After seven memorable months of cycling over, along and beside the Andes, a few days brought us over the last of the high passes and a long descent to the sultry, sodden lowlands on the banks of the muddy Cauca. For Ellie the first days of the bike (check out http://borntohorn.blogspot.com/ for her take), cycling up 9000 ft passes and dealing with altitude and a loaded touring bike were somewhat a pedalling baptism of fire, but she coped very well and still smiled momentarily at the end of each day before passing out. We both read Peter Carey's The True History of the Ned Kelly Gang in the past few days and so everything is adjectival this and adjectival that.
The descent to the lowlands also saw a rise in the number of military and police checkpoints and a larger display of firepower. Caucasia, the town where I´m writing this, first appears as a relatively bedraggled yet sedate capital of the Bajo Cauca region, lying alongside the swollen river. Yet while many talk about the violence and troubles of Colombia as being a thing of the past, this town and the surrounding area has become an increasingly important strategic city for the warring groups of drug traffickers who wish to control the smuggling routes along the river. According to Michael Deibert's recent article the groups regularly distribute anonymous pamphlets that issue death threats to a particular group's enemies and often use young teenagers to carry out grenade attacks, with 76 people killed in the Bajo Cauca area in the first six months of the year. With political ideologies put aside, far left-wing paramilitary groups such as FARC cooperate with local criminal gangs and former right-wing paramilitary groups, the former protecting the cultivation process of coca in the surrounding mountains and the latter organising the distribution of the drug. Ok, well there endeth another rant.
Another week or so will bring us to Cartagena and the Caribbean coast... and if you thought the sodden Celtic Isles were wet check out the chart below...
Average annual rainfall for London, Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin
Pedalled: 37,022 kilometres