The 27 Hour Bus Ride
Sabana de Torres Travel Blog› entry 10 of 84 › view all entries
After a few days of recovering in Cartagena it was off to Bogota on what was supposed to be an 18 hour bus ride which cost 130,000 pesos since it is peak travel season in Colombia. For the first time I actually had a timid taxi driver and made it to the bus station only 10 minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave only to find that I was first person to load luggage onto the bus. Despite this we actually left more or less on time and the bus proceeded along good roads. We made a stop at some restaurant/store/bathroom bus stop in the middle of nowhere around 9pm. Naturally I was the only non Colombian there and had lots of people looking at me.
I started thinking about Colombia and the things that I'd seen so far. As we passed soldiers standing by the road I had a hard time seeing anything but a kid with a gun behind the camouflage after interacting with the soldiers by the Lost City. The minimum age for military service is 18 but some of the ones we talked to had said that they falsified documents or lied and were only 15 or 16. Military service is also mandatory but I was told that you can pay your way out of it if you want to, $1500 or one year of military service. When you pay the money or serve in the military you get a card which you need to show in order to get a job or got to school. But apparently even if you pay there is no guarantee that the military might come by to check your papers and say oh this isn´t correct and unless you know someone with connections you are stuck. With so many men in the military this might be one explanation for the large number of young single women with small children that I've seen everywhere. It is really strange to always see young women with kids far outnumbering the number of young couples. I'm not quite sure why this is but others agreed with me about noticing the same thing. The whole cocaine culture is quite fascinating as well. I´m sure that a significant number of the rich families in Colombia have ties either directly or indirectly to the cocaine trade. It is not hard to imagine how much money this generates as the coca leaves that a farmer makes can be sold and turned into cocaine in a single day. That cocaine sells for about $5 a gram on the streets of Colombia, for a profit, and by the time it reaches the streets of the US it sells for over $100 a gram probably after being cut several times over. The soldiers that we hiked with to the Lost City were out on patrol looking for coca plants, when they find them they spray them with pesticide which kills the plants but not the roots, in about a years time the plants will grow back, healthy as ever. For the people in it there are tremendous amounts of money to be made, much more than a farmer could ever hope to earn otherwise. Another strange thing in Colombia is the communications system. Cell phones are prevalent but there are many different cell phone companies and each has its own plan with included minutes, much like the US, and there are different prefixes for the numbers from different companies. However, calls from one cell company to another cost a fortune, so these call stores are everywhere and you just go in and they have cell phones from all the different companies that you can use. By far the best culinary aspect of Colombia has to be the tropical fruit juices, they are just awesome. I´ve had so many different kinds, some of them I have no idea what they are and others the people haven´t even tried to describe what they are. Some of the ones that I´ve tried and I don´t know if there are english translations to these or not: maracuya, lulo, zapote, barajo, tree tomato, mora (a type of blackberry), guanabana, plus a few others that I don´t even know how to spell in spanish. They blend these fruits with either milk or water and they are only a dollar or two. I think there are at least 20 that I haven´t tried yet, hopefully they will have them in Ecuador too.
The bus ride continued past some nice scenery along Rio Magdalena then climbed up into the mountains via a slow and winding road until I finally saw a sign that bogota was 110 km away. On this road with our bus trying to pass along these blind curves probably meant 2-3 more hours. As we entered the sprawling metropolis of 8 million people that is Bogota the scenery became less spectacular until the mountains bordering Bogota on the east side came into view. Soon thereafter we arrived at the bus terminal around 4pm, completing the 27 hour bus ride. I had been warned to carefully check the serial numbers on the taxis to make sure that the license plates, match the numbers on the side, roof, and window, and that these are identical with the number on the drivers license displayed inside the cab. There are some fake taxis which have been known to kidnap people and take them to ATMs to withdraw money. Everything checked out fine and within 20 minutes I was at my destination, looking forward to not being on the bus anymore.