Colombian Extreme Traveler Jack Goldstein opened the 8. ETIC – Extreme Traveler International Congress 2020 at his own hotel
Lancaster House in Bogota, www.LancasterHouse.com.co
The evening was attended by the heads of the UN-VMC (United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia), the leadership of FARC (Fuerzas Alternativas Revolucionarias del Comun, now a political party), the ARN (Agency for Re-Incorporation & Normalisation), the Ministry of Tourism, several media, other Colombian dignitaries, a Hollywood documentary production, and 36 of the most extreme travelers, who flew in purposely, from as far as Azerbaijan, Siberian Russia, Finland, Singapore or HongKong, and many other countries.
Two leaders of FARC, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, former fighter name “Timochenko”, and Martin Cruz Vega, former fighting name “Rubin Morro”, with event hosts & organisers Sandy Cohen and Jack Goldstein.
Timochenko brought his dog (Queenie) instead of Lenin’s cat, for a picture with US extreme traveler Gina.
ETIC Dinner with UN Colombia Head Carlos Ruiz Massieu, FARC Head Rodrigo Londoño Timochenko, Host Jack Goldstein, Co-Host Sandy Cohen, ETIC Founder Kolja Spöri, MTP Founder Charles Veley (left to right)
The official event polo shirt
Early next morning we all drove together on the new “Peace Road to Marquetalia”
Initially a 10 hours drive south-west
in a car escort, performed TOGETHER in a promising joint exercise by FARC,
and the Military !!! Additional thanks to several hundred government troops of Bataillon 18 who secured the mountains around Marquetalia.
We reached the end of the asphalt road in the small village of El Oso, where you can sense the revolutionary spirit of the past,
now officially the starting point for history & nature tourism in the area. We were the first foreign group in 55 years, and even the FARC leaders hadn’t been able to make it here, to their mythical founding republic, since 55 years.
The overwhelming credit for the event idea and execution goes to Jack Goldstein (right) – and then to Martin Cruz Vega (left), formerly known as “Rubin Morro”, who is now a politician and book author, and responsible for turning down the FARC arsenal of military weapons to the UN.
Welcome dances by the local Nasa indian community
a welcome presentation by local officials
and welcome drinks.
FARC today: a political player …
… and before: a feared war party (employing terror methods like kidnapping), until the Havana Peace Accord in 2016.
ETIC group foto in El Oso before climbing uphill to Marquetalia.
First in UAZ offroad vehicles
which were plenty of fun
then by horse,
and by foot,
a very steep
and slippery 6.5 kilometers,
sometimes in pouring rain (here: FARC Senator Victoria Sandino, center),
quite a challenge for our extreme travelers from age 17 (Ethan Avinami) to age 75 (Don Parrish),
all under the watchful eyes of the United Nations team leader Enrique Sanchez – and their UN drone.
Excellent cooperation with the UN-VMC United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.
Randy’s mobile phone fell off while on horseback – and was retrieved in a complex search & rescue operation.
All in all, the “Peace Road to Marquetalia” was a miraculous logistics operation, and a great success.
protected for us by the friendly Bataillon 18,
until we finally reached the hidden mountain plateau of Marquetalia (One of only two surviving founders of FARC, “Sergeant” Miguel Angel Pascuas aka “Black Death”, can be seen to the left, sitting in front of his tent, aged 79!)
The infamous remnants of the Battle of Marquetalia, where FARC had shot down two government helicopters in the early 60s, can also still be witnessed here.
FARC had set up our tent camp
complete with kitchen, basic sanitary facilities,
and a campfire where legendary rebel stories where shared in the evening.
FARC founder Manuel Marulanda’s famous hut, on top of Marquetalia, and today in the eye of a thunderstorm
Finally we also met FARCs most famous foreign member, the Dutch “Lara Croft” Tanja Nijmeijer (here pictured with extreme traveler and fellow Dutch B. Kester).
Tanja has a unique charisma (see above music video about FARC-founcer Manuel Marulanda). She resigned from FARC a day after our visit, after almost 20 years of fighting for – what she perceived to be – a good cause.
Back in Bogota, each and every participant received a certificate and now proudly feels like a hero, for having made the “Peace Road to Marquetalia”.
Jack Goldstein, Martin Cruz Vega, Extreme Traveler M. von Hassel.
This was an extreme adventure, even for the most extreme travelers. For a really good and ETICal cause: to strengthen the peace process in Colombia!
The friendly Colombian Deputy Minister of Tourism Constanza Olaya Cantor (left) also attended the awards
The leaders of the 3 systematic travel clubs, NomadMania: Harry Mitsidis, Most Traveled People: Charles Veley, and Travelers Century Club: JoAnn Schwartz, with ETIC conferencier Per Besson (left) and founder Kolja Spöri (right).
Farewell foto at the rooftop conference room of Hotel Lancaster House.
Our trip received quite a bit of local attention:
United Nations: El Turismo de Aventura llega a Marquetalia
IOM – Organización Internacional para las Migraciones: Expertos internacionales participan en expedición turística guiada por excombatientes en Marquetalia
Reliefweb: El Turismo de Aventura llega a Marquetalia
Alcaldía Municipal de Planadas Tolima: Alcalde Municipal Ing. Jhon Hueje acompaño el recibimiento de 35 extranjeros denominados viajeros extremos por el mundo
Hoy Diario del Magdalena: Extranjeros participaron en expedición guiada por excombatientes en Marquetalia
Caracol Radio: Le apuestan al turismo en el sur del Tolima
Red+ Noticias: Red+ Historias | Viaje al corazón de Marquetalia, por red+
Personal traveler blogs / reports:
Jack Goldstein: Hashavua Bogota: Shabad con Timochenko
Kari-Matti & Patrik: Maailmanmatkaajat: helmikuun kuukausikokous
Kolja Spori: Hosted in the FARC mountains: Marquetalia, Colombia
Kolja Spori in Doug Casey’s International Man: “What the FARC?”
Michael von Hassel on Artnet: Interview
[Fotos by Sandy Cohen, Martin Cruz Vega, Phillips Connor, Jimmy Gerum, Jack Goldstein, Thorsten Salaske, Randy Segler, own. I’ve lost track of ownership of fotos from our different whatsapp groups. If you feel you have not been credited correctly, or if your foto shouldn’t be here, please let me know. Thanks. More changes, fotos and videos to follow.]