Here is a sample page from Two Wheels Through Terror by Glen Heggstad:
It’s been reaffirmed numerous times that a truce has been signed between the government and the dreaded FARC rebels declaring a temporary end to hostilities. Authorities in Bogotá stated the road northwest to Medellin is now patrolled by the army. Although still apprehensive, I convince myself that the threat, along with others so far, is overrated. The highway south, leading to Ecuador via Cali is my final destination out of Colombia. But this is directly through territory seceded to the rebels a few years ago by the government in an effort to jump start peace negotiations.
The rebel’s tactic of taking hostages for ransom has supposedly ended but I want to wait a few weeks and ride around the secure zones to build my confidence before attempting that route. I don’t want to become part of a terrorist fund raising drive yet it’s questionable how valid the danger claim really is. After all, there have been warnings about every country since leaving California.
After four pleasant and uneventful hours into one of the most spectacular jungle rides yet, my self-confidence grows and I wonder–“What’s all the fuss about anyway?” Soon the two lane curvy road narrows with long stretches of missing pavement and fewer structures or signs of normal activity. After riding over several breathtaking seven to eight thousand foot mountain passes, a few small broken down one-room houses called casitas pop into view.
They are selling gas from 50 gallon barrels alongside the road every mile or so. I topped off my six gallon tank thirty miles outside of Bogotá and my bike has a two hundred twenty mile fuel range. Running dry isn’t a worry yet since they’re selling out of drums indicates there are no stations. This means there are fewer people around, a concern that is soon verified by an empty crumbling roadway. After a short while more, there are no other vehicles in either direction. The environment abruptly transforms into the stillness of a graveyard.
Before long, it’s alarmingly evident—I am alone. For the first time since leaving Bogotá, I experience the bowel burning notion something is about to go wrong and I consider turning around in a frantic flee to the safety of a city. I keep going, slowing only to navigate the precipitous climbs and ever-sharper turns.
The vibrant green jungle turns eerie, lifeless landscape, pumping shivers up my spine like fluttering electrical current. I’m a man who doesn’t scare easily but am now in the grip of a powerful, unmistakable fear. There is death in the air.
After clearing the last hairpin curve, I come upon a two-ton truck with a canvas-covered bed being waved on after apparently stopped and searched by armed men in dark clothing. It’s here, on a late, warm, sunny afternoon, in the spooky silence of a towering encroaching jungle, where events occur that will alter the course of my life.
I am five thousand miles from the safety of my home, on a desolate stretch of the Colombian Autopista, only two hours from the safety of Medellin, when stopped at a military-style roadblock by about thirty, heavily armed young men in their late twenties. They’re dressed in black sweat pants and black long sleeved Tee-Shirts with nylon ammunition vests bearing AK-47 assault rifles. A few of the clean shaven, short haired men step out from behind the truck, while others line the shoulder in front and behind. They wave me over with their rifles in firing position, aimed directly at me.
This is my first encounter with rebel forces. I had imagined guerrillas would be attired in camouflaged uniforms with some type of military look to them. I’m still uncertain who they are. It’s possible they’re only bandits. My mind races to a pulsating red alert and for a moment, I consider making a run for it.
The jungle on either side is an impenetrable wall of tangled green, shooting straight up the mountain on the right, and dropping off perilously on the left. There are only two choices, forward or backward on the road. I deliberate revving my motor and running on through until noting tall shiny antennas glinting in the air connected to radios in hand. I assume they’re talking to lookouts in both directions. It’s unlikely I can safely elude a barrage of machine gun fire from the surrounding troops. Even if I do, more gunmen up the road are certain to have better luck.
Before I can collect my thoughts, the men shout commands in an unfamiliar campesino slang that doesn’t register in my mental dictionary of California, second semester, college-learned, Mexican Spanish. Gesturing by jerking their guns to one side and ordering me off the bike, several of the men jam gun barrels in my ribs as I dismount. I scan the scene, trying to stay calm as the reality of this dreadful circumstance sinks in.
A moment I had feared has arrived with no escape and it hits me–it’s likely I may die here today. As I step away from my bike, several of the men in a wild frenzy rip the electronic equipment off the handlebars. Others feverishly ransack the contents of my saddlebags, tossing clothing into the road. They are shouting, “Ropa Ropa” (clothes, clothes). I’m not sure what they want, and still don’t know who they are.
I hope maybe because they are stuffing my clothes in a sack, I’m just being robbed. Then an older, light skinned man in his mid-thirties, appearing to be the leader because he gives orders to the others, yells, “Vamos!” Let’s go! Thinking he means for me to get on my bike and leave, I start to do so. This enrages him more and it’s back to the gun barrels in the ribs. What he means is, we are leaving together. Other stern faced men motion with their weapons for me to accompany them behind some dilapidated deserted shacks half buried in the jungle.
My mind races for a way out — there is none. I have never felt heart-thundering, cottonmouth fear like this before. I now believe with absolute certainty that this is execution time. They want me behind those structures for fun and games before blowing my head off.
Positive my life is about to end, I’m determined not to die alone in the jungle and never be found. My only option is to stonewall and try to take it in the street, where a bus had been stopped next to us. Let the terrified passengers be the witnesses to my murder. At least then my loved ones might hear what happened and get my body back. I would have a say in where I spend my final moments.
“No quiero ir!” I respond, shaking my head while trying to conceal the fear in my quivering hands. I don’t want to go!
The men angrily shout back — “Vamos!”
The force of the rifle-jabbing increases. “Yo no voy!,” I yell, I’m not going!
The situation is exploding out of control with everyone shouting louder and louder in languages neither understands. Then the leader levels his machine gun at my face. Convinced death is imminent and terrified to perish undiscovered, I provoke him to action screaming, Chinga tu madre puto, hazlo aqui! Fuck your mother punk, do it here!
Gritting his teeth with a look of vicious determination he lowers his rifle and yanks a 9mm pistol from a shoulder holster, chambers a round, and points it at my forehead from ten feet.
“Andele pues puto!,” I yell, Get on with it punk! I clench my eyes and hear a deafening crack. For a few moments I am uncertain if I’m dead or alive. Nothing registers in my brain. My body freezes. He cleared my head intentionally. But as I open my eyes he takes careful aim at my upper arm.
My brain re-engages. I realize that they want me alive, and that I will be accompanying them, with or without a bullet in the arm. This is no bluff. I look over at the bus. Some of the passengers are crouching, some are crying, and some look away pretending not to see. I plead with my eyes— tell someone what you have seen here.
Several men flag the bus on. And as it slowly chugs away in a cloud of black sooty smoke, I manage a stiff-legged walk toward the edge of a menacing jungle where a dozen more armed men with weapons pointed at me are waiting. Two other guerrillas are busy hiding my bike in the abandoned casita in an effort to conceal what has occurred. I become acutely aware — I’m about to vanish into a nightmare I may never awake from.
Once swallowed by the thick, gloomy countryside, the trail becomes a weather eroded gully, steep and narrow, forming a deep V shape. It starts ten-feet wide, eight-feet up and narrows to ten inches across at the bottom – just enough for a heel to toe step on the wet slippery red clay. Although this maneuver appears to be a well coordinated ambush for locals, there’s no mistaking the excitement and shouts of bravado among the victorious marauders.
We descend rapidly for fifteen minutes with twenty or thirty men strung out ahead and behind, trudging steadily downhill until they halt for a quick radio check conversing in coded phrases. Somehow I know the word was put out, the ultimate prize is in hand, an American has been captured. I still don’t know who these men are or why they have taken me prisoner.
When they finish on the radio I ask, “Quien es ustedes?” Who are you? The leader thrusts out his chest and responds, Eh Eleh Enee! I don’t understand that this is the Spanish pronunciation of the abbreviation ELN at first, and give him a puzzled look. Offended by my ignorance, he places his beard stubbled face close to mine and screams through stinking, rotting teeth, “Erjecito de Liberacion Nacional!” The National Liberation Army. Fidel Castro’s favorite Marxist thugs, who have financed a 40-year leftist rebellion against the Colombian government by kidnapping civilians for ransom and assassinating those who fail to support them.
These rebels have a brutal track record of murdering civilians and holding and torturing hostages for years while ransom fees are negotiated with tormented families. Along with several other groups including the right wing Paramilitare, they have recently made US Secretary of State, Colin Powell’s list of most aggressive world terrorist organizations.
I dig deeply into my mind searching for a way out, an escape plan, words of advice from my long dead father, something in my martial arts background or years of meditation training.
I come up empty, drawing one blank after another. Until now, I had always believed there was a solution to every problem if I searched hard enough. Today is different. The hostile expressions on the faces of these terrorists tell me they are anxious for me to try something stupid, for the honor of slaying a Gringo, a Yankee Imperialista–an enemy of the people. For the first time in my life, I feel I have no chance…