First stop on the homeward journey
Lima we gave the first of what might easily become many lectures on our trip.
Fortunately it was to an English speaking audience. It was interesting to see
their reactions to many things we now take for granted.
next part of our journey was somewhat telescoped. Lima to Barranquilla is around
3,500 miles, some of it on good roads, much of it on bad. We did it in 12 days,
driving through the night on three occasions.
was the next country on the coast, a land of plantations, of bananas, coffee and
cocoa. We were interested to see cocoa growing for the first time. It is surprising
to find such small beans coming out of such large pods.
in the hills, a further surprise greeted us. The land was laid out in fields -
English style - and was intensively worked. The rolling fields, hills and woods
were very peaceful, and, perhaps for the first time, we were slightly homesick.
still the surroundings were less happy. Close cropping by sheep and lack of forest
conservation had caused impoverishing of the land.
areas were of desert; nothing could grow in the shifting soil, and great clouds
of black dust - finer than sand - swirled across the land, building up "soil
dunes" and destroying them again.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, once an important Inca city, we overtook the Cambridge
Trans-American expedition who had left us in La Paz.
had met with the kind of misfortune which made us realise how lucky we had been.
One of their members had caught jaundice and had to be flown home to England.
north of Quito we crossed the equator for the first time on land, and this naturally
gave great opportunity for photography.
was ahead of us and Colombia was dangerous. Bandits swarmed behind every bush,
we were told. Only ten days before a busload of twenty-eight people had been hacked
to death with machetes!
had not been carrying firearms, but, on this occasion, borrowed a .22 pistol from
the Cambridge boy who was returning to England. Armed with this mighty piece of
artillery we set off to fight our way through.
first night we slept in a Customs House, it being too late to complete formalities
anyway. The second was more tricky.
darkness fell we were battling along a dirt road, through steep valleys heavily
and deeply wooded. The undergrowth was thick and mysterious and there were piles
of rocks at the roadside, altogether a most suitable place for an ambush.
drove far into the darkness without lights, but eventually safety considerations
compelled us to use them and thus to disclose our position.
of the local inhabitants carried guns, and all carried machetes. They were an
last we were stopped, but of all things for a Customs check. We were glad to see
a rest house. Four of us slept there and two in the cars to protect our belongings,
our usual system on these occasions.
uneasiness we felt disinclined us to wait so we drove straight through the next
36 hours to Bogota, the capital, peering suspiciously in the night as we travelled.
is a modern city and expensive. There was a three day religious holiday while
we were there, so we stayed just one night there before pushing off towards Barranquilla.
were told that the estimated figures for deaths due to banditry and violence were
300,000 over the past 10 years. This seems an impossibly high figure, but we were
assured it was true.
our way north we spent a little time at Cartagena, the greatest city of the Spanish
Main and the first Spanish city in South America.
inspected the fort which the British Admiral Vernon had failed to take in 1741
even though his men outnumbered the defendants by ten to one. The low five foot
six passages of this fort are fascinating. Sixty feet below the ground and built
of stone, they provided sleeping accommodation in small alcoves for the garrison
of 400 men.
underground passages connect with different parts of the city, and there is a
virtually perfect system of ventilation by hot and cold air-shafts. The construction
incorporates slight angles which amplify sounds, the slightest whisper can be
heard 60 yards away.
Barranquilla we had a piece of good fortune; an air-freight company offered to
fly us across to Miami at reduced rates. But it had to be immediately; so it was
a case of "hello, goodbye", pack up and let's go. But we got to America.
18 August 1961
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