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Part Deep Inside Colombia Crossing The Andes with aSurfboard

PART 2. Oh how Colombians love their music. The type of music coming from the smoothie vendor boom-boxes always seemed to set the distinctive tone of that town.

They always played the music that was popular in that particular area. Whether it was "Salsa", "Costeño", or whatever type, it was always pure Colombian music. As we were waiting for our smoothies, my eyes began to wander. I started to take in the sights and sounds of that little village in the mountains. I saw two soldiers who looked about seventeen years old standing across the street in front of a small cafe. They were holding machine guns, and giving me the eye.

These were Colombian Government soldiers who were stationed in little towns like this to keep them out of the control of Leftist Guerillas who live in the jungles that surround them. Some of those remote Colombian towns have an aura of unrest, and that one was definitely one of them. I dared not pull out any cameras at that moment. The last time I decided to videotape in a town like that, I was immediately approached by two soldiers and promptly escorted away.

I thought I would never be seen again. Lucky for me, my wife's brother-in-law was with us at that time. He happened to be a Colonel in the Colombian Military, so he interceded on my behalf.

He explained to them that I was just some "crazy Gringo" who was in Colombia to visit his wife's relatives, and to surf the waves that Colombia had to offer. They released me to the good Colonel, and I promptly put my cameras away. Apparently, Guerillas have been known to come into town and videotape the soldiers and the police. Then they hand the footage over to hired assassins who slip into town soon afterwards and kill them.

I can understand the soldier's apprehension with cameras. After that incident, my M.O. on the trip was to stay low-key, and not draw attention to myself.

My wife and I were getting some evil stares from several local folks that were wandering around the streets. I wanted so badly to pull my cameras out and pass the time documenting everything we were experiencing, but I could not risk it. Soldiers are not the only ones I needed to worry about. Being kidnapped by Guerillas was always in the back of my mind. Although I was able to get a lot of great footage and photos along the way (when it was permissible), my memory was my camera most of the time.

It was going to be dark in a couple of hours. We did not want to be in that village after dark. I would much rather have been viewing that town from the safety of a bus seat just passing through, but sometimes you have to stop to change busses.

In that case, the bus we were waiting for was running late, thus the unscheduled and excruciatingly long delay. As I was thinking about how glad I was going to be to get back on one of those colorful busses, a crusty old man on a Burro walked past us and gave me the stink eye. I tried to ignore it as I turned my glance upward and away from him.

I began to stare at the thick mountain foliage that surrounded that little town. It was still a very wild and untamed country out there. Civilization barely had a foothold. I could see how maintaining control would be difficult for the Colombian Government. Suddenly, I received a tap on my back and I jumped as if I had been electrocuted. It was the smoothie guy, letting me know our freshly blended fruit smoothies were ready.

He handed them over to us, and we paid him with a few Colombian coins that equaled about ten cents in American money. The smoothies on that trip tasted better than anything you could ever buy in the United States. The milk they used was so fresh it seemed like it was squirted straight from the cow into the blender.

They also blended in all kinds of exotic tropical fruits with names like "zapote", "tomate de árbol", and "maracuyá", all of which are incredibly delicious and can be found growing wild in the areas around the towns we visited. Those smoothies were like something a Slurpee aspires to be in it's wildest dreams. As we were enjoying our smoothies, another local man walked up to us and made a sales pitch for a very interesting product; dried iguana eggs.

He had several strings of them hanging around his neck like necklaces of giant white pearls that were about the size of quail eggs. His semi-white tee-shirt had a sweat stain from his neck down to his belly that had a brown border of dirt gathered on the edge of it. It was really hot out there, but he did not seem to mind. His face and hands told the story of a man who had worked hard his whole life in the South American sun.

He was probably only about fifty years old, but his skin was wrinkled beyond it's years. This man claimed that the iguana eggs provided magical powers of fertility and sexual stamina to anyone who eats them. He then looked at me and winked. I could not help but wonder at that moment how many kids this iguana egg vendor had back at home.

My wife and I chuckled at his bold claim, and politely declined his offer. As my wife turned away for a moment to find something in her backpack, I quickly handed the man several crumpled up bills on the sly. He then winked at me again, and handed me two strings of iguana eggs, which I promptly concealed in my day-pack. I figured I may be able to use these eggs on a romantic moonlit night in beautiful Tayrona, after a long, arduous journey. Copyright 2006. Michael P.

Connelly- .

By: Michael Connelly

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