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Monday, 23 April 2012

Potholes and a River Crossing in Colombia - Page 2

Written by Matt Milloway
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Back on the road, the bumpy terrain became an accepted tribulation of the ride. We reached a small town that, lacking electricity or running water, looked like a random outcrop of buildings. The lack of a river or other desirable physical characteristic in the immediate area was surprising and I was struck by the abundance of pool tables. Building after building looked like an open-air lounge, built for the sole purpose of congregating for conversation and drinking. 

Instead of passing through the town, no more than four city blocks long, Freddy stopped at the only intersection in town. The prospects, both left and right, looked less than promising as he scrunched his face in thought. Everyone around the intersection watched our car with halfhearted interest as a young man came jogging towards us. Freddy accepted a handful of money and a package wrapped in a black garbage bag, throwing the latter in the backseat before driving onward (add courier services to the Freddy’s many talents).

An afternoon haze enveloped the air. The road was somehow bumpier than before and a handful of children (shouldn’t they be in school?) soon barred our path, using a simple rope held across the road. Freddy flipped a coin out the window and passage was granted. I asked Victor if the practice was common in Colombia and he nodded yes; our single coin might be their only reward for the whole day. It took days to shake the image of young children, as enterprising as they were, left to collect coins on the side of a dusty road.

The final portion of our journey was fast approaching, and I knew Mompos sat on an island surrounded by rivers. The only bridge happened to be at another point of entry, making our crossing options an intriguing mystery. The intrigue turned to apprehension as we pulled up to the waterfront. A small barge-like boat bobbed up and down with little more than a foot of rusted metal protruding above the water. A handful of men readied two wooden boards to be used as a ramp and beckoned our car forward.

Nearly twenty men helped with the task at hand, half of whom simply acted as onlookers trying to act useful. The commotion over our lone vehicle bordered on amusing as men knocked and kicked the boards into place. Freddy calmly steered the car up the makeshift ramp and onto the boat.

The barge sputtered to life and began to cross the river. I gingerly stepped outside to stretch my legs, standing inches from the water. The fifteen-minute journey unfolded and I strained to hear the sounds of birds and other wildlife over the boat motor’s rickety drone.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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