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A Horseback Ride Under the Full Moon

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-road-less-traveled/

Life is a journey. A journey of love, loss and endless possibilities. Sometimes the unforeseen is better than the expected. If something doesn’t go as planned, that’s OK, let flexibility become part of your path. Out of many unplanned moments I have found such joy and rewarding experiences which have brought many firsts to my life. As the years go by you might not remember exactly what happened to make a memory, but you will always remember how an experience makes your heart feel. Even the most perfectly planned out days can change and when you try to control everything you end up enjoying nothing.

This is a story about two days. The first day started after I learned I had a new neighbor from England who lives  high in the mountains near my home. It is a long hike along a steep narrow path to his farm. It is the kind of hike that you need to have a lot of water, and you need to rest on the way up as the altitude is so high your breathing becomes labored. A lovely hike filled with incredible views of the mountains that surround my home Villa Migelita. On the way up there were so many butterflies, while the birds and their calls were enchanting. We passed the home of the neighbor and saw him working in the field but did not want to disturb him so we continued up further to explore. 

We then started back down the path and called out to a worker to see if the owner/neighbor was busy. He was, but he took time to meet us and show us around and tell us about the plans for the farm. It was fascinating because he has no way to transport by car or truck. Everything is brought to his farm by horses. He wants to keep it that way because he wants to be free of societal norms and the constant intrusions that motor vehicles can bring. What a delightfully unplanned morning we had, which included being invited to lunch. Of course we protested, but he insisted and we sat down to a great meal and wonderful conversation. We made plans to come again the next day to ride horses to a nearby trout farm.

The next day we got up and packed a big backpack full of canteens and food. We actually felt it would be a long day, but had no idea that we would be so correct about this. When we arrived at the farm our new friend and neighbor was not there. His employee told us he is always there very early from his other home down in the valley of the mountains, which he rides by horse every morning and every night. We just did what we do, we went to explore another path we had seen the day before that takes us to a viewing area. We told the employee to tell him we would be back down in a while, and off we went. Three hours later we did get back to the farm, after such an incredible adventure. This hike took us all the way to the top of the highest point that can be reached from the mountains we were hiking. It was not easy, but we rested along the way and took in the views and the nature around us.

We rested a while at the top and watched a parpente take off and then started back down. Oh but wait, we got lost. It is easy to do this when you are so high up and everything looks similar. My partner is not the type that will not admit when he is lost and immediately noticed when we were, he located where we should be and he gave me two choices walk back up or across the fields which were a bit high with the grass and foliage. I also had to climb over barbed wire fences, two to be exact. I chose the latter. I had to step on the wire and lift my legs over and hop down. I did it. We found the correct path and we were at our friends farm in no time at all.

When we reached the farm we enjoyed conversation and some cold water while the horses were saddled for the next part of the day. We were going to the trout farm to investigate and decide if I will offer it to my guests who visit Villa Migelita. The horses were ready and we started down the path that takes us into the valley. This path is steep and rocky down to the village. The horses know it by heart as they take the owner up and down every single day. Beautiful views of the mountains, small little pueblos and their inhabitants greeted us as we rode along. It was delightful. We arrive at his home: the beauty and serenity of the homes in the countryside are outstanding, along with the peace.  A lake with geese, a home that had a porch that surrounded the entire house and perfect temperatures that can only be found in the mountains. We all then walked to the trout farm to find out that on Saturdays they allow you to fish but do not cook and serve the food. Another curve ball as we all were hungry! So my friend called his mother who said she would make us food at their home. We ran into another friend and stayed and had a couple of beers and chatted. It really was nice. It was getting late by now and I was beginning to worry. This is where the big decision comes into this story. I have vestibular vertigo, it is better and I live my life with it and don’t tell people much about it anymore as I feel I have conquered it as best I can. However, I was not going to walk down the steep path from his farm to our motorcycle in the dark. I just couldn’t do it. I had to tell my friend about my disability. It was hard as his mother was making a nice meal and we needed to go right then for me to reach the farm by horses before dark. I was so impressed with his compassion and lovely solution. He served us first, along with his employee and sent us on the way with the horses. His employee would take us all the way to our motorcycle on the horses. Relief filled me up immediately, but then I began to worry about what else could happen.

I am a worrier, I admit this. This story is not over because these horses knew the path we rode to the village and his other home: but they had never went down the way we walked up. I asked, because that is what I do. I never leave anything to chance. The employee was don’t worry these horses are well-trained (they were!) and we will be fine. I pictured in my mind the path I had walked this morning with a coral snake that slithered by as we hiked. Yes, I never see snakes but I saw one that morning on the way up. I thought about how crazy narrow the path is, I thought about my horse falling with me in the saddle. I basically thought every negative thing you can think of. The alternate reality was making me feel anxious. Then we got to the farm and I looked out over the mountains and saw the sparkling lights of Palmira shining and I just let go. I gave myself into this experience of riding a horse in the light of a full moon. I loved it. I did have some spots that were a bit scary. My sweet horse would stop, she was that smart. I would direct her which way to go and she would continue. I had to duck from branches a few times, she did stumble but she corrected herself. It was an experience I will hold forever in my heart. A first in my life. One I would never have chosen, but an experience of a lifetime. I will become old someday, and I will recall that night I rode a horse in the light of the full moon down a steep path. I will never have anyone say to me I didn’t live my life to the fullest, because I have. I have fulfilled many dreams, but riding a horse down a steep rocky mountain path with no lights, just the moon would not be something I would say I would want to experience. Later though, when I was in bed falling asleep, I was filled with pride in my accomplishment. The alternative would have been to walk and there would be no way I would have done that. My special horse who took me down under the moonlight

 

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Adventure is Waiting When you Visit Colombia

If you love adventure, if you love nature, if you love the outdoors then Colombia is the place to visit. As I become more fluent in the language of Spanish I have joined groups that go on great explorations of natural reserves, parks and protected areas in Colombia. My most recent hike was an 8 hour walk up a waterfall. It included wading in water up to my waste, climbing up areas washed out by rain and water, and making sure I didn’t step on slippery rocks. Was it worth the time? Most definitely! I felt very accomplished when I finished. It was a day I can cross off a bucket list of things I have always wanted to do.

It started with a bus ride that was 2 hours from Cali to Quebrada Perico a natural reserve on the way to Buenaventura, Colombia. Buenaventura is a Pacific coast town where all the goods that are shipped into Colombia from the Pacific enter. When I moved to Colombia this is where my shipped items arrived. This town thrived after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. It is a bustling town that serves the best seafood you will ever taste.

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Looking out at the coast of the Pacific in Buenaventura, Colombia
Me at beginning of Pericos Hike
All Smiles and Clean on the beginning of the adventure

The bus ride was so comfortable and it seemed so quick. We left early meeting in Cali, Colombia at 6 am. We stopped once so everyone could get coffee and breakfast at a small roadside shop…and then I reclined my greyhound size seat and watched the scenery of beautiful huge mountains and rivers on the way to our destination. We all got our gear together and met in front of our bus to get a “talk” about safety and believe it or not, a short exercise segment which included Yoga moves and stretches. Then we all had to count off in numbers so we knew exactly how many were with the tour and no one would be left on our adventure into the Rainforest. We were like soldiers marching in single file as we started. We all looked so fresh and clean. That would change. The first thing I noticed is the path is very narrow as we started our journey. I really had no idea about this hike except that I would see waterfalls, which I love. I did not know I would be hiking through many small waterfalls or in Spanish cascadas, which means cascades.

 

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Smaller waterfalls and natural pool to swim, look closely and you will see a snorkel

We all were trying to keep up with each other as there were many of us….but that changed a bit as it got more difficult. The guides spaced themselves evenly throughout our group to help those having difficulty. I was very happy to have my hiking stick! It became slippery and dangerous at spots. I realized some of our group were out of their league quickly. I am very cautious because I was diagnosed with Vertigo two years ago. I am much better (thanks to a lot of therapy and YOGA) but I still need my hiking stick for security and especially on a hike this extreme. I wore loose, baggy clothing and my hiking shoes meant for water. There is an absolute need for the correct equipment on hike like this, and that includes the right clothing, and backpacks with all the necessities. Some people wore swimsuits under their clothes, however not necessary nor needed…just jump in and keep going was the way to be on this fun hike. I became more secure as I walked because I was taking my time. I realized not every person was on the same level, and I surely was not trying to prove anything to anyone! As my friend and hiking buddy has always said to me ‘we are not in a competition” and that is the truth. I took my time and I stopped when I wanted to take photos, and when I needed to just look at the beauty of the Rainforest. The most amazing photo I took was of these leaves from the plant called Christ’s Tears here in Colombia. The flora in Colombia is amazing and miraculous!

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These leaves almost do not look real, but they are. In Colombia they are called Christ’s Tears

 

The fun of swimming in the natural pools along the way up was so much fun. We would just jump in and swim. The water is crystal clear and the temperature of the water perfect. Then to sit on a rock and have lunch while watching butterflies and birds fly by is surely what being one with the Universe means. I have never seen lava rock like there was along this journey. This hike was Paradise for sure. When we reached the top we all had our picnic lunch with us in our backpacks, and we ate with gusto. Then we swam some more in the natural pools surrounding us while hearing the gushing of the waterfalls that fed them. We had a nice break and were ready to head down. The walk down was not bad, and then the last waterfall came into view. A spectacular flowing splendor of nature that took my breath away.

Friends under waterfall.
This is Living!
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Me with a lot of mud in front of the waterfall that was the grandeur of the day!

 

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Twisting vines in the dense jungle

 

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Ant’s nest in a tree along the hike

I had my canteens with me, water in one and wine in the other. The perfect spot to sit and sip wine and have the spray of this fall hit my face. A point in time that will be forever in my soul. I was one with nature and my surroundings, in a place of peace and contentment. When we continued I felt sad the day was almost over. We  progressed down the skinny path, stopping to look at trees with huge roots, nests made by ants, tree formations that you can only see when immersed in the Rainforest.

As we became closer to the end of our hike, I could hear the sounds of civilization again. I was sad to leave the wonder of the jungle, but happy to be able to change into dry clothes and get comfy on the bus ride back to Cali. The bus ride went by quickly, and I was home to Villa Migelita and in bed by 9:30 pm. Not bad for a day that felt like I had voyaged to another dimension. Anyone who visits Colombia can partake in adventure like this. It is part of the magical realism of the country. There are so many undertakings I have yet to experience! I can’t wait until my next one!

 

 

Pericos
My Group of Hikers
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A Hike or Ride in the Mountains is Always a Treat

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Treat

When I think of a ‘treat’ I just need to look out side my glass-walled bedroom at the beauty that surrounds Villa Migelita. I have a blend of rural living along with the luxury of a home with beautiful views and comfort, a lifestyle I would love to share with others in the world. I wake up and do Yoga while looking out over the Valle del Cauca, Colombia. I go for bike rides while passing cattle grazing and horses wandering in their fields, I hear birds calling and my heart is set free of any anguish it might be carrying. More than the scenery draws me in, it is the authenticity of my surroundings. There is no pollution, nor disturbance of any habitats that are necessary for the survival of the creatures around me. I can walk or ride for hours without encountering any noise but that of nature. A very genuine way to live.

Hike Michele
The Valle del Cauca can be seen from the mountains of La Buitrera de Palmira, Colombia
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Colombia: I have never been happier than being one with nature.

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Just checking out the cattle, and enjoying my view

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.” This photo captures all about Colombia and how nature lives with man so peacefully. This is an American Bald Eagle who for some reason has made its way down to Colombia. I will never forget stopping quickly and getting these photos of nature interacting.

My real love in life is animals in the wild. I love to see the birds that fly outside my panoramic view windows that surround my suite every morning. The sounds of their calls carry with me all day. My happy place is Villa Migelita. I worked my entire life to have this beauty that surrounds me. It is always there, I don’t worry it will leave me like it has in the USA. Colombia is still fresh with nature and rainforests. If they start building like I see in the United States, it won’t be for a long time. So, I leave you with a photo of my home. Come visit us here. We offer peace, nature, tranquility, luxury rooms, and wonderful food at amazing prices. I am on Instagram now too. Please follow me there for photos of my life as I enjoy my days. Life is amazing, I have found nirvana. You can too. Just give Colombia the chance it deserves. I have lived here for almost five years now without problem. Come see the Magical Realism of a country that is undiscovered by most travelers. You will not be disappointed.

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Villa Migelita

My final thoughts on this little eagle, he left the USA because all of his natural areas are being taken from him. Let us appreciate our wildlife; let us save the environment.