I had the brilliant idea of waiting until Good Friday to do the pilgrimage up to the little church on top of Montserrate, the backdrop mountain of Bogotá. And it was a brilliant idea if you like to participate in what the entire city is doing at once. It was holy week and people were eager to be holy. If they weren’t there, they were spilling out of the churches into the plazas or visiting the salt cathedral, which is 180m underneath the ground. I still feel holy from having been in Bogotá for holy week. I even scheduled my bus just on time to catch a procession going past my hostel with drums and incense, men and children in dark purple, silk robes, carrying huge statues of the stations of the cross. I watched them walk past by candlelight, saying prayers, and made it to the station just on time for a trip to the coast.
I was headed for Palomino, a beach town on the Caribbean Sea near Venezuela that was written up in the book as a chilled out, long, dreamy stretch of beach with a strong current that backs up to the jungle. The current actually ended up being just the right strength for me to swim against, perfect for a daily workout if I didn’t mind the occasional salty wave in the face. “Town” was one street with casual, local restaurants, fruit shacks, and pool halls lining each side and a sandy road that leads you to the beach in fifteen minutes.
I had been practicing my Spanish with Luciana, the woman who ran the hostel I was staying at, and mentioned I was looking for a place to rent having learned in Argentina that word of mouth seems to be the way to find somewhere to live in South America. It turns out her friend was out of town for some time and Luciana was looking after her empty, locked up house just across the path. Some calls were made, a deal was struck, and I had a house to rent for 2 weeks at a bargain price of about $75 and a 10 minute walk to the beach.
I was sitting at the table in my new home with a friend, when a bat came flying out of one of the bedrooms and into the other. It was such a quick flicker of a wing that I found myself sitting there puzzled as to whether I had actually seen a shadow. My friend says, “oh yeah, there is a bat living here. I almost ran into it earlier.” “Ah, nice. Good to know.” I concluded that this bat obviously needed a name if he was going to live there. My friend said, “The bat’s name can be Good. It’s a good bat. Good lives here now.” And that was how I got my roommate and first pet bat. I then noticed that the large knot of wood on the wall was moving. A closer look handed me my biggest fear, the largest cockroach I have ever seen. Tucked inside my mosquito net tent-of-a-bed (unbeknownst to me that I was becoming a bed bug buffet), I calmly forgot about this new guest for the night…only to find him once again as he crawled out of the compost bucket in the morning. After a loud shriek, he got a name too, Gordo. Maybe Gordo was offended by the name and moved out. I didn’t see him again.
And then you wouldn’t believe what was falling out of the trees. Don’t worry, this is a good one. It was mangos! It was raining mangos. I just love it when it rains mangos. They were everywhere. And when I wasn’t picking them up myself, my friends left a whole bag of them on my doorstep one day. I had been walking down the long beach and said hello to two girls walking by. One of them looked at me with the crinkled brow of trying to remember before saying, “I think I met you on top of a mountain in Argentina.” Sure enough, a year and 4 months earlier we had been trekking in El Chalten in the south of Patagonia, met on the summit of a mountain, and then shared some meals and drinks together. This was the lovely Aoife from Ireland and her friend Lou from England. Just days before I had seen a note to myself that was a recommendation from her to read a book called “Awareness”. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in synchronicity. I was aching for some girl time and then here comes my summit buddy, walking up the beach, giving me a bag of mangos.
(*I lost most of my pictures of Palomino, so you’ll just have to trust me)
We had some lovely beach time together talking about awareness, synchronicity, and life. They took me around the dusty, sand streets of Palomino pointing to that house there where the woman makes natural yogurt and tropical fruit yogurt popsicles, and that place there that has the best empanadas in town, and that one who sells the best panela (unrefined whole cane sugar). We hopped on the back of some moto taxis for a ride through the jungle to the river. I spilled my bottle of water in front of me and felt certain my driver thought I was peeing in my pants from the steep, rocky roads and pot holes we were dodging. We then spent a few hours, floating down the lazy river to the sea, seeing wild toucans, hitting a traffic jam of cows crossing the water, and congratulating each other on the wonderful choices we made that had led us to this place.
And I started writing my book again. I had been away from it for some months and it took a little time to become reacquainted. I got to know it again by reading through some of the thousands of pages of journals that I’ve written since the start of my journey. What was meant to be motivating, first turned to despair. I was reading the same themes again and again and again. Just as this journey has not happened in an instant, there was not a peak ‘a ha’ moment for me when the despair vanished. While experiencing myself anew in reading the words that had poured out of me and into yearning on the page over time, I gradually understood that these things had been in me all along and I had had to tease them out, let them breathe and play and dance, let them teach me, to really experience them, to really know them, to really feel them. It’s a different kind of knowing and it doesn’t happen over night, but if you put yourself out there, follow what shows up and feels right, which had been my intention all along, your true nature does present itself. It is shocking what you can learn when you have a regular journaling practice and then go back and read what was true for you in those moments and watch how your truths progress. I thanked myself for being so dedicated to my writing, creating, and journeying process and started to write my book again on the front porch of my house while mangos fell from the sky.
This was life in Palomino.