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Colombia Dispatch Part II – Caño Cristales

Date: June 14, 2023 | By: Ashish Sanghrajka | Category: Travel Blog


The Twelve year Dream


Dear Advisor Partners,

I often tell my children to dream big and to walk through brick walls when necessary in order to achieve those dreams. I tell them that no dream is too big or unattainable; it’s only a matter of willpower, skill, and determination. I may have been talking to my children. However, deep down, I think I was talking to myself.

Twelve years ago, as I was traveling through Colombia, I saw pictures of Caño Cristales at every airport and was told how inaccessible this area was. This was all before the treaty was signed, all before Colombia really took off the meteoric way that it has. This was when most of Colombia, beyond the known cities, was still a sleeping giant. Yet I found a way to visit Caño Cristales before any tourism system existed. Let me tell you that my visit 12 years ago was an epic disaster. However, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, fueling my fire to return one day and to mark Caño Cristales as the latest example of transformation through tourism in Colombia.

Fast forward 12 years, and the desire to return to Caño Cristales has not dissipated. In those 12 years and with every visit to Colombia, I would drive our Colombia team crazy asking about a return to this river of five colors. I think some serious headaches ensued after each visit, and I don’t even want to know how many hours of sleep were lost. Enter 2023, and we made history. It finally happened! Big Five took the first group of advisors in all of North America to this part of Caño Cristales for the day. It all started with a 1 hour flight deep into the heart of Colombia, followed by a 4X4 excursion and a trek. Since this entire region sits atop a tar pit, you could see oil oozing from the ground in certain places we trekked. How could the water be this clear, that close to the tar pits? Nature works in some mysterious ways when left alone.  The tar pits and the luminescent algae weren’t the only focal points here, it was our local guides.

Now, mind you, Big Five always sends a national guide, like my buddy Leon, for these adventures as he is a modern-day Indiana Jones. However, the local guides told the same stories I heard 12 years ago, stories that made me shiver, stories that made my jaw drop due to the content and context. Stories I can’t even write here as the words don’t do them justice! Yet here we are, and here they are, transformed through tourism from a past leading to a painful ending to a future without limits.

It took 12 years to fulfill this dream, a strong reminder that every dream needs course correction, grit, and perseverance. It shouldn’t need extra motivation. That should be a prerequisite. Well, our team never wavered, we kept trying to find ways to make this work, and we finally did, right between Bogota and Medellin, with the precision of a Swiss watch. This dream literally had planes, boats, off-road vehicles (and one dislocated shoulder, for you know who).  The dedication of our Colombia team made this happen, from the activities down to the branded rain ponchos, slippers, and toiletries!

Enjoy Part II of our dispatch.

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