It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, OK, a dark and stormy late afternoon. We were only 30 or so minutes from the end of what had otherwise been a fantastic day – a 19-km hike to see Colombia’s fantastic wax palms in La Carbonera, a beautiful canyon that is more remote and far less touristed than the well-known Cocora Valley.

We’d enjoyed perfect weather until early afternoon. Then the clouds gathered and the sky opened up and proceeded to dump buckets onto us and our guide, Andrés. The steep, rocky, and narrow track we’d been following back down into the town of Salento quickly became a rushing creek. To avoid that, we inched our way about 5 feet above the trail. One misstep, and the soggy ground dumped me into the erstwhile-trail-now-creek. And along the way, I felt a pop in my left ankle.

The fabulous wax palms – Colombia’s national tree – while I was still on two feet. We saw no other tourists or hikers in this remote area.

What to do?

Smiling through the pain

We knew we were maybe a klick away from the road that led directly into town. I was not in pain (yet), but I could not walk well enough to navigate the very steep cow pasture that lay between us and the road. And the thunder and lightning were getting Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (wait, isn’t that a novel or movie or something?). So Andrés and John propped me against a big tree that offered a bit of shelter, and Andrés headed down the rest of the way to get help.

A surprisingly short time later (maybe 20 minutes), Andrés arrived back with the owner of Salento Trekking, Diego Garavito. By then, I was in some real pain and feeling a little woozy/queasy. Andres offered a pain pill and Diego taped my ankle like a pro, which brought some immediate relief. He also gave me his own jacket to warm me up, because I was drenched and beginning to shiver. The rain was still pouring but starting to let up.

Next, a piggyback ride (sorry, Diego!) a short distance down the “creek,” a white-knuckle horseback ride down the before-mentioned steep cow pasture (I almost slid off a couple of times, because I couldn’t put my left foot in the stirrup), and two car rides to the nearby city of Armenia. First, we stopped at the trekking company’s clinic for x-rays (yup, a fractured fibula right where the bone meets the ankle) and then to the ER for our healthcare provider, SURA. Three hours later we were headed back to our hotel in Salento, my foot securely splinted and I woozy from injected pain meds.


We’re booked on a flight back home tomorrow (a couple of days early) and I’m figuring out how to walk on crutches without leaving a path of destruction. It’s a surreal feeling to be so incapacitated. Surreal and funny: Picture me crawling on my hands and knees up the stairs to our second-floor hotel room, with lots of help from Diego and John. Yup, it happened, at almost 11 p.m. last night! After a day that started at 6:30 a.m.


I owe HUGE thanks to so many:

  • My superhero, Diego of Salento Trekking. He truly went above and beyond to get me off the mountain and to medical care. And this morning, he showed up with a shiny new pair of crutches. I don’t know how to repay him.
  • Andrés, our excellent guide. Not only did he show us one of the great wonders of Colombia, but he kept his head and got me the help I needed, fast.
Andres, guide extraordinaire
  • Eugenio, the campesino who overlooked my sad lack of horsemanship to get me down that pasture on his horse.
  • Diego’s friend Caserolo, who met us and drove us down into town in his car.
  • Diego’s friend whose name I didn’t catch, who helped him basket-carry me from the hotel parking lot to the foot of the stairs. That’s where I put my foot down (so to speak) and insisted I could crawl up.
  • The kind and wonderful staff of the Hotel Terrazas de Salento, who made sure our every need was provided for.
  • And last but most, John – my knight in shining armor. He was my steadfast advocate yesterday and is now waiting on me hand and foot.

    I’m such a lucky gal – a) that the injury wasn’t worse, and b) that I get to share a life of adventure with my best friend, John!

Next: Much more about Colombia’s wax palms and the incredible La Carbonera valley!


    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! I was so lucky – it could have been so much worse.

  1. As someone (me) who took an epic fall this past summer, my heart goes out to you. I was fortunate in that I didn’t break any bones, but I feel your pain. So much pain. But, you know us travel writers… anything for a good story! Take good care and I think it’s a rule that ice cream and chocolate are required elements of the healing process.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Patti! So sorry you had that accident. Yup, at 63, it HAS entered my mind (only briefly) that we might be getting too old for some of this stuff. Perish the thought! And yes, ice cream and chocolate will heal anything. 🙂

  2. One bad thing and multiple great things came from this accident. Lucky to find so many helpful people and your willingness to appreciate them.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks! I had a lot of guardian angels. 🙂

  3. Ouch! So glad you’re ok, Susan.. and that it wasn’t any worse. Aren’t we blessed (those who have fallen, or sprained ankles, etc) with these amazing and generous angels, who take such good care of us? And yay for John too, of course. May you heal well. Happy holidays!

    • Oy! Great story, well told, crap thing to happen! So happy we got to visit with you. Take care!

      • John and Susan Pazera Reply

        Ha – I think you two picked exactly the right time to visit! Thanks, Elizabeth – happy holidays to you and Dianne!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Amit! Yes, I feel very blessed indeed – that it wasn’t worse, and that so many excellent people came to my aid. Life is good. Happy holidays back to you!

  4. julie castleberry Reply

    oh no! Take care and it looks like you already see it as a “funny story”. All my best!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Julie! Sometimes ya just gotta laugh 🙂 Christmas hugs to you and Kirk!

  5. Oh No! So sorry this happened, but wow, it sounds like the planets lined up for the rescue. It sure pays to hire a local guide is the other message I read between the lines here. Best of luck on your recovery!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh, YES. When we do the post about visiting this area, we will emphasize that it should NOT be done without a guide. It’s just so remote – we didn’t see another soul all day except for two ladies at the little farmhouse where we stopped for refreshments. If we had been alone, we might have been waiting a long time for help, maybe all night. And Andres was an excellent companion 🙂

  6. Wow, wow, wow, Susan. And, oh no! I’m so glad you were on that trail with a guide! I often think when Mark and I are hiking in remote places what would happen if one of us breaks or sprains an ankle or foot.

    This all can happen so quickly, huh? But I’m relieved your rescue happened timely and knightly. Wishing you a speedy recovery and a safe and painless journey back home.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Liesbet! I would never recommend doing this hike without a guide because it’s so off the track – we scarcely saw another soul all day. Getting help would have been really hard if it had just been the two of us. We got home yesterday safe and sound!

  7. Thank goodness for Diego, Andres, John and all the others who were in the right place at the right time to help you!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      You’re so right, Mimi. I had a lot of angels helping me and looking out for me that day! 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, thanks, Mel. That sums it up perfectly 🙂

  8. Alan & Geri ex of Boquete now at Costa Blanca near Farallon. Reply

    Been enjoying your adventures.
    Heal fast!.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Merry Christmas/Happy New Year

  9. Sue Leverton Reply

    So sorry but glad you are healing. What is life without adventurous difficulties ❤️

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Truth! Thanks, Sue. Hugs to you and Jake.

  10. Scott Thompson Reply

    So sorry to hear about your injury. I fractured my left tibia AND fibula a couple years back on my property here east of San Diego, CA. I found that a knee scooter was much better than crutches for me. Suggest you pick one up or order one if feasible.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you! A knee scooter is a great idea. It won’t help me much here at home, with a bunch of stairs to negotiate, but if it turns out I need a longer-term cast I will investigate that. I would love to be more mobile! The inactivity is the hardest thing about this experience. I appreciate the advice, and yikes – both big bones. That sounds painful. Hope your healing was complete.

  11. Oh I’m so sorry! I guess it’s what we all fear when travelling isn’t it. It reminded me of al the times Don and I have fallen over the years and have been able to get up and walk away. Lucky! Wishing you a speedy recovery.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Alison. We have had such excellent luck in our travels that I guess we were overdue for something. Hope this is the last “thing” for a while! Glad you have never had any serious incidents, and here’s hoping for health and safety going forward. 🙂

  12. Oh no! Not the best thing to happen on a trip, that’s for sure…thankfully, you weren’t alone and you had a great team backing you up and getting you treated right away…rest up, and no harrowing adventures for a while, y’hear? XD

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, ma’am – ha! Thanks, Rebecca. Looking forward to a bit of non-drama for a while. Happy holidays to you and your family!

  13. Susan…OMG, so sorry your gorgeous day out ended this way, but the thrill of the unexpected and slightly dangerous makes such outdoor adventures all the more exciting. Wishing you rapid healing and a full recovery! Sending healing hugs your way.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Henry! I might have to use your quote somewhere about the thrill of the unexpected. That really sums us up! Hope you’re well – happy holidays to you and your family! 🙂

  14. Bernadette & Richard Reply

    So sorry to hear that Susan but you had lots of people to dance attendance on you! Hope it heals soon, but give it time ( speaking from experience) no rushing off on adventures for a while! Seasons Greetings and love to you both💕

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hellooo Bernadette and Richard! So sorry I’m just now replying, but for some reason your message went into an “unapproved” folder and I just now saw it. Hope you two had a great holiday season and are taking on the new year with relish (I know you are!). My ankle is healing well – just got the cast off, and I’m now in physical therapy. Poco a poco (little by little) I’ll soon be good as new. Love and hugs back to both of you from John and me!
      – Susan

  15. Oh no! It must have been frustrating that what was supposed to be a great day ended up with a sprained ankle. But I really admire your lightheartedness. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Susan! I hope before Christmas you’ll be able to go out and about again so you can fully enjoy the holiday festivities.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Bama! I feel so grateful for all the help I received and that the injury wasn’t worse. Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas (is Christmas a thing at all in Indonesia??). Cheers!

      • Thanks Susan. Yes, Christmas is a thing in Indonesia although the country is predominantly Muslim. It’s a public holiday, and in cities everywhere you go you’ll likely see Christmas decorations. Some of the fondest memories from my childhood was watching Christmas movies on TV when it was raining outside (December is rainy season in this part of Indonesia).

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          It’s amazing how Christmas (well, at least the secular parts) has invaded even Muslim countries. But there are so many nice things about this season that have nothing to do with religion – time with family, the food (yum), and yes, the Christmas movies 🙂 That sounds like such a cozy scene! Enjoy, Bama.

          • I think it’s largely because Christmas is good for business as people usually spend more around this time. 🙂 There are indeed some people who voice their objection toward how festive Christmas is celebrated in Indonesia, but I feel like the majority of the population is more pragmatic.

  16. Oh no not another one, that’s twice in a week that we’ve heard of one of our fellow travel bloggers has had a hiking accident! Hope you’re on the road to recovery now.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! I guess this goes with the territory – when we think of the hundreds and hundreds of hikes we’ve done with no incident, it really puts things in perspective. Looks like you’re still in Jamaica – will you spend Christmas there? Happy holidays from John and me 🙂

  17. Oh No!! I know that trail and I can easily see this happening. Good thing Diego was there and is so great in an emergency. Hope you heal quickly!!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hey there! As I mentioned in my reply on your Rio comment, you guys went into some sort of “unapproved” black hole in WordPress, no idea why! So I’m sorry I just saw your comment. But thanks – healing is going apace and I’m out of the cast. Thanks for your good wishes!
      – Susan

  18. Oh no! I’m glad you were able to be quickly carried back down the trail to receive care. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Diana! Have a lovely day. 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Hannah! All is well. 🙂 Have an excellent day!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, and Merry Christmas!

  19. Oh no! I’m so sorry that you had such an injury, but so glad that there were so many people there to help you. Wishing you a speedy recovery full of great movie marathons and big bowls of ice cream! 🙂

  20. Fortunate to have so many competent people to help you get out of there. Hope you heal quickly and are back on the trail!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! I’m determined to bounce back fast. Happy holidays!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much – happy holidays!

  21. Yikes! I’m so glad you’re okay, Susan, and that the fall wasn’t worse! Definitely a scary thing to start to slip and slide on a hike. It’s great that you had so much help and got treated somewhat quickly. When I sprained my ankle many years ago, I remember crawling up the stairs also. Hope you won’t have to do that for too long!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Becky! I was surrounded by angels. 🙂 Crawling on the stairs definitely isn’t dignified, but it’s a great solution for going up if you still have two working knees. Coming down, not so much – ha! Happy holidays to you and your family.

  22. Oh dear Susan, not the best way to finish your beautiful trekking adventure. But that’s life and things don’t always go the way we plan. Kudos to you for staying calm and in good spirits.
    The trekking guide was great at getting help fast and lovely to feel well looked after. I guess having a good trekking company really does payoff and also having travel insurance.
    Wishing you a very speedy recovering and Merry Christmas.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Gilda! We actually feel very fortunate, after hundreds and hundreds of hikes and other outdoor adventures, that this is our first real injury. Guess we were due! And a good trekking company is critical for an experience like this – it really made all the difference. We do have travel insurance, but since this happened in Colombia, we were able to use our resident health insurance, and it cost $0 (except for a nominal cost for the pain meds). Merry Christmas to you both! Back in England, right?

  23. Susan!!! I had to hear the story! I am glad you are ok. Thank goodness you weren’t out on your own. Sending some healing vibes your way. Cheers to John for taking good care of you. Happy holidays, friends!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Pam! Happy happy holidays back to you. 🙂

  24. Oh dear. So sorry. I wish (and expect) a speedy recovery. You are obviously strong and capable and I expect you will soon be all mended and on to other adventures. All the best, Muriel

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Muriel! I thought I had replied to you already – sorry. Thank you for your good wishes! I’m well on the road to recovery as we speak. Hope you had a lovely holiday season and best wishes for a fabulous New Year! 🙂
      – Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, guys! Well on the path to recovery as we speak. Have a fab New Year!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, very fortunate indeed – for all of the kind people that helped me, and that it wasn’t a worse injury. Thanks for your message and have a Happy New Year!

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