About trusting people you’ve just met

In Cali, I was staying with Milton, a University teacher in education sciences I had hosted in Brussels about two years ago. It is funny to see how quickly you can establish a trust relationship with someone and make it last over time and distance, without even being in contact that often. We are taught to be cautious, not to trust just anyone. Acting like this, not even trusting our natural instinct to evaluate other people, we close ourselves to many beautiful encounters. Receiving total strangers in my home and entering in theirs is one of the most enriching experiences I have had in the last couple of years.

Milton, my host in Cali.
Milton, my host in Cali.

Milton gave me a warm welcome in his home but told me he wouldn’t be available much, as he needed to work a lot and travel. But I could stay as long as I wanted and took this opportunity to take some time to work further on my blog. In the end, such a project, together with text and photography, is a half-time job. Full time if you take into consideration the taking of the pictures itself, which happens almost all day long. The writing doesn’t always flow easily either, so it’s not enough to take an hour or two to do it. I generally need those first two hours to really get started. When sitting down in front of my computer, I always first check my Facebook. Answer a few e-mails. Read a few articles. Then get up to have something to drink. Sit down. Get up and have something to eat… etc, etc. So there I had a comfortable home, and time. Perfect.

Following the advice of a Dutch friend, I decided to spend the week-end in San Cipriano, an afro-colombian village a few hours away from Cali, in the direction of the coast. A river with crystal clear water, waterfalls hidden in the jungle,… The description I was given of the place made it sound like paradise. Getting there, however, is a small adventure. You first need to take a bus to Córdoba. From there, there is no road to reach San Cipriano. Only a one-direction railway. The latter is originally meant for the transportation of goods to the port of Buenaventura but the people living there decided to use it to their own advantage and bring tourists to San Cipriano. To this end, they build “brujitas”, which are motorbikes coupled to self-made wooden seats. The whole thing is placed on the railway. They just need to wait for the passengers to arrive and take place. The problem is when there is a brujita coming the opposite way. Then one of them needs to get off the railway, let the other one get through and then continue its own route. Usually, the one with the smallest amount of passengers gives way to the other. And then there’s the train itself, of course. Which passes twice a day. They say the brujitas are quite safe but it is best to be always aware of any suspect sound of another brujita or a train and be ready to jump.

San Cipriano's brujitas.
San Cipriano’s brujitas.

I had hardly set foot in San Cipriano when a young man asked me if I was looking for a place to stay. His family happened to rent “cabañas”, which are small woodden huts. While leading me to the place, which was kept by his grandmother, he also offered to be my guide for the week-end. According to him, it was mandatory to discover the waterfalls. If a guide was mandatory, I might as well hire him as any other young fellow. It didn’t look as if there would be a touristic desk around with accredited guides. And 30.000 pesos for two days, you can’t really say he was robbing me. Or was he? During our first walk that afternoon, I was seeing a lot of people going to and coming back from the waterfalls on their own.
– Seems like you fooled me.
My guide looked back. Offended.
– I’m not fooling anyone. You won’t be able to see the most beautiful parts without a guide.
Oh well. What’s 15 dollars anyway?

By the first waterfall, my guide explained its name was the Love Waterfall. And he added “they say that if two people get in, there are three coming out”. As I was going to bathe in on my own, I considered the place to be risk free from any pregnancy danger and just enjoyed the incredibly transparent water of this idyllic spot.

For some reason, I must inspire confidence, as people tend to tell me their life story. And as it was only the two of us on the waterfalls trip, it was no different with my guide. Quite a dramatic story, in his case. Obviously, he needed someone to talk to. And despite some scary aspects of his past, I have to admit that I enjoyed talking to him. So did he, apparently, as he offered to keep me company in the evening too.

His intentions were not entirely philanthropic, though. As I somehow expected, the company he was hoping for was more of the romantic kind. A clarification was needed as we were enjoying a starry night on the riverside, where he had taken me. But like a well-bred young man, he didn’t let this refusal spoil the rest of the evening. So next we were pooling in one of the village bars. Not a touristy place. I happened to be the only non black person around. And also probably the only one who couldn’t properly pool. But, somehow, I have developed an aptitude to maintain a cool attitude in any kind of situation. Obviously, I lost all three games. Though my buddy tried to convince me otherwise. On the way back to the hostel, he offered me the glove I had been using to play. “Your lucky glove”. More than lucky, I was feeling happy. But that had probably more to do with the local beverage I had been drinking all night.

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