Thursday, June 10, 2010

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.


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