Photos by Audrey Friedline (The George Washington University), Student Correspondent CET Colombia, Fall 2019 A couple weekends ago, we swapped the rush of the city for green mountains, natural waterfalls, and the cows of Farallones National Park. The journey began with us riding in a guala to the outskirts of the city and up dirt roads into the mountains. Gualas are very common form of transportation in Colombia. They have an open back allowing some of our crew to stand and hang out the back for part of our ride. After our ride in the Guala, we were met by our guide for the weekend, Kevin, an eighteen year old boy that has lived his whole life in the Farallones. Kevin led us on a hike up a long, steep and dusty dirt path up to his home and our finca for the weekend. While the walk there was hot and grueling, the landscape was absolutely beautiful. Farallones has experienced a violent past due to its location, the gateway to the Pacific Coast, and was occupied very heavily by guerrilla insurgencies for many years. But this area is now in the process of reclaiming itself and because of its beauty and tranquility has the potential to have a thriving touristic draw. Along with the campesino families, Farallones National Park is home to hundreds of different bird species amongst other varieties of bio-diversity. Our whole walk up, we were trying to count how many different birds we could spot. Finally we reached Kevin’s home! Kevin’s family welcomed us to their lovely finca (farm) where chickens were roaming, fruit trees were blooming and birds were chirping. By this time, we were starving. Kevin’s mom handed us steaming plates of fresh eggs, rice, and warm arepas. There is an international debate over which is better-the Colombian arepa or the Venezuelan arepa. I am definitely no expert, but I very much enjoyed my Colombian arepa this particular morning. After the meal, we were equipped with the sustenance to go on our next adventure. Kevin told us about a secret waterfall that he wanted to take us to, so we all headed out behind Kevin. This journey took us across many neighboring fincas and through animal pastures. Luckily these cows didn’t mind having some human visitors. To finally reach the waterfall, we had to enter into to a jungle ravine. Once we broke through the heavy curtain of foliage, there stood a perfect natural waterfall. We followed Kevin’s lead, and submerged ourselves under the freezing water. It was strangely refreshing as the fresh, cold water sent a cold shock down your entire back. Once we made it back to the finca, we were ready to eat again! This meal of meat, rice, and plantain was wrapped and steamed in plantain leaves from their plantain tree in the front of the house. The food that was made for us this weekend is amongst some of the best Colombian dishes I have had while being here thus far. After our adventurous day of hiking, we were able to relax and hang out with each other for the rest of the day. We rode their horse, Kevin taught us how to play Ludo (the Colombian equivalent to the board game Sorry), and ended the day under a blanket of stars and around a campfire having a riff-off. The next morning before we headed back down the mountain and back into the city, we snapped a photo with Kevin’s mom, our kind and generous host. Being exposed to a different part of Valle de Cauca helped me better understand the diversity of experience of those living in the rural areas of Colombia and the history that surrounds them. After we returned to class this next week, news broke out that the guerilla group, FARC, had made a call to arms wanting to go to war with the State of Colombia once again. This announcement carried much more weight in my own mind now, thinking about the realities of people like Kevin and his family and how this type of announcement could impact their daily life. Sometimes it takes relationships and proximity to better understand complicated situations. Our trip to Farallones National Park was a perfect getaway from the city. It was a privilege to be welcomed into Kevin’s family’s finca and a weekend full of many unique adventures.