As promised…. The Trip to the Waterfall: A series of unfortunate events.
We woke up a little later than Ethan was planning but he figured it was ok. There were mini buses heading in the direction we wanted to go all day… or so we thought.
We had grabbed food for breakfast the night before so I quickly gulped down a yogurt and granola cup while Ethan grabbed an arepa on the way. We walked about 20 minutes to where the mini buses left from and when we got there, it was weirdly not busy. Strange. Usually there are people running around asking where you want to go, etc. But no one was really concerned by our presence. Hmm. Up at he ticket counter we couldn’t find anyone working. Also weird. After a few minutes of looking around and scratching our heads, we saw a sign that said “no ticket sales between 7:30-10am”. It was like 8:30. Whaaaatttt???! How can this even be possible?
We had two options: wait til 10 or get an Uber. We walked down the road a ways to what looked like another bus company and attempted to get more info from them. After several minutes and lots of miscommunication, they pointed us back to the original ticket window. Ugh. We got their wifi though, so we said “forget the bus” and hired an Uber taxi. We had read that it was between $10-15 for almost an hour long ride. Not too bad. So the driver picks us up and he checks our destination with us and all is well. We start driving out of the city and get up into the hillside which was beautiful so Ethan and I were looking out the windows and getting excited about seeing the countryside. Then… the Uber driver starts talking in Spanish and we can’t really understand him but we think he’s asking if we have cash. Immediate red flag.
After a few minutes of very broken English to very broken Spanish, we realized that he didn’t think the fare calculated by Uber was enough money and he wanted more. If you’ve ever taken an Uber, you know that the driver can see this information before he/she picks you up, so its their fault if they don’t check this (so essentially he planned to extort money from us). So we kind of just ignored him and pretended we didn’t understand since we were not interested in giving him more money (at least we didn’t want him to think that we were). I was slightly worried and felt a bit unsafe being in his car, but I hoped he was a decent human being and wasn’t going to kidnap us or something.
So we are riding along and Ethan’s plan was to give him a little more money but not much when we arrived. We drove a bit more in awkward silence and then came around a bend to a road blocked by construction. Wtf? At that point we were the only car on the road, but we had seen cars going the other way. We thought maybe it was a one way road and they would let us thru soon. We sat for a few minutes, then the driver got out as a few workers were walking toward us. He came back in and said the road was completely closed until 12:30pm. It was 10. Omg. We used our translation app to communicate a little with him and it was clear that he was not interested in staying and we didn’t want to continue riding with him. By that time another car a had pulled up behind us. A mini tour bus. Ethan got out to see if they knew what was going on. Luckily it was a car full of Spanish speaking family from Virginia… meaning they also spoke perfect English.
They were headed in the same direction and offered to drop us off once the road opened, which we learned actually opened at 11 or 11:30… so our driver lied to us. In that time the Uber driver had left and we wondered how much the trip would end up costing us since we didn’t make it all the way. So the people from Virginia had hired a driver for the day to take them past where we were going to a hot spring. There were two in their group who live in Bogotá so we got a few tips from them while we waited for the road to open. They told us that the road would close again from 2-5 and not to expect a bus going back until after 4:30-5. They also said if they saw us on the road they’d be happy to take us back to town after our hike. Nicest people ever!
As we waited the line of cars grew and people were getting out to check on the situation. One group was a family from somewhere in Europe who were also going to the waterfall. We told them our predicament and they didn’t seem too eager to help us out. Ethan went on a mission to find some food since we only brought a couple granola bars thinking this would be a half day trip. He found an arepa and some hot chocolate. Yay! There was also a random lady selling coffee and tea from a thermoses on the road. Gotta capitalize!
Finally at 11:30 they opened the road and we squished in the front seat of the van with the family. It was another 20 minutes to the road where we planned to walk to the waterfall. They dropped us off and as soon as we started to walk the other family that was headed to the waterfall pulled up. We flagged them down and they graciously let us ride with them to the entrance (even tho they didn’t seem too jazzed about it). Thank the Lord. The whole time I was thinking “this is great, but how on earth are we going to get back??”. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The van that the family had hired couldn’t make it up the last hill to the park entrance so we walked up ahead of them. No one there spoke English, but one worker told us the price and walked away. So we were getting ready and getting money out when this other lady walks up with another girl who looks to be a guide. At first we thought the tickets we were buying came with a guide, but then it was apparent that wasn’t the case, but the lady wouldn’t leave us alone. Then she said it was more money than what the other guy said. We were beyond confused, but luckily the other family also spoke Spanish and they were able to explain that if we didn’t pay for a guide we had to pay extra for “insurance”. Aha. That’s why she wouldn’t let us be! So we paid a $2 extra for this insurance that we have no idea what it actually covered and set out to see the waterfall.
At this point I was pretty much done with the whole situation and in the worst mood of the whole trip. I had no idea how we would get back and was already exhausted from the ordeal. This inevitably led to a huge argument in the middle of the trail surrounded by gorgeous views of the Colombian countryside. Ughh. After we both cooled down a bit, we were able to chat on the rest of the hike and make peace. Nothing like getting in a fight while dodging cow poop on a muddy trail in the middle of nowhere Colombia! I also forgot to mention that this dog, who we named Rafiki, was leading the way the whole time and kept stopping and looking back at us wondering why we weren’t following him. He literally did the entire hike with us. Crazy dog.
So we made it to the waterfall and saw another one along the way. The hike was tough and slippery and I was very happy when we finally arrived back at the entrance. BUT…we still had to walk all the way back out to the main road. AND the place where there was supposed to be hot food was closed! Of course! I was running on yogurt and two granola bars and it was not enough. The walk back out wasn’t super difficult, but took over an hour and it was raining (duh). We did find a little convenience store and got 2 bags of Cheetos, a candy bar and juice for like $2. I think this literally saved me.
The food helped us get through the last part and we got to the main road just as they were opening the construction portion again. There was a little shop selling coffee and tea on the corner so we sat in their chairs and waited for a bus. We sat for a while before someone came over to tell us the bus would come in like 30 minutes. Hallelujah! We just hopped they weren’t wrong. Our luck finally turned around and a bus came whizzing around the corner about 15 minutes later. Yas!! The ride back was nail biting and nauseating, but we made it in one piece.
To top off the evening, we took a bus a bit north to a big mall where I got some dresses for Aruba and we shared a pizza, garlic knots and Coca Cola for dinner. We looked like hell after our day and it was pretty funny walking through the nice clean mall in our stinky, muddy clothes. It was deeply satisfying being back in civilization though and the pizza was Amaaaazing!
**In case you were wondering about our Uber ride: the guy left his “meter” running until he got back to town and tried to charge us for that. Ethan emailed Uber and let them know that he tried to make us pay more money, lied about where our trip ended and that we felt unsafe. They immediately refunded us for the entire trip.