Security and safety: the dangers

Posted: September 18, 2012 by Ben Weber in English, The Journey
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Near downtown Bogotá – 2002 on the day of President Uribe’s Inauguration

When we went on our ride to Santos with André and the cycling group, what I neglected to mention in my post about it was that on the day preceding the ride, André went and painted direction marks (along with the initials of the group by these marks) along the route to make sure riders didn’t get lost if they got separated from the main group and didn’t have access to a route plan. Certainly a good idea and it certainly helped. However, a group of young… let’s say… entrepreneurs from a favella (shanty town) that the route went by couldn’t help noticing and, the night before the ride, painted extra directions/initials in the road. These directions would take any unwitting cyclist following them into this favella. Which is what happened to two people with us, who were them promptly relieved of their bicycles and belongings.

The police found at least one of these bikes later in the day, however, this doesn’t distract from the security issues, and ultimately the two victims were lucky not to experience worse luck at the hands of their assailant. Loosing their bikes was almost the minimum they could get off with.

Along our main route we will pass through countries with well-known and publicised dangers and security problems. Of the more obvious we have Colombia, where the battles between the FARC, drug traffickers and government forces has been ongoing for decades, and areas of lawlessness in the country in places like the Darian Gap which borders Panama present a danger to anybody who ventures in. Kidnapping for ransom is a big danger there, and that is if you are lucky – if they don’t think they’ll get much, they’ll most likely just kill you; if they do keep you and don’t get money very quickly… they’ll most likely kill you (as opposed to the FARC who might keep you for years, but this has been a decreasing trend after security initiatives by the governments of Uribe and his current successor)..

If the thieves don’t get you, then bears might just try their luck

Other countries in Central and Southern America also present higher than normal dangers of petty theft, armed robbery or worse, though petty theft can happen anywhere in the world from the safest to the most dangerous of places. Indeed, it often happens where you feel the safest.

Corrupt officials are a problem in many countries in the Americas as well as Eastern Europe and Asia.

Furthermore, the dangers don’t just come from human sources, and even in the countries we would normally think of as among the safest of places… Canada for example… there are plenty of other safety risks, such as bears… black bears, brown bears… polar bears… and Australia: snakes (I hate snakes) and spiders (not so bad with them, but still…).

And all of these points are excluding the elements of course, with extreme heat and cold presenting the worst risks. I will deal with the risks above in my next post, and get to the elements in due course.

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