Bound, one gentleman pistol-whipped, threatened with death, more than a dozen hikers were mugged at gunpoint on my favourite hike in Bogota a few weeks ago. My immediate reaction was to campaign to reclaim this hike up the Quebrada la Vieja from the thugs that threatened to wrest it from us through force and intimidation.
I have written about this hike previously, both here on my blog and for Colombia.Travel and it is no exaggeration that it is one of my preferred activities in Bogota. I guess this hike represents a form of escapism and allows me to sweat, all the while filling my lungs – where possible – with the thin yet clean oxygen from the mountains above the Colombian capital city.
The reason for which I was not following the trail up the mountain on the Saturday when the robbery took place was simple. I had just, the day previously, driven 16 hours straight from Mompós where my hotel is located, all the way to Bogota. I was tired.
Ordinarily every single Saturday, without fail, I can be found between the hours of 6 and 7 in the morning striking out through the pine groves and patches of foxgloves up this area of land overseen by the Bogota waterworks company. And Monty, my Weimaraner and I are in good company.
Former President Ernesto Samper – also mentioned and featured in a previous blog – is a regular hiker, presumably to exercise his mottled huskie and trim a few pounds from his large frame. I have hiked alongside former Mayor of Bogota, Lucho Garzon and various other unnamed notables who are in the company of several bodyguards.
So, this makes me wonder how such a violent robbery as the aforementioned actually took place. This pathway up the mountain is secure, it is well-travelled and it is popular. Someone had to know and had to have informed the perpetrators that former President Samper would not have been hiking that day. His absence would of course have meant that there were few, if any, bodyguards and/or police officers covering the route.
In my mind there is no doubt that someone was well-informed.
But, then again the criminals were well organized too. They chose their victims and at gunpoint plucked them from the trail and made them walk to a secluded area where they could then rob them of their valuables. In all of the newspaper reports that came out in the national press regarding the incident there was no mention made of hikers with dogs being targeted.
For the first time since the robbery, I hiked up the Quebrada la Vieja with Monty. It was as usual, a wonderful and fitting start to a day that began with a low mist around the mountains and by the time we had reached the Cross, the sun shone down and revealed a handsome portrait of Bogota. It was easy to make out flights landing and taking off from El Dorado, traffic increasing – although muted by the distance – on the city’s main arteries. In short, what we could enjoy was the perfect image of a city rousing from its slumbers.
This time though there was a difference. I was watching the shadows to ensure no one was lurking in the tangle of new growth shrubbery and eucalyptus trees. And, I counted no less than 10 police officers stationed along the pathway. Of course, I am grateful for this new watch but it does take something away from the pastoral atmosphere I am looking to enjoy. And then, passing former President Samper on my descent, there was no mistaking him, as there were two police officers on horseback close behind.
How sad that it has come to this. But, I for one will admit that if the police presence is required to ensure our security, then so be it, I shall continue to hike the Quebrada la Vieja on my Saturdays in the city.