National Geographic : 1970 Aug
version of the historic moment, and announc ing, "I take possession of this land in the name of the King of Spain!" At her house a woodsman from the main land lay in a hammock recovering from a snake bite. Jovita had been treating him. She revealed two neatly folded flags that explained her awareness of island history. One Colombian, one Peruvian, the flags had been hoisted over a small monument erected to Pizarro during a bi-national visit of war ships in 1965. Jovita, as the island's only resi dent, had been left in charge of the flags. She hid the flags to prevent theft by beach combers, but kept a seaward watch, ready to run out and hoist the colors when the vessels returned. I wondered who would guard the flags if Jovita died at age 85, according to plan. The tide had gone out. When I bent to launch my canoe, Jovita belted me on the rear again with the flat of her machete. "Remember me!" She waved. President Logs Back-country Mileage Soon after our return to BogotA, I came to know President Carlos Lleras Restrepo, who told me his most profound wish was "that all Colombians-not just pressure groups participate in decisions affecting their destiny." He was bound for Monteria, near the Car ibbean, to put his wish to work. I joined him aboard the presidential plane as he and sev eral cabinet officers headed north to inaugu rate a cattlemen's convention, then tour the countryside by helicopter. The president averaged 25 trips a year to outlying districts. "Perhaps my visits help make people aware of their citizenship and ease the harshness of their lives," said President Lleras. He pointed out the window. "Those new roads will bring many into the mainstream. I hope they lead not only to prosperous markets but also to equality under a just government." Back in BogotA, Sue and I decided to make a month-long swing along the eastern high ways to the mountains and seashore of the Caribbean coast, over the western Andes through Medellin to the coffee zone, then back to the capital (map, page 241). We began by following a progression of market days deep into the Department of BoyacA. These social, commercial, drinking occasions fall on different days of the week in Tunja, Chiquinquira, Paipa, and neighboring mountain towns. We bargained for toy tops of wood, for a guitar-like Colombian tiple, and for miniature chess sets carved of palm 250 nuts. In Raquira we bought ceramics portray ing artisans making ceramics. Sue tried on a ruana, the Colombian poncho. BoyacA's paved highways follow the cam paign trail of Sim6n Bolivar, whose winning streak began in 1819 at the Bridge of BoyacA, near Tunja. Side roads lead to towns which are virtual museums of colonial Colombia. Major film producers use Leiva, for example, for colonial sets just as it is. Its hotel is a re modeled 400-year-old mill where breakfast begins with cream-of-herbs soup served by chapped-cheeked Indian maidens. Zigzagging northward, Sue and I rolled into helplessly hot Valledupar, one of the fastest-growing cities in Colombia. There we joined my Ecuadorean mountain climbing companion, R6mulo Pazmifio,* who had ar ranged to accompany me in an attempt to set foot on the highest ground in Colombia. Sue drove on alone 155 miles to see the annual Sea Festival at Santa Marta, Colom bia's oldest city. R6mulo and I jeeped to a foothill village, Atanquez, and hired a pair of mules to lug our gear into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The range rises in isolation from the Andean chain, bounded by scorched plains and the Caribbean Sea. The only way to reach the lakes and snows of this largest of Colombia's national parks-half the size of Delaware-is on foot or on mule. The valley sizzled under the sun. Thirst tormented us. Luckily, a few rivulets crossed the trail. Higher up, we showered under wa terfalls. The screech of wooden gears from an unseen sugar-cane mill haunted our ascent from the Guatapuri River to the crest of a 6,700-foot ridge. Birdcalls beckoned us down the other side to the Donachui River Valley where the trail was littered with ripe man goes and hundreds of big buttery avocados. Tribute Demanded by Indians At Donachui, a cluster of mud huts, Ar huaco Indian braves-dressed in robes and tall hempen caps-scowled as we pitched camp. Their red-dyed and curled hair fell below their shoulders (page 255), and they carried narcotics kits of coca leaves and lime. In the morning, Arhuaco chief Apolinar Torres, machete in hand, demanded tribute before we could proceed to the "sacred" snows. Mindful that the summits, first climbed in 1939, had been scaled only half a dozen times *See "Ecuador-Low and Lofty Land Astride the Equator," by Loren McIntyre, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February 1968.