“…caught a swell, caught a wave to another inspiring place…”
I honestly can’t imagine a place more inspiring than where I’ve been. I spent the last week with my Italian hermana, Elena, outside of Pueblo Bello in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We stayed at botanical gardens owned by a local Mamo (spiritual leader, in this case, of the Arhuaco indigenous people). The term ‘botanical garden’ to me is a bit off. It makes me think of ButchArt Gardens or some city park, but Busintana is a project with greater social, environmental and cultural impact than any other botanical garden I can think of.
Mamo Menjabin started the park over 10 years ago, restoring land from cleared plains back to the jungle. The property is 17 hectares of stone paths, mango trees, orange bushes, and so much more. The site is totally organic and natural, with no pesticides or GMO seeds used. The way they plant trees works with the environment instead of shaping it. Where there is sitting water they plant a local indigenous tree, by splicing an existing tree, planting the stalks into the ground where it regrows roots and sucks up all the water in the area. In the herb gardens they grow plants which natural repel insects, thus saving the surrounding plants. The sugar cane growing here is used to create a variety of natural products, including alcohols for cleaning (and drinking!). Menjabin estimates he has planted over 100,000 trees on the property, and continues to plant each day. It’s simple stuff, but yet the knowledge of how to plant and work with the land is slowly getting lost. His work is incredibly inspiring to me and it’s been amazing to see the impact on the local community, the indigenous culture and the environment. Additionally, the gardens produce a variety of natural products, sold abroad, which support locals and help to preserve a more traditional way of life.
Additionally, all types of medicinal plants are grown here by the Arhuaco, and used for healing local communities as well as anyone intrepid enough to walk through the river and enter their gates. I’ve been lucky to have shared dinners with multimillionaire CEOs, learned from award-wining scientists, and have had long chats with athletes, entrepreneurs and a few ‘famousy’ people. But the time that Menjabin devoted to showing us around the gardens and teaching us about the plants, for me, is among the most inspiring and valuable time another person has ever shared with me.
There is so much more I could say about Busintana but it really just feels like magic to me, and magic is not something easily explained.
Tomorrow I catch my boat to Europe. It feels surreal after 10 months here in South America, mostly Colombia. So much has happened: I’ve jumped off cliffs and flown over canyons, played in huge surf, hiked mountains, learned some Spanish, fell in love with the land over and over again.
Leaving here I am already planning to come back. This place, this country, has become more of a home to me than anywhere else I’ve lived in the last several years. Even though it’s time to go, I know I’ll come home again soon.