Medellin, Las Lajas Sanctuary and the Amazon River

It’s the end of the school year in Singapore, and P has begun the long and agonising transition to holiday mode. Anyone would think he was transitioning to “destitute mode” or “orphan mode” by the way he’s carrying on, and don’t think I haven’t daydreamed once or twice about faking the latter.

Mental note: investigate breadcrumb preference of local wildlife.

Mental note: must investigate breadcrumb preferences of local wildlife.

Then I got a better idea. After my curiously-popular Rope Roadways of Chiatura post, a couple of people (hi Blackberry Boys and Other Reader!) wrote to tell me about the cable-car-inclusive metro system of Medellin, and later, I got a tip-off about Las Lajas, towards the border with Ecuador.

Combine that with the continued activity of kidnappers in Colombia and it just seemed obvious. I’m yet to find the section of Tripadvisor which recommends soft, low-budget guerrillas who will negotiate timely releases in exchange for rather meagre life savings and never kill anyone – who’d want to live under the stress of that uncertainty? – but I’m still looking into it and in the meantime I’ve made quite a decent list of reading materials to fill my hostage days. I’ve even drawn up a social media plan for the launch of my memoir.

Intended for: Mum and Dad, but not the grandparents, who will be required to stay back to console the children and make impassioned pleas to the media.

Overview: A fairly random journey which takes in two awesome-sounding sites people have troubled themselves to email me about; a sojourn though kidnapping territory (the risks vary across regions with some claiming to be relatively safe, so careful planning will be necessary to maximise our chances); and finishing with a gentle and lengthy cruise down the Amazon River.

Strengths: I’ll finally be able to say a proper thank you to everyone who offered me Colombian travel tips. We’ll get to see some of South America – a region we’ve never visited.  And we won’t have to go through HR to clear the extended leave from work.

Forseeable difficulties and mitigating strategies: The gentle and lengthy Amazon River cruise at the end may prove to be a poor media strategy in terms of garnering sympathy for a harrowing adventure, and thus negatively impact book sales. We will have to hire a good PR agent to put the right spin on it.

It's possible we should raft down the Amazon on some sort of home-made vessel.

It’s possible we should raft down the Amazon on some sort of home-made vessel.

There’s also a chance that being held hostage by Colombian Drug Lords is more harrowing than supporting a five-year-old through the transition to school holiday mode, but just tonight I have a severe case of temporal discounting over it. (Pleasedon’taskaboutmyday.)

Also, the roads are apparently not all good. Bring motion sickness tablets!

Estimated Price Bracket: Expensive. Our life savings may be meagre relative to most ransoms, but they are still our life savings.


Days One, Two

  • Fly Singapore -> Medellin (36hrs, 2 stops – but one of them is a full day in Paris, so, awesome!)
  • Overnight on plane/in Medellin.

Days Three, Four

Day Five

  • Bus Medellin -> Ipiales (20hrs, if you’ll believe that). It’s recommended to fly rather than take the bus over mountainous Colombian roads, especially in the wet season, during which some roads can become blocked due to flooding. Not only that, but airfares don’t cost much more than road travel (I mean yes, up to five times more, but if my high school maths serves me correctly, five times almost-nothing is not-too-much).  However, where’s the fun? Don’t you want the chance to arrive at your destination after a full day’s motion-sickness with a fully saturated suitcase?
  • Overnight… well you’re pretty much on the bus, aren’t you?

Day Six

  • Recover from bus travel.
  • Overnight Ipiales.

Day Seven

Day Eight

  • This is the bit where, when I started writing this post, we went looking for someone to kidnap us for a few/ten months. Some time and a glass of wine later, that seems melodramatic. Instead, let’s just hop on a plane and fly Ipiales -> Letitia (via Bogota).
  • Overnight Letitia.
Mum's nerve-restoring cocktail.

Mum’s nerve-restoring cocktail. (Sleeping child not pictured.)

Days Nine, Ten (Eleven?)

  • There are fast boats (10-12hrs) and slow boats (2-3 days) from Letitia to Iquitos, Peru. Of course we’ll take the slow boat, like one.last.year.of.freedom, who gives his advice. (Wouldn’t want to rush it, would we, grandparent-babysitters?) I’m picturing something like this.
  • Overnight on slow boat.

Day Eleven/Twelve

  • Make the most of our time on dry land in Iquitos.
  • Overnight Iquitos.

Days Thirteen to Thirty-One

  • Downstream Amazon River Cruise from Iquitos to Belem. A quick google brings up a number of websites. The usual cruise length seems to be sixteen to eighteen days.
  • Write blog posts in lieu of hostage memoirs. Wildlife spotting. Visit “traditional” Amazonian villages.
  • Overnight on cruise boat.

Days Thirty-Two, Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four

  • Fly Belem -> Singapore (43 hours plus the time zones are against us, 4 stops)
  • Smile wearily at P and pack him back off to school.


My favourite Amazonian Basin blog (disclosure: I only read one Amazonian Basin blog – but it’s fascinating!) is Earth2Mother.

I don’t currently read any Colombian blogs, but feel free to recommend some – or add any other pointers.