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Interview expedition master Jules Domine who’s based in Eastern Antioquia, Colombia, where runs with his buddy Mael Nguyen Expedition Colombia, and adventure, rafting and kayaking business. He also does all sorts of expeditions science and media expedition while working on river conservation issues, on top of exploring the unrun rivers of the Colombian Jungle.

Published on avril 4th, 2020 | by Kayak Session https://www.kayaksession.com/img-current-issue/upload-your-video.png

Corona Diaries #12, Jules Domines (France & Colombia)

Outside, rivers are starting to flow and spring is around the corner, and the sun is shining high. Yet around the world, many are grounded at home and it seems likely others soon will be. Though difficult, let’s repeat it, folks this is THE THING TO DO! It is necessary and worth it!

So, we at Kayak Session decided to take the opportunity to catch up with our friends in the whitewater community and see how they are coping across the globe.

Today we talk with expedition master Jules Domine who’s based in Eastern Antioquia, Colombia, where runs with his buddy Mael Nguyen Expedition Colombia, and adventure, rafting and kayaking business. He also does all sorts of expeditions science and media expedition while working on river conservation issues, on top of exploring the unrun rivers of the Colombian Jungle. 

« For me it was an impressive experience to be discriminated for being European.« 

How zit Jules, where are you and what is the situation like where you are? 

Well it’s funny to think that the world is sitting at home…And my thoughts go out to the people who live in countries that are on serious lock down and that live in the cities, stuck alone in a few square meters, unable to go outside.  I’m in Colombia, in the country side, at a friend’s farm. Colombia is also on shut down for another month or so… It was crazy when it all started, the government’s communication was kind poor and they created this fear for foreigners, especially European, that supposedly where the dangerous vectors of this virus.

So foreigners actually got beat up and it was hard to move in the cities and villages while impossible to go to restaurants as gringo. For me it was an impressive experience to be discriminated for being European. As a human I don’t think you can understand what it means until you have lived it first hand. And it was for a few days, and it shattered my heart just to think of people whom have lived a life time of such degrading treatments.

In the country side, things are chill though, the communities are tight and where working on very local basis already, so some of them will even tell you after 10 days of locks down that nothing has changed for them. Every village has a different attitude toward the quarantine, and sometimes rural communities will block an entire area of the country side and become fully independent. It is as if Colombia just split in a million little kingdoms…

I think overall it’s a very interesting human and society experience. For people like me who always travel and move around, it’s crazy to think that you can’t do that anymore, and the world become like a jail sometimes. But it’s also been a moment where I feel like the world just started to spin slower, and there is lots of beauty in living at a slower paste, surrounded by only a few, yet relevant friends. 

I think about our indigenous friends in the Amazon, and for once they are the ones winning hard. For them, nothing has changed, and if the crisis keeps going, they will be the ones to thrive as they don’t depend on anything else than the forest! 

How do you spend most of your time?

Well, I think the lack of long term vison has a big impact on what I do. It’s off course a good time to finish what was started. So, I’m working hard on my book project. It’s quite fun and there is no time pressure for once, so it’s always easier to write when you know you can stop when you want and it doesn’t matter how much you do it every day. Because the book is a non-fiction about Stories recollected on the shores of the Colombian rivers, it’s also really helpful to reflect on what are the real motivations behind my river conservation initiative, and I realize that they are all based on the thousands of transandant moments I have spent on the water. 

An other thing that occupies my days are working on the “Amazon Icons” Documentary project. My Brother, Chris Korbulic and I have been shooting in the Amazon for over a year and it’s now time to build the narrative and edit.

Being in the countryside, and near a river, I pray to the god of rain everynigth that a strom strikes on the valley. The river is right bellow the house and get’s really fun when it’s high, but there is only water in the morning, after a heavy storm….

expedition master Jules Domine who’s based in Eastern Antioquia, Colombia, where runs with his buddy Mael Nguyen Expedition Colombia, and adventure, rafting and kayaking business. He also does all sorts of expeditions science and media expedition while working on river conservation issues, on top of exploring the unrun rivers of the Colombian Jungle.
Jules Filming in the middle of the Colombian Jungle for an upcoming conservation full length movie ©Mathieu Perrot

Where did you travel from most recently? 

I was in Canada for Christmas, but apart from that Colombia and the Amazon. I think about our indigenous friends in the Amazon, and for once they are the ones winning hard. For them, nothing has changed, and if the crisis keeps going, they will be the ones to thrive as they don’t depend on anything else than the forest! 

I can now realize that true changes come on a personal level, and when facing reality, you can do the same things you did before, without using any natural resouces – it takes more time, but it’s lightens the conscience and lifts the spirits. 

How has Covid-19 impacted your plans for the season? 

Hum, yes! I mean lots of my revenues come from international tourism, and that won’t happen for a while. Also, as the fear for foreigner was spread in Colombia, I’m not sure how they will receive the return of the gringos after all this…

For conservation, it’s very tragic here. Forests are getting burnt, hydro-projects are getting approved in Colombia, but there is no way to do anything about it, tribunals are closed, media don’t care about anything else than the virus, and no one has funds to invest in conservation… The day the government declared Lock down, was also the day we were having the final hearing to cancel the environmental license on the Samana river, and that got canceled after 5 years of hard work…  

But I think it’s good, things are getting shaken up and will force us to dig deep and find new ways to live and enjoy what we do.

It’s only when you loose something that you can understand how much it meant to you. 

How are you maintaining fitness and your sanity? Can you get any exercise or paddle at all?

I usually don’t work on either, but surprisingly this lock down gives me time to start doing it! Go to bed early, sleep well, eat locally sourced healthy food, read, do yoga, stretch, meditate… It’s been nice! At the begining, as the world started to lock down, I was trying to find a place to spend this down time, and tried to escape to Canada, but too late… So we moved all our stuff out of our house and moved to a friends place near the river, where we can paddle by walking to the river! The Cocorna road side section is 7 km long, and super fun when high. It’s nonstop class 4/5, heaps of boof and ultra-playful. I can actually paddle from the house and walk back up in a few hours. It feels extremely nice to go kayaking in a 100 % ecological way. 

I’ve always been very conscious about environmental issues, and spend a great deal of my life trying to stop destructive natural resources exploitation projects, yet in the day to day life, I wouldn’t call my lifestyle sustainable. It’s a hypocrisy lots of us face I feel, flying around multiple times a year, driving everyday, flying small airplane and using lots of electronics. Theses behaviors will not help the world, even if you are a self-proclaimed nature defender. I can now realize that true changes come on a personal level, and when facing reality, you can do the same things you did before, without using any natural resouces – it takes more time, but it’s lightens the conscience and lifts the spirits. 

expedition master Jules Domine who’s based in Eastern Antioquia, Colombia, where runs with his buddy Mael Nguyen Expedition Colombia, and adventure, rafting and kayaking business. He also does all sorts of expeditions science and media expedition while working on river conservation issues, on top of exploring the unrun rivers of the Colombian Jungle.
Paddling a jungle run from home and running shuttles by foot. Not a bad way to deal with stay at home. ©Jules Domine

Any words of wisdom for your fellow paddlers across the world?

On a personal level, I think facing this world-wide issue is giving me the opportunity to realize how every moment we get to share with people we love is special, same for travels and expeditions. It’s only when you loose something that you can understand how much it meant to you. So yeah, miss you all and hope to see you all soon! 

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