The first Friday of our assignment was one of the most memorable days I’ve ever experienced. It was such as highlight that it has taken me a month just to absorb all that it entailed. Before I tell you about the day, I should provide a background about our client, The Nature Conservancy (TNC). It’s a conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Regarding Colombia, TNC has created a conservation trust fund to protect rivers and watersheds and help provide clean drinking water to Bogotá. One way to protect areas is through the ecological restoration of farmland, so on Friday, we headed to the mountains for a tour.
However, before we could reach our destination, we needed to eat, so we stopped in a small town for a nice Colombian breakfast. There were some friendly dogs roaming around and some farmers heading out for the day in their traditional ponchos. Alas, before long, we were back in the 4WD vehicles and off to the farms. As we rode along, I noticed that the paved road had turned to crushed rock and dirt. As we traveled on, the crushed rock became a non-player and only dirt covered the tires. Eventually, the dirt turned to mud and ruts in the road turned to puddles as the rain had honed in on our location. After a while, it wasn’t so much a road, but a path.
As we closed in on our first stop, we noticed that a stream decided to meander across the path at a decent velocity, making it impassable. There was no way for us to continue on that path, so we turned around and headed to another farm. After bouncing around for awhile, we reached our destination. It afforded us a great view of the surrounding mountain and valley below. While we had originally planned for a tour, it was decided that taking soil samples would be a better way to take in the sights, so that is what we did. We split into groups and armed with a shovel, a soil cutter, and a bag, we set off. We learned that the key to a successful soil sample is to take many samples over a distance, so as to capture the general soil composition over a swatch of land. As it was raining, I realized we needed another tool…an umbrella. I even got a nickname – the umbrella man. We did take the time to watch the sheep and take in the field of flowers that glistened under the ever changing sky.
After we finished up, we packed up the tools and the soil and headed to the final farm. This farm’s soil seemed to have more of an oil base to it as it was on a volcanic rock, so we had already learned something just by going to another farm. Like the previous farm, this one had majestic views in all directions. What made it even more special is that I was far away from home in a place where few have ventured. It was then that I realized that the best places on Earth seem to be those less traveled. After packing up our supplies and soils, we headed back down the mountain, bouncing merrily along the way.
We stopped at what seemed to be a roadside destination and had some Italian food, as it was the only place open. As I walked around, I also saw an Asian-themed restaurant and an American eatery. As they say, wherever you go, there you are. After dinner, we headed back to Bogotá. As the sun set in the distance, and the leaves danced about in the gentle breeze, I realized that Colombia is quite a beautiful place. For that moment, all the issues of the world faded and serenity filled the sky.