Sunday, November 21, 2010


We enter Colombia by one of the less traveled road thanks to the ¨Guajiros¨, the people of the Guajira, a region caught between Venezuela and Colombia. The "Wayuu" have been there long before the Spanish came and therefore they benefit today of a special status. They have the both nationalities and seem to live under different rules...they are feared and the police doesn't get into their troubles. While traveling on the back of a truck with a dozen of other people drinking whisky, we heard that when something happen between the Guajiros, they take care of it themselves...and most of the time it doesn't end well. They ensure us therefore that being with them we were safe! Our first steps in Colombia take us to Maicao, the main city of the Guajira. It is known for the incredible amounts of illegal exchanges of all kind of stuff...and, of course, the gasoline that is 50 times cheaper in Venezuela...the Wayuus take care of the transport since they are basically outlaws!

Destiny wanted clearly us to fall into Maicao, the first night, we met a journalist who arrange an interview on his morning show in the local television! We wake up at 6 o'clock to answer the question of Alejandro and Aristides. One of them is a teacher in a technical university and insist to invite us to make a conference in front of his student. We were soon facing a hundred of young students avid of knowledge. We talk some hours about our journey, our philosophy, a better world without money and what we can all do to save our planet. They fill our heart with energy and love and we keep on going. We make a short stop in the program "descargate" for young people and we sleep in the refugee center another night to hitchhike then to Riohacha situated on the coast. We talk to a newspaper that won't finally publish us and two tv interview and a short passage in a recent program for young people. We enjoy a bath in the grey waters of the sea and we try to hitchhike... The difference is striking with Venezuela. We don't understand why but no one stops, hitchhiking has never been so hard. We can't leave the city and fortunately meet a nice school managed by some "capuchin" sisters. They are great with us and give us a lot of love to keep on our journey, blessing us with their saint, San Francesco d'Assisi. We finally get to somewhere thanks to the police who arrange a ride for us.

There are controls everywhere, at the end of each town...the road is secure for only five years and there are still a lot of conflicts in the jungle. Everything seem peaceful to us but we understand quickly that the roads are not safe. That is maybe the main reason why nobody wants to take us on board. As a matter of fact, the situation is pretty tense. Juan Manuel Santos, the right wing president who took the power following Uribe, the former president who was famous for fighting the FARC and other "guerrilleros". We understood that indeed, Uribe and now Santos are helping a lot to fight the guerrillas...however, we met a young student involved in politic who has a different story. The government has created the "paramilitaries", group of armed soldiers that are independent, more like mercenaries, that have been deployed in the jungle. Today, the number of “guerilleros” has been reduced from 50 000 to 8000 according to certain sources. That might be true, but on the side of these numbers, we realize that they are a huge amount of paramilitaries that took the control of certain areas owned by rich land owners. Basically, the Coca fields passed from one hand to another...the country is now divided in three, the guerrillas, the police and the army and the paramilitaries who work for the rich drug cartels...and they are all fighting for one thing: coming from the United states or Europe, money from the consumers who forget sometimes that the white crazy powder, that come for 80% from Colombia is blood-stained...

Uribe and Santos have been involved in some scandals as ensure the police would fight with zeal, they put a system of prime, as a result, 25 000 peasants and homeless people have been killed by the police and then disguised in “guerilleros” to get the primes. This story made some noise...but Santos control 30% of the media in Colombia...he got elected a few months later. Moreover, if the government takes care of the security, the poorest are mainly forgotten. Everyone critics Chavez and its failed revolution...however, a quick look on the other side of the border and we can notice that the economy is admittedly in better shape but the inequality is rising at a dangerous pace. Cartagena is a good example, the "casco viejo", the old colonial center is really beautiful, well conserved with fancy stores and classy restaurants. Outside of the walls, 70 % of the population of the city live in extreme poverty. A two-speed economy digging a gap that becomes everyday deeper.

We finally got in Barranquilla by bus thanks to the police who stopped it for us. We were waiting for hours on the road without any results. We discover the proximity of the drugs in a dirty neighborhood where prostitutes, drug addicts and smugglers hang out at night...we got saved by a young bright mind who invite us to his house when everyone had rejected us. He was on drugs but really nice and human...he insisted to pay us a breakfast and we could leave safely for Santa Marta. A long walk on the road full of garbage until the next police control...they stop a taxi for us and we get a bit further...not so much...we spend hours in the sun and finally a police car stops and take us to the next town...where we will finally end up in a bus to get to Santa Marta. Colombia is definitely one of the hardest place to hitchhike...and to live without money. No problems to get some food..but when it comes to a ride or a house...everyone get scared. Firemen, Red Cross, Police...they all negate us and we end up sleeping in a commercial center until 5 o'clock when we must keep on going. We enjoy the sunrise while observing the morning runners...they are so much, running, swimming, jumping, pumping...We recycle some fruits and we hitchhike to Taganga, a quiet town with a great beach in a paradise valley. We found nicer people and a traveler who stopped in this place to build a is not finish yet and he invites us to be the first guests!

In the morning, we struggle to hitchhike and finally get to a small village at 60 kilometers from Cartagena. The people are nice like always when we are outside of the big cities. They invite us for food...and later a group of young people, feeling sad seeing us on the side of the road the thumb desperately up, stop a truck for us. The driver is a true character, with only one arm he drives a huge truck. He invites us to jump on the back in the container...a crazy psychedelic trip starts then...a festival of sounds and lights that take us into our deeper thoughts. We arrive at night in Cartagena. The driver leave us close to the harbour, he has only one arm but a big heart, he payed a bit of money to the police when they realise we were in the back...corruption, yes, fines don`t really exist here, everything is handled with dirty money. A taxi is nice and take us to the center...we discover the city by night...a bit magic, colonial houses, a strange atmosphere...and tons of restaurants...the place is really touristic, a paradise for three dumpster divers! A lot of sailing boats are doing the trip...for about 400 dollars...a bit expensive. We talk to all captains trying to find a way, work for them, doing some the meantime, we enjoyed all the restaurants we can in the city. We stayed in three different hostels where the owners were really nice with us and we eat in more than 30 restaurants...anyone who asked at that time if our journey was hard sometimes would just get four big smiles as an answer! All the owners have been nice with be honest, we recycled just a bit, most of the time, they were offering us a meal. Beautiful days for us and we thank all of the people who helped us during those days...

The old center of Cartagena is really beautiful, 400 years of history and amazing colored walls and wooden balcony...a great atmosphere a bit spoiled by the tourist industry. Beautiful...but strange, as soon as one get outside of the walls he get struck by a different reality. The city is divided in three, the old center, colonial, protected where just a few homeless can get during the day, then the small peninsula where tall buildings rise into the sky. The army protect the ones can get there unless hidden, it is a paradise for the rich Colombians who have their holiday flats in these high towers. On the other side of the bay, the poor neighborhoods who can just have a look at the harbours and the sailing boats that proliferate. A part of the population lives in abundance and the other struggle everyday to eat...they are neighbors.
Inequality is the first word that would come in mind while thinking about Colombia, the country is really beautiful, rich with all type of climate and landscapes, beautiful people...but a country sapped by the drug war and social injustices. As always, no one can directly be blamed...we are all responsible...especially the ones who consume cocaine without thinking of the consequences. It is known for some time now that the main protagonists of the drug war in Colombia are not the Colombians...but the buyers...and most of then are in the United States and in Europe.

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1 comment:

  1. Finally a post on Colombia! Its sad I could not be there. I feel identified by everything you say, people are scared, very scared of talking to people, mostly when they are Europeans and could be kidnapped, it is a big responsibility to host an European in Colombia, I also felt that fear when hosting people at home in Cali. Anyways, good people always find their ways as you all did.
    Just one thing I would like to clarify: The government did not create the paramilitaries as they are today. this is a complex topic, very complex, it is simplistic to say that the government created them. But I many people say that, just to avoid a serious discussion.
    I like your last point, yes, I feel very angry at Europeans in clubs, feeling so cool destroying other people’s lives, destroying the possibility of living in peace, destroying our environment, and just to couple with their perfect and stupid lives. It is very annoying how they love criticizing our political systems, our poverty and injustice without recognizing their contribution to that, first as colonizers and then consuming and keeping it illegal.
    Much of love ….


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