3 thoughts on “Chester Meetings, Saturday November 15th 2014

  1. Here is the review of Christine Russell’s talk on Colombia.

    COLOMBIA, LAND OF AMAZING DIVERSITY
    Speaker: Christine Russell

    Christine, a former MP for Chester, travelled to Colombia leading a delegation to improve diplomatic relations between Britain and Colombia, look at human rights issues and the drugs trade in the country.
    They travelled via Paris with Air France which seems to be the best bet (approx. £600 return) and arrived in Bogota which is the capital city at 8.660 ft. above sea level. The city is divided in 3 areas, the old town, called La Candelaria, which is a lovely part with buildings and squares going back to the 16th century and were influenced by the Spanish. Then there is the new town Zona Rosa, where most of the hotels and shopping areas are very much in the style of a modern Spanish city and the Simon Bolívar settlement with 1 million people, which seems to be the poorest area of the city.
    The temperature varies little throughout the year due to Colombia’s proximity to the equator, but it does vary to the altitude. When going to Bogota you definitely need a warm sweater or jacket! The best time to go is from December to March and July to August.
    Many of the mines in Colombia are owned by British companies, the largest open cast coal mine that Christine visited is called Cerrejon, in the north of the country. The mine covers 200.000 acres. Human Rights organisations have highlighted the adverse impact that mining has had on poor subsistence farmers. Whilst the Government has provided new homes, schools and health facilities for displaced local communities, the unemployment rate is very high as the mining company brings in migrant labour.
    Colombia is rich in resources such as gold, silver, nickel, emeralds, coffee and coal and has the potential to become a very wealthy country, with an enormous biodiversity.
    With a population of 48 million, Colombia is twice the size of France and 50% of the landmass south of the Andes is inhabited by less than 5% of the population, 11 million people actually live on less than $1 a day.
    Christina had a scary trip in a military helicopter to Amazonia with the machine guns at the ready!! to see how the Colombian Government is tackling the drug cartels. 80% of the world’s cocaine comes from Columbia.
    While not being able to visit it herself, Christine told us about the city of Cartagena which is on the Caribbean Coast, the crown jewel of Spanish colonial cities. From here you can make lots of day excursions such as a visit to Ciudad Perdida or the terraced lost city of the Tayrona, who were the local indigenous tribe before they were wiped out by the Spanish Conquistadors and is being restored to its former glory.
    Colombia is a country of great contrasts, National parks and high mountains, beautiful beaches and tropical rainforests. A rich history with lovely towns and villages , it is the 3rd happiest country in the world and everyone has a lovely smile for any visitor. If you love music, dance and South America, this is a country for you!
    We would like to thank Christine so much for the informative talk about Colombia, some of us can’t wait to start planning a trip in that direction!

    Best Regards and a Happy New Year.

  2. A JOURNEY THROUGH NORTHERN PAKISTAN

    Roy Willis returned to give his talk on his adventures in Northern Pakistan, having previously given us a very interesting talk about Mongolia.

    His journey began in Lahore in a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius with high humidity. He travelled along the Karakoram Highway to the base camp of K2.

    The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was created in 1947 after partition from India. It has a population of 160 million people speaking mainly Urdu. Northern Pakistan is mainly tribal and mountainous whereas the south of the country is flat and more populous, – the capital of the country being Islamabad.

    He left Lahore at 5am and travelled north by jeep towards the Karakorum Highway which was completed in 1986. The route takes in three mountain regions – The Karakorums, The Hindu Kush and The Pamirs. North of Islamabad storms and landslides with loose slate necessitate diversions. Passu has spectacular scenery and traversing rope bridges, which have a life of two years, give additional adventure.

    Along the KKH Roy followed the border with Afghanistan and staying at Gilgit came across border guards quizzing tourists as to “How to get to England?” Travelling by jeep through a Muslim country it was vital to dress appropriately. Lorries encountered along the route were highly painted with art forms. One lorry contained a mixed load of passengers, buffalos and hashish. Unfortunately many lorries suffered brake failures causing horrific accidents.

    At Askoli the group reached the end of the driveable route and then commenced trekking. Porters carried 25kg loads and in the past many have died from falling down vertical rock faces. Youths are also employed to carry loads of up to 24kg, many doing this to support their parents financially. However on Day 3 of the trek the porters went on strike demanding a pay increase!

    Eventually Roy reached Concordia, the K2 Base Camp at 12,500 feet, – K2 being 200 feet lower than Everest but far more difficult to climb.

    An element of luck was needed due to weather conditions and an American acquaintance crashed his camera and with five days of bad weather had no photos to show for his journey. The return journey of trekking was instead made on horseback on ice covered tracks. This was three dangerous days of travel before returning to Askoli and finally Islamabad by 4 wheel drive.

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