Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Bus Drive

Imagine being on a bus for 11 hours. Sounds painful huh? Suprisingly not so much.  Its more like roadtrip with friends I feel I´ve know forever, making memories I´ll never forget.  I have yet to have a painful experience in Colombia yet (excluding the bug bites).  Only the vast amounts of beauty in the landscape and people that tend to be overlooked with the negative portrayals of Colombia.
The 11 hour trip from Villa de Leyva to Valledupar was filled with curvy roads, rolling mountains, and broken down roads.  Due to recent flooding in Colombia, about 2 million people have been displaced and many roads have been damaged or completely washed out.  Of course of all the roads in Colombia, the only route that would allow us to continue on to Valledupar, was a route that was only open from 3pm-10pm alternating one hour of traffic either way.
So our adventure began around 4pm on January the 18th, 2011.  We had just grabbed some food in Bucaramanga.  All was dandy and well until we hit the damaged road area.  Now this was not slow, bumper to bumper traffic like 880 in rush hour on Monday night, but it was in fact miles of parked cars in the middle of the road, like the full parking lot the Oakland Oracle during a concert.  There was no moving in any which way direction.
So, what better to do then get out, and have some cool drinks at the restuarant across the street with all the other Colombians stuck in the same pickle?  We stayed positive, and enjoyed our cold drinks. There was no complaining, no checking of the watch. We were simply in the moment, not caught up in the rush that fills American lives, but rather enjoying life as it came at us, as Colombians do. 
An hour passed by, and then in the flash of a moment there was a whistle, and all hell broke loose. It was as if an ant hill had been kicked, and the ants exploded with comotin and within seconds the once packed restaurant was desolate with only empty beer bottles.  Everyone was packed into their buses, motorcycles, and cars.  However after all this effort, it was only a false alarm.
Slowly people retreated back to the restaurant and hesitantly hung outside of their vehicles.  But low and behold within 15 minutes, the ant hill had been kicked again, and the ants were off running.  However this time the ants took their vehicles with them, as it was finally our turn to drive the road.  We had students and guides alike, jumping into our moving bus as we took off.  All of this is well documented on our flip camera luckily.
And so began the rest of our drive at 7:30pm on the damaged, nearly non existent road.  As we drove by the affected area, you could see the crumbles of buildings that once stood tall.  There was only half a road at one point, the other half down a mile down the mountain with the rest of the rubble.  Although this may have put our trip at an hour or 2 hour set back, imagine the setbacks of the people that once called the crumbles their homes?
When we finally made it through the damaged roads, it was all straight for there, literally straight roads until Valledupar.  Easy right? Yeah only 7 more hours of straight roads.  But at this moment, there was not a care in the world because we had in fact discovered the air conditioning system of the bus, 7 hours, 15 hours, who´s counting when we have AC?
And so 7 hours later, at 3am we made it! All in one piece, a little tired, maybe a lot tired, full of crazy incoherent dreams from our slumber, but safe and sound in the beautiful city of Valledupar.  And so it goes one of the most eventful, and longest, but memorable bus rides I have ever taken.

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