Tag Archives: drug dealers

Colombia Myths and Truths

I thought I should put in an area for Colombia where I only talked about the myths and truths since one of the more frequent questions I get when telling people I’ve traveled there alone is “Isn’t it dangerous???”.

No, Colombia is just like every other country in the world I’ve been to so far as far as danger is concerned.  If you don’t go looking for danger, and you are at least semi-smart about your actions, there is no danger.  I know that in the past Colombia has had a pretty rough time with drug dealers and cartels, etc that made much of the country unsafe to travel through apparently, however that was quite a long time ago.  And as I’ve heard many others say, basically the drug dealers are now in the business of protecting tourists instead of making the country unsafe to travel through as they’ve apparently learned that tourists can be their clients too!  And it would certainly be bad business to scare them away!  Now, whether this is the actual case or not, who really knows.  I’m just sharing what I’ve heard others say as their opinion on why it’s now so safe to travel around Colombia.

Because of the rocky drug past Colombia has had, people I’ve talked to also seem to have a preconceived idea that everyone there too is somehow involved in drugs or are dealers or are dangerous.  This again is quite false.  Honestly I ran into more people on drugs throughout Costa Rica and Panama than I ever did in the more populated Colombia.  People there are quite nice, respectful and are just living normal life like others do.  I’m not saying no one there does drugs, just that it wasn’t in your face the way I too thought it would be before getting there and hearing the testimonies of others who had already been there.

What is becoming more popular in Colombia are the higher class scams.  All over the walls of each hostel I went to in Bogota at least, there were stories of scenarios to avoid.  What criminals were now into doing was watching for people in vulnerable positions and taking advantage.  It’s best I just describe a scenario:

Say you had to go into a bank for business.  When coming out of the bank, you could be approached by a professional looking person (dressed well, etc) claiming to work for the bank telling you that you forgot to fill out “X” form or sign “Y” form.  However, instead of taking you back into the bank (as it would make sense to do) they would say that it was only possible to finish the business at their other location… then they would basically take you around the corner, down an alley and rob you of all your possessions.  Why anyone would allow a “bank” employee to escort them anywhere other than back into the bank, I’m not sure…

Another scenario involved people claiming to be police officers.  They would be dressed in street clothes claiming to be undercover police and they would claim that you needed to come with them because you were found doing something wrong or there was a problem with “XYZ” somewhere.  Then they would walk you around the corner, down an alley and rob you.

Basically the best defense of any of these scenarios is #1 don’t follow strangers anywhere and #2 there were cops on the streets of Bogota literally everywhere.  They were always in pairs and in full police gear so if there was any doubt whatsoever in a conversation that a stranger had with you, simply walk toward the police to ask for whatever help and chances are if the person who approached you (false banker or false cop) isn’t legit, they would literally run away.

Enough said!

 

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San Blas Islands

I’ve never seen phosphorescent water before.  Not until night time did we board our 38′ sailboat barefoot (no shoes allowed anywhere on board) and headed out of the harbor waters into Caribbean waters to the San Blas Islands.  We headed out at night so that in the morning we would be near to one of the islands and would be able to spend a lovely day there.  What seemed like light glistened from the ocean in the otherwise absolute darkness.  Only when disturbed did the water glisten and glow, so as the sailboat motored its way through the harbor it left sparkling and shimmering water in its wake.  Absolutely mesmerizing!!  Nature always seems to find a way to shock and awe me around every corner, and on this night once again it raised the bar!!  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the beauty that stirred in the water as we coursed through it.  Now to be fair, it really is the algae in the water that actually make the water glow with light, not the water itself.  The algae soak up sun rays during the day and in a sense emit the light caught by the sun when they are disturbed.  So amazingly beautiful!!!

The San Blas Islands are 380 plus islands that run from the southern Caribbean coast of Panama to Columbia.  The people that inhabit these islands are called Kuna.  The Kuna indigenous tribes are and historically have been known as peaceful people.  Being peaceful people, only once did they ever in their history rise up and fight.  And that was a while back now when the Panamanian government tried to claim the islands as part of their government.  Up until that point, all the islands and the law of the islands were governed by the Kuna people.  A bloody battle ensued over rights to the islands, however when Panama tried to take control.  Ultimately Panama lost and left the islands to be governed by the indigenous tribe.  To this day, no other government has any rights or control over the islands.  They are simply governed by the Kuna indigenous tribe members.  There was even talk that the Kuna people were known for “harboring” drug smugglers on the islands; for as long as the smugglers were invited onto the island they were safe from any other marine government agencies waiting on the water in hopes of catching them once they left.  Permission granted was a huge deal there too.  No one was allowed to ever stay or sleep on any island overnight unless invited by the Chief of that island.  Just about every island had its own Chief.  Sometimes a single Chief would be needed for a cluster of smaller islands close by to each other.  And every so often the Chiefs of the islands would get together to discuss affairs.

Kuna fishermen could be seen going around in their wood canoes around the islands in search of conchs or lobsters or other fish to catch and consume.  Their way of fishing however only involved a homemade spear “gun” and being able to swim to very deep depths!  They were very adept at their trade however and the funniest thing to me about it all though was the bucket they each had in their canoes.  It wasn’t for holding caught fish but rather to scoop out water from their canoes!  You see, the canoes were wood and untreated wood at that, so they were constantly taking in water… hence the bucket!  Women of the area went around in their wood canoes (bucket in tow) to each of the tourist sailboats selling bracelets or homemade woven cloths with various images on them.  I eventually did buy an anklet from one of the women when we were invited for a lobster dinner that I wear to this day because it still hasn’t fallen off!!  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We were warned well in advance about sea sickness.  We were all instructed to take sea sickness pills the night before departing and the morning and night of taking off.  While I believe we all did adhere to that advice, sadly the sea sickness pills did not quite work for all…  I was not a victim of sea sickness thank goodness though after a few beers and passing out in the front bunk for myself and the German woman, I did wake up feeling a little queezy… I made my way to the open air and just had to focus on my breath REALLY hard… and thankfully the nausea went away!  I could not say that is how it went for the rest of the crew…

Well, of course the crew themselves (3 brothers) were just fine.  But the new crew were struggling!  I honestly blame most of it on the booze consumed because as mentioned before there was quite a bit on board and the drinking started the second we got on board!!  After having my near sea sickness episode I opted to stay on the top deck in the fresh air just in case another episode arrived.  People seemed to be just fine that night.  Lots of jovial drinking around me and star gazing.  It was the next morning that the real “damage” began…

 

On to Warning!!

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