2012, 288 p.
Before I went to Colombia recently, I tried to find books set there. Of course, there’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez but (dare I say it?) many of his books are rather similar and I wanted to read something different. But everything I read seemed fixated on violence and drug-crime. Are there no other stories to be told about Colombia?
Tom Feiling found a similar phenomenon. He had been in Colombia in its violent decades, but in 2010 he went back, spurred by then-president Alvaro Uribe’s declaration that the country had moved from terrorism to tourism. Tourists would need a book about the ‘new’ Colombia, he thought, and so he decided to write it.
However, he too has written a book that is steeped in drugs and violence, but he bookends this period by accounts of colonialism and twentieth-century history, and a view towards the future. It’s not a ‘walking’ book as such, although he does his fair share of hiking and talking and bumping around on the back of motorcycles and trucks. He visits Bogota (which I did not) and Medellin (which I did), and many other mainly rural places as well, many deep within the ‘orange’ Reconsider Your Need to Travel section of the map on the Australian Government Smart Traveller Website. Even in a book hoping to get beyond drug-violence, he found that it had shaped the Colombia that he found in 2010.
The book is written in a chatty, discursive, self-deprecating style and it paints vivid word-pictures of landscapes and people. It was published in 2012, and I think that Colombia appears to have been more successful than he anticipated in writing a new narrative for itself- although the persistence of so many Reconsider Your Need to Travel regions some seven years later is disturbing.
I finished reading this when I returned, and perhaps that was the ideal way to read this book. I may have been a bit turned off my plans for solo-60+female travel had I read it earlier.
Sourced from: purchased e-book
Read because: I was going to Colombia, but I didn’t finish it until I returned
My rating: 8/10