The conquistadors

She just keeps rollin’ along: Colombia’s Magdalena River

As Colombia comes out of 50 years of civil war and into a still precarious peace, with some 220,000 dead, this timely book explores one of the few dividends to emerge from such a terrible conflict. Large areas of the country were isolated by the war, and so spared the ravages of modern development. Unlike neighbouring Ecuador, where oil and gas exploration has done its worst, Colombia still has an essentially roadless expanse of pristine forest nearly the size of France. When I travelled in the mountains near Cali last year, I was struck by how depopulated the rural areas were. The peasant farmers, the campesinos, were only slowly returning