The Samaná Fest is an atypical event celebrating for the fifth year in a row, the last free flowing river of Antioquia, The Rio Samaná. Antioquia is one of the most mountainous region of Colombia and receives meters of rain yearly, five times more rain than Seattle. From the capital, the infamous Medellin, a two hour drive to the east will lead you to the whitewater meca of the Samaná Watershed. Mael Nguyen, Jules Domine and the team at Expedition Colombia have been exploring and running trips in this area for over five years now, and also taking a strong stance against the various dam projects in the area.
Conservation efforts don’t have to be painful and hard, they can also be joyful celebrations and a demonstration of other alternative usage for the river. This is where Samaná Fest comes in to play. Originally aimed at international kayakers, the festival quickly evolved into a National phenomenon as more and more locals got involved. Indeed, the river is not only a source of interest for kayakers, but also the primary source of income for the locals who have ancestrally sustained from this artery of life.
In a happy mix of local, national and international organizations and participants, the Samaná Fest was composed this year of an original mix of traditional celebration, outdoor sports, academic debates, concerts and parties!
Saturday is mostly for the people who take part in the paddling event, and after the official welcome of the Mayor, the participants loaded into the Chiva truck for the rugged drive to Boquerón, a small locality at the end of the road. In 2004, Boquerón had been totally evacuated, pillaged and burnt by Paramilitary groups. In 2013, no one lived there, and the road had been overgrown so that only people on foot could reach the desolated Hamlet.
During this year’s Samaná Fest, over 400 people showed up to enjoy the evening with live music and traditional food provided by the local community. The festivities started by an amazing evening set by Mister Sam Rickets, perched on the roof the local school which had been transformed into a stage for the occasion. Then followed an amazing Salsa concert, where the whole crowd lit up the dance floor with a typical Latino fire!
Sunday at first light, International kayakers, local farmers, village kids, senators, mayors, festival goers and musicians all blend into a happy mess of colorful rafts and kayaks, creating a long caterpillar of participants flowing though the green jungle. In the meantime, further downstream at the Samaná Bridge, less extreme participants start treks and natural walks to discover the countless birds, plants and archaeological sites of the drainage.
After 4 hours of world class whitewater, the floating convoy reached the bridge to meet with the rest of the events. As they arrived, the whole valley started echoing with a cheerful noise, Samaná! Samaná! Samaná!
As the paddlers disembarked, Juancho Valencia of Puerto Candelaria and his team greeted them on the beach with a musical jam and the dance party started! Later on stage, various groups and members of the local community and indigenous tribes got the chance to spread their peaceful messages to the crowd and revive the hope that this river will remain untouched.
The Feria was also a great ad on, as all the local products of the area were presented and one could buy cacao, coffee, fish and many intriguing fruits.
Before the final concert, with help of police and the army, for a short instant the festival blocked the main highway of the country and took over the bridge for a symbolic action! In fact the river used to be a natural frontier between two armed groups. Today, the communities of each side walk from the opposite ends of the bridge to meet in the middle, demonstrating the river that was once a divide between two violent areas is now a source of unification and life for the region.
The last concert allowed the festival to end in a massive dance party and all could go home, believing stronger than ever that the Rio Samaná will remain the last free flowing river of Antioquia. It was a great event and the many activities made it very special. All the participant were clear that they were here to defend the Samaná.
The battle still goes on with more and more people joining the fight, and there is even some rumors that a second Samaná Fest will take place in August; a bigger and more powerful event… See more at expeditioncolombia.com and rioSamana.com.
The organization of the festival would like to thank Kokatat for the support throughout the years!