The Cipriano Gang

Thur 12th June 2014
Living to Be Happy 

I arrived in San Cipriano on Mon 2nd June after two days in a hotel in Cali reworking some of the How to Be a Buddha website (more on that coming soon).

I knew that I wanted to get away back into nature for a few days after a good week hanging out in the city of Cali, but I didn’t really know what I was going there for - to reflect on my Vipassana course? to regroup for the final cacooning stage of Self-discovery? to camp on my own? to chill in serenity? - so I took my tent and a few clothes and just went there to see what awaited.

I got a very pleasant surprise! After spending all this time getting to know my Self by being on my own, spending only brief periods with others, I found on arrival at the hostel in San Cipriano a real eagerness to introduce myself to the other two travellers there - Monique from Minnesota and Gerry from Dublin.

As it turned out, Monique and Gerry met during their own Vipassana meditation course that had taken place in Bogota, and just finished the day before.

We ended up staying 5 full days in San Cipriano, and the group grew, with two more friendly meditators, Tommy from London and Kyra from San Francisco, arriving at the hostel on our second day.

Just a random coincidence? This was to be the beginning of the Cipriano Gang!

San Cipriano reminded me of Nucqui (here) with its heavenly jungle location, humid heat, and the poor but want-for-nothing super-friendly African-Colombian locals.

But San Cipriano is its own unique place too! With a tiny population of just 500, the village is kept extremely clean and, although on the way to the pacific coast, it is located 5 hours away from the sea. Instead, people visit here to relax and bathe in the crystal clear river water and several waterfalls deep in subtropical rainforest.

Several others joined our new gang on and off for the days to come. On a guided hike to the big waterfall, a girl from Norwich and a guy from Cali briefly joined us, and then for the following couple of days we had more permanent members as Andrew and Amanda from the US and Ikeeko from Japan joined the gang.

The ‘robito’ those who knew before my journey of Self-discovery was suddenly back. It turned out that my proposito (purpose) for heading to San Cipriano was to experience being the old sociable robito again. The robito who is confident, silly, funny, and a central contributer to the good vibes and happy atmosphere of the social group.

I didn't think I was ready to be that person again just yet. I thought I first needed one final intensive internal surgical operation of the Self and mind - my plan had been to leave Colombia (finally LOL) after San Cipriano and get back into Ecuador (this time with my bicycle) and cycle completely alone down the length of the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast, cacooning myself in a final process of Self-growth and Self-change. I thought I would then finish my experience travelling on my own with a big splash out of money, and have a final ‘face my fears’ adventure paragliding along the coast and diving with sharks at the Galapagos Islands. I expected that it would be at that point that I would be ready to fully re-join the world outside of me, fully re-connect with others, and fully re-mingle as the new more aware and more enlightened me.

The way things turned out just goes to show that when you go with the flow and let the universe guide you, making the most of every moment and every opportunity, but most importantly not forgetting to listen to your Self and what is right for you, plans and expectations sway in harmony with the wind and change direction in harmony with the river to take you where you need to go.

Just like Sandra Bullock in Gravity flowing with the unpredictable elements of space around her, on her journey to put her feet happily back on solid ground, I was wondering when I would calmly reach the shore once again, and although I was not worrying much that I would land firmly back on my feet, I shouldn’t have been worrying at all. It just happens.

On Sat 7th June, After San Cipriano, Gerry, Monique, Tommy, Kyra, Andrew, Amanda, Ikeeko and I all headed back to Cali where Andrew and Amanda jumped on a plane to the caribbean coast, and the rest of us joined Paola’s university graduation party.

The following day Tommy returned to England, and the day after that Ikeeko continued on her travels while Gerry spent the day starring as an extra for a Colombian TV show, and I said my goodbyes to Paola and some other people that I have since got to know in Cali.

It was time to continue on my own journey, but whether or not to leave the group myself and finish my travels on my own as planned? Now I had new information and new options to consider:

From Ikeeko, I had learnt that the animals at the Galapagos Islands are wonderful but for diving the water is murky; from Gerry, that the best place to dive in the whole of South America is on a Colombian island called Providencia high up in the north west of Colombia on the way to Panama and actually closer to Nicaragua; from Kyra, that there are still tickets available to the life-changing spiritual festival, Burning Man, and that I could cycle on my own along the pacific coast of California.

Then Kai sent me a message from San Francisco that we should Skype - the wind and river changed and I swayed and turned direction.

We set off again - Gerry, Monique, Kyra, and I. The remaining members of the Cipriano gang.

On Tues 10th June, we headed to Silvia to check out the weekly market in a very charming Andean village where the local Guambianos still wear traditional clothes and enjoy their traditional drink of coffee with cheese; from there we continued on to Popayan, so that yesterday we could hurry on to Tierradentro.

Here in Tierradentro, the gang has already grown again with Floriane and Benoit from France, and Risha and Femke from Holland joining for the tombraiding tour.

I have already been on my tombraiding adventure (see here) so while they are currently hiking around the glorious surrounding landscape, I am presently sitting in a restaurant catching up on my blog to share with you my new plan.

Tomorrow we head to Desierto de la Tatacoa, a semi-arid dry tropical forest with a unique desert landscape, clear stargazing conditions, and temperatures reaching 50 degrees celsius. From there we head back up to Bogota where I will fly to the island of San Andres and get a boat to the island of Providencia to scuba-dive in South America’s best and clearest underwater conditions with barracudas, turtles, lobsters, rays and sea horses (hopefully also spotting the reef sharks during the dives too), and then on the 18th July I will fly to California!

Kai will then be staying in a place not far from L.A. so I will hang out with my only bromance for a while before cycling up the pacific coast all the way to San Francisco in order to do that final cacooning adventure. Once in San Fran, Kyra will then be back there to show me around before hopefully going with her and Gerry to Burning Man (if I/we can get a ticket).

Yes, a complete change! But the ultimate finish to my Self-discovery journey. I have wanted to return to the USA for a long time. The last time I was there was when I worked as an Au Pair in Chicago for a year when I was 18 years old, and I have also never been to and always wanted to go to California, particularly San Francisco.

But then to end the Self-discovery adventure at Burning Man deep in the Nevada desert at a place where thousands of people meet every year to experience what it would be like if everyone in the world gave and shared happiness and love just to make each other happy; well, that would be a pretty amazing finish - the world’s biggest and most life-changing transformational festival to end my own life-changing, transformational experience.

But first I bring you back to Colombia, as I now travel with the Cipriano Gang to Desierto de la Tatacoa - Colombia’s own special desert.

Be inspired ♥


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