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Third-World Tings' 🇨🇴
Life happens fast while living in LatAm...
“Hey man, did you hear about Monica?
I received a message from a fellow tourist, who I had gone on a cannabis tour in Cauca, Colombia with a few weeks previously.
Monica was the owner and tour leader of a new company called: Colombia Cannabis Tours.
They operated out of the city of Cali and took tourists, mostly hostel dwelling gringos, on day trips to the neighboring department of Cauca, about two hours away:
The region was a “No-Go Zone” for years due to guerilla activity — armed groups controlled the local marijuana fields, where local farmers grow some of the best marijuana in the country.
One strain of sativa is called Punto Rojo and is known throughout the country and beyond for its high potency.
The areas where these farms are located is in a type of indigenous reservation that is recognized by the federal government. The Colombia government doesn’t have much control of the area, so the locals can grow lots of ganja, that is then trafficked by the guerillas.
It’s a very profitable business for the traffickers, a kilo of cannabis sells for about 50,000 pesos in the Cauca, 200,000 pesos in Cali, and about ten-times that outside of the country — in places such as Chile and Argentina, where it’s smuggled to by ship and trucks.
I decided to go on the cannabis tour after seeing a poster for it at a hostel in Cali owned by a friend of mine, who assured me that the region was safe since the guerillas demobilized and laid down their arms after the historic peace pact was signed by president Santos in 2016.
I met Monica the next day at the hostel and was joined by three other tourists and the driver of the van.
We left Cali at around 8 in the morning and drove directly to the farm in Cauca. On the way, Monica explained that she had recently started the tour to help the local farmers — who were very poor and since the guerillas left, didn’t have the resources to sell much of their product.
So bringing tourists out there was a good way to help these people out, while the tourists had a chance to visit a cannabis farm, learn about cannabis growing and the cultivating process — and smoke as much ganja as they wanted to ;)
This all sounded damn good to me.
Honestly, I just wanted to smoke big reefers in the countryside and get out of the city for a day so this trip was perfect.
I was a bit concerned about the cost though as it was around 180,000 pesos for the day, which was 50,000 pesos more than the other day trips that I’ve gone on before.
So I asked Monica about the cost and she informed me that there were “certain people” that she had to pay in order for us to go out there.
Her response was a bit unnerving, but I didn’t think too much of it. I was more focused on all of the ganja I was about to smoke once the tour began.
We arrived at the farm in Cauca, and were greeted by the friendly farmer who ran the operation. His house was a very humble abode where he lived with his family and employed a few helpers who trimmed marijuana plants all day.
We settled in and he told us a bit about the region, his farm, the cannabis he grew, and the other crops on his property — which included grapes, pineapples, papayas, etc.
He then brought out a large glass jar full of freshly cured cannabis and some rolling papers, which he encouraged us to smoke as much as we wanted as we drank coffee.
We all smoked up, then did a tour of his house, saw the drying rooms full of hanging plants and the trimmers cutting the plants before it was packed to ship out.
The guy literally had a few hundred kilos laying around his house, mostly in grocery bags and large garbage bags, he brought a bunch of them out for us to take pictures with.
At one point, I think I was holding about twenty kilos of bud, I also laid down on a large heap of dried ganja for a laugh.
We were high as kites and having a lot of fun.
He then brought us on a tour of the property — which included a few different small fields of different cannabis strains at various stages of growth. The entire time we were passing reefers around.
Then we took a walk along the river and crossed a bridge to another part of his property, which was a very nice place surrounded by lush green hills.
Overall, it was a pleasant few hours on the farm, we continued smoking and walking around the property, eating fresh fruit and drinking coffee.
The farmer thanked us for coming to visit and as a gift, he gave us each a bag of fresh cannabis to take home with us, each containing about twenty grams of Punto Roja.
We were all happy and high as we left for lunch in the nearby pueblo of Corinto.
We then returned to Cali.
Monica thanked us for coming out and displayed a few different cannabis items that she had for sale — such as CBD oil and lotions. I decided to pass on them as I was quite content with the bag of ganja that the farmer had gifted me.
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The Third-World Strikes Back
Over the next couple of weeks, I ran into Monica a couple of times at the hostel while she was dropping off tourists returning from the cannabis tour.
I then left Cali for Bogota, and shortly after returned home to Canada after another great stay in my favorite country in the world.
Those encounters with Monica at the hostel were the last time I would ever see her.
I got the text message from one of the other Gringos on the tour with me…
“Hey man, did you hear about Monica? She was kidnapped by guerillas and murdered”
She had been kidnapped and murdered while returning from the same trip that I had been on a few weeks before.
I was shocked and saddened.
I had never known someone who had ever met such a brutal death. I wasn’t a close friend of hers, just an acquaintance, but the details of her murder still upset me.
In fact, the murder really woke me up to the potential danger of going to a place like rural Cauca — even after the Peace Pact, which many believe was a fraud.
Monica was kidnapped, along with two Israeli tourists, by armed guerillas who demanded a ransom of about $200,000 USD, an extremely high amount for someone like Monica — who came from a humble background.
She couldn’t possibly have paid that amount.
From the news reports that I’ve read, it appears that the two hostages were kept with Monica for about twelve hours, but were eventually let go by their captors after Monica pleaded for their release.
Unfortunately, the captors didn’t release Monica and no ransom was paid.
Authorities found her bullet ridden, deceased body a week later.
She may have been naïve to operate a business in an area known for guerilla activity, especially as a non-local foreigner — she held Argentine citizenship and had grown up in San Andres — but in her final moments, Monica acted heroically to ensure the release of the two Israeli tourists.
Myself, after hearing about this, I then decided that I will no longer go on tours to areas known for guerilla activity, especially ones marketed to promote the consumption of illegal drugs.
It’s just not worth the risk.
Of course, me being me…
I’ve since visited some other hot spots, including the Pacific coast of Cauca, but that’s another story — which I’ll write about on here soon.
P.S: Yes, we have a Buenaventura, Colombia city guide in the works ;)