Saturday, July 31, 2010

Horsin' around....

Roger went to see the operation of a drilling company in the NE Colombian city of Monteria this week, and sent Brad, Anette and me a “site visit” report, which was just too amazing not to put it on the blog. Here's what he had to say...
The owner, Luis Luna, and his wife, Cecilia, who works at the drilling company as the social director came along as well as their 18 year old son Carlos, who soon starts university for a law degree. The social work that Cecilia does is a very important aspect of all businesses especially the mining industry.  All the companies have departments for this that look after hiring local workers and contributing to local schools and clinics.  
We had a good day on the Cerra Matoso mine site in this large nickel mine. The area has nickel, gold and coal mining dating back hundreds of years.  The companies’ equipment is modern and well maintained and the company’s safety protocols are some of the best I have seen but the drilling methodology is old world.
The Baroness and I at Hacienda Guadalajara
Luis has a friend in the area that has some mineral concessions on his property that he needs to get drilled. He owns 2000 hectares, and is a cattle baron with about 2500 Brahmas (with the big hump on their neck which is the favorite cut of meat for the roast). We went out to their property around 6 pm covered in mud from slogging through trails and swamp to see the drills (we needed to walk about 1 to 2 kms to most of the drill sites because of environmental regulations). The drive was over very bad roads and through large mud holes and creeks to the Hacienda Guadalajara.
Close encounter with an 8" tarantula
I’ve joked that my good looks and charm help offset my inability to speak Spanish, but it failed me when I thought they asked if I would like to see the onions and I said “yes”. I was thinking onions? As it turns out, onions (cebollas) is very similar to the word for horses (caballos). We wandered over and they had 9 horses saddled up to go out for a ride.
I haven't been on a horse for 30 years...
I realized too late they must have been asking if I ride horses. These are smaller, mountain horses so I felt sorry for mine, but away we went climbing up a steep slippery trail to a spectacular view of the area to try to see an access way in for the core drills.  
Carlos Luna
A small nip along the way

The baroness came along as well as the Luna family and some of the ranch cowboys.  Along the way we stopped to take a swig of a liquor made from sugar cane, and by the time I was at the top I was thinking I was an expert.
A real Colombian cowboy (Vaquero)

They were trying to tell me how to ride the horse -- especially for the way down where I had to put my feet ahead and push and lean back because of the steep grade.  
Anyway, by now the sun was down and it was pitch black as we start down the mountain. Getting back down in the valley, it was cloudy and very dark, but it looked like a small city with millions of fireflies lighting things up.
What I saw going down the mountain at night!
When we arrived back to the ranch, they had a large group of friends invited over waiting for us who did not seem to mind that we smelled pretty bad and were covered in mud. The gathering was held in an unbelievable outdoor living room with a thatched roof where we had round after round of hors d’oeurves and drinks in, and then a big sit down supper. 

It was a late night and a short sleep to get up for the trip to the airport, but still managed to get one last unusual shot of meat being chopped outside my hotel room.
Meat being butchered at 4:30 a.m.
Since I don't have Roger's "good looks and charm" I am slogging my way through Spanish verb conjugation in preparation for my arrival in South America.  I really feel like I’m missing out on lots of great experiences, and I am looking forward to joining Roger in a few weeks.  I really admire Roger's ability to adapt to new situations, and I know Colombia is going to be an amazing time for us.

"Goin' places that I've never seen
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again -
Lake a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way..."
On the Road Again, Willie Nelson

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