Sunday, January 11, 2009

Backpackers Stream to Columbia – Harming the Environment and Themselves

Disclaimer: Aussie Pete in no way condones or encourages drug use. I am merely reporting on this news, as I found it rather amazing. Columbia can be a very beautiful holiday destination, but unfortunately many people still associate the country in their mind with Cocaine and the Drug Cartels (mainly as a result of media and bad press).

By the latest reports, Columbia has become one of the favourite new destinations among backpackers. Why? – because some agents are offering tourists a ‘whirl wind’ and cheap tour of the country's well-publicized cocaine factories.

You may not be able to read about the tours in any tourism brochures, but the availability of these factory-trips spread rapidly in Columbia by ‘word-of-mouth’. It is interesting that what has been viewed widely as ‘the drug that plagues the country’ is seemingly increasing tourism and trade – but at what expense?

According to one traveller (who shot a short video of his trip), for a mere $9, one can travel to ‘La Ciudad Perdida’ (along the Caribbean coast). Included in the price is the tour guide who will take you to this ‘Lost City’. Along the way, it is possible to see the many coca plants used to make Cocaine, before visiting one of the labs (usually just a tarpaulin or a table). The owners then provide a lesson in Chemistry.

Many locals are clearly unhappy with this latest tourist trend, and offer various warnings on the dangers of drug use (both on the individuals and the environment).

According to local hotelier German Escobar, “The production of cocaine also significantly damages the environment of Colombia. And money spent on cocaine goes directly to support groups fighting in Colombia's internal conflict, leading to assassinations, massacres and one of the world's largest refugee problems”.

Aussie Pete's Opinion: Do yourself and others a favour - if this is your major reason for choosing Columbia as a holiday destination, then think again!!

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