Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ISV and Broken Bus

By Machete

The gypsy train isn´t always fun. I wish it were. But unfortunately we have a lay over in Puerto Lopez. Some kind of gasket thing exploded on the bus, so the bus is laying in pieces on the dirt floor of some Puerto Lopez mechanic shop.

I woke up this morning hoping to save the world one playground at a time. First, I tried to hitchike back to Machalilla. But noone would pick me up. They just shook their hands back and forth rapidly when I stuck my thumb out. I guess that means no. Eventually the bus came.

When I got back to Machalilla, I headed straight for Javier´s beach cabana. Music was blaring like always and fresh ceviche was being served up. Javier smiled when he saw me.

"El bus no funciona en Puerto Lopez. Donde estan las chicas? Quiero ayudar." I asked.

He said something back in spanish, but I didn´t understand him. So he hailed a mototaxi and paid him and sent me up the hill where the International Student Volunteers stood staring at a fance that they were struggling to build. I lended a hand and we headed back for lunch.

Javier served me up some soup and I talked with the coeds. After lunch, I planned on helping some more. When we were walking back to the playground construction site, the dickheaded dutchman that was there leader told me I wasn´t able to help them build the fence. He wouldn´t let me volunteer my time and labor to help the local community. I told him that it was fucking ridiculous as the girls pleaded with him to let me stay.

The only reason that Rudy, the dickheaded dutchman, wouldn´t let me help is because it would delegitimize the entire scam of the International Student Volunteers. The fact that a person could just be there in Ecuador and volunteer his time for free without going through the organization and paying the 4500 dollars, totally debases the whole idea of voluntourism. It takes out the middle man that pays Rudy´s paycheck. Rudy, Fuck you. International Student Volunteers,the company, not the innocent people that fall for your trickery, Fuck You.

So after arguing with Rudy. I hopped on the bus back to Puerto Lopez. I stopped at the mechanic´s and I recieved this note from Alex:

Zach,

First please turn the fucking phone on. Second we are totally screwed. We are on our way to Quito in search of the part. There is a good chance that we won´t be back for a few days...Fernando fucked us...there was nothing we could have done to prevent this headache.

Alex.

So the Gypsy Train is immobile until we get the bus fixed. Fuck.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sayanora Tor.




By Machete

Smoke billowed from the engine filling the entire bus with smoke as we were driving into Puerto Lopez earlier this morning.

"Stop the bus." We all cried.

Alex pulled the bus over on the side of the road. Everyone filed out of the bus. Alex and I lifted the engine cover and smoke hit us right in our faces. We had no idea what was wrong. We only knew that the engine was hot.

"I think I will leave now." Tor said. His shit was already packed. Tor had to return to Quito because his new passport had arrived. It just so happened that the bus broke down a mile from the city where he had to catch his bus.

Tor was robbed three times in Quito. He had been all over the world but Quito was the place where his luck ran out. The first robbery, he had a gun put to his head, yet The second robbery was the most detramental to Tor´s trip.

He stood on a corner with his big pack on his back and his small pack in front. He tried to hail a cab to the Airport. He was supposed to be flying to Lima. All of a sudden, wabash. Tor´s head was covered in shit. He thought a bird had shit on his head, but Tor thought wrong. He placed his small bag on the ground in front of him when some man tapped him on his shoulder and asked what was all over his head. And in those ten seconds someone else grabbed his little pack filled with all sorts of goodies, his camera, laptop, passport and other valuables.

The guy ran and jumped on the bus. Tor quickly signaled a police officer.

The officer said, (I paraphrase now) "Son, you got human shit all over your head."

The officer stopped the bus and Tor and him looked for the bandito. The bandito bolted through the closing doors of the bus and headed through the park.

The reflexes of the officer were fast but not fast enough. The officer picked up his radio signaling the motorcycle cops to start their bikes. Next, Tor, with his head still covered with Shit, and the officer were speeding through the park while the bike cops scattered looking for the bandito.

The bandito outwitted Tor and the cops. The sly criminal escaped the grips of the Ecuadorain judicial system.

Tor eventually cleaned the shit off his head and stayed in Quito for three weeks where he met us and found out about the train.

The third time was not as dramatic as the second, but it was funny none the less. He was drunk one night and got jumped by some fifteen year old hoodlums. He had nothing left, so all they got from him was a package of gum.

Tor shook my hand and said, "Zach, thank you for a good trip. Good Luck on your travels." I shook his hand and said good bye.

Tor was a good gypsy, an original gypsy. He set the bar high for gypsies to come. It was a sad moment today. The first of the original cast to leave the train. He proved to me that not all Norwegians are pussies. I have seen many men drink, and I will say that he was up there with the best of them. He has so much passion and intensity for the hops. I appreciate that. Thank you, Tor. The train won´t be the same without you.

After Tor left, Alaena and Alex walked to find a mechanic and I stayed with the Bus. Within minutes some mechanic from town was on the job.

In another ten minutes, Alaena and I were pushing the bus down a hill to the mechanics shop.

"I wish someone could take a picture of this" she said.

A Letter from California



I recieved this email a few days ago from an old friend of Tom´s and I would just like to share it with our readers...

I've been enjoying your blog immensely! My wife and I are old friends of the very dangerous cargo you've decided to transport all over Ecuador (the infamous Mr. Dempsey) and can easily picture Our Hero late at night in the bars you've written about with his 34th cig in one hand and 52nd beer in the other, paralyzing some unfortunate bartender with a long winded and excruciatingly detailed story of some minor event in Tom's life. I can only hope that the recipient of the soliloquy doesn't understand English.

This has gotten great reviews back in the States:

'For example, the first night we were sitting around the fire and Tom looks at Mattias, one of the Germans who was eating a can of Tuna, and says, "Just like a fucking German, eating a can of fish at ten o´clock at night." The group erupted with laughter.'

I felt like I was there by the fire, watching the scene unfold, though I absolutely know with diamond bullet certainty that the line was "Just like a fucking Kraut, eating a can of fish at ten o´clock at night."

The next time Tom goes off on a tirade or is less than polite, casually tell him "Hey Tom... Nick and Shirley just called from California. They want me to tell you to shut the fuck up." That'll blow his mind.

Have fun. And though I know he won't offer if there is any promise at all of laying in the back drinking beer with cute Euro-girls, he's perfectly capable of helping to drive the bus. I've seen him deftly maneuver a 3 ton John Deere 5000 series tractor like a ballet dancer while sporting a World Cup-level hangover and juggling a bottle of Bud and a pack of Marlboros. It was both a thing of beauty and a obscenity-filled train wreck all at the same time.

Cheers,


Nick


...I did tell Tom to shut the fuck up from Nick and Shirley, but it didn´t work.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mamacitas in Montanitas



By Machete

It was the first sunny day since we had been on the coast. Holly ran through the water occasionally reaching for my hand. I followed. So did monkey. We made it back to town and walked the empty morning streets. We made it to her hotel.

It was a warm morning when she walked up the stairs and I followed and so did monkey.

"Quienes perro?" the proprietor said as we ignored and Holly knocked.

Jordan answered the door as Tor laid moaning in her bed due to his intense alcohol intake the night before. He laughed because my hair, face, and clothes were covered in sand. Monkey went under the bed and quickly fell asleep.

"What the fuck happened to you?" Tor asked.

"We slept on the beach." I said.

We weren´t in the room for more than thirty seconds when all of a sudden there was a loud crinkle sound and then a crash when the box fan that was sitting on the window sill crashed onto the metal awning, falling further to the street below.

"Did the fan just fall out the window?" Jordan asked.

We started laughing very loudly and then the owner knocked on the door. The door was opened. The owner looked in the room and saw four very confused people in a room that was supposed to have two. Two of these people were covered in sand from earlobe to ankle. There was a half drunk, half sleep deprived Aryan smoking a cigarette on the bottom bunk of a bed, a stray flea covered dog sleeping under the bed, and no fan in his hotel room window. It was seven in the morning.

He immediately started screaming at the girls demanding that they pay for the two strange men sleeping in the room. We tried to tell him in hung-over half spanish that we had slept on the beach, but he didn°t care. I paced the room with my cigarette in hand repeating the word no. The only way he would agree to leave was if the girls packed their shit and vacated the hotel that day.

The girls decided to go eat breakfast, come pack up and then leave Montanita that day. ( due to the incident in the hotel).

"Alright boys. Lets go." Jordan said as they began to leave for breakfast.

"We are just gonna stay here." I said. I hadn´t slept all night and all I wanted was to sleep in a bed even if it was for one hour. I had either slept on sand or on ground for the last week.

"I don°t know. Holly can they stay here?" Jordan asked.

"Sure." Holly said.

"I don°t know. Aren°t you guys gypsies? I don°t know if I like leaving gypsies in my room with all my stuff." Jordan said to me.

"You´re right to think that because we are gonna steal your shit and then dissapear." I said.

She finally agreed and they left the room. I layed in bed staring at the ceiling until they returned. I was trying to sleep when Jordan turned on the shittiest music I have ever heard. I dropped from the top bunk.

"Tor, back to the train."

"Yeah alright."

When we returned to the train, Tom was standing in his bathing suit wide eyed and vibrantly red. Alaena had just returned from the night before. She was incoherent and holding a Jingus and rolling around in the sun-warmed sand saying that she wished she never had to go to sleep again.

"What happened?" Tom asked Tor and I.

"Nothing Tom. Absolutely nothing." Tor replied.

"You motherfuckers, I knew you wouldn°t get shit. Zach I can understand, I mean he doesn´t have the golden dick, you Golden Dick dissapoint me. I´m removing your title." Tom walked back to the bus and put on his hat. "I need to go get some breakfast before I vomit."

Later in the afternoon, Tor and I refused to give up on the girls. They insisted on leaving Montanita, which I couldn´t blame them, this place was having an adverse affect on me. But we weren´t leaving, and they had no real reason to go, and we were horny. They made us beg them to stay all afternoon, which in some fucked up way Tor and I liked.

Where they went, we followed. At some point in late afternoon, Tor and I went to find the labido drainers when we saw Tom sitting in the middle of five or six people at some table at some bar telling the whole table, in prophetic high volume speech, that we were losers because we couldn´t get laid. I think Tom had told everyone in town.

"There they are, the hunters. Little puppies. Following their little girlfriends around like little puppies. You´re not gonna get anything. They got you morons." The people at the table laughed and laughed.

For the rest of the afternoon, while we tried to convince the girls to stay, we avoided Tom at all costs, running from him as he called us out. At one point, when we were right on the brink of convincement, Tor looked at me, "Shit! It´s Tom."

We ran down the beach rushing the girls along so they couldn´t hear Tom´s insults. If they did it might have ruined our chances of getting laid because they would have known that we told that harassing, rude old man everything.

To finish the story, the girls stayed, but Tom didn°t shut the fuck up all day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Overdrive

By Turbo

Clouds descended on the bus cutting visibility was down to 3 meters, to the left of the bus the earth dropped off into a 300 meter gorge. The road was littered with construction debree and I was approaching the 8th hour of intense driving.

When it comes to driving I have experience. I have crossed the lower 48 countless times in all sorts of vehicles and I have driven a car into the ground in New Zealand. These experiences are frail in comparison to driving a bus in Ecuador.

When we left Quito we expected to arrive on the coast in 2 days. At the time it seemed feasible.

Driving in Ecuador is hard.

Ecuadorian roads signs are non existent. If there is information posted on the side of the road there is no constancy. The signs will point you in the wrong direction, they maybe 200 meters before a turn or 2 meters after it. After 5 days on the road I´m beginning to believe that oil interests of Ecuador have sabotaged the road signs so you are forced to drive longer distances.

Asking for directions is a mute point. If you ask 5 different people for directions you will get 5 different responses. Our map is no better, it resembles a children's book with fairy tale roads.

It had been 3 days since we left Quito and we were still over 600 kilometers away from the coast. I was confident I could make the drive in one day. As the clouds descended on the Andean motorway I began to second guess my plan.

We were on the downward slope of the mountains, it took us 3 hours of arduous climbing to get to this point. The half constructed concrete road was soaking in a constant mist. Passing buses driving at reckless speeds forced me uncomfortably close to the cliff.

Driving had become a game of Russian rullet.

My personal favorite part of the road was the random construction that cut the road in half. In order to pass this obstacle you had to gamble. Its a quick decision, drive or wait? Is there going to be a car coming up hill driving without their lights on? After a few quick decisions I was beginning to figure this twisted game out.

The trick is to just go. The faster I passed the obstacles the sooner I was safely on my side of the road. As I approached the concrete or tress or buckets or all the above, I downshifted switched off the engine brake and punched the gas. The bus lurched into action. At the last moment I pulled into the lane narrowly missing the debris speeding past everything and sharply swerving back into my lane. I would repeat this process every 500 meters while fighting the limited visibility.

At 7am we left the jungle, we expected to take the road that is clearly listed in our maps from Banos to Riobamba. As we drove out of Banos it was becoming apparent that this road was nonexistent. 3 hours into our voyage we had backtracked to the roundabout we foolishly passed 2 days prior.

As we passed rural towns the topography drastically changed every hour. We drove the two lane roads through deserts, arid mountains, lush farmland, mountains, coast, marsh, cloud forest, jungle and rolling hills.

In one day of driving we went from the most eastern part of Ecuador to the western coast. We had seen the whole country in a day.

As we began to approach Guayaquil, I noticed some crazy person feverously waving his hands out the window of the bus ahead of us as it sped into the toll. I pointed him out to Zach. “Holly shit man that’s Andrew”, we had met Andrew in Quito a few weeks before he was just coming off a 4 mountain trek and was planning to meet us on the coast.

I quickly pulled into the toll paid the lady the two dollars and floored it out of the toll. Our small bus was no match for the larger overpowered bus but I pushed every horse to its limit. We reached a roundabout and Andrew’s bus pulled over. He came bounding out and sprinted towards us.

As he jumped on the bus we all laughed and gave high fives. I went back to driving and every one sat back and cracked a new round of beers while swapping stories.

Driving was beginning to wear on me. Beer bottles rolled around the back of the bus as our passengers cracked jokes and relaxed on the bed. I was the furthest thing from relaxed.

I had been at the helm for 10 hours. We were approaching Guayaquil, Ecuador´s largest city. After taking a 50 kilometer detour in hopes of bypassing the city I was driving through the dark into the heart of it. This was the last thing I wanted to do.

After countless stops for directions we finally pulled onto a 4 lane highway and were speeding to the coast.

As we pulled into the coastal town of Salinas I drove straight to the beach. We pulled into a dark ally and drove to the sea. I parked the bus and smiled. The bus had driven the best I could ask of it and we had survived a 14 hour day of driving.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jingus, Monkey, and Bus



By Machete

Jingus runs through the very nerve center of gypsies. Montanita is jingus.

I woke up in the bar on the beach 100 meters from our campsite this morning. We strung our hammocks to the poles of the bar. They close at dark, but they let us sleep there for free. They even let us sleep in. The proprietors just sit around all day in hammocks waiting for random customers to walk down the beach and when one strolls in they sell them a beer for a dollar fifty.

When I woke up this morning at noon, they said, "Muchas Cervezas?"

To which I replied, "Seis en la manana." They laughed.

Montanita has a party row of small concessions selling fresh fruit drinks with rum and Jingus. The first night we were here we sat and drank a lot of Jingus there. The lady bartender laughed when I ordered six more drinks as soon as we got our first ones. Basically everyday we have been here Tor, the professional norweigan sot, Tom and I start drinking after breakfast. Then we wonder the streets for a few hours, looking at girls and making jokes. At about six, we cook a dinner with all fresh ingredients. Fresh vegetables and fruit are cheaper in Ecuador than packaged food. After dinner, we sit around the campfire listening to Tom harass the Germans.

For example, the first night we were sitting around the fire and Tom looks at Mattias, one of the Germans who was eating a can of Tuna, and says, "Just like a fucking German, eating a can of fish at ten o´clock at night." The group erupted with laughter.

And after we listen to Tom for a few hours, we go to the party. The party is every night. We haven´t gone to bed before five any of the nights we have been here.

There are packs of stray dogs roaming the beach. A few have taken a liking to the Gypsy train probably due to the constant smell of fresh food in the air. We shew them away and throw bottles at them. They are disgusting. But then there is Monkey. Monkey is laying on the floor next to me as I write and Tor is drinking a beer next to me writing his friends on facebook.
When we were drunk the first night walking down the beach a random dog ran alongside us, I looked at him and said,"monkey." The group now refers to the dog as monkey. Everytime we walk down the beach we look for him, and call him. He always follows us. Yesterday, we were walking to town to get beer and we saw monkey so we called him over to us. We decided we would buy him a meal. Five of us walked into every tienda looking for dog food. I finally found some, and I bought it. We walked to the end of the street where the beach is, and dumped the food on the ground. We made a human fortress around monkey to keep away the other dogs. Then Mattias ran out of a store.

"I got a treat for monkey!" He screamed as he held a can of Tuna in his hand. We gave the Tuna to the dog as we shewed other dogs away. One dog walked up to us with his weiner hanging out.

Tom said, "I think that dog wants to fuck monkey. Get away Boner dog."

Well, monkey ate the food and we left to sip Jingus.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apprehension and Bus

By Machete

After four long weeks in Quito, we are finally ready to embark on this journey. I cannot say that I am without my doubts. When I handed the strange, middle-aged, overweight Hispanic named Fernando every cent I had in the world, apprehension flushed through my body. Maybe because everything is on the line, my trip, my money and my pride, on an idea we know nothing about. People say, when they´re drunk, that the idea is great and they would love to come, but only time will tell whether people really love the idea and we can survive or it will be tragically revealed that it´s a romantic masturbation created by four half-crazed delinquent travelers.

Either way we are bound together by the bus. There is no turning back. Our backpacks are full, and our first passengers are ready to roll. My fingers are crossed and I wish myself good luck. At least I know that I will do everything in my power not to fail at the task at hand, so if anything goes wrong I know, deep down in my heart and mind, that it was the fault of Alex and Alaena.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Life isnt just one big party, its a series of parties of various sizes."

The Gypsies

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Autobus Overhaul

By Turbo

The Gypsy Train is not just a bus. It is a life style, a place of residence, a calling and most of all one hell of an idea. In order for this brain child to work we needed our bus to be functional, stylistic and comfortable.

Fernando knows guys. He knows the screw guy to the gasket guy. Most of all, he knows the best place to take a bus to get some fabrication done.

I could feel we were getting close. The road had turned to dirt, the smell of oil, grease, smoke and labor filled the air. We pulled into the mechanics shop, busses and junk littered the dirt drive.

The earth was scorched and hardened from years of blood, oil, gas and sweat leaking into the once soft fertile soil.

The idea was simple. We wanted to get an estimate on the cost of a brake job.

Within minutes, 4 mechanics descended on our bus. One mechanic used his 5¨4 frame to lift the bus while the other pushed in a stone. It must have seemed safe enough to crawl under. Before we could speak up, the wheels, brake pads and drums were off the bus and new ones were going on.

Apparently in Ecuadorian auto shops if you hint at an idea it means you want it done.

Before we left the shop the rear seat had been removed, and we discussed plans for a steel-framed sleeping structure. We altered the traditional seating structure to something more fitting for the Gypsy Train.

Vamos and claro are probably Fernando´s favorite words. Everything is easy. All it takes is a wallet filled with endless gringo money.

Within an hour of driving around the Southern Quito neighborhood, we had the steel necessary for the modifications and the wood to be used for the sleeping deck. Without Fernando it would have taken us a week just to find the steel and lumber.

As our fully loaded van pulled back into the mechanics, it became apparent Ecuadorian mechanics don´t fuck around.

As we began to unload our treasures, I noticed that the mechanics were putting the wheels back on the bus. I rushed to the bus. I was certain they were fucking us.

I was wrong. They had replaced everything, new housing, bearings, gaskets, pads and cleaned the drums. It could have been the fastest I have ever witnessed an auto shop work. The Civilian was well on its way to becoming the Gypsy Train.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cash Money

By Turbo

I sat grasping my backpack between my legs, my neck strained from stress, paranoia rushing through my blood. Some say that the pen is more powerful than the sword, but I would have traded the red mechanical pencil I held tight in my grasp for any sword in the world.

I sat confused and alone on a dark stretch of industrial Quito back road. Fernando told me to wait in the car. He was very vague and I was sure I had lost something in translation. Each passing person looked like a machete toting bandito.

The cool afternoon wind rushed through my open window as I wondered how the hell I got myself into this mess.

The morning had started like every other business day. My business partners, Zach, Alaena and I had breakfast of toast, jam and coffee. Then I left the hostel. Unlike other mornings, I was nervously heading out on my own.

The mission was simple: obtain a cashier’s check for USD 2,750 and proceed to Southern Quito to meet Fernando, the seller of our bus. It was one easy sentence ¨yo necesito cheque banco.¨

Nothing in Quito is ever easy.

Banco Pinchincha opens at 9 a.m. I walked in, greeting the chrome .38 snub packing, bullet proof vest sporting guard at the door. Four steps later I was at the sexy bank clerk. All women working at banks in Quito are extremely sexy yet highly unhelpful.

We had been in the bank just 2 days prior. They confidently informed us we could obtain a cashier’s check. Apparently Banco Pinchincha´s ability to process and create checks varies day to day. I left empty handed.

If I had learned anything in the last two weeks of scavenging around Quito in search of Lawyers, busses, mechanics, more lawyers and yet more busses, it was that you can never give up. If someone says they can’t do something, they most likely can and probably just don’t want to.

Two cabs and 3 different banks later, I was growing tired of this little game.

During this idle meandering I had gathered intelligence that the main Banco Pacifico was technologically advanced enough to do a Visa Cash Advance. I owned a Visa, this was a major breakthrough.

I casually strolled into Banco Pacifico, greeting the guard, this time he had a shotgun. He also felt the need to check me for firearms, apparently its standard operating procedure. I liked the other guard more.

Once again I walked up to the sexy lady hiding behind a thick fa├žade of blush and red lipstick. The only thing separating me and my check was 3 inch bulletproof glass and every banks favorite word, NO.

There comes a point when the word NO is unacceptable. I knew that they could help me. I repeated my broken sentence, ¨Necesito, cash advance.¨ All I got back was a blank stare. Then it seemed that a little light flickered and in a flood of Spanish all the information on cash advances in the world rained out of this decorated bank teller´s mouth. I gathered enough and walked across the bank to the ever so conveniently located Cash Advance people.

The sound of cash running through a counting machine was music to my ears. I was so happy to get the money that I forgot to ask for a cashier´s check.

I walked out to the streets of Quito´s financial district with my backpack holding every cent I had in the world and confidently hailed the first cab I saw.

I sat in the cab with my backpack securely located between my legs. The cabby and I negotiated a price. As usual he assured me that he knew where the Condomino Chiriaca towered. As usual this was not the case. While we drove in circles, I could feel the 3 inch wad of cash in my backpack sending a beacon to every sewer dweller in a 2 kilometer radius. I was sitting bait.

Finally I figured out where I was, ¨Aqui es bano,¨ I yelled. I passed our negotiated price to the cabbie and down the street I went.

One more cab and a few more circles later I arrived at Fernando´s. He quickly ushered me into his van, and we were off to the bank.
….

My knuckles were growing white and began to hurt. This had to be a set up. It was too easy, where the fuck did he need to go so bad that he would leave me on this god forsaken stretch of asphalt.

According to The World Fact Book, the GDP per capita (ppp) of Ecuador is $7,400 as of 2009. In my backpack I held roughly what an average laborer in Ecuador would make in 6 months of hard work. Every scenario of death defying escape litters my mind.

I once read a book; the protagonist could kill any attacker with just a piece of paper. I was certain I could lodge my 6 inch piece of plastic pencil in an attacker and make a daring escape.

Luckily I didn’t have to.

I slowly slipped my red mechanical pencil back into my pocket as I watched Fernando approach his van from behind. ´´Vamos el Banco´´, he proclaimed. We drove forward leaving my fears in a cloud of carbon dioxide.

Fernando casually parked the van. We walked into the very bank that I had left 2 hours earlier with a wad of cash bulging from my backpack. I was searched again. We approached the same sexy bank teller presented her with a 3 inch wad of cash. She counted it three times, all smiles. Fernando got his statement and we exited the bank.

I smiled at the security guard with the shotgun as we strolled into the sunlight. It was just another day on the job in Quito.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You could never imagine the places buying a bus will take you.

By Machete













As we drove south of the city to Guamani, the fifth supposed car lot we had visited, we hoped that after all of our search we would finally find a bus. We remained hopeful.

The further south we went buildings seemed a bit more decrepit. Some concrete structures wore no roofs and others just wore shadows of what once was, peeling paint and misshaped metal sticking out in all sorts of directions where a roof once was. Some buildings were never finished, but still hinted of life. It was Sunday, so most businesses were closed and normal families weren´t wandering the streets. All the Martinez and Rodriguez clans of Ecuador were probably sitting down with their sons Jorge and Juan enjoying a few cervezas over a delicious merienda. The lack of Ecuadorian clans and the squalor outside our windows added to an uneasy feeling that was building inside our cab.

Trash lined the banks of the worn avenue. Our driver called headquarters repeatedly trying to figure out the way as Alaena questioned his speed and Alex and I sat quietly observing.

Where are we going, I thought. We had been in the cab for over thirty minutes.

As our collective nervousness came to a boil, we finally turned down a side street and began to go up. We came to the climax of the hill. People lined the streets, women, children, street vendors, skinny homeless dogs and cats. We paid the driver and got out of the car. Chaos surrounded us and it smelled like fried pork. We became engulfed in the scene, and our nervousness fell away as the giant lot of cars revealed itself.

We had all pictured it to look like this, a lot of cars as far as the eye could see, music blaring out of every car as their owners sat motionless in the front seat waiting for a bidder, hundreds of people wandering, inspecting, restaurants thrown together with bamboo, tarps, plastic tables, chairs, and whole deep fried pigs sitting on the front table enticing the hungry. This was it. But where were the buses in this murky, chaotic sea of sellers, customers and cretins.

We searched. In the distance one of us spotted a bus. We walked towards it. We came to a smaller lot full of buses and trucks. The excitement of the rainbow resurfaced.

There it was white, purple and black. The perfect size, the perfect price, the perfect moment at the perfect time in all of our lives. The only time that we could ever consider this idea, put all the work we had into it, and believe in each other and the idea so completely. The time before any of us had become jaded with time, failure, success, and stagnation. A time that we believed in and wanted. And I know that even if we don´t succeed, we had already lived our adventurous future, maybe only in our heads, thousands of times these past few weeks.

To the Pioneers of Bus


By Machete











The essence of a great story must have a great foundation, those first sparks, electric and vigorous, illuminating the canvas, quickly etching pictures in our heads that will remain there until the moment of death or senility.

Popayan is a small colonial town in southern Colombia, a quick stopover for travelers making their way to and from Ecuador. There is not much of a night life in Popayan, but we still managed to find ourselves half bent on the Saturday night that we all met. Alex and I met a few years prior serving Pizzas at the world famous hole-in-the wall, Pizza Carlo, located directly on the Copper Mountain strip. We had traveled two weeks together in Colombia when we met Alaena.

She met us the Thursday before. Alex and I wanted to travel to Tierradentro and she wanted to travel to San Agustin . We made loose plans to meet back in Popayan on Saturday. Alex and I were unsure if we would ever see her again. However, when we returned from Tierradentro, Alaena sat in the hostel living room making bracelets and drinking beer with Tom, our estranged fifty-seven year old traveling friend.

Alex and I joined Tom and Alaena. We were sharing our experiences when Alaena interrupted to ask us if we wanted to go out with her and her Danish friend, Hannah. Hannah had traveled with Alaena in Venezuela and fatefully extended her trip into Colombia due to a British Airways Airline strike.

Bountiful blonde laughter bounced off the walls as every man in the room sat silent when Hannah entered.

“Holy Shit,” Tom says to me, “You lucky motherfuckers. I bet you didn´t expect her friend to look like that.”

All I can remember of that night were hours of balcony conversations over cigarettes and beer, breaking to dance and laugh. That night protons and neutrons, disillusioned by their lives at home, bounced off walls, shadows, and stars and then collided.

Our lives would be tangled and changed from the events that would take place the following day.

We woke up hung over. Hannah was supposed to leave that day. That news alone put us all in a sour state. Alex, Alaena, and I decided to kidnap Hannah.

We walked to Hannah´s hotel. We demanded she have breakfast with us and accompany us to the hot springs later in the afternoon. She responded with an enthusiastic okay.

We had eggs, scrambled with onions and bell peppers, mandarins, avocados, French bread, coffee and a blackberry banana smoothie. It was delicious, and we never cleaned the egg pan. For some reason this really pissed Tom off. He later said, ´I´ve been staring at that shit all day, you lazy motherfuckers.´

After our complete and healthy breakfast, we took a bus to Coconuco, and then rode in a makeshift Taxi, a converted pick-up truck with benches in the bed and a tarp overhead, to the thermal pools.

Carved through a hill, a concrete waterslide ran through the middle of the thermal complex. Surrounded by cliffs and waterfalls, the complex was complete with a bar, restaurant and three thermal pools filled with every form of human creature one could imagine. We sat in the warmth of the pool, which we were convinced was warmed by the abundance of splashing children and their urine.

We picked our future spouses out of the plethora of freaks and oddities. I picked a voluptuous, sexually-titillating, Andean princess. Aleana picked a dark-skinned, pot-bellied, ass-crack showing, Colombian Bandito.

After our thermal soak, which ended abruptly to a bout of loud thunder, we purchased three pokers and a cheap bottle of Aguardiente at Hannah´s insistence. We sat atop the hill at a white plastic table drinking half the Aguardiente and all the beer as the rain pattered atop the plastic tent above our heads. The place was emptying quickly, so we decided to leave.

We were met at the bottom of the complex by a taxi-truck like the one before. We didn´t realize that the wheels of fortuna were set in motion as the bald tires of the cab began to roll over the brown, bumpy earth.

I can´t remember who saw the rainbow first, or who mentioned our need to get the pot of gold. But outside the window a great rainbow, fully arched, loomed and the cab was getting closer to the end where our pot sat.

Wide eyed and full of gold lust, we ran from the cab down the sandy streets of Coconuco until we saw where the rainbow ended. And then as only fate can recall, Hannah said, “Let´s start a moving hostel and drive all through South America. We could buy a bus”

It didn´t take long for agreeance and for the Aguardiente to flow for our great celebration. We drank joyfully as a Coconucan family observed us dance and grin as the rainbow began to fade. Because a rainbow can´t exist once it no longer has its pot of gold.

Machete