Diary & Travel Reports from the saddle
Guerrillas didn't get me & Riders for Health - 12th June 2003
Hi to you all from TulcŠn in Ecuador before I head south to find somewhere nice to camp on the way to Quito.
For the last two days I have been riding through what are regarded as the most dangerous areas of Colombia (south from Cali) due to guerrilla activity. I didnít see any FARC or other guerrillas, but I was keeping my eye out for army trousers not tucked in boots, beards and general lack of order. This is how you recognize guerrillas from the genuine army. I should think you could make out these features from 20 metres but I had no plans to stop should they appear. I armor plated my bike yesterday in Popoyan, using my bash plate (metal plate to protect the engineís underside in rocky pistes) to cover the real tyre (pictures here). I figured that guerrillas wouldnít shoot to kill since then Iíd be worthless. Because I had no intention of stopping for them, the rear tyre was vulnerable. Odd bits of metal and wood covered the rear of my bag and hence back, which departed after about 50km. My arrow helmet has been through a lot Iím sure it would have dealt with a few bullets. People had been asking if I had fear, and a good friend in Cali said I should be sh---ing myself. So I gave in and spent yesterday doing that ha ha. The scenery this morning was breathtaking, a Switzerland on the Equator.
Colombia has been truly amazing I shall remember it with affection always. There are so many people who helped in various ways and a contingent of the Medellin bikers rode halfway to Cali with me. It was an escort, but they will do anything to get out and ride together in a group (singly is considered a bit too dangerous), and they sure can ride too, on those twisty mountain roads. Many thanks to Miguel at Miguel Motos, a BMW aficionado, who put me up for a week at a momentís notice, and who let me ride his 1955 twin on last Sundayís ride to Lake Calima. (pictures here)
My bike was not up to that ride because my shock absorber broke, the left side. The Millennium Ride suspension question is becoming a bit of a joke. Anyway, now with my seventh pair, one handmade in Medellin (thanks Servi Amortiguadores Palace), the other handmade in Cali (thanks Panamericana Amortiguadores).
The Harley Davidson culture in Colombia deserves a mention. Harlistas are not liked by other riders because most of them work for the drug cartels. Seven years ago, when the country was safer and the drugs business was run by one or two big groups, the plaything of the drug barons were race horses. Since those groups were smashed, the drug business passed to smaller groups, and their mode of expression is to ride Harleys. It is just how it is.
On one ride out to the mountains I was with a couple of colourful characters (not to mention international bank robbers or anything of course). We sat not 100 yards from a point where nearly 20 Ďricosí were attacked and kidnapped or killed, on the road to Buenaventura on the coast. Many riders wonít go up the mountains anymore. I had the feeling that Cali was more dangerous than Medellin.
Colombiaís sole Corporate Sponsor is Auto Andromeda SA the Hyundai dealer. Colombia goes on the Hall of Fame with pride.
Riders for Health
I think it is time to clarify who Riders for Health (www.riders.org) are, since it appears that I did not tell you how important they were for the Flores Project (Health for All). Riders for Health pioneered the concept of zero breakdown for fleets of vehicles, often motorcycles, used by health ministries in poor countries to reach out to rural areas. They have been working in Africa for many years, have won many awards, and are very much the leaders in this field. Back in 2001 they trained Wili Bala, who is the Director of our Flores Project, for free, at their Academy of Transport Management in Zimbabwe. This training, along with the expertise of Wili, is the key to our success in Indonesia.
I have no intention of encouraging new projects outside Africa without the proper training, which presently is only available in Africa. I cannot wish new projects into being, and I do not support projects which are unsustainable. If I created the impression that we could start a project in Mexico just like that it is untrue. It takes commitment and money. That is why we need $40,000.
Notwithstanding, I donít see why we cannot bring the Riders for Health idea to other needy parts of the world. Indeed, letís get our hands on some of those wasted BILLIONS OF DOLLARS that is part of the INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AID RACKET and use them to change the lives of millions with motorcycles. Are you with us or what?
I have to go the light is going. For the last month at this time of day I have been safe and snug in a city. No danger here, freedom to camp wherever I want. Iím only 10km into Ecuador, but it is visibly poorer than Colombia.
Oh yes, in Colombia they donít generally appear to have a problem with rural health deliveries because most of the people live in the valleys where roads are good. However in Cali the health department may go back to motorcycles in the future because they are cheaper to run. But on the Pacific Coast there is an urgent need for boats. I donít see why we canít launch some boats in the future.
Lastly, I have to say that Colombia made me feel really great. I donít know exactly why. But I have been feeling really free lately.
Bye for now.
12 June 2003
A solo fundraising round the world ride on a handmade motorcycle.
Supporting Doctors Without Borders and Health For All.
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