Any worries of security issues were pushed aside when we struck camp. One member of our expedition, German, had brought along his small two-man tent and was clearing a level space on the beach before being warned against this as this is where the prolific Boas of the region preferred to hunt. On this news, German moved further up onto the island and I unrolled my sleeping bag on the highest rock around.
The three full days of river travel behind us had taught us that the jungle and the river could provide generously. Now, one wrong turn on our extreme jungle trek and we learnt that this was a harsh mistress.
Twice on the river trip we had happened across recently drowned wild boars still good for human consumption and each time we stopped Adán would expertly cast a line, hook, and bait and outnumber our catch by six to one easily.
Now, here, lost in the jungle, we remembered further wise words uttered by Toribio urging us to respect the jungle since she is jealous, closely guarding her secrets as well as reacting badly to those who come crashing through shouting and disturbing the peace.
Making guttural almost simian noises, which seemed to carry further through the foliage we attempted to locate the other guide Hervacio and the remaining two in our group. No sound was returned above the usual jungle clatter.
Then, there was chatter, unintelligible, but definitely chatter to the west of us. Toribio became visibly perturbed; our lost companions should be to the east of us. Speaking in a hushed burst I asked if there were still mafia in these parts. Negative.
Our concern was certainly legitimate though, after all we had just passed through a clearing that had once been a FARC checkpoint and camp along this jungle trail. But from where did these voices come if not uttered by our companions or errant guerrilla? It was then that Toribio opined, the Curupira of the jungle had spoken.
The mention of the Curupira made us feel as if part of the mystery of jungle lore, for it is this mythical creature that is believed to utter sounds in the jungle to lead people astray and lose them within her dense canopies.
Perhaps it was the Curupira or perhaps it was our imaginations playing tricks, but respectfully we moved on to the refreshing waterfalls of Morelia and were reunited with our companions.
Toribio could have been right on both points, but bathing my feet in the cool waters of Morelia, I did feel as if lifted away.
Richard McColl is the author of the Michelin Green Guide to Colombia and a contributor to Fodor's Guide to South America (Colombia chapter). His travel writing has appeared on websites, in magazines, periodicals and newspapers in his native UK as well as in the US. With 11 years under his belt in South America, he now makes his home in Colombia dividing his time between the capital Bogota and his guesthouse in the garciamarquian heartlands of Mompos. Visit his website at www.rmccoll.co.uk
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Other South America travel stories from the archives
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