JANUARY 9th: Into Colombia

9th January 2001 |

Even after Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, these mountains are overwhelming.

Risk management on a trip like mine still seems to me to be a largely futile endeavour. The anticipated dangers hardly ever materialise, and obviously there’s no way to prepare for the others. In any case, I learned many years ago that the odds in our favour are vastly higher than we imagine.

A modicum of fear is a useful preservative, but I try not to let it affect my behaviour. Sometimes, though, I fail. Even in the seventies, Colombia’s reputation for theft and violence reached out to me long before I got there, and induced me to take precautions. I remember sharpening my kitchen knife (though what I had in mind to do with it escapes me). I also put padlocks on my boxes, but they were of little use as I soon lost the keys, and had to have the locks sawn off.

In the event, no aggression came my way and I experienced only wonder at the beauty of the country and admiration for its people. My memories of it were so warm that ever since leaving England a year ago I have been looking forward to seeing it again.
But things are not what they were, and a distinctly different set of horror stories now emanates from Colombia.

Two major guerilla groups have de facto control over sizeable areas of the country. The FARC, more to the East, are financed mainly by drug money, and carry out widespread bombings, raids and assassinations.

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