I Was Kidnapped

Chronicles from Sumapaz

I Was Kidnapped - The Chronicles of When I Was Kidnapped by FARC


Welcome

My name is Mauricio S. and in June 24, 2000, I was kidnapped by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, known as FARC. In this page you will find the story as I lived it. Make sure you start at the First Chapter. Also, be sure to learn more about this project and how you can participate.

Enjoy!

Mauricio S.
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Chapter 11

We leave the páramo. Reunion with the captors. Downhill. Another Tarabita. The Dismembered Cow.



In quick fashion, as was the case for following every order, we grabbed what we had, which was nothing really, and we started marching to the unknown... My only baggage was the white raincoat, which wasn’t quite white anymore. At first our journey was cross-country among bushes and mud. I was happy, because if what Trompeburro told us was true, our release would be on a warmer climate, and we were told that we would be walking downhill. Thinking that somehow we were going towards our release, I cheered up and walked with great enthusiasm. To the initial group of guerrillos more and more were joining, coming out of nowhere. Suddenly we saw two of them whom had captured us several says ago. We recognized and greeted each other kindly. They were very young, as were most of them.

I continued thinking my deal was going to be quick, when they realized that I wasn’t a rich man, they would ask for a sum and I would be released in a few days. I thought that I would be back by my daughter Olga’s birthday, on the 17th of July. She was turning 18 and it was my illusion to think that I would be back home by then.

We walked through a thick forest, with lots of birds and beautiful landscapes: mosses and ferns everywhere. Suddenly we came to an open field within the grove. There were some benches made of planks and logs, like a classroom in the forest. Several people who had joined us stayed there and the rest of us continued in a smaller group.

The trail, muddy and rainy, started to decline rather fast and we realized we were leaving the páramo, finding an ever more diverse vegetation. There started to enter the scenery beautiful wax palm trees, slender and silent, like quiet beauty queens, who are impossible to find!

We were the same three again, because at the time we left, they brought Namesake to travel with us. I told them how interesting it was to find those wax palm trees, icon of our natural flora, and how with those “blessed” branches for the Holy Week, we were running them down. The same way, I talked about other species that I knew of: elder, pine tree, tíbar, fern palm, sietecueros, and so on, a great variety of native species that we found on our path. For what I could tell, neither Namesake nor Isidro knew much about that subject matter, for they didn’t contradict anything I said, they even end up calling me “Professor Yarumo”, after the popular TV character that hosted a show about nature.

Every now and then we came across local peasants who were herding mules and horses, sometimes loaded and sometimes with empty saddles. It rained relentlessly and it was during those times when I didn’t  feel the burden of the raincoat and I was actually thankful for having it. Groups of guerrillos that were coming down the rocky and muddy trail, as if they were sliding through a dance hall, went by wearing black capes and splashing on the puddles with their boots. We descended with difficulty due to the slippery floor and our pace was slow.

The tall and silent figure of Namesake, with his enormous boots size 11-1/2, plush-lined and made for snow, gave me confidence and made me feel accompanied. He was wearing a black jacket and when he was inside the fog he seemed iike a great ghost, kind and sad. Isidro, with black, thick and messy hair, patent leather shoes and without proper attire for the cold and rain, suffered the weather more severely. One of the young guerrillos that was escorting us, was wearing a sleeveless shirt that made me shiver just by looking at him!

All of a sudden we came up on a river that we needed to cross, again by means of a steel wire. The way of doing it, was sitting on a twine webbing hanging from a pulley, which slided across the wire. Again, scared to the marrow, I don’t know how I came across it, without looking down too much. At the other end, next to some zinc roofing sheets and barb wire, we saw something covered with back plastic, out of which blood was coming. We didn’t dare to ask what it was.

We continued walking and shortly thereafter we found ourselves in front of a big house, with several guerrillos in it. They were devoted to a strange task: they were butchering a cow on top of a wooden table. There were many of them and each had their own specific task. With sharp knives they were cutting chunks of meat, laking any technique, but with all seriousness and commitment. They were packing portions in their backpacks, that dripping blood, they wore on their backs and took off in every direction. We were offered chicha, a beverage made from corn, which we drank eagerly. Then we were given jars with tuna, rice and potatoes. It was an excellent lunch, although we would have rather had some juicy steaks, fresh off the grill. For desert we got peto, a delicious cold soup made from tender corn kernels and sweetened with grated panela, the raw sugar paste. In front of the patio there was a mesh corral, where they kept several chickens and turkeys. We stayed in that place for a good while and then we parted once more.

Even thought the weather wasn’t noticeably improving, since it continue to drizzle and the cold was intense, the landscape was more and more welcoming: natural water sprung everywhere, more lush and diverse vegetation. We were walking at a good pace. I was talking with one of the guerrillos that was with us and I told him that I knew a song, an oldie from the sixties, written by Pablo Gallinazo, that went like this: “If the guerrillos are coming, go ahead and kill the ox, they plow the field walking, so they won’t need no ox”... he had me repeat several times, it until he was able to memorize it. He was Darwin, one of whom had captured us on that sad Saturday 24 of June.

We arrived at a wooden house where, like in every other, lived a couple of families. There we had some soda and crackers and we could hear the locals talk about the harshness of the winter. Someone mentioned that his mule had gotten stuck in the mud. It had been necessary to unload it to make it lighter enough to pull it from the mud. There were small children that looked at us filled with curiosity. It’s hard to imagine the conditions in which these families lived there... are they under threat and forced to cooperate with the Guerrilla, or they do it willingly, or are they part of it themselves.

We continued walking for a long time until we finally reached the camp where we would spend the most part of our captivity.
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Chapter 10

The Captive Community. Clarification. Gloomy Sunrises. We're Going Downhill!



We came back to the shelter from where we had left that morning. We saw that in other tents there were more captives, it was the first contact with the captive community, that would bring out in me so many feelings of friendship, pity, solidarity, generosity and sympathy. One of them hollered surreptitiously: "Welcome to the jungle!". We learned from then on that it was needed to communicate in English so the guerrillos wouldn't understand us. It was not required to be a scholar in that tongue, a few mixed and badly pronounced words was enough, depending on one's level. It was our own gibberish. The greeter was Caliche, a paisa (man from Medellín) who had been there for 15 days and was starting to get used to the cold weather. He told us how he had been kidnapped: He was driving his Jeep Cherokee with two friends on a Sunday at 3:45 PM, eating pandeyuca, or cassava-bread, in Timaná, between Sopó and La Calera, when he was assaulted. We would later learn a whole deal of creepy details about that adventure.

It was moving to see that group of tents, makeshift shelters or whatever name you want to call them, they all mean the same to me now, but to use the same terminology from the guerrillos, lets call them caletas. They are basically a waterproof sheet of camouflaged cloth, tightened as roof over a wooden box where one could sit or lay down, without being able to look outside. Very close to the ground, so much so, that even when sitting, one's head would be tilted. The most comfortable position was laying down. We saw ladies, young and not so young, gentlemen... all with the same look upon their faces, helpless, wasted, sad.

Many guerrillos were walking about everywhere, performing different tasks, some bringing and taking things, others watching the captives, some, most of them, having loud conversations, telling simple jokes and relating stories to each other, with the clear intent to be overheard by us, in order to frighten us with their cruel war stories.

After a while we were told that we where going to be separated, and indeed each of us went a different way: Namesake stayed where we were, Isidro went I don't know where, and I was assigned a caleta, similar to the previous one, but some distance off the center of activities. The first one was surrounded by many others, some belonged to guerrillos and some to captives and not too far was the "rancha", where they had the fire to cook and prepare the food, and where a great number of guards and other guerrillos in charge of community activities hanged out. Actually, the big "rancha", was some distance off. From there they would bring the food in huge pots that were carried by two men who, putting a stake through the handles to avoid getting burned and making it easier to transport, would support each end on their shoulders. While they distribute the food, they would keep it warm in the nearby kitchen's fire, although sometimes they still would get cold.

I felt quite alone and started to digress about my current reality. A sudden fear assaulted me, and it would hunt me for several days: I remembered the conversation during the interview with the commander and the list of my assets. Also, on the follow-up investigation that they would do regarding them. And so it came to me, that my name is listed on the white-page directory several times, because of and investment that I did with my brothers, when we bought some apartments during development, that we sold later making an appalling deal. Because I ordered the phone lines for all, they came up under my name... according to the white-pages, I was the owner of three or four properties! I thought that upon finding this out, the commander would believe that I lied to him and so I began to imagine his reaction. The least he could do was to call me up to account for my actions and give me the punishment worthy of someone who betrays the cause, which could easily be the death penalty!

Every time a guard approached me, I thought they were coming for me... I wasn’t able to sleep and I could see myself digging my own grave in the presence of two or three threatening guerrillos, who would then put one or two bullets into my head, letting my lifeless body drop in the mud I had just loosened. I could see my sweatpants and my running shoes being covered by chunks of the same mud, thrown off with indifference by my captors, to prevent the stench of my rotten remains to defile the pure air of the páramo.

What a nightmare! It increased my fright to remember, that while climbing to the interview I had seen on the side of the road, a small rectangular patch of loose dirt with some grass cut-offs placed on top recently, an obvious fresh grave. Death was not something distant to me anymore and I began to develop an increased internal courage that made me stronger on the face of such change of state, as death is, and which all living things, sooner or later, have to endure, and in a ruthless war as the one we live in, all the more so. The only galling thing was thinking of Silvia and my children, who could, even after my death, continue to be extorted for who knows how long. That made me suffer more than the very thought of death, which disappeared on that moment and forever.

I thought it necessary to clear the matter with the commander and I asked the guard to relay my desire to speak with him again, for I wanted to clarify something. He said he would and that I should wait for further instructions. They never arrived and the time was responsible for letting me forget the matter, after countless sleepless nights waiting for them to come for me.

With my first permission to urinate, I began to see more of my fellow captives. To the left of my caleta, there was another one, occupied by a young lady, who remained seated on a yoga position, light brown hair, her mouth with a smile of resignation and a rosary in her hands. I greeted her warmly and said: How long have been here? “Ninety days”, she replied. Then I found other caletas, in front of one of them another young lady, cute and soft, who was also praying using a rudimentary-made rosary, smiling told me she had been here for 15 days, she had been captured in La Calera with two other friends, Caliche and La Paisa, who were around there somewhere. Her name was Rebeca, she was from Cartagena and she told me that her mother kept telling her to be careful, and not to go out to La Calera and “look”. She also said that she had no idea how her negotiation would be like, because her parents lived in Cartagena,  some 650 kilometers north of Bogotá.

Upon arriving at the site of toilet and bath, which was a cold water hose, I found a young mother, dressed in a dark blue cloth coat, a jacket of the style of the ones used during the independence war, blue jeans and the all-too-common rubber boots. Her face was pale and pretty, with her long hair tied in a pony-tail that rested on her back. With her was her child, a boy of only two or three years of age, they were evidently from a warmer climate, and so they were struggling with the cold weather and specially with the near-freezing water. When I asked her name and where she had been taken, she said “Carolina, on the road to Llanos (the great plains), ten days ago, I’m the wife of the Major of Villavicencio”. I said indignantly “What Infamy”.. when I felt close to me the terrible gaze that censured me quietly for breaking the no-communication rule. It was Rolfy, who gave me a less than friendly look, but said nothing.

After being back at my caleta for some time, in came Isidro. He had been ordered to share with me that rustic dwelling, which made us both happy, since it’s much better to be in someone's company in such circumstances. We talked a great deal about his activities and mine. Since he had a bicycle shop in Patio Bonito, cycling was an interesting topic for both. He brought a new blanket, which along with mine, was a great tool to fight the cold of dawn.

Speaking of which, the sunrises were gloomy. I could hear a bird with a sordid song, kind of like a bell, that sounded in the depths of the mountain and seemed nostalgic and sad. One or two blackbirds sang in the distance, but not too audibly. Then began to dawn, with mist everywhere. Although the scenery was very pretty, it seemed to me sinister and somber. We had food on time and the only thing I could not stand was the thick soup for breakfast. I thought of my brother Felipe, whose birthday was on July 3, and I imagined that with all the sadness and distress of the family, there would not be a happy celebration.

It was early morning on Tuesday, July 4, Independence Day of the United States. I though of the happy and festive atmosphere in that country and that my children, María and Antonio, must be living. These thoughts made me feel very unhappy, not understanding why was I there and not in freedom with my family and friends. Suddenly some guerrillos reached the caleta and shouted to us: “grab your things, because we’re leaving”. “Where?”, we asked. “We’re going downhill” they said in reply!
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Chapter 9

The Camp at Last. Where is the Commander? Place for and with Animals. Climb to "Eagles' Nest". Four Awful Days.



When it was close to 4 in the afternoon on that Friday, June the 30th, we started to see a several camouflaged tents set up, scattered across the outskirts of the
páramo. We saw a great number of tents and just as many guerrillos, walking and working like ants, everywhere. In some kind of pond there were a few of them in underwear, taking a bath in, what I imagined it to be, freezing water. It surprised me to see their courage, not only to happily bathe, but to stay in it, playing and chatting, wet and practically naked.

There were also some women
guerrilleras, holding on heir backs huge trunks, no doubt, to be turned into fire wood to cook the food. In a large tent, some distance off, they had arranged a large fire on top of which they prepared the food in huge blackened pots. As we were getting closer, we saw more and more people, that looked at us with curiosity. According to some accounts, there where close to three hundred guerrillos in that camp and each had their own tent, for that reason the camp looked like an enormous mushroom field of different shades of green.

I scanned with my eyes looking for the great headquarters of the commander, where without a doubt we would spend the night, guarded by this crowd of subordinates living around us. As we penetrated that swarm of tents and people, suddenly we stopped in front of a cutout in the mountain side, in a place with wild and damp weed, they had setup a tent as a roof and told us: "get in there, the three of you". We exchanged terror looks, as we couldn't believe that this was the place where we would stay! We thought that even dogs had better places to sleep.

They warned us against leaving there without permission, even to take a leak. We crouched inside the makeshift hut and we started to feel the crude reality of our condition. The soil around us was damp and the cold was terrifying. Then, they brought some nylon ropes and said: "Lets tie the pigs..." and in fact the tied us passing the rope around our necks and shoulders, making some sort of harness. The end of the rope was tied to some small branches. My friends were very troubled but I pointed out that the tie was symbolic, just to make us feel unhappier. In fact, the binding wasn't impeding the few movements we could do in there.

We realized that we were not the only ones in captivity: in between
guerrillos' tents, we saw many captives, in the same situation as us. There were ladies, young people, elders... We had several companions of misfortune. The night started to fall as the cold increased while sadness and desperation wanted to work their way in from every angle. I can't remember what they give us to eat, but I assume it was rice and pasta.

I asked my friends to allow me to take the end facing the mountain cut-out, Isidro took the middle and Namesake, the larger of the three, took the place facing the outside. We stayed there with no other cover than what we had on, and again, tiredness put us right to sleep. We were still trying to fall asleep when I felt something strange walking on my lapel and I was able to see a thick and hairy caterpillar, it gave me such a start that couldn't move for an instant. A flick of my finger eventually tossed it out there somewhere and so we slept until dawn. Only the noise of frogs and crickets could be heard and every now and then, the guard checking on the trapped prey.

For breakfast we had a thick and cold soup that nearly got stuck in my throat, accompanied by an arepa somewhat hard, but edible. When we had finished breakfast, an armed
guerrillo came to us and said: "lets go to the High". We asked what that was and he said: "The High-est hierarchy". An interview with the commander. The nerves were on edge as we started to climb a steep and slippery hill, grabbing on to the ground with both hands to be able to move up. Some parts of the way were on a road under construction, where the soft mud buried our feet. We walked for one and a half hours. Namesake had the need to crouch and defecate and when he came back, he was noticeably worried because he spotted blood in his crap and he thought that hemorrhoids had reappeared. He feared contracting an infection and his face showed his angst.

In the midst of a chilling wind with droplets that felt like needles, we reached a wooden house that seemed recently built. There we entered a room furnished with bunk beds, where a few
guerrillos were shrunken and shivering due to the cold, a rare sight. One at a time we were summoned to face the commander... my turn came around and they pointed up a cliff, where I was expected. I crawled up and was shaken from the cold, anxiety and anguish. I could see my self in my mind, as if I was standing in front of a mirror: the hat down to my eye-brows, the white beard all grown, the raincoat, dirty and buttoned all the way up... it must have been something hideous. Finally I reached the man: sitting on top of some blankets and wearing a snug thick wool poncho that covered his legs and feet, and a camouflaged hat; on his side rested his rifle. Two extra guerrillos watched over the scene, standing on either side. He had slanted eyes, an incipient mustache and an scornful and aggressive gaze. I can never forget that face.

"You are a lying son of a bitch," said he for all greeting. "You told my comrades that you worked swinging a hoe and chop..." -"I never said that, sir" I answered. "I work at a bank"... then began a full interrogation of my assets, always dotted by insults and threats, trying to intimidate me into confessing what I didn't have.
- "What assets do you have, old son of a bitch?"
- "One 93 Subaru station wagon, under pledge, for I owe some money over it”...
- "I didn't ask what you owe, but what you have. They all say the same, they have nothing but debts, you're gonna tell me the truth or I'll have you hanged by the balls! and be careful not to forget anything, keep in mind that your family and all of your assets can be blown away with a bomb"
- "I have a mortgaged house"...
- "How much is it worth? what else do you have, cattle? lands? Think hard, because liars have spent up to seven years here, and then they remember their possessions... I'm gonna have a member of your family blind folded and brought here to compare your answers and then you'll have to tell the truth..."
"Bring them", said I, "I have nothing more"
"Account balance?"
"Overdrawn", I said
"Get the hell out of here, son of a bitch, before I crush your face! You didn't come here to weep!"
He pulled out a cellphone that he had under his poncho, dialed a number and put me on with Silvia, how exiting!
"It's your wife, short talk, do not mention we're FARC", he warned me. When they answered he said: "here's this worthless old man" and handed me the phone.
I felt a great joy when I heard Silvia's voice. I asked how she was and about the children. She said they were fine, she told me to have courage, a lot of it... I said I was fine too and that we needed to figure out how to get some money... the commander snatched the phone off my hands and told Silvia: "I'll call you back in five minutes".

I slid down the mud until I reached the house again. I told my friends the conversation I just had and they told me theirs. I couldn't hold the tears of excitement after having spoken to Silvia. Namesake gave me a hug and told me to cry as much as I wanted, which was the best way to vent. I began to feel I was with a friend. In front of us a few
guerrillos watched the scene with pity. I think they gave each of us a piece of bread. Namesake told me that nobody was home to answer the phone, so he had to come back the next day to try again.

We returned to the camp. It was Saturday, July 1st. We were on our seventh day of captivity and the second of four dreadful days!

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Chapter 8

A New Dawn. Namesake's Nightmare. Short Walk. Pleasant Stop-over. Terror to the Ears. In Search of the Camp



1 The night took its course without any setbacks, save for the uncomfortable bed and the cold weather. Even though we slept on the floor, since it was made of wood the night was somewhat bearable. Obviously, exhaustion played a big part in the deep sleep we had fallen into.

2 I thought I was suffering from dehydration because I was sweating excessively when walking, perhaps for wearing the raincoat all the time. This was making me thirsty constantly. I remember that on the night before, when we arrived in that place, I asked for water and they had to go out to get it in a plastic gallon jug because there was no other container. I think they went far to get it, because it took them a long time to come back. I drank it with sugar, as we already knew, was the custom and I was able to quench my anxiety.

3 Upon waking up that morning, Namesake cursed and grumbled as if had seen the Devil himself during the night. With the passing of the days, or rather, the sunrises, I realized that it was usual in him to wake up with such gall. But that morning was a special case: he wanted to wash his mouth as if had tasted sulfur. He spat and swore while looking for his glasses, without which he was as blind as a bat. How far was I to realize that it was myself the culprit of his troubles.

4 The story began with the t-shirt that was gifted to me in that hut were we spent the first night. It belonged to a generous and caring man, but we have to admit he didn’t smell like rosewater! With my sweating during the long walks in the following days, and with the confinement that my body, always neat and tidy, suffered under the darn raincoat, my skin began to develop an odor worse than bearable. I could feel it myself, but quietly thought that it affected no one else but its master. It was conceivable that after several days walking and sweating the way I had been doing it, and without having taken a bath at all, the case was rather grave. Barely and with a great effort to withstand the freezing water, at Trompeburro’s shack, I had washed my private parts with a hose that supplied their water, for fear of contracting some kind of infection.

5 It turned out that Namesake asked for the goat skin that night, and left the rush mat to Isidro and myself. According to his account, I, seeking the warmth, displaced him from his fluffy bedding landing him on the freezing floor. Then, trying to regain his lost possession, he moved closer to my back and, when he least expected it, woke up with his mouth full of hairs, that tasted of anything but good! He had run into my hairy back, dirty and unwashed for 5 days! Added on top of that, the t-shirt’s own stench, a mixture of smoke, patchouli and I don’t know how many more disgusting things. The fact remained that today, many months after the events that took place that night, Namesake says he can still feel the foul taste that lingered in his mouth ever since!

6 We rose and once more I had to wear the wet clothes, for the chilling night did nothing to dry the dampness of my garments. We started on a new hike, accompanied, of course, by the crew of four guerrillos that had spent the night in a room adjacent to ours. They talked among themselves and laughed. Sometimes, they would pick up a catch-phrase or saying and repeat it to death. This time the phrase was “How much you’ve changed!”. They would never tell us where we were heading, how long the walk was going to be, or where we would have breakfast... The trail was still muddy and wet.

7 After walking for about two hours, that means it was close to 8 in the morning of that Thursday, June 28, under a cold drizzle and a foggy atmosphere, we reached a house made out of boards and metal roof, painted in pink and blue. In its patio I was able to get a glimpse of some hens, turkeys, fighting cocks and several dogs. Country living and activities were evident in this place where, without a doubt, was the dwelling of a family. From its corridor started to come out several guerrillos, I don’t remember how many, who kindly greeted us and were surprised by the look on our faces. I think they felt pity, because not an instant later brought dry clothes and told us to change into them while breakfast was ready. The house was well equipped, it even had a bathroom with a shower and sink! But we didn’t see anybody but uniformed folks that completely filled the corridor. Their guns rested against the railing, always a nightmare in my eyes, thinking that those were the tools capable of dominating and keeping us in that situation. On a box that was laying on a warm corner of the corridor I saw a black and white cat sleeping placidly and didn’t even flinch upon the arrival of the newcomers.

8 It was a great relief to change clothes to a set that was dry and clean, even though they were lady’s clothes: A pair of blue sweat pants that seemed more like pajama’s pants and a pink wool sweater. The command was now a new guerrillo named Taylor: Short, tough and stern, however he talked to us in a kind and pitiful way. He told us that we wouldn’t walk anymore on that day and that we were going to rest until the next day. He led us to a warm and clean room where there were rush mats and blankets. We were fine there, we had breakfast and then they brought a game of Parcheesi, that was missing the boards’ protective glass.

9 It was the day of San Pedro’s celebration and I imagined the events across the country, while we were suffering from captivity and sadness. We asked for a radio and they brought us one. We listened about Neiva’s Bambuco beauty pageant, and how the party was starting to heat up on that long weekend. I remembered that the last week at my job I was visiting that region and everything was revolving around the preparations for the festivities. I felt deeply sad since I was so far from the celebration and didn't have a reason to be joyful. I also remembered the "Cune Club" in Villeta, where the year before acting as president of the Club I was in charge of the organization of the famous ball. We had a great time. I imagined that all my friends would be getting ready to celebrate and enjoy the festivities with their families during the long weekend. I imagined how equally sad would be my family, affected by my unexpected absence.

10 It was the beginning of frequent and disjointed day-dreams in which I fell, escaping momentarily the cruel reality... That's a great advantage for us humans to have imagination and memory! The day went by without major events. At dusk, we listened to the radio broadcast of the soccer game between our national team and that of Chile. Bad news: we lost!

11 A new day dawned. The weather had improved considerably in relation to the previous days. My clothes had dried up and I was able t wear them again. After breakfast we started walking again, this time in the company of a large group of guerrillos. As I mentioned before, Taylor was the commander of this group and the guerrillos that brought us here were also part of it.

12 Then I overheard a spine-chilling dialogue between Olga Lucía and Taylor:
Olga Lucía said - Whatever happened to the old man?
- I had to gun him.
- When?
- Before dawn. It was an order.
- Funny old man, with his little glasses and little beard, he looked like the monopoly guy, ha ha!

13 I could see myself in the described image. It seemed to me that these people didn't have the least remorse in killing, all they needed was to take an order. Later, with experience, I would realize that it often was a tactic to intimidate us.

14 The guerrillos had caught some trouts the day before and, along with rice and potatoes, made our lunch. We walked across beautiful landscapes of the páramo: some waterfalls that later I learned were called "Las Dantas"; lovely lakes that shone under the sun and looked like pristine mirrors. I always admired the beauty, solitude and silence of the páramo, where the only thing that could be heard was the soft murmur of small creeks of fresh spring water that grows into freezing rivers.

15 From what we could gather from the conversations between them, we learned that the journey was long, across vast distances filled with frailejones and wetlands. With high hopes from what I had heard from Trompeburro, about the camp being in lower lands, I asked when we would begin to descend and the answer was not for now, only páramo for a while.

16 Regarding the camp, we had a clearer image, they were the big headquarters of a high level commander the stature of Romaña. I imagined a great supply of all the necessities, television, radio benches or hammocks to rest. This image came from the comments that our original captors made, who said that "Old Roma" was going to take great care of us, that he drank Chivas whisky and that the negotiations with him were easy.

17 At noon we looked for a suitable place to rest and have the food that we had brought, or rather, that the guerrillos had brought for lunch. In deed we had a great deal of trouts with rice and potatoes. When we were done, I was shocked to see that the plastic bags that had been used to bring the food were left without remorse on the ground, next to the scraps. Due to my ecological background I was insulted by the lack of care they had towards the páramo, a protected environment that needs to stay pristine, due to the pureness of the water that is born there that will bathe the thirsty and dry country. I asked Olga Lucía why they had left all that mess, she replied laughing: "The Cuzumbos will eat it all"... they are small mountain foxes that live out there and I remembered a saying that Silvia uses frequently when referring to someone who is quiet, reserved or shy: "Lonely Cuzumbo”. I understood the meaning of such comparison, because according to what I had just learned, it is an animal that wanders around those freezing highlands of Sumapáz, with nobody to disturb his quiet existence, accompanied only by the wind and the coldness of the páramo.

18 We carried on our march, with ever growing tiredness, climbing up cliffs with chasms on either side that froze my blood over, to match the weather. With great care I grabbed on to the rocks, feeling my hands and feet shaking in fear. The wind was strong, whistled as it tried to snatch my hat and raincoat, that were of great use in those moments. I had thrown away the rubber boots because they were absolutely horrendous for walking. I was wearing the running shoes again, the gift from my son Pablo. They were not the ideal shoes for the terrain, since the mud and water was up to my knees and I could barely feel my feet due to the cold and dampness.

The longed camp was nowhere to be seen...

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