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Latin America Shawn Dispatch


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The Hard-Luck Gang Says Adios to the Daring Ladrones

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Colombia, Cali, Popoyan, Ecuador and Quito
In our first week or so in South America we have had some of the most exciting (and frustrating) times yet. We learned that Colombia is an unpredictable place with more than its share of dangers and challenges. Our two-day stay in Cali, which is supposed to be one of the more dangerous cities in the country, was relatively uneventful; but we found some really good vegetarian food (which was exciting for Kavitha and me).

Cali is probably best well known for its drug cartels, which not only grew rich on selling cocaine to the US and Europe in the 1980's, but were also very influential in Colombian politics. Although the Cali cartels were largely dismantled in 1995 during Colombia's biggest anti-drug sweep ever, Colombia is still the largest exporter of cocaine in the world. Even though many of the leaders of the Cali cartels are now behind bars, the business is still thriving and managed by a number of the underbosses.

Since we had been lost at sea for ten days or so, we decided to go to the colonial city of Popayan to rest for a few days and get our bearings again. We were warned about thieves when we first arrived in Colombia, and although Popoyan seemed tranquil enough, I learned the hard way that this city has its share of ladrones (thieves). Our room was on the second floor of a hostel and had a small terrace overlooking the street. The terrace was about 25 feet above the sidewalk below, and I didn't really think twice about leaving my boots out overnight to air out. I was shocked in the morning when I discovered that they had disappeared. Someone had scaled up and grabbed them while we slept peacefully just inside! I couldn't believe that someone would risk falling or going to jail just to grab my old boots that were too stinky to leave inside.

Because we were already more than a week late to Peru, we decided that we should get moving and the next day we grabbed a bus for the six-hour ride to the Ecuadorian border. It was a beautiful ride through the high mountain regions, even though much of the forest along the way has been clear-cut leaving gaping holes in the habitat of one of the most species diverse regions of world.

When we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant, the thieves struck again! This time they stole Monica's computer and digital camera by rifling through her bag while we were sitting outside less than 15 feet away. Since my computer was previously stolen in Panama, this leaves Monica, Kavitha and me with only one computer to share, and it has a bad hard drive and will only work once and awhile.

When we arrived here in Quito late last night, we were all relieved to finally be out of Colombia and on our way to Peru. But when I checked my email this morning, I discovered that the US Embassy had issued a warning that the road from Popoyan to Quito was unsafe due to Guerillas! Our friends back in San Francisco, who help coordinate everything we do, had even recommended that we fly to Quito! Well I am happy to say that we made it without interference from unfriendly guerillas, although our loads were lightened a little by the stealthy ladrones. Hopefully, this is the last of highway robbery--otherwise, it is going to be difficult to continue. Right now I'm going out to buy a sweater since my jacket was stolen. And I guess I'll need some new boots too since my toes are a little bit frosty. It sure is cold here at the equator!

Shawn
 

Kevin - Chan Chan - A Magnificent Pile of Mud
Abeja - Cigars and Pipes - A Few Pre-Inca Legacies
Monica - Instant Weight Loss at the Equator
Shawn - Estudio Español
Kavitha - Living in an Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny Town
Making a Difference - Violence in 'Peaceful Communities'
 
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