2016-02-02 Popayan

I have had the best sleep in weeks, in months and I did not want to wake up and only the phone call from Robert made me get up, slowly, very slowly. I was late, the agreement with Robert had been 09:00 hours at the main square; Colin was ready and so he went to pick Robert up. Slowly, very slowly I was on my feet, took a quick cold shower and sat down in the sunny patio. They arrived a minute later and I gave Robert a very friendly, big hug and we both sat down in the sunny patio. Colin organized 2 chairs and left for a meeting. Robert and I had a conversation until suddenly Colin arrived back; he had canceled his meeting and had organized a guided tour through the historical center for us.


We crossed the street, walked around the corner and entered one of the many historic churches of Popayan and here I met my 3 friends, the holy Trinity; we looked at each other but did not speak. The tour continued to the main square, the Caldas Park which was busy but not crowded.


Everything seemed pretty well organized and regulated, calm and secure, clean and tidy. Colin had become a professional tour guide, I had noticed and respected that already yesterday night and noticed that again this morning. Robert and I followed him, listened carefully to his stories and learned more and more about the history of the city of Popayan.


Next on Colin’s tour list was the University of Art and Culture. We entered the building and stood in a beautiful colonial patio and the sound of a piano, a very clear sound, acoustically transported perfectly through the old historical stone walls and through the open and partly sunny patio reached our open ears, the sound was magic, the moment was magic. We walked to the first floor and had the privilege again to listen to the practice of the unknown piano player.


Next on Colin’s tour list was the museum of the family Valencia, a local family of poets and presidents. Luckily we had to wait a bit for the director to appear and start with his exclusive tour and so we had time to enjoy another colonial patio, this time beautifully designed with hundreds of different flowers growing in between the tiny space of the stone floor and inside various terracotta flower pots, the patio was magic, the moment was magic.


The guided museum tour within our guided city tour started and we received a detailed presentation of all the different rooms of the mansion, the palace of the family Valencia. The exhibits, the paintings, the pictures and all the furniture were perfectly decorated and you had the impression that the last member of the family had just left a few minutes ago; the mansion was a home, the museum felt like a home. The director knew his treasure, knew the family, knew the exhibits, knew the history and with his calm and clear voice presented a perfect tour. Thank you very much.


Robert and I had agreed to spend the afternoon gold washing in a mountain river and he had to walk home to prepare the equipment. Colin and I went to another department of the University of Popayan and then back to his apartment. His patio neighbor worked as a camera technician and I wanted to leave my camera to see if he could identify the problem and maybe even fix it.


Colin dropped me off at the agreed meeting point at the bridge; Colin had a private student and could not join. Robert and I took the bus out of the city, got off somewhere in the middle of nowhere, walked up a small track, passed some gates and arrived at a farm which gave access to the river. Robert would always bring something to the poor family, this time he brought a cake. We continued down to the river and prepared ourselves for a short walk in the river upstream to the digging point. The nature was beautiful, the tropical vegetation had created a tunnel above the river, the sun was shining through the leaves and the temperature of the water was mild, the river was magic, the moment was magic.


Robert explained me the philosophy of gold washing, indicated our spot for today and started moving heavy stones and digging earth and washing and, and with the third washing we found a flake. Now it was my turn to wash the earth and it was my turn to wash the earth again and one last time it was my turn to wash the earth. Thank you very much, very, very much for this unique experience.


It was time to pack things up again and walk back. We changed our wet clothes and I was complaining about my weight. I asked Robert about his age and he answered “51”. I asked Robert about the year of his birth and he answered “1964”. Something was going on here and I shouted “No”. I asked Robert what month of the year and he answered “September”. Something was definitely going on here and I shouted “No”. I did not want to ask for the day but with a certain disbelief I said or asked, “September 4th?” I could not believe this, he could not believe this, I could not believe this, he could not believe this. We had met a month ago in the Amazon, in Leticia, we had met again today here in Colombia, here in Popayan, we have had an excellent conversation a month ago and we had an excellent conversation today, we were 2 Gringos in the middle of nowhere standing beside a beautiful river and had to realize that we were born the same year, the same month, the same day. Robert must be kind of my soul brother. The river was magic; the moment was magic, unbelievably magic.


We drove back to the city, Robert went home to change and I went to find the apartment of Colin, I was sure to find the way, I was arrogant enough to think that I would find the way. In the last telephone conversation in the bus Colin had given the church we had visited this morning as the best reference. It was dark by now, all houses were white, all streets looked the same, I found myself in a labyrinth, I was lost. I tried to remember the pictures I had taken this morning and tried to walk accordingly, the way backwards from the Valencia museum to the Caldas Park backwards to the entrance of the university where Colin was working. I asked the security and he pointed to the opposite direction and was pretty sure about this. Had I been so wrong, had my memory failed me so bad and my orientation let me down? I trusted the security and walked back the way I had just come, but it was not feeling right. I decided to search for the church that Colin had indicated in the last conversation and that we had visited first this morning. I went to see all churches in the center and came back to the doorsteps of the university. I did not want to shout at the security but he had been wrong, he had sent me to Colin’s previous address. 2 more minutes and I was at the door to house number 7-57.


Robert and I met again to have Areppa at Rapiareppa and had a few more words but then we went to pick up my backpack at the apartment of Colin. I gave Colin 3 hugs and said thank you 3 times. We had met by chance, by pure chance at the bakery and he had taken care of me since. Thank you very much Colin. Robert took me to the terminal; we stopped quickly at his girlfriend’s office but then we crossed the bridge over the Panamerican and we stood at the bus terminal. A really big, warm hug to my soul brother, thank you very much Robert. I hope to see you many more times; I hope to see you in my home next time.

What an incredible time in Popayan, what an incredible experience in Popayan. Magic.

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