[Colombian Flag]


With info on recent state of emergency!
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I had vacation in June. Charlotte, my former girlfriend, was here and we did Bogota, the amazons and the northern, Caribbean, coast. I will try to explain the wonderful world of the amazons. We had a ticket to Leticia, which is the southern most point of Colombia on the Amazon river. It is also border to Brazil and Peru. We landed after 1,5 hours of flying straight south over the equator. We came in over the river and touched down on a relative nice landing strip. Suddenly the passengers in the row before us started changing their clothes. A man took of all his clothes except the trousers and put on a west with water bottles, knifes and rolls of film etc. With the hat and back pack he looked like something of Indiana Jones. They were Americans.

We exited the airplane and was struck, rather unexpectedly, by the sauna like temperature. We estimated it to 30-35 but with over 90 percent of humidity. It did not take long before I started sweating. It may not sound hot, but these 30 degrees are not the same as 30 degrees in Stockholm (at the moment...). We walked over to the terminal and waited for the things to arrive to the small room where the military were waiting for the people arriving. Also a group of people were organizing some shots on the disk in front of us. Then I realized that they were asking for and giving shots for the yellow fever. Luckily both Charlotte and I had already taken those before leaving Sweden. You do really not want to start receiving shots in consecutive orders, with all sorts of deseaces spreading around. I had therefore a small bag for such things, including a clean needle. Unfortunately we had both left the yellow card which proofs all the shots and the aid bag in Bogota.

I got a little scared actually and started thinking about how to escape the ordeal without receiving anything. We had one bag each and the big suitcase as we approached the two desks to the right and left of the door. We presented the small bags and one guy asked about the shots and pointed towards the other table. I ignored that. This is normal and not so rude as you might think. The next time I was the tourist and did not understand. I said, Yes, we have already, which was accepted. We started walking and Charlotte went through , but I was stopped at the door by another military from the other desk. He wanted to check the big suitcase which we all had forgotten to present. The military are present and do the customs even though this is a national flight in Colombia because of the easy access to all countries. There are no border checks or anything to pass over to Brazil or Peru. That is why they call it Tres Fronteras. We walked over to Brazil to have a beer or a meal almost every day.

In the awaiting crowd outside we manage to find the hotel and guide responsible. We were driven to the hotel which was not far only a few minutes and checked in. The room is fairly simple with two beds a shower and a TV, ah yes, a view over the amazon also. We started the air conditioner on max. cooling and that turned out to be the weeks life saver. Just to open the door and go down to the bar and the pool is like walking into a sauna. Phew!!!

We talked to the guide and he presented the view and some of the excursion we were going to do. We had bought a package with all excursions and everything included. We got a welcome drink and talked with the guide. He had lots of friends in Germany and Uppsala and things. It turned out that he sometimes makes week long excursions with people from Skansen collecting minimonkeys or some aquarist from Germany seeking strange fishes. Next day we gathered in the lobby to walk down to the harbor. In June the water level is low. It could be up to about 5-7 meters higher during the rain period in December and January. We were six, including a couple from Germany, the guide and the driver of the boat. We had a open seven meter stretch boat with a sun top at the middle. That was were I sat during most of the trips. We went with the boat to different places every day. First day was Puerto Narino which is a kind of a mixed Ticuna Indian village and tourist hotel. You have to understand that the hotel, like most houses are on stilts and rather small. We looked at small Indian villages along the way, saw some pink dolphins (they get pink from the sweat water and the food), water lilies etc.

One day we went for a small walk. We arrived at little village of Yaguas. The Yaguas are not so well organized as the Ticunas, who are about 40,000 in the area. They attacked us begging and when they saw the biscuits Charlotte had brought for them they rushed up to her begging. Half a bag was gone in a couple of seconds. I have a really nice photo of a big bunch of children and bear breasted women attacking Charlotte for the biscuits. She was not amused. We walked along their houses and everyone had hung their home made handicrafts outside for us to buy. We were really in for a ride. After a while we started walking and we all got an amigo, or a guide, when we started walking in the jungle. Remember the incredible heat. I was constantly sweating if I moved.

I will now describe the equipment you have to bring for this 45 minute walk. I had a hat for sun protection, we had two different mosquito protection, of which non worked, a bottle of water, long trousers, preferably jeans who are thick. It is only that it is impossible to wear jeans in the heat. A camera is a must. I almost forgot the boots. We are wearing rubber boots and the Indians were barefoot. During the walk we saw curare plants, some really big ants who live in holes in the ground. Four of those bastards and you can be in trouble. My picture of the ant on the stick held by the guide was really nice but for the focus on the trees behind. I hate those automatic cameras. There were the giant trees with about 5-10 meters thick. They are hollow and can be used for signaling for people who are lost if you bang it with a stick. It can be heard for 40 km. Other people in the neighborhood answer and they approach each other by walking between the big trees until they are found. Hopefully only one is lost by that time..... By the way, the only antidote for ants is a liquid from the roots of the big tree. Also we ate the interior of a palm tree, which is good to know if you are lost and have no food. We arrived at another village of another tribe, the Ticunas, and was released from our guides... They got 150 SEK to split between the seven of them.

We stopped at a farm on the monkey island and we gave the monkey bananas and took pictures. They were the same monkeys as the one in the movie, My monkey is crazy (Mi mico es un loco). Also we saw the kingsfisher, kungsfiskaren.

An other day we went to the Brazilian side and saw a rubber tree and how the farm it by cutting the bark, not the tree. This village, Benjamin Constant, was the only village with a Ticuna indian museum, including books in their language. I really regret not buying some of those books. But at the time I was dying of dehydration and sunstroke and was only thinking in the next Coca cola. The museum traveled to Stavanger during June for an exhibition, if you would have liked to see it.

Walking in the small villages with their schools and children playing, people fishing or lying in their hammocks, hamacas, was really interesting. They live a kind of simple but very rich life. Apparently they do not want much from the government. I learned one word in Ticuna and that was to say hello. It is curri curri. We nice Rs in the front of the mouth (no Skane accent in the back throat).

Getting back to Bogota, 18-20 degrees daytime and about 12-15 in the evenings, after the five day visit was really a relief. I have found out that I cannot stand to much heat. It was really a different feeling sweating for a whole day (almost). Due to that and other reason I am now hovering just above 80 kilos of weight.

The Atlantic coast. We took a flight to the upper left corner of Colombia, at the border to Panama to a place called Capurgana. It was a beach resort with nothing but a hotel some shops and the beach. The airport was the smallest thing I have ever seen. The terminal was like a larger garage with some small both for the airlines. The hotel transfer was arrange by means of wheel-barrow (skottkarra) and we had to walk. It was a quiet place, excellent for doing some resting, and the only major problem was deciding what to eat for lunch and dinner. Since it is a tourist place and no discos, you stay at the hotel or on the beach and there is very little dancing or night parties.

I think it is important to describe the idea of the COAST in Colombia. We are talking about the normal coast cities and larger tourist resorts. The people from the coast are much more relaxed than the Bogotanians. A costenian does not work to hard and they do not use ties. The music is a very important factor and the parties, rumbas, go on all night. (By the way I was at a party in Bogota. We, some friends also, arrived at midnight and stayed only until 4, because I was going up early the day after. It turned out that the party ended at 14 the next day with the normal barbeque?) The rumbas in the coast are much worse. Typical coast cities are Cartagena, Baranquilla and Santa Marta. I have yet to go to them.

Just came in. The rumor of the state of emergency, that the president Ernesto proclaimed is greatly exaggerated. The president wants to do something about the escalating violence. Some weeks ago rebels attacked a police station in a small city. These terror actions are now a few too many. To speed up the process the president made some new laws regarding the handling of guerrilla (rebels) members, bank robbers and such and also the drug Mafia. He raised the prison sentence for such people from 10 years to 60. Youngster from 14-18 if caught with selling drugs or violent crimes, are to be treated as 18 years old. The president, who is not a dictator, must receive an OK from the congress for these action. They are however bound to say yes. The opposition claims he is trying to escape the Drug-gate, where the campaign leader and the treasury responsible in his campaign were convicted for handling drug money. He himself is now under suspicion. For me there might do some checks of vehicles in the street, but I have not seen anything. In fact people from Sweden called me and asked about this. I did not know anything about before and that was how I got to know. I think there is more or less business as usual here.

Bye for now

[Colombian Flag]
Last updated: 1 SEP 1996 by Johan Stjernberg.
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