At the moment I’m having the great luck of being in Colombia, where Joseph and I presented our let’s fight corruption mantra at the “World Summit on Youth Volunteering”. The summit was sufficiently insightful to justify the 3 days flight journey to get here, but more on this later. Now I just want to write about a small incident that happened to me yesterday night:
At around 9 pm I took a bus from beautiful Cartagena to Santa Marta, 3-4 hours away. I immediately fell asleep. It must have been after midnight when the bus driver woke me up and told me that I should drop off for Santa Marta. Outside it was dark, the bus was parked at a junction, and the only thing I could see was one taxi next to the bus. I also realised that I – the only gringo – was the only person to get off.
“For scenery and safety, only take bus rides during day-time” I remembered to have read in a guide book. I also remembered a Colombian friend from the summit repeatedly reminding me to be VERY cautious when traveling alone. I tried to ask the passengers who were awake if this was really the stop for Santa Marta. But the people who earlier had smiled at me friendly now just replied with a short “no se” (don’t know) and looked away. A woman indicated to the bus driver, who had already loaded my backpack into the taxi and now impatiently told me to get out of the bus.
I sat down next to the taxi-driver, a young man with a somehow scared expression, avoiding to look into my eyes. When I told him the name of the hostel I wanted to go to, he did not seem to recognize it. He said “Centro?” I said ok. He resisted my efforts to continue the conversation. We drove through dark streets, sporadically seeing men standing around or passing by. The driver received a phone call, which he replied to with short words. I meant to see his chin trembling
At this point the Dar es Salaam feeling came back. What kind of mafia game have I jumped into again? I thought. I decided to ask the driver to stop as soon as I saw any hotel, and if he would not, pull the hand break, if necessary fight, and jump off. My seatbelt was fastened whilst his was not, so he probably would not risk an accident. And if yes, I would be better off.
But for the next fifteen minutes we did not pass any hotel or better looking lighted area. Then we entered an area of narrow streets – and in one of them were forced to go at foot pace by a garbage collection car. Fifty metres ahead on the right I saw a hotel sign. I unfastened my seatbelt, ready to jump off if he would not stop at my demand.
But we stopped before I could say anything. We had reached the hostel.