No Translation Needed: playing soccer in Colombia’s jungles

July 22, 2015 Jeff Garriock

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If you’ve never hiked the Lost City Trek in Colombia, know that it can be tough. Although it’s not impossibly demanding, when you’re hot, sweaty, dusty, and tired, everything just seems to be that much harder. When the three hours of trekking you were prepared for turn into six hours and you’re told the uphill part is almost over, your focus tends to go razor-sharp, to the exact moment you’re in. You keep going, one foot in front of the other.

So when you finally reach a rest stop, it’s a beautiful thing.

We sat down on some logs and cracked open our water reserves. The jungle, in spite of how humid it is, really drains the water out of you. But mostly, the relief came from being able to sit down and take a moment to look around. Colombia is beautiful, and in the undisturbed jungle, that beauty really stands out. It was during this powerful moment of tranquility that a soccer ball came flying around the corner of a nearby hut – nearly bounding into the head of the girl sitting beside me. The ball was then followed by a gaggle of excited kids racing after it and chattering excitedly. We all shared a confused look, tossed the ball back, and followed along to see what would happen next.

“Can we play, too?”

Picture this: halfway up a mountain (and two days from civilization), a group of local Kogi kids start playing a game of soccer. They’re wearing oversized Wellington boots for shoes and playing on a dirt patch of a field with bamboo goalposts, but the looks on their faces are telling us that this didn’t matter to them. We were exhausted from the hike, but as I looked around at my fellow travellers, I saw that their faces had lit right up. It was then that I heard someone ask, “Can we play, too?”

I won't forget the looks on their faces.

Five minutes later we were in full swing. The teams were Travellers vs Kids (their idea, not ours). We kept looking at each other in amazed disbelief – this was the last thing we had expected to find this far into the jungle, but it’s true what they say: the whole world plays soccer. The kids were playing like they had something to prove, and most of us hadn’t played since we were their age. We had size and speed, but these kids had skills.

Travellers vs Kids.

Travellers vs Kids.

The whole world plays soccer, but there can be only one winner

We were promptly trounced 5-2, but the most incredible thing was that our exhaustion had been washed away. Everyone was all-smiles in spite of our defeat, and the kids celebrated loudly and unashamedly (as they should have). We bought them some cola as a gesture of good will and sportsmanship.

The Lost City in Colombia's jungle.

The Lost City in Colombia's jungle.

In spite of the beautiful jungle, wildlife, and amazing isolation, it’s that game against those kids that I will always remember first. I never would’ve thought that the best break from a difficult trek would be a high-octane soccer game... but being given the chance to connect and interact with the Kogi community – when we don’t share language or customs – I can’t help but count the loss as a win.

Getting There

Want to find the Lost City yourself? G Adventures runs a number of departures encompassing a wide range of departure dates. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.

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