Nomads on the move, currently in Colombia...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drug Smuggling For Dummies

The first time I ever did cocaine I was in the parking lot of the Rainbow Room in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was 2 am in the morning. My friend lined up a couple rails of coke and I snorted them off the dashboard of his BMW. Then we proceeded to party until 10 am.

At the time I was not conscious of where the white powder came from or how it found it's way to Las Vegas. I had no idea at what price my night on the town really cost, and how many lives were ruined just so I could get high.

Since that time I've driven all the way to the cocaine source in Colombia. I've traveled extensively through Mexico and every country in Central America. I've talked to narcos and visited their territories. I've driven though well over 150 military check points in 10 countries. Through these experiences I have learned a lot about drug smuggling.

Have you ever wondered how all those drugs actually make it into the US? There are dozens of ways, and you can read about them all in my new best selling book, Drug Smuggling For Dummies.

But for now, I will share one trafficking route with you. Check this out...

PRODUCTION - First the coke has to be grown without the military finding it.

Over 80% of the worlds cocaine comes from the mountains of Colombia. These are extremely rugged and remote areas with no road access. Perfect for production.

By using the threat of violence, the narcos (FARC) force the local mountain people to plant tons of coca underneath their regular food crops to hide it from the military planes.

If the military suspects that coca is being planted, they will spray the entire area from the air. Often times they are wrong, and local food sources are decimated leaving hundreds of poor subsistence farmers without any way to feed their families.

TRANSPORTATION - After the cocaine is produced, it needs to be transported from the mountains to the Pacific ocean. There are two ways to do this.

By Road - This method only works if the narcos can control the highways. There are only a couple roads that access the very remote Pacific ocean and the FARC is currently at war with the military for control of those corridors. Hundreds of innocent people are dying. READ MORE HERE - FARC TERRORIST ATTACKS

By Air - This is an easy way to get cocaine to the Pacific. In order to hide the air strips, narcos will build fake houses on wheels, (no shit). They put them in long rows over the dirt runway. When a transport plane arrives, they wheel the houses out of the way, exposing small landing strips.

They then fly to remote areas on the Pacific coast where there are no roads, no cities, and very few people. They land on long flat beaches at low tide, exactly like the beach where our friends house is located in the photo below.

This plane was abandoned by a drug runner several years ago near our friends house.

After the drugs reach the Pacific, their next mode of transportation is by boat, and the destination is Mexico. 77% of the drugs that now reach the US go through Mexico.
In order to move the drugs to Mexico, the narcos hire local fisherman to pilot specially built speed boats. The guy who ran our dive boat the other day had done two drug runs to Mexico. For each run they earned 3 bricks of cocaine, which is worth around $7500. That is a lot of money for these guys. Despite being good people, they take high risks to support their families.

And the risk is great. The speed boats, also know as "Go Boats", are insanely fast. Nevertheless, there is significant danger involved. The military's policy is simple. When they find these boats, they blow them up, along with anyone aboard. The BBC has documented this in detail.

Once the drugs arrive in Mexico, they are sold by the Colombian cartel to a Mexican cartel, most likely the Sinaloa.

It is widely known, although not in the US, that the Sinaloa cartel is in bed with the Mexican government, who is using the military to take out the rival cartels. Since this alliance was formed the Sinaloa territory has rapidly expanded while the rivals have been pushed into Central America, specifically Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The war in Mexico is wreaking havoc on innocent people and is ruining the country.

With the support of the military, the Sinaloa are easily able to move the drugs by land, right through  hundreds of check points, straight to the US border.

From there, drugs are moved across the border in a variety of ways. The latest and most popular is through tunnels. These can be up to 100 feet under ground and over 3000 feet long. The US is discovering these all the time, but it is believed there are hundreds, if not thousands more secret passageways. 

Once the drugs arrive in the US they are sold to violent street gangs who usually have strong ties to the cartel.

These gangs then distribute the drugs down to local dealers who sell them on the streets in ghettos across America.

Of course, no sane white person is going to buy their drugs from a certified brown or black killa, so at the very bottom of the food chain we find the yuppy white wanna-be gangster dealer.

The yuppy white wanna-be gangster dealer is most likely the guy from whom my friend in Las Vegas bought the drugs. And it was shortly after that sale that those same drugs finally went up my nose.

There you go. Drug Smuggling for Dummies.

The war on drugs is out of control, and it is not working. There is only one way to end this crazy cycle. It sounds radical, but it WILL work. It has been proven to work.

(read my plan on how this could work, click here)

I actually have no hope that this will happen, despite it being the best solution on the table. Do you think that most of the Americans are just too afraid, too brainwashed, or too ignorant on the issue? It seems that if they cared, everyone would be calling for change. I think the tragedy and violence and repercussions are just too far from home.

"Vacation to Mexico, oh hell no. That's too dangerous. Lets just go to Hawaii this year."

I'm curious to know what you think?  Will we ever get involved as a populace and demand change? Or will the drug war go on forever? What do you think is holding America back?


Related Sprinter Life Posts:
- La Paz Baja - The Drug War in Mexico
- Good Bye Mexico - How dangerous is Mexico?
- The Drug War Spills Into Guatemala
The War On Drugs Cannot Be Won
FARC Stikes Out - Terrorist Attacks in Colombia

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pacifico Amor

This just in... the Pacifico in Colombia is next level INSANE!

We left Medellin by plane with our new friends Carlos (aka Charlie) and his beautiful wife Nico.

Charlie's brother Cami was already at the beach house with his girlfriend Claudia. They had left the day after our dinner party. (Remember the dinner party here)

The flight was one hour long and we crossed completely undeveloped jungle. There are no roads that go through this jungle to the Pacifico. The only way in is by small plane.

The best part about flying on a private charter was that we got to bring Kiki. PLUS she got to ride in a seat right next to Stevie!

Upon arriving in the small village of Nuqui, Stevie promptly introduced herself to the locals.

Nuqui is the largest village in the area, but that isn't saying a lot. The place is tiny. The local people are a mix of indigenous Colombians and slaves who were brought over from Africa.

From Nuqui we took a one hour boat ride to the beach house. Our friends have been building this place one 2x4 at a time. You have to appreciate how amazing this house is given that it is in the middle of absolute NOWHERE! Every piece of wood comes from the jungle. It sits right on the beach. No electricity. No road. No cell service. Behind the house there is nothing but hundreds of miles of impenetrable jungle. In front there is nothing but the vast blue Pacifico ocean. This is paradise.

As we find is the case throughout our life, so it was in the Pacifico. The most beautiful part by far is the people. They are striking, warm, authentic and alive! A local family lives in the tiny house behind our friends house and they take care of the place. These people live completely off the grid and completely off the land and sea. Truly inspiring!

Below moving clockwise we have Stevie, Charlie, Nico, Cami, and Claudia.

These people know how to build a fire! Below is Stevie with the three daughters of the caretakers.

Enjoying a pool that captures the natural hot springs that flow out of the jungle. No crowds here!

Believe it or not, there was a guy leading dive trips all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. I was a little nervous about the gear. Both the regulators and the BCs leaked air. But we went and it was awesome! We saw all kinds of fish, manta rays, and two WHALES!

Being in the Pacifico is like stepping back in time. In a world of no roads you have two options, boat or walk. 

Only a few people have access to boats, so guess what everyone else does? We passed a family on our beach who were heading south. They had been walking for 13 hours to arrive at the next small village! One of the girls was about 6 months pregnant.

Below Charlie and Cami are kicking it in the natural pool overlooking the ocean. These two Colombian brothers are completely legit. They are all business, yet super funny, super fun, super loyal, and very family orientated. We feel privileged that they welcomed us into their home and into their family!

Although we've only known them for a short time, it feels like we've been friends with these guys for a lifetime.

I would like to give a special thank you to our Colombian posse. That was the best 4 days ever! En serio, we love you guys. 

As I sat on the plane heading back to Medellin I pondered our life and I realized, this is why we do what we do. On Wednesday we went to a dinner party and met 3 amazing couples. From that experience we found ourselves on a plane heading towards a remarkable experience in the Pacifico.

Life is about embracing the moment. Embracing the people. Embracing every experience. As my good friend Guillermo says,

Cada dia es mejor, cada dia estamos mejor!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hung Over Wake Boarding - Stevie's 700th Sport

After Mauricio's dinner party we enjoyed 4 hours of sleep before the alarm cracked my skull in half. At first I looked around wondering why I had set the alarm so damn early. Then it started coming back to me. Something about driving to a place called El Penol... to go... what was it... wake boarding??? 

The plan slowly came back to me and I realized it was the type of itinerary only drunk people make at 2 in the morning. It entailed getting up too early and driving 2 hours away to the beautiful lake of El Penol. There Mauricio had a boat and was going to teach us to wake board. Yes, that was it.

After a hardy breakfast we managed to get to the lake by the crack of noon. Everyone was feeling a bit hung over, except for Kiki. She was very excited for her first day of wake boarding.

Out on the water we started feeling a little better. Kiki was in heaven!
It turns out that hung over wake boarding is a pretty fun sport. After getting dragged behind the boat a couple times I figured out how to stand up. After that it's butter. Like snowboarding on water!

The lake was absolutely fantastic. There is an 800 foot rock dome that is famous for climbing. It looks like a miniature Yosemite Half Dome. I scoped the routes and they look good to go. Let me see, this area has insane kayaking, mountain biking, wake boarding, rock climbing and paragliding. Humm...

Now, I don't want to sound like the asshole husband or anything, but after I got dragged behind the boat a couple times, I was pretty sure Stevie wouldn't make it up. I just know her, and she does NOT like violent water situations. When she got in the water, I was honestly nervous for her. After all, the only sport she knew how to do when I met her was running in high heels. (That should be in the Olympics by the way).

But, to my surprise, Stevie attacked wake boarding with serious determination, and before I knew it, she was mastering her 700th sport.

By the end of the day everyone's hangover was gone and we were all smiles. 

This was supposed to be our last day in Medellin. We really need to start heading toward Ecuador. But our new friends invited us to go to the Pacific on Friday

This is a very special invitation. Getting to the Pacific ocean in Colombia isn't easy. There are only a couple roads that access the coast and they are controlled by drug traffickers, so we had previously written that option off. 

But with our new friends we will be taking a private charter plane to a small landing strip, then heading to their beach house by boat and hour away. The house is in the middle of nowhere. Complete jungle. And the surfing is supposed to be epic! 

How in the hell can we say no to that? We leave Friday morning and we'll be back sometime on Monday. We'll take the SPOT GPS, so you can track our location below. Adios! TREE

Track Sprinter Life's exact GPS location! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

We Frikin Love Colombians, And How They Party!

When I was 21 I remember being able to drink all night long, sleep for a couple hours, then go kayak hard rivers all day, and I was just fine.

What the hell happens to us when we get old? Nowadays after one night of drinking I feel like I sprained my liver! I guess I just need to try harder.

And what better place to re-train my liver than Medellín. We are finding that this town has an outstanding population who likes to party... hard. In a couple short days we've made no less than a dozen great friends.

We met Daniel and Marcela on our first day in Medellín. They spotted our van as we drove around lost looking for a parking lot big enough for the Sprinter. They followed us around, and when we stopped, they asked if we needed help. (Incidentally, they were the SECOND couple inside of an hour to pull over and offer assitance...the people in Medellin are ridiculously nice).

We hadn't talked for longer than 5 minutes before we had plans for dinner. They took us to Casa Blanca, an amazing beef and wine restaurant. After a couple bottles of Argentinian wine the Medellín party was started!

These guys ROCK!!! They met when they were 13 years old and now, 17 years later, they are getting married, THIS SATURDAY! Enhorabuena chicos, estamos muy feliz por ustedes...

After shaking off the first mild hangover we went out to explore Medellín. My goal for the day was to earn 5 brownie points walking around looking at art and stuff...

I can usually get Stevie to do almost anything I want without her knowing. Take the first photo below for example. "That's good honey, now turn and face the statue, but look this way, a little more, face the statue, good, now hold that pose...". Unfortunately I lost a brownie point after she saw the photo, but it was worth it.

Walking around during the day you would think Medellín was a sleepy town, but it really comes to life at night...

I love these two photos below. In the first one a man in a wheel chair sells lottery tickets in front of the plaza church. In the second photo, life imitates art, again...

After some sight seeing, the party kept on rolling.  Another peak into the Outdoorplay customer database delivered a kayaking contact living in Medellín. Mauricio has been buying Outdoorplay Kayaks for over 10 years and is on a first name basis with ODP's General Manager, Brian Massey.

We were invited to dinner and showed up at his palace (I mean super ridiculously cool penthouse) not really knowing what to expect. I mean after all, what do you say to a 10 year customer you've never met? It turns out that no words were needed. Mauricio and his wonderful wife, Natalia, welcomed us with hugs, and the bottles of wine started popping...

It didn't take long for the party to really get rolling. Wine was sipped while Scotch was poured, and everything was chased with Aguardiente, a Colombian favorite. After a while things started getting blurry...

Two other Colombian couples joined the party. Charlie and his brother Camilo were accompanied by their lovely ladies, Nico and Claudia. They welcomed us to their country with hugs and kisses.

At 10pm there was still no sign of dinner. At around 11:30pm Stevie an I gave up on dinner, thinking that this was just how Colombians rolled. But, at 1am, Mauricio set the table and we finally ate!

By the end of the night things were really blurry, but I remember conversations about the ocean and plans being made on our behalf. Looks like we might be here longer than expected. TREE