Saturday, September 29, 2018

Hiking up Cerro Aguanoso

High above Bogotá.
Today, I joined a hike thru Bogota's Eastern Hills, which are beautiful, but almost off limits because muggers wait up there for unwary hikers. As a matter of fact, our guide, Baltazar, of Montaña Sagrada, was mugged at gunpoint twice recently near the Laches neighborhood, although the muggers, strangely, didn't take much but warned the hikers not to return to the area. This time, four police officers accompanied us, and perhaps because of that we suffered no incidents.

The magical thing about Bogotá's hills is that just a few minutes walking or cycling takes you into a different world. Unfortunately, it's not a native world: most of the trees, such as the pines and eucalyptus, are introduced exotics.

Lingering signs of wildfires.
The hike started off passing small farms amidst forest. But as we climbed, the trees became smaller and replaced by scrub. The trail also got steeper: toward the top, we clambered uphill gripping rocks and roots to make progress. Along the way, we visited the tiny abandoned chapel with its big iron cross which you can see from central Bogota perched on a hillside.

We were also treated to spectacular views, which make you appreciate just how immense a city of nine million people is. After several hours of hiking we reached the peak of Aguanoso, at 3555 meters above sea level

From the peak, you can continue walking east for several kilometers to reach a paramo, a high-altitude wetland. We instead walked down behind and around the hills and caught a SITP bus back to central Bogota.

A view of the Eastern Hills and Cerro Aguanoso, from near Bogotá's Central Cemetery.
Passing a frailejon, characteristic of the paramos.

Mosses on a water-splattered rock.

An abandoned chapel, visible from central Bogotá.

A photo op high above Bogotá.
A frailejon: a characteristic plant of the paramos.

A friendly lizard.


The long and winding trail.
Baltazar has a hiking business called 'Montaña Sagrada.' Look for them on Facebook.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Dangerous Idea: Invading Venezuela

Semana magazine calls invading Venezuela 'Playing with fire.'
As Venezuela's disintegration accelerates and millions of economic and political refugees spill across its borders - especially into Colombia - talk is increasing about a radical solution: military invasion to replace the corrupt, incompetent and anti-democratic government in Caracas.

But even tho there's little doubt that a rational, democratic government would greatly benefit
'I'm Venezuelan and have three children.' A Venezuelan man
begs near Bogotá's Simon Bolivar Park.
  Venezuela's desperate people as well as neighboring countries, a military attack - likely involving the United States, Colombia and maybe Brazil - could make things much worse.

Notwithstanding Venezuelan Pres. Maduro's boass and blusters, as well as Venezuela's purchases of Chinese and Russian armaments, his military wouldn't last long against experienced forces such as those of Colombia or the United States. A few years ago, when Chávez mobilized forces, many tanks broke down before even reaching the border. Years of worsening corruption and shortages later, the Venezuelan military's preparedness must be much worse.

But that doesn't mean an invasion would be clean and bloodless. Venezuela's army would fight long enough to generate foreign casualties, and, as in all conflicts, innocent civilian bystanders would suffer and even be killed. In addition, Maduro's government has recruited and propagandized citizen militias. The militia members, who include housewives and cab drivers, would be no match against a real armed forces. However, the Venezuelan regime would not hesitate to sacrifice these fanatics as cannon fodder, compounding the tragedy.

Imagine the images of hapless Venezuelan men and women, even if militia members, getting shot down by foreign soldiers. No matter who pushed them into the line of fire, it would be devastating for the images of the invading nations.

Meanwhile, Chavista loyalists would sabotage infrastructure, compounding the mayhem and making rebuilding much harder. And, in its death throes, The warplanes which Venezuela has purchased from Russia could attack Colombian ports, bridges and oil refineries, bringing death, destruction and environmental carnage to Colombian territory.

And then would come the occupation and nation building, amidst continued protests, violent counterattacks and sabotage.

And what good would all this carnage do? How would foreign governments put Venezuela back on its feet? The nation's courts are corrupt puppets of Maduro; its democratic institutions are disfunctional. Venezuela's most relatively intact institutions, its police and the military, are also corrupt and involved in drug trafficking and severe human rights absuses. What left to build a new state on?

Meanwhile, most Latin American nations have made clear that, as much as they dislike the Venezuelan regime, they oppose even more the idea of Washington removing a government it doesn't like.

Much better, it seems, would be to let the Maduro fall on his own. However, that might take a long, ,long time: Venezuela's disastrous condition may only strengthen Maduro's grip on power by driving his opponents out of the country, while those who remain behind are dependent on government subsidies - and therefore afraid to defy Maduro. Meanwhile, you can bet that Maduro and his circle are living in luxury.

Of course, washington could accelerate Venezuela's colapse, albeit at the cost of even more suffering for the Venezuelan people, with one very simple measure: boycott Venezuelan oil. Ironically, the U.S. continues to be the largest buyer of Venezuelan crude. But U.S. officials fear raisig the cost of gasoline even a few cents.

Unfortunately, don't expect Venezuela's crisis to end anytime soon.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Women's Works at the Street Lynx Gallery

Gallery owner Lorenzo Masnah shows prints to a group of Irish tourists. 
Hurry down to La Candelaria's Lynx Art Gallery, on Calle 18 just above Carrera 6 (diagonal to the Freemasons' Temple) to see their exhibition of works by women artists.

The exhibition continues until Sept. 29, when they'll hold a closing ceremony from 6 to 9 p.m. attended by the artists. Admission is free.

Calle 18 No. 4-94, La Candelaria.
Tel: 313-242-0070

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Perpetually Provisional Polluting SITPS

Celebrate! Bogotá just extended the life of the city 'Provisional' Integrated System of Public Transit (SITP) for yet another year. Just translate 'provisional' as 'perpetual' and you'll have a better understading of the situation.
A SITP bus disappears
in its own smoke.

As terribly polluting as are many of Bogotá's cars, buses, trucks and factories, the provisional SITPs stand out as extraordinarily poisonous. It's hard to comprehend how a capital city supposedly concerned about health and air quality chooses to not only tolerate vehicles like these, but happily supplies them with subsidized diesel with which to poison all of us.

One might even ask why, someplace which is supposedly defending the public by cracking down on such terrible crimes as farejumping and the possession of small amounts of drugs, turns a blind eye to the violations of pollution laws which cause thousands of premature deaths in Bogotá alone.

A small start to improving things would be to retire the worst of the 'rolling chimneys' - if the city is willing to give public health more importance than private profits.
Quite a blast of smoke!

Pity the poor driver alongside this (non-provisional) SITP bus, and the suffering bicyclist behind taking pictures.
In Bogotá, green does not mean clean.

Provisional perpetual pollution.

A view of grey Bogotá from its Eastern Hills.

I cut out the high-rise buildings to show the bus's pollution in its full glory.

Wow! A factory couldn't be smokier than this bus!

Pity the poor cycllist stuck behind this (normal) SITP bus.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours