We took a “pit stop” from our Amazing Race to walk around the town’s botanical garden. These gardens were a bit more organized and corporate than the one in Mompos. By this we mean it had sign, entrance, and actually pathways.
The twisting trails and bridges led us through different gardens with a huge variety of trees, flowers, and bushes. Most of the trees were covered with amazing “Old Man’s Beard.” Seeing it all made Joe a little self conscious about his own beard, but we spent a good amount of time sitting under an amazing old tree watching the Old Man’s Beard sway in the wind.
With all the adrenaline inducing activities available in San Gil, we couldn’t rest for long. We decided to try out caving with a trip to “Cueva de la Vaca.” We have been through caves before in Puerto Rico and in Slovenia, but this looked a little more complicated than just simply walking through. We knew from the pictures that we’d get wet and muddy, but we had no idea the kinds of crazy tasks we would be undertaking in the next hour and a half.
We took a bus to the cave, suited up (put on clothes we wouldn’t mind trashing), got fitted with head lamps (which looked like they have been repaired a hundred times) and put on helmets (scraped up with many war wounds). We headed out with our guide, Luis, from the town, through a cow pasture (hence the name), and in to a small crack in the earth.
Now we knew we probably would be getting wet, but we should have realized we’d be soaked when we saw our guide was carrying a dry bag.
The tour began in Spanish as expected: climb over this, duck under that, don’t slip on that, and watch out for the bats. As the cave got smaller and smaller, we found ourselves army crawling through mud and water in order to negotiate the tight spaces.
Things got a bit more hairy when suddenly we were in chest deep water heading towards a solid wall. No way to go but under. This turned out to be one of those time we wished we spoke a little more Spanish.
Our guide explained in slow “Gringo Spanish” what was about to happen. So what we thought we understood was: hold this rope, take a big breath, dive under the water, pull the rope, count to three, and come up on the other side. Seems simple enough, but Joe had to question the guide one more time, as he felt this was not a time to simply nod and say, “Si.”
Once we were safely on the other side, we continued on our cave trip seeing amazing stalagmites, stalactites, crystal ceilings, cool rock formations and Kristen’s favorite… bats!!!
At one point he had us turn off all our lights and he led us by the hand for about 50 feet in absolute darkness. It was strange to know that it was impossible to see anything, no matter how hard you tried.
It was also at this point that he mentioned we were 80 meters underground. We tried not to think about that too much as we continued.
At the end we reached a nice little massaging waterfall and then headed back out the same way we came in. This time, swimming beneath the rock wall was well understood and somewhat less daunting. We enjoyed our time in the cave, but emerging back out into the sun definitely felt good.
After our two heart-pumping adventures, we decided to take it easy for the remainder of our time in San Gil.