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Chapter 4
Neiva
To San Agustin

Sat Oct 7:

Finally got our stuff all packed in the morn. Went to the bus station at about 8:30. Saw two “Gringos” along the way and said howdy. Then they walked into the bus depot as we were sipping tinto and eating buñuelos. They didn’t stay. We wondered about them & their trip but didn’t get a chance to talk. [1]

Then off to Neiva. An uneventful if scenic trip. Up (or down I guess) into the arid semi highlands. Like parts of New Mexico or Utah. Found a residencia but along the way someone had set a bag (or 3) of fish on my pack. N. went back to check on the packs and found mine smothered with fish. After we got off the bus I inspected the damage. The most damage was done not by the pervading fish odour that has stained and befouled my pack’s front pocket & sleeping bag (or 3rd) drawer; but by the weight that crushed my cook kit to some small but repairable degree. The most lasting damage was to this notebook: the stains on the top of this page.

[2] After rinsing off the pack and taking a shower, we walked around the market and surveyed the town. Neiva is a nice change from Bogotá. It has the big city trappings like parks with fountains and modern neon-lit storefronts, but it also has an almost typical [3] Mexican indoor market and a distinctive “campesino” flavor. After dinner we went back to the park and further discussed food preparations.

On our way back to the Residencia San Jorge, we stopped at the Bar Central just up the street. There, drinking our “one beer a day” vitamine program, we were accosted by what appeared at first to be an old drunk, but which turned out to be a common laborer with 8 kids who lived apart in some other town. He bought us a beer and told us his life story (I understood 10%). A real 50 yr. old Colombian common man.

Back to the res. after a difficult extraction from the bar. The fellow [4] told us that Colombia is run by 6 families. Makes no diff. who the pres. is, these 6 families run the economic show. The fellow at the bar also had several distinct features: many front teeth missing, obvious scarring across the insides of the fingers on the rt. hand, the tip of the left index finger missing. Talked very fast and slurred.

Sun Oct 8.

Laid back at the San Jorge after a busy morn.

Went to the market and dealt with the natives today. Bought soup mixes, rice, powdered milk, Quaker Oats, honey, oranges, potatoes, a carrot, can of tuna and of sardines, raisins, and cooking fat. And bananas. Good bananas.

The market is colorful from the 2nd floor. Like the market in Guadalajara, but squarer and smaller. Stands of meat to one side, hanging quarters, chickens wrapped, all sorts of odd looking portions; then into the main room where veggies, flowers, hard goods, clothes, and comidas or just bowls of soup on the side. Bordering the first floor open area were small shops selling dried and canned or pre-packaged goods. The second floor only covered the outside wall. The middle was open to the first floor. There were more fruits veggies and comida stands.

After our buying we went back to a little tamale stand I had seen. Had some very good corn meal, rice, bean, pork bone tamale. Nicely flavored wrapped in a corn husk about the size of a big fist. Then we looked unsuccessfully for some pipe tobacco.

Now back at the Res. we tried to wash clothes but the washerlady was busy doing the sheets. I get the feeling that we won’t get clothes washed today.

Got buZZED and rearranged the food minus honey into my pack. I now have clothes, film, camera bag (when walking), and some veggies in my top drawer; the stove & pots, the rest of the food, and heat screen (untried) in the second; and my sleeping bag, space blanket, and rain poncho in the 3rd. Side pockets contain: 1) first aid kit & lead bag; 2) fuel can, silverware, pot grabber and funnel; 3) sewing kit, tool kit, Swiss A.K., assorted misc.; 4) candles, sno-seal, compass, goggles, battery case, rope; 5) Notebook, pens, books, pipe. It all weighs a lot but it would be too much if I hadn’t cut about 5 lbs. in Bogotá.

N. and I discussed philosophy after Buzzing - I worked my way into the “Be Here Now” philo. of direct experience ala “Zen & the Art”

We’ve extended the planning stage into the trip itself. Instead of dealing with things as they come along - we’re still planning. Walking should cure this syndrome. Give us time to assimilate and hopefully take some pics of which we have been truly Negligent. Partly due to the paranoia in Cart., Bello, and Bogota, and partly to feeling uncomfortable taking “native’s” photos - we have not taken any shots for over a week. Hopefully we’ll be able to go nuts in San A.

Back at the Res. after 2 beers 4 (count ’em 4) straight Jonney Walker Red Label Shots, dinner, and two tokes. In a high state of mind. Went down to the river & the strange statue . Lotsa nice clouds. After our 2 beers the power went out. We brought out our candle stub and received 4 shots each in return. After dinner we retired to discuss alternative realities versus this reality. All very blown away .

Mon Oct 9.

Awoke and started walking. It was hot!

Pulled over to a little shaded bridge, got high & started hitching. Got a ride with a fellow going 25km. down the road. Very nice fellow who bought us a gaseosa. Had a little caro upon which our packs almost fit. I held on to mine with my arm out the window.

Then we walked a while longer. N.’s feet began to give and mine were none too happy. Pulled over into another shady spot this time with more gaseosas near by. Hitched from there. Not many cars or trucks. Soon a fellow with 2 little kids in a small sta. wag. (like my Fiat) stopped. A little ways on down the road he asked us if we’d like to smoke a j. We did. Soon it was one rolled with crude cocaine in it. Didn’t seem to make much difference. [5]

We pulled over a couple of times to take pics and once to skinny dip (not me, but I should have) near some beautiful mt. scenery. Once you get into a diff. valley the whole scene changes. One valley is dry and red with clay and dirt. The next is lush and green . The next is lusher & greener.

Several j’s and many photos later we pulled into San Augustin. Our friend Eduardo bought us a lunch of quesitos (almost cheese) and dulces. Once in town he bought us a jugo and took us to San AUGUSTIN CAMPING. Camped atop a little plateau just out of town; it’s a very picturesque spot.

We whizzed the friz. for a while, played with the little kitten and 2 puppies for a while. Then we decided to cook dinner and field test the stove. About the time the water was almost burling from the white gas in the stove - it ran out. Sooo we went into town to buy some kerosene. Couldn’t even light the stuff with a match. Finally - after much coaxing & heat paste we got it to burn. Sootier than shit. Got me and the pot just black. Got the water boiling and tossed in the potatoes & carrots. About the time to throw in the soup - it ran out of gas again. This time I filled it full but no amount of pleading would get the fucker to burn.

The lady here at CAMPING let us finish our meal on her kerosene stove. Otherwise we’d have starved.

Settled the meal of soup & bread, and listened to the dog’s bark: “Rog rog - rog rog ROG!”


[1] Also saw an older “gringo” couple from USC as the man’s beret said. Didn’t talk but did see them on the next bus at one of our bus stops to Neiva.

[2] Watched Gilligan’s Island & The Odd Couple in Spanish on Colo. T.V. Real laughs.

[3] main market building surrounded by street vendors of various natures. A whole block & surrounding streets are used.

[4] at the bar

[5] He also played Paul McC, George Benson, and other good music. The first we’ve heard in many weeks.

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