From my travel journal: Medellín, Antioquia:
My driver and I walk about the prison area, the air fresh from the recent rains, the sun out now, El Poblado like an erector set of pink rectangular skyscrapers set amidst dark green slopes below; we walk past the guard towers, once staffed by guards Escobar had hired, past abundant vines with light green leaves and silver-dollar-sized orange flowers, then approach a giant cement wall, part of the prison that Pablo built. On the lower wall is a giant billboard of sorts, with a photo reproduction of Pablo in prison wearing a Russian fur hat, behind the very bars he had paid for; above and behind the prison are thickly- forested hills, offering avenues of easy escape, which Escobar took advantage of the night that he fled the prison and went into hiding again.
From my travel journal: Medellín, Antioquia
I met Pablo Ochoa—not the Colombian drug king, but the name of my cab driver—sitting in the fifth cab in a long line of cabs in Envigado, a suburb of Medellin where Pablo Escobar grew up. I wanted to visit La Catedral, the prison Escobar had first built and then had spent a year and a half in, located about an hour up a green mountainside. The first driver shook his head and said he needed a larger cab. The second shook his head and said it was too far and that the road was narrow and bad. The third and fourth drivers said the same. Pablo—59 years old with gray hair and intense, dark eyes—looked me over suspiciously and nodded.
Journal Entry: Medellín, Colombia:
Although this wasn’t my first trip to South America, the voyage down the Andes was going to be my longest and in many ways the most challenging as far as what kind of gear to take. I was traveling solo, yet needed to pack South America travel gear for camping and hiking in rural areas such as parts of the ancient Inca roads that still spread down South America’s spine.
The journey down the spine of the Andes, from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego, actually began several years before I left. The idea for such a voyage had been in the back of my mind for several decades, actually, but didn’t crystallize until I finally pitched the idea of a book to my editor at Simon and Schuster, Bob Bender, in 2009. If you really want to know how far back this idea extends, however, it’s best summarized in the first part of the preface of Life and Death in the Andes:
Entry from my travel journal:
In 2011 I set off for a 4,500-mile road, boat, bus and train trip down the Andes of South America, from Colombia in the north to Patagonia and Cape Horn in the south, while working on a book that eventually would be called Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries. It’s due to be published on Dec 1, 2015 by Simon & Schuster. On the way, I naturally took photos, lots of notes, and video, some clips of which I will gradually post as well as extra materials that never made it into print. The following is my new book’s description from the publisher: