Sierra Nevada - Colombia 2016

John Blashford-Snell and team have recently returned from Colombia on Expedition.  Here are the Sitreps:

SITREP 1 WIWA EXPEDITION - 7 February
All members of expedition have arrived in Bogotá and set out by bus for 2 day journey to Valledupar at dawn on Monday 8 February.
Temperature in Valledupar reported to be 40 °C. Ends.

SITREP 2 - 12 February

Base set up at Achintukua. Enthusiastic welcome by Wiwa with many ceremonies. Medical-dental teams had treated over 60 patients. Engineers designing new facilities at local schools and villages. Primary school at Limoncito nearing completion. Bright sun and temperatures at 38 C quite taxing. Ends.

SITREP 3 - 17 February

After tough ascent. Most successful visit to Limoncito. New school awaiting a few stores to complete building. Our clinics continue with many patients. Moving base camp to El Machin on 18 February. Ends.

SITREP 4 - 23 February

Colombian Government negotiations with the FARC terrorists groups aimed at securing  final agreement on a lasting peace were suddenly announced a week ago. As a result up to 400 armed FARC fighters appeared some 18 miles from our base camp. Some came by helicopter from Venezuela that supports FARC.

Although most fighters returned to jungle bases, the rival ELN rebels did not take part and still have to signify its intention to cease  operations. All this heightened the security situation and the Colombian Army Battalion who have provided protection for us throughout the expedition have had to limit our deployment. This meant some of the tasks we had planned could not be carried out.

However in spite of temperatures reaching 40 C, challenging mountain roads and problems with communications and transport, the expedition has achieved most its objectives.

Thanks to the help of the Newport Uskmouth Rotary Club a primary school for 40 pupils was built in a mountain valley.
Our doctors and dentists have worked non stop and treated  over 250 patients. For those in need we a!so distributed over 160 pairs of reading glasses.

The engineer team have tackled a wide variety of tasks, including bridge design and p!ans for building construction and water supply system.

At most villages we were greeted by elders known as Mamas who performed traditional ceremonies to ensure our safety.

The Wiwa remain true to their ancient laws, the moral, ecological and spiritual dictates of the primordial creator, a force they identify as the Mother. They believe their spiritual work alone maintains the cosmic (or ecological) balance and the rest of the world, whom they know as the younger brothers are destroying  the earth. By communicating with their spirits the Wiwa hope to persuade mankind from creating an ecological catastrophe.  This unique people, who were most supportive and friendly, have expressed warm appreciation for our help.  Living and working with them is certainly an unusual experience. And we believe that we are the first foreign group to operate with the Wiwa. On 26 February a conference is being held in Valledupar a which we shall present the  results to the Wiwa Government. Ends.

Sitrep 5 - 28 February 2016

The expedition concluded with a day of relaxation on the coast where we held the usual traditional Burns Supper enjoying Stahly's haggis brought from Scotland.

A conference was held in Valledupar at which we presented the results of our medical and dental work and the engineer projects to the Wiwa Government. This was much appreciated and the Mayor of San Juan del Cesar agreed to fund some of the projects for the Wiwa communities. The Wiwa thanks us profusely for our work and invited us to return.

The team are now dispersing from Bogotá. In spite of the heat and security problems, the venture has proved a success and hopefully will be a real value to this little known group of indigenous people.

John Blashford-Snell is remaining in Colombia for a week to examine another possible project elsewhere in the country. Ends.

 

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© Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE DSc(Hon) DEng(hc) FRSGS