Colombia on the Road

· Statistics
1.909.656 persons came to Colombia by plane in 2005


There is an old song in the country that says: “If you want to know the Colombian people, take a urban bus.” Even if the big cities are becoming use to more modern systems of transport like Metro of Medellín, Transmilenio of Bogotá and other projects on the way for the biggest centers, you can find those traditional buses doing service to the barrios. Among the most influential Colombians, it is possible to count the public drivers: buses, trucks and taxis. The Colombian drivers can be counted also among the most influential Latin Americans able to make tremble the economies of Venezuela and Ecuador if just they decide to stop working and close the international roads to ask their rights. The reason is easy to guess: they are transporting the economy of a huge territory.

By Albeiro Rodas | ElDorado International Airport by Tamara Harte.

Transmilenio of Bogotá. Picture by Andrés Jiménez.

Transport in a country like Colombia is a very important factor for its development. It is a huge territory of forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, valleys, ranges and many other features that make Colombia a land always to discover. Colombia is the second most mountainous country of South America after Ecuador. Half of its territory is forest, for example, in the Colombia-Panama border there is a very important one, Darien, that is the only obstacle in the Pan-American Road. Rivers and lakes are everywhere. Colombia can be considered something like the “Tibet” of the Americas and it has two international airports higher than 2 thousand meters above the sea level, ElDorado of Bogotá and José María Córdoba of Medellín. Last year, the famous Airbus landed in the Medellín’s airport (January 10, 2006), being that the first American airport to be visited by that kind of planes in a test program. The airport was chosen for being one of the highest airports of the world.

A little history

The way of the Bogota’s Transmilenio. Picture by mrdata.

The Spaniards conquered the territory using the two main rivers of Colombia: Cauca and Magdalena rivers. Those rivers run from south to north through the Andean region to the Caribbean plains making two big and long valleys of the same name. The Cauca River joins the Magdalena in the Savannah of Cordoba and Sucre. The Magdalena River encounters the Caribbean Sea in what is today the Port of Colombia, near Barranquilla. Throughout the Magdalena and the Cauca, the first Spaniard settlement can be found with names that fill the history of Colombia like Mompox and Honda. During the Colony, the two rivers were the main route to avoid the crossing of huge mountains with ice-heights and forests. It makes also that certain regions of Colombia were practically cut of the center like the Amazon region.

The bus of the Colombian countryside called in some regions as “Chiva” and in others as “Escalera”. Picture by Eye.

At the middle of the 19th Century Colombia becomes an exporter nation of tobbaco, cotton and others that started to force the construction of roads to the main rivers. At that time the so called State of Antioquia, the first producer of gold in the country, saw the necessity to open ways to the Magdalena river. The region was one of the most isolated of the time because the mountains and one of the best options was the idea of a train. It was why the Antioquian government promoted the construction of “Ferrocarriles de Antioquia” (Antioquian Railways) and it opened the local economy to a national and international level that gave that region a great progress. The train connected Medellin with the Magdalena River and then with Barranquilla. Same would happen with Bogotá and Cali to the Pacific Ocean. This would create a new urban center at the end of the 19th Century that soon became the second Colombian city: Barranquilla that was the “Door of Colombia”. A city without a Spaniard history but born from an Industrial Revolution, daughter of the Magdalena River and the Caribbean Sea. Although the great development of the interior of the country with Bogotá, Medellín and Cali put Barranquilla along the 20th Century as the fourth city, it is becoming again one of the most important centers of a country willing to open its markets. It was the first Colombian city to know the planes when the Canadian pilot George Schmitt landed in Barranquilla on December 1912 opening the gate to the first commercial airline of the Americas and the second of the world known as SCADATA (Colombian-German Society Airline) that is today “Avianca”.

Colombian boat in the Magdalena River in Barrancabermeja. Picture by cavernicola.

The entrance of Colombia in the transport by air would change the history of transport in the country. It would change the way of how Colombian used to see the regions. Those places that before were seen as far and unknown, became a part of the normal life. Besides it, roads were built to unite cities. Many roads were made using the ancient colonial or indigenous paths, like the road from Quito to Popayan or the one from Bogotá to Caracas. Other roads would follow the course of the big rivers, for example along the Madgalena and Cauca rivers. Others would follow the railways. The building of roads at the beginning of the 20th Century was rather unplanned. Roads along the rivers would kill literally the fluvial transport and the same with the roads along the railways killing the train. At the moment, fluvial and rail transport in Colombia is practically out of use and it is due to the non coordinated constructions of roads.

The Metro-cable in Medellín, a good answer for a country of mountains. Picture by Chuzonet.

Today it is easy to travel in Colombia, even to the most difficult regions like the Amazon region that is entirely a forest. Although there is much to do at local levels, in general it is possible to say that the conditions of the Colombian roads are fair. The main cities and regions are connected. The air transports the same and you can travel by plane from any city to the other with a good frequency. A country so rich in rivers, lakes and seas, would consider to give back the importance to fluvial transport, especially by rivers and also to improve the train. In industrialized countries, those two kind of transports are not only kept by they are matter of improvement and best technologies. The Colombian train should be one of the most developed one of the Americas suitable to cross the Colombian Andes with a good and planned system of tunnels.

The economy of Colombia running

According with the statistics of DANE, 5.9% of the Colombian GDP comes from the transport of merchandise by 2005 with an inflation of 4.85%. As we said above, Colombian is a huge territory and its population is one of the first in the Americas. The Colombian roads are not alone and the dynamic of them shows the vitality of its economy. For this reason, one of the main factors to develop the Colombian economies must be in its infrastructures.

Barranquilla Port by Chuzonet.

About the transport of passengers following the studies of DANE, 156.568.326 persons use the Colombian in 2005 while 8.290.278 uses Colombian airlines within the territory. 7.516.307 persons used the fluvial transport and only 40.012 the sea. About international visitors by 2005, the statistics are: 1.909.656 persons entered Colombia (nationals and foreigners) and 1.977.693 left Colombia using air transports.

102.961 tons of merchandise was going by land in 2005; 49.227 tons by train; 5.045 tones by rivers; 135 tons by planes and 1.374 by sea. In total, for 2005 Colombia moved 158.742 tons of merchandise.

All this numbers can be impressing and interesting and show how big is our country. However, it is not yet the number we need to answer to the needs of a growing economy. A country with so long coastlands in two oceans and its archipelago should have more ports and with a great capacity for the international trade. Although it is been thought as a huge project, the ElDorado International Airport of Bogotá must be thought as a huge airport at the best style of those of Bangkok and Hong Kong, not thinking the airport just as a service to Colombia, but as a service to the Americas. An airport four hours far from Miami, 10 from Madrid and six hours far from Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo, must be a real international bridge and the position of Colombia is already pushing our country to think in big projects.

Other links

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: