I’m holding coca leaves in each hand, between my thumb and first two fingers. As instructed, I give thanks to Mother Earth and attempt to toss the leaves into the sacred lake (though they blow back and hit me in the face). Standing here, in the jungles of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, it’s hard to believe this slice of paradise was, until quite recently, one of the most brutally violent regions in the world—thanks in part to those coca leaves. But globetrotters are now embracing Colombia as it moves beyond its reputation as a place for coffee, cocaine and civil war.
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