“We will go to visit a friend.” Christian was leading the way through the bushy wilderness on the bank of the river Magdalena. San Augustin village in the department of Huila is one of the popular tourists attractions of Colombia. The UNESCO protected Archaeological Park contains mysterious indigenous megalithic sculptures built most probably in 50–400 A.D. As no written information was found, no one know the actual purpose of these sculptures or who built them. Some say that magic is still alive here. But who knows…
We jumped on the back of the four-wheel jeep full of passengers. There was a guy of indigenous origin sitting on the top of the car with a long wizardly-looking stick with a shiny crystal ball on top. “Why do you have this stick?” I asked innocently. “It is a sign of power.” I looked at Christian, and he smiled. Yeah, magic.
The wind was playing with Christian’s up-to-waist dreadlocks. I could guess he was in his mid-fifties or sixties – it was hard to tell, as a long beard was covering his always smiling face. His cabin, just on the outskirts of San Augustin village, is always full of young travellers. It is like an unofficial hostel, where with or without money you are welcome, if you bring good intentions and your energy to help around the house.
A house in a forest
“He lives alone.” Christian started introducing his friend, while we were still walking through the forest. “One time his nephew announced on the radio that he died. Just to make people come and visit him. All of his relatives gathered and what a surprise – he is alive.” Interesting, that often only a funeral and death make you visit a forgotten relative. And what a paradoxical disappointment if you come for a funeral and the relative is alive! 🙂
“Amazing” pictures from my 3 megapixel mobile camera 😀
In the midst of the bushes I saw the abandoned homestead with a couple of buildings and piles of garbage around. The walls were decorated with colourful hippie drawings. It seemed that the houses had seen better times. Christian confirmed – indeed the owner used to rent the rooms for travellers. A handmade clay furnace was standing in the yard. “Here we cooked space cakes. But the legs flunked and all the furnace collapsed”, laughed Christian from his memory. Definitely, a positive memory. Even though no space cakes afterall…
Behind the building, in the patio, I finally saw him. Seated on a bench there was an old man, surrounded by chicken. A young Colombian couple was keeping him company. The old man was 94 years old, barely walking as you can tell from the walking stick resting beside him. He was probably living from the food that the visitors were bringing him. We greeted and gave him our offering – the cookies. The old man thanked us, and while coughing angrily kicked the chicken, which bravely came too close to the cookie bag.
“Look, I have a guest for you from Lithuania”, Christian introduced me almost shouting, as the old man couldn’t hear well.
“I had guests from all countries, but from Russia no!” replied the old man.
“So look, old man, now finally came a guest from Russia!” Christian laughed and winked at me. Just before coming here we were discussing about the complicated relations between Russia and Lithuania, and how someone might get offended when you mix up Lithuania with Russia. I am not nationalistic, but even if I were, the happiness of the old man would have compensated that.
Being arrested for weed
“Tell us the story how you were arrested for weed!” insisted the crowd.
Apparently, when the old man was young, he was arrested for 3 days because he smuggled weed. When police caught him, he feverishly tried to eat all of his baggage, but unfortunately couldn’t. So had to turn to plan B. Which was – blame the gringo. He knows nothing, did nothing, it was the gringo’s fault!. Colombian couple started laughing. Probably that’s what you do when you have legal problems in Colombia 😀
“Good news!” shouted Christian to the ear of the old man. “They legalized marijuana! Now you can have a couple of plants legally!”
“Ech, then I would need to protect them. That no one robs them!” spits out the old man.
Smoking a joint
Christian rolls a joint. We pass it through. The old man is the last for it. His hands are shaking when he tries to hold the joint, but he manages to take a deep puff. The couple starts laughing and applauding. A smile flashes on the old man’s face. With every minute wider and wider. Maybe the weed kicked in. Time to say goodbye.
The old man stays on his bench when we walk away. I turned back and for the first time saw that above his head hangs a picture of an owl. How didn’t I notice that picture before? The old man himself started to look like some old owl. Sitting on his bench, in the middle of the forest, with a wide smile and the eyes full of memories.