This is a story of a trip with a group of friends in the north region of Colombia, the trip started in Santa Marta and finished in el Cabo de la vela. The story is told in 7 parts, this is Part 6 of the story, you can read part 1 here.
I started running around like crazy, tried waking my friends up but they were all out cold. I asked every person I met in on the road, from the tumbling drunks who were trying to make their way to their hammocks, to the annoyed ranchería owners that were waiting for the tourist to go to sleep so they could start with their day. From them I found out that the next bus would leave at 10 am, too late to catch my flight, I was as good as dead. One of them suggested standing by the side of the road and seeing if any of the cars driving down would give me a lift to Uribia, there I could catch a bus to Santa Marta.
I thought about it for a moment and considered the dangers of hitchhiking, but I also considered the dangers of pissing off my entire family by not showing up on time. I decided to take my chances and flagged down the first pickup that drove down the road. A three people family of Wayuu people pulled over, told me they were collecting the beer cases from the rancherías to bring down to Uribia and exchange for full ones. The said they had plenty of stops along the way but would be reaching Uribia early enough for me to catch the bus. That is if I was ok with riding in the uncovered back of the car with all the bottles.
I thanked them and hopped in, sat among the bottles, covered my nose with a t shirt and prepared for the journey. At this point I had already eaten or left behind all the supplies I had in my backpack, including food, water and the first aid kit that would prove helpful for my friends in the remaining days of their trip. I also left behind my remaining items of clean clothing for some of them to wear because by then clean pants and t shirts were a scarce commodity in the group. And yet, my bag neither felt lighter nor looked any smaller, specially as it took up the little empty space left on the pickup once the bottle cases were all collected. I put it on my lap, hugged it an hoped I would be back in a city soon.
The dessert looked amazing as the sun started to come out… by then I had no battery on my phone at all so I couldn’t even take a picture, but looking back on it I only think it’s for the best; I got to sit the and enjoy the colors and tingling noise of the empty bottles as the pickup wobbled down unpaved streets. A little after we picked up another person; a young guy who worked at the Serrejón, the mining operation in the area. He and I introduced ourselves and chatted a bit, but eventually silence took over, it was just too much of a sight to ruin it with talking. By the time we got to Uribia there were five hitchhikers in the back of the pickup, and certainly very little room. The last few kilometers we just stood to be able to fit better.
Once in Uribia, they were kind enough to drop me off exactly at the spot where buses to Santa Marta pick up their passengers. I boarded the bus feeling calm knowing that I would be in Santa Marta soon. The bus ride was long and slow and a wide selection of old Bruce Lee movies made the time go by even slower. I was too hyped to sleep so I just watched and rested and went over the whole trip in my head. I did notice how lucky I was that even when the bus was packed full no one sat next to me. Arriving in Santa Marta I took a taxi to the airport and queued in the line to check in for my flight. I had bought my ticket with miles and the only thing that was left was an executive class seat so I took that one when I made the booking, and accordingly I went through the preferential line in the airport into the counter. During my time queuing three different people came up to me to check my ticket and verify I was in fact “preferential”, and when arriving at the counter the look in the attendant’s face when I produced my executive ticket was priceless. She immediately became really nice and said that she could imagine how tired I was so she would seat me in an empty road so I could stretch out comfortably. And subsequently took my backpack to check into the airplane, I couldn’t believe it when I saw how much it weight, it was three kilos heavier than when I left Bogota, even though so much had been already removed from it.
I boarded the plane and slept and made my way to Bogota. When my mother and brother got me from the airport and took me home I finally put all the pieces together. I did not look or smell “preferential” I looked dirty and smelled worse, that’s what 10 days without a mirror get you, not to mention 15 days without seeing soap. The flight attendant was probably concerned some of the actual executives would have to share a seat with the stinkiest dirtiest person in the whole flight. The extra weight in my bag, as reported later by my mother, was about five kilos worth of sand that almost broke her washing machine as I tried to do my laundry that evening.
Soon enough I’d be wrapped in pantyhose and up in heels, but to this day that whole risky, irresponsible adventurous and near death trip, is one of my fondest memories of Colombia.
End of part 7, and end of the story.