Today I went hiking in Colombia – just two hours drive from Bogota you can find wonderful nature!
Laguna verde (“green lake”) was the destination. After getting out of the car, we walked through a high altitude plateau (3300-3700 m) with rare plants, the beautiful colours and the relieving fresh air that you only get in the mountains.
After around 2 hours hike we had chatted with each other and former strangers had become friends – the bizarre scenary made it possible.
Approaching Laguna Verde we saw a group of tents on the shore. A group of around 15 people in hiking gear were starting to pull down their tents. A bit late, we thought – how far can they reach if they start their day’s hike at 1pm?
We passed them with a few greetings and climbed up the mountain behind the lake to get the full panoramic view. Our guide decides to stay behind with a lady that got tired, but the majority of us wouldn’t return home without reaching the peak!
Of we go, climbing up around 200 steep metres. Just a few metres below the peak we couldn’t trace the path. High scrubs everywhere. “No hay un camino claro!” was mumbled by a lady. (“There is no clear path!”)
Of course we made it somehow – I lead the group upwards, to me the direction “to the peak” is clear enough when climbing a mountain. I remember the inspiring statement about leadership that I heard so often… About leaving a trail where is no path. I am not satisfied by the extend of my leadership, my impact – so I drop the thought quickly.
A stunning view and the well-deserved lunch break awaited us. Sandwiches and fruits were unpacked and munched… until a sudden rain hit us and we jumped in our rainjackets and hurried down the hill to find a shelter.
“Scrubs?” I am thinking.
Until we reached the campers, the rain had subsided and become a drizzle.
They shouted at us and waved us over to their camp. They had a pot of soup that they wanted to share with us. Moving closer I saw that the cook who was wearing shorts had only one leg – the other one had a prosthesis. Looking around I saw more of the campers with leg prostheses – many had two!
We are in the middle of wild nature. I see people wearing high-tech hiking wear. I see branded hiking boots. I see metal connecting the two. I am deeply disturbed. I can’t make it work in my head. I can’t even accept the soup that I am offered.
Nobody else seems to be bothered. The campers are fitting the last tent equipment back in their backpacks. My group mates are chatting and eating. They are teasing me that I don’t eat the soup – is it that I don’t like the intestines it includes?
The language barrier makes me shut up even more.
I remember: Colombia is the country with the highest amount of landmines victims worldwide.
The leader of the group himself has one prothesis. He explained to us that this is a group of former soldiers who are preparing to climb Kilimanjaro in August. A team of mechanics, psychologists and doctors will accompany them. They have been fundraising for the trip for long.
What big an inspiration can this group be to thousands of landmine victims?
What faces will they encounter in Tanzania’s airport?
Is it physically possible for them to reach the peak?
What looks will they attract from other hikers?
How many protheses could be fitted with the money that is donated for this trip?
Many questions could be asked. I don’t ask. I can see:
This man is a leader. He has the goal clear.
Go where there is no path – and leave a trail!
More about landmines: http://www.the-monitor.org/index.php/publications/display?url=lm/2004/colombia.html