01 April 2010

Minimizing Risk?

Last week we enjoyed a blissful ten days along the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. We were joined by our good friend Janie, who has written a brutally honest guest blog that I will post on Monday: Traveling with Kristin and Danny.

Until then, however, I'd like to share a short story. The three of us had just finished an exciting trek through Parque Tayrona and were trying to catch a bus back to Santa Marta. Well, we didn't just catch any bus. No, we rode in a decrepit van that was overloaded with 21 people. The tires were bald and the van teetered on turns, aided by the extra weight of luggage and potatoes and who knows what else strapped to the roof rack. The sliding side door was always wide open, as the "helper" boy hung halfway out, trying to get new customers as we whizzed down the highway. Of course there were no seat belts, which wouldn't have even mattered for me as I sat on a wood box. We used the left lane to pass trucks on blind corners, just as often as we rode the right shoulder to avoid oncoming cars. There are no cops out here to make sure drivers go the appropriate speed limit; instead the government has installed speed bumps (what the Jamaicans call "sleeping policemen"). The roads are in bad condition, as we would expect. And, we're obvious gringos in FARC drug territory in a country deemed dangerous by our very own government. Despite all of this, we had no hesitations about this ride. I guess you could say we've grown accustomed to transportation in South America.

I chuckled to myself as we roared along this Colombia roller coaster. How things have changed for me since we left Davis. For the last four years at Outdoor Adventures, our biggest concern was improving transportation safety, particularly in regards to the vans that we used on many of our trips. We got rid of 15-person vans and now couldn't carry more than eight people. We didn't use roof racks and our vans were religiously maintained and heavily insured. We went to various college and adventure travel conferences which had presentations and workshops specifically about this topic. We increased guide training, we created manuals, got signatures and copies of driver documents. Our efforts transformed our program into a model of safety that was adapted by Campus Recreation and used as a template for the rest of the University.

And now, one year later? I don't think twice about entering a statistical death trap . . . and paying fifty cents for it. Woo hoo! 

I was reminded of this today as I read a review of new book was recently published. It is titled: The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World . . . via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes. It looks like a good read, except it hits too close to home for us. Maybe it's better to read it after we've traveled to all the places highlighted in the book.  

Yeeeah, that looks safe.


  1. You haven't done it yet until you have traveled with sheep in a tractor :) and travel in a train hanging out of the door with wind in your hair - I really miss the latter. I wish trains here had no doors

    Welcome to how most of the world lives :)

  2. Wow, a lot of this was news to me, even though I was in the bus with you. This is why I travel with plenty of reading material, so that I keep my head down and am blissfully unaware of my moving surroundings.

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