Sunday, June 3 – Day 6: Horseback Eco-Trail to Waterfall Caves
Blog by Tim White
Today was another very special day for the young explorers here on the sustainable Colombian coffee culture project. We left our house at 7 AM sharp for a day devoted to discovering the natural beauty of Jardín’s mountains, streams, and caves. We packed into our open-aired Jeep and drove about a half hour up the trail towards a moutaintop farm. There, we were introduced to the horses that we would be riding. As a New Yorker who has never even touched a horse before (or smelled a horse before…) I was incredibly astounded for all that ensued. We were given some basic safety information about horseback riding and then we hit the trail! For me, today marked one of the most memorable experiences of a wholly unforgettable trip. Our horses pushed through thick mud and steep, rocky slopes all the while giving us a very unique perspective of the Colombian countryside. Once the forest became too dense for our horses to pass, we hitched them up and began hiking through the jungle.
The jungle trail very scenic and also very slippery due to recent rainfall. We carefully navigated along, hopping rocks and fallen trees crossing streams at some points. Throughout the hike, we saw many different species of tropical birds and insects. I’ll never forget the moment when we were surrounded by dozens of brightly-colored, almost fluorescent butterflies as we passed a large patch of wildflowers — quite an experience! After an hour of hiking, we arrived at the most beautiful cave I have ever seen. The cave had a powerful waterfall flowing through a 20-foot hole in its roof. We happily ate our lunches perched on a rock ledge beside the rushing water and then a few of us dared swim in its cool waters.
After a hike back and the return on horseback, we cleaned up and went into town that buzzed with locals in their Sunday’s best. Mary and I met up with our host farmer, Don Jaime, in the town square of Jardín to drink our last cup of coffee together before we say farewell to Colombia early tomorrow morning. Catherine and her host farmer Roberto joined us as the two Nespresso farmers happen to be friends.
Although this goodbye was a bittersweet moment for us, our host reminded us that we still have many more cups to come! The coffee farmers, AAA coffee technicians, and Nespresso employees were all so eager to teach us about the sustainable efforts implemented here in the age-old tradition of coffee cultivation. As we learned about the things that make Nespresso farmers so special (unparalleled hospitality, a strong commitment to the environment, and a drive for consistently unparalleled quality), we also learned about the challenges that they face in the process day-to-day. Now we are busy at work developing social and environmental projects that will help improve the lives of the tireless coffee farmers we met in Jardín. The next cup of coffee shared between PANGAEA young explorers and Colombian farmers is not too far away! We can’t wait to return. “Hasta luego,” as they say in these parts.