladies some tasty empanadas and then saw them off to the airport, on to their next destination on Colombia’s Carribean coast. We already miss the time we spent with these four intelligent, adventurous and fun San FranTastic women, but we know that when we visit San Francisco later this year we’ll have four new friends to see!
July 6th, 2010
When I look back on some of the coolest brag worthy moments in my life, my list has to include skydiving, touching Prince’s leg at a concert, visiting the set of Arrested Development, and winning the National Spelling Bee in ’97 (I’m a very enthusiastic speller) But recently, I added another one to my list: rappelling down a waterfall.
Colombia has endless entertainment possibilities (especially when it comes to the outdoors) such as biking, hiking, dancing, diving, caving, zip lining, paragliding, cow milking, etc., but I had never even considered that rappelling down a waterfall was an activity that existed. That was until my adventurous friend Ashley demanded that we do it when she visited us this past spring. Conveniently, the waterfall rappelling goes down (pun!) in Támesis, a small town near my family’s finca, so repeat trips can easily be made.
Our rappelling adventure was made possible by our guide, Rodrigo, a modern-day Tarzan who knows the surrounding jungle like the back of his hand and shimmies up rock walls like he’s climbing a ladder. He was the first to attempt rappelling the waterfalls around Támesis back in the day, therefore the whole town used to think he was crazy. But thanks to his pioneering ways he is creating new job opportunities for the town’s youth as Támesis becomes known as the adventure sports hub in Colombia.
The day began with Rodrigo fitting us for equipment and eating a healthy breakfast of fruit and coffee (I skipped the coffee…the sound of a waterfall plus a full bladder equals bad times for my pants.) The first half of the trail to the waterfall was on a cobbled road of rocks made by natives a thousand years ago—talk about durability! We made a pit stop at a gazebo mid way up the mountain where Rodrigo taught us some of the rappelling basics which we tested out on the side of the gazebo.
The second half of the trail led us into a cloud forest and was much more difficult thanks to steep and muddy conditions. Rodrigo instructed us to have a hand on a steady branch, root, or rock at all times. I was glad I heeded his advice when my foot slipped off the edge of the trail and the root in my hand was the only thing saving me from some serious breaks and bruises.
After nearly 2 hours of hiking we arrived at a small, flat landing next to the waterfall where we would begin our 230 foot decent down the cascade. But we weren’t any where near the top of the waterfall; 330 feet of rushing water towered above us. Rodrigo told us that second-timers could start from the very top, something to look forward to some day!
Fed and rested, it was time for the main event. Ashley was giddy and nervous because this was her first time rappelling, let alone waterfall rappelling. Thankfully we were going at the same time so I could give her tips and help her out if she was having trouble. I went over the edge first, and it took me being suspended over the rushing water for the reality of what we were doing to finally hit me. Hello adrenaline!
One good thing about having me around is that if there is a way to get hurt I will unintentionally find it so others can avoid it, which is what I did almost immediately when my foot slipped on a rock and my entire left leg disappeared into a hole. I tried not to think about what kinds of creepy crawly creatures were living in the hole and I managed to get out with a couple of souvenir scrapes. Ashley was able to avoid my mistake and we made our way down smoothly, taking time to zig zag across the fall and feel the weight of the water crashing down on our legs. The strength of the pounding water was invigorating and intimidating; truly a unique experience!
Ashley was kind enough to provide me with some laughs when she attempted to go over a ledge in the most awkward way possible and got stuck doing the splits. It’s hard to explain so here’s Ashley re-enacting it at the end of our climb:
Like all good things, it was over too soon and we were sad when we reached the bottom of the waterfall. Needless to say we would have repeated the experience in a heartbeat and I fully intend to rappel again, but this time from the top!
Now I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but how many words is a video worth? Why don’t you tell me after you watch my first attempt at making a video with iMovie. I spent a lot of hours on this, so even if you don’t watch it, tell me you did!
Leave comments below about your best brag worthy moment!