Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

2020 has been a challenging year by all accounts but it has been a breakthrough year for the Colombia Calling podcast. Now completing our seventh year on the airwaves, the Colombia Calling podcast truly came into its own and matured in 2020. I don't know to what we can attribute this, but the interviews were of a different level, the interviewees more involved and I think my style and form improved too. What do you think?

So, for this year ending 2020 episode, longtime listener and friend, Joey Czikk takes over to discuss some of the more memorable episodes from 2020 including the ones with Wade Davis, Toby Muse, MiKo, Diego Franco, Sergio Guzman, Elizabeth Dickinson and many more.

Thank you again for listening and we'll be back in early January.

Direct download: RCC_356.mp3
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Imagine a work of fiction set in Colombia where the line between real and unreal, fact and fiction no longer exists...this is what you get when you read author Lachlan Page's debut novel, Magical Disinformation. Think Waugh, think Greene and then a smattering of de Bernieres and you know what you're in for, a romp of a read which brings a smile to your lips as you enjoy this fast moving tragicomedy.

Oliver Jardine is a spy in Colombia, enamoured with local woman Veronica Velasco. As the Colombian government signs a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, Her Majesty’s government decides a transfer is in order to focus on more pertinent theatres of operation. In a desperate attempt to remain in Colombia, Jardine begins to fabricate his intelligence reports. But the consequences soon take on a life of their own.

In the era of ‘fake news’ in the land of magical realism, fiction can be just as dangerous as the truth.

Buy the book!

Direct download: RCC_355.mp3
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It's a great pleasure to invite anthropologist and expert in gender studies, Nicol Lesmes on Ep354 of the Colombia Calling this week to discuss the state of play regarding the implementation of the peace accords in Colombia.

Lesmes works investigating how the peace accords and the key issues of the accords are being implemented across the country. This is a timely episode as the signing of the accords - to great international fanfare - occurred a little over four years ago.

We discuss the structural problems in Colombia which hinder the implementation of the accords in the regions, the issues of land reform, political participation and state presence in more isolated parts of Colombia.

Tune in to hear a first hand account of what is going on in rural Colombia and with reintegrated members of the FARC guerrillas.

Direct download: RCC_354.mp3
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If you want to know the real stories about what is happening on the frontlines of demonstrations in Colombia and Ecuador and on the border with Venezuela, you have to seek out the reporters on the ground, the freelancers that beg, borrow and cajole their way into certain danger to get the story. This is what US journalist Joshua Collins does. Why are the people protesting, why is there almost unversal unrest? Ask Collins.

Since Collins has been reporting for the mainstream media and publishing on his own website (, those of us searching for boots-on-the-ground information don't have to look elsewhere as he's got it covered, from the violence on the Colombian border with Venezuela when the aid trucks were set alight after the "Branson Concert," when he reported from within the billowing clouds of tear gas in Quito, Ecuador and of course, during Colombia's N21 protests, now in their one year anniversary.

In this episode 353 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we hear about the challenges of being a freelancer, the journalist's desire to tell the stories and include the voices of those affected and the reasons behind their malaise.

Direct download: RCC_353.mp3
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In this heartwarming episode, we hear from Colombian musician in Paris, Diego Franco about the foundation he created with others called Piano Movil (

PianoMóvil is intrepid and each tour of the country starts by loading a grand piano into a truck and heading out to lesser known parts of Colombia to bring musical activities to people ordinarily ignored by social and cultural events.

The aim is to promote the value of musical practice and to inspire societal change in smaller towns. We talk to Franco about some of the towns he has visited, some of the people he has played for and his hope for the future with the Piano Movil Foundation.

Tune in for a positive story from Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_352.mp3
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It's July 4 2014 and national team defender Mario Yepes has just scored a goal against Brazil in the stadium in Fortaleza. Had the goal stood, Brazil, the hosts would have gone out, alas no, the goal was wrongly disallowed and Colombia were sent home in the Quarter Finals, their best ever showing.

With historian Miguel Cuadros, we reflect on this momentous occasion in Colombia's footballing history, an event which brought - despite the undesirable loss - the joy back into the beautiful game for Colombia. The murder of Andres Escobar was pushed back as a distant memory and James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao showed what the cafeteros were capable of.

On a political level, would a victory against Brazil have led to national euphoria and a change in the Colombian mentality and psyche. Anything could have been possible? Would people have taken to the peace accords differently, would they have had a positivity about the country? It's worth considering.

Tune in for a fascinating discussion on what could have been...

Direct download: RCC_351.mp3
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In a startlingly frank and open discussion Cali-resident for 11 years, Kevin McCaffrey joins us to share his experiences of being drugged with scopolamine in Cartagena, Colombia

If you're not sure what scopolamine/ devil's breath/ burundanga can do, read on: You fall into a “zombie-like” state that leaves you with no ability to control your actions, leaving you at risk of having your bank accounts emptied, homes robbed, organs stolen, or raped by a street criminal. The US State Department notes on their website that scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In Colombia, where its use seems to be most widespread, “unofficial estimates” of scopolamine events are at roughly 50,000 per year.

McCaffrey relates his robbery with such candour that it's hard not to admire his resilience and positivity, but he's firm that he's sharing the story to help others.

Tune in to hear a quite terrifying story that occurred only a few weeks ago in October 2020.

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ArteSumapaz was founded by California-born Ric Dragon, a former digital marketing entrepreneur, and Bogotano Pedro Crump as a creative centre and retreat for artists of all types. And where better to get the artistic juices flowing than in Colombia's rolling hills and coffee landscape in southern Cundinamarca.

ArteSumapaz is located on Hacienda Australia, on 181 fanegadas (116 hectares, or 288 acres). The property is located in the municipality of San Bernardo, Cundinamarca, about three hours outside of Bogotá. In recent years, the property had been used as a cattle farm, although historically the farm was part of a larger coffee plantation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Dragon opened his doors to previous visitors and then once everyone had arrived, the doors were closed to the public and quarantine was observed. Dragon has been always taken a keen interest in trauma and how the arts can serve as a healing process.

In this week's fascinating conversation, we discuss how Dragon came to relocate to San Bernardo, what he hopes to achieve with ArteSumapaz and the trauma in Colombia.

Check out

Direct download: RCC_349.mp3
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Having designed and created the immensely successful La Leyenda multi-stage mountain bike race - a first of its kind in Colombia - Cali-resident Brian Murphy knows a thing or two about what it takes to entice travellers to Colombia. Murphy is also the co-founder of the Colombian Project, a tour operator offering bespoke and organized trips to Colombia.

And so, on this episode of the Colombia Calling podcast, Murphy and I enjoy a back and forth about the future of tourism in the country, how we see the industry developing and our hopes for this period of rebuilding during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We know and you all know that Colombia has it all, but, do we have the know-how to be able to move tourism forwards to be able to aid and address some of the most pressing issues inherent in Colombia?

Tune in for a interesting conversation between two implants to Colombia.

La Leyenda MtB race -
the Colombian Project -

Direct download: RCC_348.mp3
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After I got out of jail, I was determined to find out more about how the issue of drugs not only landed me there, but has shaped the entire world: wars, scandals, coups, revolutions. I read every book, watched every documentary. I saved up to buy plane tickets. I went to Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Italy, Japan and the Afghan border—all in all, fifteen countries across five continents.

Call me Narco Polo.

Niko Vorobyov was jailed for dealing drugs in the UK, now he's out and tracing the history and data surrounding illicit drugs around the world. He talks to the Colombia Calling about his book Dopeworld, and gives an insight to his conversationally written compendium on the drugs trade which he witnesses firsthand.

Direct download: RCC_347.mp3
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Magdalena: River of Dreams, A Story of Colombia is a captivating new book from Wade Davis--renowned, award-winning, bestselling author and photographer, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence for more than a decade-- that brings vividly to life the story of the great Río Magdalena, illuminating Colombia's complex past, present, and future in the process.

Thia week, Wade Davis, author of the inimitable book on the Amazon river, One River, joins us on the Colombia Calling podcast. It's humbling to have someone of this stature on the show, please enjoy.

Direct download: RCC_346.mp3
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Hailing originally from Brighton in the UK, Vincent Pollard's journey has brought him to Colombia. After more than a decade as a mixologist in Toronto in some of the city's most exclusive haunts, Pollard finds himself now in Bogotá, but moving on to Cartagena, we catch up with him on Ep345 of the Colombia Calling podcast to hear a little more about his life here.

First and foremost, Pollard has been busy and has put together a very slick book of tantalizingly interesting cocktails entitled: Behind Bars: High Class Cocktails Inspired by Low Life Gangsters. You can find this in UK bookstores and on Amazon. Each cocktail is inspired by a character in a gangster flick. And if the cockail doesn't take your fancy, you can enjoy an education in gangster movies as there are some obscure examples cited.

Then, we talk to Pollard about his forthcoming project of creating a gin here in Colombia. It's called Selva Gin and will be on the market very soon, take a look at for more information.

Tune in to an enjoyable conversation with someone doing interesting things here in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_345.mp3
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On this week's Colombia Calling podcast we have the opportunity to converse with Alvaro Torres, CEO and co founder of Khiron Life Sciences, one of the pioneers in the medical marijuana market from Colombia. Torres tells us about his background, how he got into this business and what the business is all about.

Khiron is a vertically integrated medical and CPG cannabis company with core
operations in Latin America, and operational activity in Europe and North
America. Khiron is the leading cannabis company in Colombia and the first
company licensed in Colombia for the cultivation, production, domestic
distribution and sales, and international export of both low and high THC
medical cannabis products. The Company has filled medical cannabis
prescriptions in Peru and has a presence in Mexico, Uruguay, UK, Spain and
also in Germany, where it is positioned to begin sales of medical cannabis.

Tune in for a fascinating episode and check out

Direct download: RCC_344.mp3
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Catalina Gil Pinzón is an international consultant in peacebuilding and drug policy with over 10 years of experience managing projects and advising programs related to the reintegration of ex-combatants, youth violence, historical memory, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and drug policy. And so, given the tunnel vision attitude of the government of President Duque regarding their drugs policy, we thought it was time to have an expert who has worked specifically in this field for many years to explain the situation a little better.

We discuss art-based approaches to peace-building, the issues of youth violence, prohibition, the current narrative and stigma surrounding drugs in Colombia, the limitations and dangers of aerial fumigations of coca crops and much more.

Tune in to hear an expert in the field and read her articles in the Silla Vacia and in El Espectador newspaper on how we need to start addressing a change in the narrative on drugs in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_343.mp3
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Adriaan Alsema, Director of Colombia Reports is back with another viper tongued diatribe at the government of President Ivan Duque. Times are complex and complicated in Colombia with the spontaneous protests in Bogotá after the killing of Javier Ordonez by the police. But this case of police brutality is not a lone event, the outrage comes from a situation of months of accumulated resentment at a government which is unwilling or unaware of the need to make changes.

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians took to the streets in November 2019 and their protests were muted and suffocated by the pandemic. Now, months of simmering outrage have been iginited by this inicident.

Hear Alsema discussing his fears for press freedom in Colombia, the responsibility of the cadre of foreign journalists in the country reporting the news and much more.


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It's a great pleasure to welcome CEO and Founder of iFinca, Alexander Barrett on the Colombia Calling podcast this week to talk about his venture that is going to revolutionize the coffee market.

iFinca has been designed to place an emphasis on better pay for farmers. Where profit margins for farmers have dwindled over the last few decades to the point where coffee farming is no longer a sustainable endeavour for many farming families, iFinca's approach is to maximize the accuracy, efficiency, and profitability at every point in the supply chain. Allowing for greater social and economic impact.

The iFinca App connects you to the farmers behind your cup of coffee. This empowers consumers to make more informed and ethical choices about their coffee purchases. It's very interesting.

And so for those of you out there thinking of making the plunge and move overseas, listen to Alexander Barrett's good news story to inspire you further.

Check our

Direct download: RCC_341.mp3
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At least 39 people have been killed in the recent spate of unrest in Colombia and the country has seen 46 massacres so far this year. So, this week we speak to Colombia analyst Kyle Johnson to help us understand a little about why these are occurring now, who are the perpetrators and why?

Observers say that president Iván Duque – a skeptic of the peace deal he inherited when he took office two years ago – has not done enough to guarantee its implementation and has left much of the rural population exposed to the violence.

Duque has blamed the recent bloodshed on drug-trafficking groups, and ordered the armed forces to be “implacable” in their response. He drew sharp criticism on Saturday, when he appeared to downplay the massacres by describing them as “collective homicides”.

While the current wave of massacres has prompted comparisons with the peak of the conflict in the late 1990s – when both massacres and murders were commonplace – analysts say that the current dynamics of the armed groups are more complicated. Johnson provides us with a coherent and clear explanation.

Direct download: RCC_340.mp3
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One of the most popular guests on the Colombia Calling podcast, Emma Louise Jay, returns to the airwaves from rural Antioquia to interview me in rural Bolívar. Think of this episode as a conversation of catharsis for us both as we weigh up living under the world's longest Covid-19 quarantine in the world in Colombia.

The truth is that we are both feeling the mental strains and pressure - as most are in Colombia - under this interminable lockdown and the worrying increase in cases and deaths from the virus in our adopted home country.

I use the term, "the veil is slipping," to describe what is happening in Colombia and hopefully, we go some way towards verbalizing our concerns at the moment.

Read Emma's blog:

Direct download: RCC_339.mp3
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Based at the Instituto de Biología, University of Antioquia. Blanco Libreros studies mangroves and coasts from landscape ecology and ecosystem ecology perspectives and it is an honour to have him on the podcast to speak about one of the lesser known regions of Colombia, Uraba.

His trips to the area of Atrato River Delta are frequent. In 2009, he started mapping these mangroves using high-resolution aerial photographs as part of a multi-disciplinary biogeographic expedition along the Urabá Gulf. Afterwards, he collaborated with the environmental authority for zoning mangroves according to their conservation status.

These mangroves in Urabá Gulf, and particularly those settled on the Atrato River Delta, are unique, fragile and vital and they are disappearing at a fast rate in some areas, the coastal climate is warming as they are converted to pastures and urban settlements. Coastal erosion, deforestation, forest-agriculture transition, mangroves, sedimentation are all challenges facing the area.

Tune in to hear an expert in the region speak to us about his passion.

Direct download: RCC_338.mp3
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August 7, 2020 marked the second anniversary of the inauguration of Iván Duque as President of Colombia and the midpoint of his administration so on this Episode 337 of the Colombia Calling, we welcome back the director of Colombia Risk Analysis, Sergio Guzman and Cameron Wilson, author of the new report: Defining his Legacy, Challenges and Opportunities for Duque in his Final Two Years.

Of course, since the report came out, there have been serious new developments regarding the house arrest of former president Alvaro Uribe for alleged witness tampering. President Duque has come out in vocal support of Uribe and we discuss the impacts of this and the decision made by the Supreme Court regarding the case.

Tune in for an in-depth look at Colombia's political landscape in 2020 and with an eye on the 2022 presidential elections.

Direct download: RCC_337.mp3
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Born in Toronto, Canada, Brian Johnston decided to retire from corporate work at the age of 25 and to dedicate his life to the exploration of his passion...and this, over the course of many years on the road working for NGOs and volunteering, has brought him to Medellin, Colombia.

The Via Cocina – Food Train is a social transformation project in Medellin aimed at impacting communities by educating them in healthy food training and teaching them recipes from around the world. Johnston and his team train low income Colombians and Venezuelans how to convert local produce into distinct yet affordable dishes for their home and new businesses. The culinary techniques and recipes were researched personally by Johnston in more than 25 countries.

But, the work doesn't end here, Johnston also provides exercises in where to source the foods, how to manage a budget and finances so that the participants' money is able to go further.

Should you find yourself in Medellin, check out Johnston's project and perhaps contribute some money towards ensuring its sustainability. The website can be found - Also, go with a group and have the Via Cocina - Food Train students prepare you a meal.

Tags and Keywords: charity medellin, via cocina medellin, via cocina - food train, 

Direct download: RCC_336.mp3
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An established singer, songwriter, accordionist and big band leader, Gregorio Uribe was born in Bogotá, Colombia and is currently based in New York City. Uribe has made a name for himself in the Latin music scene of both New York City and Boston. Well known for leading the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, a 16-piece orchestra that blends cumbia and other Colombian rhythms with powerful big band arranging, Uribe released "Cumbia Universal" (Zoho Music) featuring 8-time GRAMMY-winner and Latin music icon Rubén Blades in October 2015.

Upon its release the debut album for the big band hit the Billboard charts and received widespread critical acclaim with performances selling out at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NY, Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in Boston and two concerts at the celebrated Teatro Colón in his native Bogotá, Colombia.

He was also named by the government of Colombia as one of the "100 Most Successful Colombians Abroad".

Tune in for an excellent and upbeat episode of the Colombia Calling podcast

Direct download: RCC_335.mp3
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Every now and again, it's important to revisit some of the pressing issues in Colombia and on Ep334 of the Colombia Calling podcast, US academic, Shaun Gillooly gives us a blow by blow account of the tragedies taking place on Colombia's pacific coast, most importantly, in the cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco.

Whilst researching for her PhD dissertation, Gillooly takes us though her findings which lead us down a path revealing a century or more of isolation, indifference and despair for the communities of these two cities. Both Buenaventura and Tumaco are port cities, yet the benefits of the international trade are not seen by the population, the cities are both strategic deep water areas and close to coca growing regions. Therefore the illegal armed groups are in a constrant struggle for dominance and given the paucity of work available, many people fall into some rung of these illicit trades.

Gillooly does not, at any moment, glaze over the problems, we hear them all. Tune in for an informative and shocking account of life in the urban areas of Colombia's pacific coast.

Follow Gillooly @shaunagillooly

Direct download: RCC_334.mp3
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On Episode 333 it's a great pleasure to have Alex Rocha of the barrio San Francisco in Cartagena with us to talk about the challenges faced by the youth of his neighbourhood and what he has been doing via the Alex Rocha Youth Center.

The Alex Rocha Youth Center's main purpose is to provide a safe place for kids and keep them off the streets by teaching them Art, music, languages, crafts and hopefully skills towards getting jobs.

In San Francisco, a largely afro-colombian and working class neighbourhood, the children don't see the benefits from Cartagena's tourism boom, the colonial city is so far removed from their reality but so close to where they live that it's a contradiction.

Rocha himself has experienced the hard times of addiction and gang membership and from these memories and the desire to help others in similar situations to those he lived through, he has set up the Youth Center.

Tune in to hear an inspiring if at times worrying episode of the Colombia Calling podcast and how you can help.

Direct download: RCC_333.mp3
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You don't have to be Scottish or be a history enthusiast to love the tales of adventure and bravery behind the ill-fated attempt by the Scots to colonize the Darien region of Panama. And so it's a great pleasure to welcome John McKendrick QC on the Colombia Calling podcast to speak on this subject and his book about the episode: Darien: A Journey in Search of Empire.

Background: The Company of Scotland and its attempts to establish the colony of Caledonia on the inhospitable isthmus of Panama in the late seventeenth century is one of the most tragic moments of Scottish history. Devised by William Paterson, the stratagem was to create a major trading station between Europe and the East. It could have been a triumph, but inadequate preparation and organization ensured it was a catastrophe - of the 3000 settlers who set sail in 1688 and 1699, only a handful returned, the rest having succumbed to disease, and the enormous financial loss was a key factor in ensuring union with England in 1707. Based on archive research in the UK and Panama, as well as extensive travelling in Darien itself, John McKendrick explores this fascinating and seminal moment in Scottish history and uncovers fascinating new information from New World archives about the role of the English and Spanish, and about the identities of the settlers themselves.

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It has been a while since we took a step back and looked at the news in Colombia and so, journalist Manuel Rueda joins us this week to provide a timely overview of what is going on and what may have been missed by the international press.

Rueda is a journalist held in high regard and reports for the international media on issues in Colombia and around the region. You can find his updates and reports in AP News, DW news, the Christian Science Monitor, TRT World and many other outlets. Chances are that if you follow the news in Colombia, you will have read pieces by or seen Rueda at some point.

This week we discuss the tragic increase in Covid-19 cases in Colombia, the government response, the extended quarantine, security in Bogotá and the plight of the long-suffering Venezuelan migrants trying to make their way back to their home country.

Tune in for an excellent overviews from Colombia

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Jennie Erin Smith is a freelance science writer from upstate New York based in Medellín, Colombia, where she is working on a book about families with Alzheimer’s disease. She is the author of “Stolen World” (2011) and we are very lucky to have her on this episode of the Colombia Calling podcast to share with us a little about her investigations and the book she is currently writing.

So we delve into the information on offer and Smith debunks some of the myths about the "Paisa mutation," and what this means for local considerations on place, people, race and society. Why rural Antioquia, if here where else and on.

Tune in to a fascinating episode about new discoveries in this field here in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_330.mp3
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It's a great pleasure to have Julianne Pachico back on the Colombia Calling podcast and discussing her latests novel, the Anthill. She last graced the show way back in August 2017 on Ep199 and was speaking about her first book, the Lucky Ones. The Anthill is a fresh and fascinating insight into the Medellin of today and how it contrasts with the city in which the protagonist Carolina grew up in.

I don't want to give too much away, and I enjoyed the book immensely for its warts and all take on some realities in Colombia, class, society, violence and beyond, but you'll have to read it. Below is some of the high praise which Pachico has been receiving.

A visceral, hallucinatory ride by an author who has been called "blunt, fresh, and unsentimental" (The New York Times Book Review) and "remarkably inventive" (The Atlantic), The Anthill is a ghost story unlike any other, a meditation on healing--for both a person and a country--in the wake of horror.

Check out:

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The pandemic struck and some people panic shopped for toilet paper, our guest on the @ColombiaCalling podcast, Emma Louise Jay of bucked this trend and went and bought dozens of blood sausages. Tune in to hear her anecdotes and reflections on 80 days of almost total isolation during this extended quarantine in the countryside with precious few neighbours.

Our guest has been on the Colombia Calling podcast on several previous occasions and is always immensely popular with the listeners due to her articulate and self-deprecating look at life in Colombia's sticks. Hear her tales of the stone deaf neighbour, taking out her machete in anger and how she's dealing with the aloneness...not loneliness.


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We’re trapped. We have been confined along with our dreams, goals and illusions. With the global emergency caused by COVID-19, we have hit rock bottom and the travel and tourism industry is never going to be the same.

This is why we are talking to Rainbow Nelson of "This is Cartagena," ( for his insights on the situation as seen from Colombia's capital of tourism.

The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one place to go from here. The only thing we have left now is to make a great staircase in which one by one, we can get back to somewhere considered safe ground. Many people have already understood it that way. There are good people out there who have begun to replace fear and resignation with hope. Where others feel only fear, these people are being driven by their imagination, finding creativity where others see only crisis.

Tune in!

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In our final episode of this three-part series with journalist Nadja Drost on crossing the Darien Gap, we bring the conversation back to the article Drost wrote for California Sunday magazine in April 2020. We discuss her experiences on the trail, the physical toll the journey took on her and delve into the extreme nature of thrill seekers in search of their next off-limits adventures such as in the Darien.

NADJA DROST is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Currently based in New York, she lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for a decade and continues to report on Latin America for the PBS NewsHour and other outlets.

Direct download: RCC_326.mp3
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Picking up where we left off in Part 1, Canadian journalist Nadja Drost continues her tale of travel alongside desperate migrants from all over the world in their hopeful quest of reaching the United States. At times, this does not make for easy listening.

We discuss the realities of the crossing through the Darien jungle, the most physically demanding section of their oddessey and Drost provides us with not only vital insights and information but also some of the stories she collects along the way.

NADJA DROST is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Currently based in New York, she lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for a decade and continues to report on Latin America for the PBS NewsHour and other outlets.

Direct download: RCC_325.mp3
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In what is a three-part series on the Colombia Calling podcast, we'll be exploring the realities - warts and all - of crossing the Darien Gap from Colombia to Panama. Canadian journalist Nadja Drost made the crossing in 2019 and her excellent piece came out in the California Sunday Magazine in April 2020. It makes for a terrifying and harrowing read, but is arguably one of the best articles I have read so far this year.

Drost brings us down to earth with stories of migrants from Sri Lanka to Cameroun and the difficulties they face on this physically and mentally demanding passage. Do all of their migrants make it to the US, what happens when they are in Mexico, did the journalists end up sharing their food, what were the dangers?

We address all of these issues and more over the coming three weeks.

NADJA DROST is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Currently based in New York, she lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for a decade and continues to report on Latin America for the PBS NewsHour and other outlets.

Tags and Keywords: darien gap, journalist nadja drost, colombia to panama, migrants in darien, migrants reaching US, hike darien gap, adventure colombia, carlos villalon, richard mccoll journalist, colombia calling podcast, podcast english colombia

Direct download: RCC_324.mp3
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Both a successful Judge and a Barrister in the UK, Sarah Lucy Cooper's life could have taken an extremely different course were foreigners permitted to practice law in Colombia. However, as we learn in Episode 323 of the Colombia Calling podcast, her 1990 introduction to Colombia defined the course she took in her life back home.

We hear from Cooper regarding her time in Colombia and her frequent visits to the country, her reflections on Colombian law and definitely understand why she has been described as: "a robust and tenacious lawyer equally adept at handling witnesses as arguing the finer points of law."

Tune in for an upbeat yet honest understanding of contemporary Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_323.mp3
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We are all suffering due to the Corona virus pandemic which has swept the world and some more than others, and here at the Colombia Calling podcast, we have the opportunity to talk to a small business owner in San Gil, Santander to see how he is faring.

Shaun Clohesy is a long-time australian transplant to Colombia and is responsible for opening up one of the original hostels in this country, the Macondo in San Gil.

Clohesy effectively put Colombia's adventure sports capital on the map for the international travel community. And how the Macondo hostel has grown and how Clohesy has changed from a dreadlocked backpacker to a respectable family man in San Gil! We discuss it all.

Needeless to say, the Corona Virus swept in and decimated the travel and tourism business and Clohesy shares insights about what is happening in both San Gil and Colombia and how he is hoping to survive.

Check out the Macondo Hostel, recommend it to friends and perhaps buy a voucher for a future stay.

Direct download: RCC_322.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

With upwards of 900,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, "Un Colombiano Mas," and with entries routinely drawing more than a million views, Zach Morris is undisputedly a one man positive public relations campaign for all things to do with Colombia!

Hailing from South Carolina, Morris is a psychology major and speaks to the Colombia Calling podcast about how he fell into becoming an influencer and youtuber and how, over time, this led him to receiving his Colombian citizenship. it's an incredible tale of upbeat experiences and unbridled love for his new homeland.

With uploads in both English and Spanish - and one Maluma style foray into the music industry with his reggaeton song, "Mi Latina, - Zach Morris has found his niche in Colombia and is widely recognized as the gringo who truly loves this country.

Tune in to hear the story of Zach Morris in Colombia, how a guy from South Carolina became a household name in Colombia.

Check out his youtube:

Direct download: RCC_321.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

In fifteen years covering Colombia, this is the best book I’ve ever read about the cocaine trade. If you want to understand why the drugs are produced here, then how they get to the U.S., there’s no better guide." (Matthew Bristow, former Colombia bureau chief, Bloomberg News)

Toby Muse, author of "Kilo: Inside the Deadliest Cocaine Cartels―from the Jungles to the Streets" has been receiving high praise from all quarters for his recently released book. And rightly so, this is the culmination of Muse's decades of knowledge of Colombia and the cocaine trade.

Reading more like a work of non-fiction, Muse invites us into the otherworldly experience of meeting the actors in the chain from coca leaf picker to narco sub driver and the result makes for an incredible read but at the same time the author never permits you to forget the violence, aggression and desperation involved in the drugs trade.

So, it's an incredible honour to have Muse back on the Colombia Calling podcast and sharing his anecdotes with us. Buy the book and tune in to the podcast.

Direct download: RCC_320.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

How is your relationship faring under the Covid19/ Corona Virus lockdown, how are you keeping sane, have you stuck to a routine, are you all alone and now talking to your pet(s)? It's a time of tragedy for sure, but in order to share a different perspective of life in a quarantine in Bogotá, Peter Dale, a founding member of the Bogotá Writers, shares with us some extracts from his "Covidiary," now entitled: "The Quarantine Chroncles."

We hear and discuss four different entries from Dale's diary. We begin with Day 1 and the innocence towards the pandemic which we may still have possessed her in Colombia and finish on Day 10 and things get darker in Dale's prose as this innocence is now certainly behind us.

Peter Dale's diary has been picked up by Miguel Vila, a Colombia TV producer and can now, a version of the diary can be enjoyed on Instagram TV. Check the link on the Colombia Calling facebook and twitter pages.

Direct download: RCC_319.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Before the Corona virus reached Colombia, President Duque and his political patron, former president Alvaro Uribe, were in danger of drowning in the scandal engulfing them.

To keep it brief, and Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports will explain this further in the podcast, there is the very real possibility that Duque won the presidential contest in 2018 with a campaign of vote-buying in various parts of the Colombia.

Wiretaps have revealed that the late Jose Guillermo Hernandez (Nene Hernandez), the alleged money launderer of drug trafficker Marquitos Figueroa, was the go-between for narco-trafficking bosses and the political elite. Both Duque and Uribe have denied the links but the photographic evidence tells no tales and neither do the contents of the telephone wire-taps.

So, in the first part of the show we discuss "Nenegate," and then move on to the very troubling onset of Covid 19 in Colombia. Alsema gives us a run-down of what the government has done so far, an idea of whether it may effective and what we should expect as we launch into a 24 day-long quarantine.

Direct download: RCC_317.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Elizabeth Dickinson has been Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia since 2019. Her work centers around armed conflict dynamics in the country and the implementation of the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas. Previously a journalist, Elizabeth first reported from Colombia in 2011, covering topics including criminal and armed group violence, illegal mining, migration, and national politics.

With this resume, I can think of no better person to have on the Colombia Calling podcast to explain one of the most complex regions of the country. Tune in to hear an in-depth, digestible and informed overview of Colombia, the sociopolitical problems and so much more.

Follow her @dickinsonbeth

Direct download: RCC_316.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EDT

"You write the books that you want to read," Matt Rendell tells me in our conversation on Episode 315 of the Colombia Calling podcast. Well, I wish I could have written his latest book entitled: "Colombia es Pasión! The Generation of Racing cyclists who Changed their Nation and the Tour de France," out in all good bookstores in the UK in I most certainly want to read it.

In a fascinating interview, Rendell gives as an insight into the beginnings of his love affair with Colombia (from a basement at Channel 4) and the reasons behind the current surge in cycling heroes emerging from the highlands of Cundinamarca and Boyaca. We discuss economics and how this has affected cycling in Colombia and the spirituality surrounding the likes of Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal and other household names in Colombia and on the international cycling circuit.

What results is a sneak peak into his 300 pages plus book which sounds like a book that everyone with any interest in Colombia should read. Humbly, Rendell declares that this, "book is written for Colombia."

Be sure to tune in and also, buy the book!

Direct download: RCC_315.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Colombia finds herself at a crossroads at the moment as to where directives in the country should focus their efforts in order to best evolve industries here and become a main player on the world stage. The production of medicinal cannabis could well represent a major boom for growers in Colombia and the people at the company BreedCo ( have positioned themselves to become leaders in the market.

This week on Ep314 of the Colombia Calling podcast we discuss the work of BreedCo and their hopes for the future with the company's COO Sebastian Gamez in Cali and board member, Don Bellamy in London.

It's important to note that BreedCo does not produce marijuana for smoking purposes.The medicinal cannabis which they produce is quite different and is based on the strength of CBD (Cannabidiol). CBD works very differently from THC. Compared to THC, it takes about 100 times more CBD to have any impact on cannabinoid receptors, the sites in the body that interact with cannabinoids. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause either intoxication or euphoria. In some ways, CBD seems to have the opposite effect of THC. For instance, while THC tends to increase anxiety, CBD appears to reduce anxiety.

Since CBD is not psychoactive, this makes it an appealing option for those who are looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or certain pharmaceutical drugs. CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.

It’s gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies confirming it may ease symptoms of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.

So tune in to hear about how this business set up, why Colombia and what the future holds...

Direct download: RCC_314.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

In this week's show, we welcome back Eric Tabone who first joined us back in the early days of the Colombia Calling podcast speaking about his business: Beyond Business English (

This week, on Ep313 we share a number of anecdotes from his wedding in Ocana, Norte de Santander and mine in the coastal city of Cartagena. I think that the best advice we can both give you as to how to best survive and enjoy a wedding in Colombia is to expect the unexpected and totally throw yourself into the spirit of the event.

We'd love to hear back from all of you out there about your wedding experiences here in Colombia. I am sure we could collate a great number of hilarious stories.

In the meantime, tune in to this podcast for a humourous look at the wedding extravaganza here.

Direct download: RCC_313.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

In Ep312 of the Colombia Calling podcast, location independent professional Jeff Brown revisits us to reflect on his extended travel in the country. In an open discussion, we hear about some advice on where to go, where to avoid and personal insights about poorly managed and favourably managed tourist destination.

Brown discusses his love for Colombia's coffee region and Colombian people and the diversity on places to visit in the country.

As tourism is only going to increase in Colombia, it seems only appropriate to consider thinking about how Colombia could potentially better organize herself in terms of looking within, at some of the unique offerings found at home rather than seeking out western or northern european influences.

Tune in to a fascinating travel-related episode as we approach the annual ANATO travel and tourism fair on Bogotá at the end of February.

Direct download: RCC_312.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

In our first political episode for 2020, Colombia Calling is joined by the unnamed creator of a website designed to highlight the stories left uncovered in the mainstream international press. Neither leftwing nor rightwing, Mikolombia is nothing if not controversial, but the idea is, at the very least, to open a debate.

MiKolombia (MiKo) is a loose connection of Colombian and foreign journalists, analysts, misfits and provocateurs who are unhappy with the country’s current course. They feel there is a vast undercurrent of important perspectives that are under-valued or ignored by conventional news media. Their website is a space to heap scorn on, and rail against, the ignorance, greed and corruption that are the sources of Colombia’s problems. Most of these problems are not exclusive to this country and its people, nor are they inevitable. Another country is possible – a Colombia that could and even should be better, even if many Colombians don’t believe it themselves.

Check out the website and write for them if you feel inspired.

Direct download: RCC_311.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Fresh from their December trip to Colombia's Caribbean coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains, women birders, Eliana Ardila (Colombia) and Bryony Angell (USA) join the Colombia Calling podcast to share some of their experiences and feedback and anecdotes about this country's embarrassment of riches when it comes to birdwatching.

Bringing years of experience and enthusiasm, we learn about Ardila's vehicular adventures (see: Birding by Bus) and Angell's reporting for various outlets (see:

Why go birding in Colombia? Colombia is home to more than 1,900 bird species with new birds being identified all the time. That’s almost 20 per cent of the world’s bird species. Bird watchers often make several trips to Colombia, seeking endemic, resident and migratory birds including more than 150 hummingbird species, 200 flycatchers and 140 tanagers in bird sites as diverse as vast tropical rainforests and the high-altitude Andes mountains.

Women Birders: I'll admit that I'm a complete novice to birding and so, this is where I let Angell and Ardila take over and explain the difference between women birders and their preferences and the camaraderie that takes place in what is believed to be a male-dominated field.

Tune in for a fascinating episode

Direct download: RCC_310.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Episode 309 is an entertaining look at the Colombia Calling podcast as Richard McColl moves from being the host to the interviewee and Joseph Czikk takes over.

Long-time listener of the Colombia Calling podcast and self-declared "Colombia Evangelist,"Joseph Czikk made a suggestion over email to me that he be permitted to record a podcast episode with him as the host talking to me and having me reflect on some of the more memorable shows over the years dating back to 2016.

Now, to date I have recorded 308 episodes and some are notably better than others, some are awful and some are average. But, there's a market for all types. And so, we went for it and the result is Ep309.

In order to prepare for this show, Joey requested that I might put together a list of episodes about which we could speak and here's the resulting list - the task was overwhelming and the list became very extended. So, we plunge into the task to reflect and reminisce over past episodes and I think you'll enjoy the end result.

Direct download: RCC_309.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Jim Davies may have the midas touch for storytelling, that or he has an innate ability to find himself in the most peculiar of situations. Revisiting the Colombia Calling podcast - the first time being Ep79 in 204 when he spoke of his friendship with Danya (of secret service fame) and the legendary footballer Tino Asprilla - this time he manages to fit some of the most amusing anecdates, all true, about his life in Cali.

So, rest assured, you'll be laughing out loud at Jim "James el Peligroso's" Davies' tales including falling through a roof, nudity, interpol and yes, my personal favourite a link to the French Foreign Legion. It just goes to show, one good, you'll have to listen in!

And visit the Cali Curry House for authentic indian cuisine in the barrio San Antonio.

Direct download: RCC_308.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Our guest on Ep307 of the Colombia Calling podcast is Dr Julia Zulver (PhD Oxford), who is a political sociologist whose work focuses on women’s mobilisation in high risk contexts, mainly in Latin America, and of course, including Colombia.

We'll be discussing the "precarious peace" in Colombia which the country is now experiencing and indeed some of the different gender-based issues which she has had the opportunity to study whilst here.

Zulver is currently undertaking fieldwork at the Colombian-Venezuelan border to investigate the gendered impacts of the reconfiguration of armed conflict and Venezuelan migration on women living the borderlands.

Direct download: RCC_307.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

On the first episode of 2020, the Colombia Calling podcast speaks to hiker and guide Gabriel Torres who is based in the breathtaking colonial setting of Barichar, Santander. The reason for having Gabriel on the show is not only to promote Colombia's oft-voted most beautiful colonial town, but also to hear about his project to map large parts of the country's Camino Reales.

The Camino Reales are what the spanish called a network of connecting pathways crisscrossing the country. Originally, the "Royal Roads," were pathways which were constructed by the original indigenous tribes and spanned the whole country from the Caribbean coast inwards.

Most people have heard of or will have hiked the stretch from Barichara to Guane which is roughly 10km, but Gabriel informs us that there are possibly some 18,000km of paths to map out. So, with the desire to create Colombia's very own Santiago de Compostela route, Gabriel is moving ahead with his dream to connect paths which run through Santander, Boyaca and Cundinamarca to Bogotá.

Tune in for an interesting look at a potential tourism and travel asset for Colombia as told by a Colombian.

Direct download: RCC_306.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT