The gardener

We are on our way to the Tayrona national park from the fincas where we had met with Marisol and her family for a final laugh in this heavenly place.

The sun is already hot as we walk up to the intersection that links the dust road we use to the main asphalt road. While we wait for the buseta to Santa Marta that drops us off right at one of the main entrances of the national park, an old blue pickup truck with two kids standing in the back approaches us from the same dust road we just used. The back is filled with palm leaves and garden tools.

Maria lifts up her arm in a recognisable fashion and beckons the driver to stop. She asks whether we can get a ride to the park. The man checks us out and after a quick scan opens his side door, inviting us in.

As we ride to the gates of Colombia's touristy national treasure, Maria starts the conversation with the man. She asks about the boys in the back, whether they are his sons. One of them is, the other is his cousin the man clarifies in a thick costeño accent. The atmosphere is relaxed as he explains to us that he is also on his way to the Tayrona park, he is employed there as one of the gardeners.

After a few glances at us he tells us that the park is full of tourists this time of the year, lots of foreigners like us. Maria jumps on that occasion to reassure the man that she is actually from Sincelejo. The man's kind eyes look her up and down doubting the statement. Amused, he replies that her pale skin and her auburn hair mean she will automatically be placed in the same bag as the foreigners. Maria scowls, then laughing she comments about the beautiful river we just crossed. The sight was indeed stunning.

The man's eyes harden and his lips purse. He seems to be lost in memories of bad times passed. As Maria and I are both looking at him questioningly, he explains. That river we just crossed used to be filled with river shrimps (camarones); the gardener used to bring home a bucket full every time he went. Now there are no more river shrimps.

His face darkens further. The narcos up in the mountains, they are the ones to blame for the end of this fragile ecosystem. The chemicals they use for the production of the drugs they sell abroad end up washing downstream to the mouth of the river. Killing.

The only real income this side of the coast has is tourism. It's better than before, safer he ends.

We near our destination after the 10min ride. The line of tourists waiting to marvel at nature's fantastic sights is long. Two 'mochileros' walk the line, away from the gates. They inform those queuing that the park has reached its maximum capacity for the day.

We cross the road and hop on the ride back to Costeño, we will do some surfing instead.

Nota: Las observaciones y opiniones que figuran en este artículo son del autor(a) y no reflejan necesariamente las afiliaciones profesionales del mismo, de Tres Cocos o ninguna otra organización.

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