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Chapter 3
To Bogota

Sun. Oct 1:

Got up bright and early to catch the train which wasn’t hard due to the raucous nature of the street life in Bello on Sat. nite. Those folks go at it hot and heavy all night long. Of course we should have expected it due to the per capita population of bars and the fact that folks start drinking aguardiente at 9:00AM Sat. morning. About 4:00AM this morning they were carrying on a political rally outside our window.

None the less - the train left on time, but due to some confusion as to which side of the tracks to stand (it didn’t make any difference) N. and I wound up getting on two different cars. I rode the first few miles standing in the doorway with my pack blocking traffic of which there was plenty. Finally moved out of the door by the conductor - I hefted my pack onto the overhead rack (no small feat) and went to see if N. had indeed even gotten on the train. He was parked in another doorway two cars back.

I spent the next 45 mins. or so standing watching my pack until I could stand no longer. By that time N. had managed to secure a spot towards the front of the car and was sitting down on his pack. I wrestled my pack back to where he was and sat there the rest of the way.

The train is about as wide as a Greyhound Scenicruiser, but packed to the gills with folks. Not to mention the kids (and older) walking the aisles selling every imaginable edible thing from complete breakfasts to little cakes and beer.

After a while the train thinned out enough to actually sit on a seat but by that time further excitement occurred: one of the wheels on the engine fell off. It took about 15 min. to be back on the track. The rest of the trip was uneventful and hot.

Now in Puerto Barrío, we sat in a bar drinking beer [1] and then payed too much for an uninspired fish dinner.

We’re staying in the residencia Anita, or something, for only 100 pesos. Friendly & quiet [2] with a fan even. Our future plans are not definite but we’ll probably head for Barbosa tomorrow.

Tues Oct 3:

Left Puerto Barrío yesterday; and after a hip- breaking, mind boggling 10 1/2 hour bus ride, first through hot river valleys, and then through cold and rainy mountain top scenery at 10mph top speed, we arrived in Barbosa in a somewhat frazzled but whole condition. The only point of excitement along the trip over an unpaved one lane road was when we encountered a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. One truck was stopped in the middle of the road with a broken axle, and right next to it - successfully blocking all traffic, was another truck with a flat tire. After about 20 min the flat was fixed and we went on our way.

Arrived in Barbosa and checked into a residencia above the bus station.

Today after checking around town (took a half hour) we decided to go to Bogota. The ride should take only 4 1/2 hrs which will put us into town during daylight hours. All precautions made: passport stashed in pantleg, no jewelry or valuables in pockets and spare glasses being worn - we’re ready for all the pickpockets have to offer. Hopefully we’ll find a hotel quickly or at least before our packs are slashed from our backs.

Worth noting is the fact that for the last few days my dreams have been varied and vivid. Perhaps it’s no pot or new experiences but whatever - they’re really worth going to sleep to see. This morning - for example - after being awakened by an energetic rooster - I dreamt of chasing after him only to wind up with a handful of feathers.

Arrived in Bogota in fine shape. While walking along watching for rip-offs and looking for a residencia, a fellow standing in a doorway asks us if we need a place to stay. In we go. After bartering down to 180 pesos for the room (which Jimmy had to move out of so we could move into) Jimmy took us to a local restaurant for a good, typical, cheap dinner. [3]

The rest of the day was spent reading on my part and writing on N’s. This place is none too quiet, our room is right next to the street with horns & screeching brakes. None too warm either. Part of the reason we took the room was because Jimmy told us there was hot water. Not only wasn’t there hot water - there was no water.

Wed Oct 4:

Awoke to the sound of traffic at 6:30. Out we went for a quick breakfast. Then to the Museo Del Oro. Truly an amazing collection of gold artifacts. At the end there’s a room filled with mostly gold earrings but the effect is dazzling.

Then we went looking for the Tourist Office. Just as we were approaching the office - we ran into Jay from Canada whom we'd met in San Andres. He had gotten a job in Bog. teaching English and was well established. We went to a local restaurant and shot the shit for a while. He told us that the price we’re paying for a room is about as good as we’re likely to find. We had considered looking for a cheaper, quieter place, but since we’ll only stay another couple of days, we decided to hang tough where we are.

After lunch as we were walking about looking for a place for me to piss - a fellow approached us and asked of we wanted any emeralds(!) and upon our refusal then asked if we wanted any pot. Sure - we wanted some but didn’t want to get busted. So back in the residencia we devised a plan. N. would walk ahead and get the dope, I’d walk behind a half block and give the guy the money (250 pesos). This was to insure we weren’t being followed by the Police.

The plan went off without a hitch. N. got the package & I paid the guy. We paranoided it back to the residencia only to discover we had purchased 250 pesos worth of rolled up newspaper! Lesson #1: don’t buy what you can’t see. I guess Patty was right - we got ripped-off. We didn’t even need pickpockets to do it - we handed the money right over. After the initial burn wore off all we could do was laugh at our own stupidity.

The water (cold anyway) has come on here but the radio is still playing loudly and the traffic honks & screeches outside. Bogota is a city worth avoiding unless you need a dose of big city. Our initial paranoia has abated to the extent that we’re not scared shitless to walk the streets, at least during the day.

Later in the day, N asked Jimmy if he thought he could get us any pot. He said perhaps and came back later with a part of a joint. Very good. Spent the rest of the night planning our assault on San Augustin.

Thurs Oct 5.

Awoke to the screeching brakes. They’re almost as bad as roosters and only marginally later.

Jimmy told us he’d have some smoke for us today. But first business. Went to the bank and cashed $100. This should get us through Colo. Came back after buying postcards, and turned right around and went to Zipaquíra.

The salt cathedral is immense but it was too smoky inside to be appreciated. It was also underlit. Just your typical Catholic church carved in a salt mine. Just plain vast. Rode the bus back to town while N. jammed his knees in the backseat. This and the shits put him in a rather sour mood for the afternoon.

We stopped by the Equadorian Embassy but the floor was closed. Just locked the elevator switches with a key. Sooo we went and had a typical lunch down the street. The only noteworthy point of the restaurant was the fact that the radio was tuned to 91.1FM, a classical station. So nice to hear real music again. Then after writing some postcards we had to wait 40 min. for the Consulate to come in. But once we got to see him - he stamped our passports “slam, bam, thank you SAM”. We walked back to the Residencia singing List’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2 and the Sabre Dance. A good walk.

Got back and went out again this time to the Correo Aéreo. Mailed off 15 letters & cards. Ate at the little stand down the street again this afternoon. Ate there yesterday morning and this morning, too. Good buñuelos & empanadas.

Came back and Jimmy had indeed scored about 7 little packets as I got in Cali. First we were going to roll it. I cleaned it, and stuffed into a paper but it didn’t look right. Too much waste. So we wound up cannibalizing the screen from my fuel can and using my pipe. Fine Idea.

Then got into cutting weight from our backs (mostly clothes). During the process Jimmy came in with first 1 and then another friend. Jimmy was trying to speak Engl. and spent much time reading from a tourist guide to Bogota. He talked about liking foreigners especially Americans but he may have only been looking for a joint (which we passively refused to give him only because he can probably buy more and we can’t nearly as easily). His first friend was silent but the second gave us the address of his X-wife in Ambato, Ec.(!) who will gladly put us up after he sends a postcard telling her we’re coming.

Tomorrow is another business day. Must mail all of our pared weight to Bolivia. Along with many other chores - we’ll go to a bookstore to get walking guides.

Fri Oct 6:

Starting out a little late - we went looking for the buses to Neiva. Found one leaving at 7:30 for 50 pesos - 6 hrs. Then on the way back we looked unsuccessfully for pipe screen. Nobody seems to sell screen. Nuts, bolts, motors, pipe fittings, tools, chemical supplies, but no screen. [4] Got a box from the chem. sup. store. Got 2 bottles from another chem. st. Packed all our stuff into the box, transferred all liquids to new bottles (Betadine and Paratox).

Then off to the papeleria for wrapping paper & string. Then to the main P.O. “No - go to the other one for packages” went to the other one “No - go to the other one for surface freight” went to the other other one “Si - this is the place but you gotta wait til 2:30 (it’s 11:30) for the customs guy”. [5] Soooo then we went out looking for sox. Pure wool outside walking sox. Went to 3 different stores before finding the right one, which had just closed at 12:15. Sooo we went to the bookstore which was also closed. So we sat in the park. 

While in the park oogling the local ladies, we were approached by two guys selling emeralds & pot. No thanks - we learned our lesson.

At 2:00 we went back to the sox store. Got the sox - maybe not pure wool but they fit (all the way to the knees). Then back to the bookstore which opens at 2:30. They didn’t have any books we could use. Wanted the Backpackers Guide to Inca Trails. Out of print.

Went back to the P.O., and after a lesson in package wrapping - mailed the clothes, rain cover, umbrella, Vaseline, malaria pills, and books to Bolivia. Then to the roasted chicken place for a delicious change of taste. Then back to the res. to raise our spirits & settle the meal.

Spent time planning the remainder of our stay in Colo. Looks good & cheep.

[1] Watched a couple of fellows prancing their horses up & down the street in full cowboy regalia. Having a good drunk.

[2] except for the radio at 5:AM and the light shining in from the next room making sleep almost possible

[3] Jimmy is an 18yr old from Baranquilla who “likes the women” and is trying to learn English. Has difficulty between “shit & sheet”. Says both “tchit”.

[4] Found another Busline that leaves at 9:30 other particulars equal

[5] We spent the next 1/2 hr filling out forms for the customs and postal guy

Chapter 2::Table of Contents::Chapter 4