There aren't any trains in South America, very few at least. Flying from one place to another is (A) very expensive and (B) cheating. So the vast majority of our mileage is done by good old autobus.
Thankfully the long distance coaches are pretty flash and not too expensive, which is good when you have to spend 16 hours on them.
That said, the bus is only half the story. Generally at the helm of the buses are drivers with some serious issues. They throw the coaches around the twisting Colombian roads, overtaking on corners and breaking at the last minute for speed bumps.
So trying to get any sleep is difficult, despite the fact that the seats almost recline to a horizontal position. It's akin to trying to get 40 winks on a ghost train, or a relatively tame roller coaster. In fact, it's worse than that, because at least on a ghost train or roller coaster you know, deep down, that you are safe. The lingering thought that you might die a terrible, firey death having plunged 200 feet down a canyon isn't generally conducive to a good night's sleep.
Add to that the fact that they play very loud Colombian music and turn the air-conditioning down to near-Arctic temperatures and the whole experience is far from peaceful.
On a recent trip to Bogota from San Gil, the driver told Stacey to turn her reading light off because it would keep people up. I'm annoyed my Spanish wasn't good enough to argue: “But the horrible remix of the Lambada you've had on repeat at high volume for the past 25 minutes and the fact that we all suspect that you are a danger to us all behind the wheel will help people drift off, will it?”
But (touching wood as I type) we haven't had any accidents so far. We just arrive in our destination sleep-starved and slightly grumpy.
We're in chilly Bogota now and we plan to stay here for a few more days. It's a sprawling, messy city set against an impressive backdrop of mountains. Yesterday we enjoyed 'chocolate santafereno', which is a bitter hot chocolate with salty, creamy cheese which you drop in to the drink. It's actually pretty good.
Like many other cities around the world, there seems to be a bubbling tension with young people. We witnessed students marching against reforms to the education system, while many of the banks and public buildings are daubed in graffiti and splatters of paint.
In more trivial news, we have come up with a new strategy for coping with the large number of beggars we get followed by. Yesterday I reached in my pocket and gave one chap a coin, only for him to catch up with us an hour or so later, presenting the coin between his finger and thumb as if to say “What the f**k is this?”
Rude, I thought, until I did a little maths in my head an realised I had given him a little over a penny. So with that in mind, we bought some biscuits (larger, more square but less cheesey versions of Mini Cheddars), which Stacey keeps in her pocket. When a beggar puts their hand out, we give them some food, which is better than money, because they can't buy drugs with an oversized Mini Cheddar.
The first tramp we came across was very, very appreciative. In fact, I thought she was going to kiss Stacey like the tramp in Cartagena did to us both. The second tramp however, looked at the biscuits with a scowl and then, to our amazement, handed them back to Stacey, shaking her head. It turns out that beggars CAN be choosers when it comes to cheese-based snacks.
We'll stay in Bogota for a few more nights. We're going to see a cathedral in a salt mine tomorrow. On Sundays here in Bogota, 120km of the city's roads are closed to cars, leaving them free for cyclists, so we're gonna hire some bikes and rip around the streets, before checking out some of the museums.