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The Border

Posted in COLOMBIA with tags , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2012 by pajazzoproductions

Despite the bad-boy image still clinging to Colombia like powder residues to a nosehair, in comparison to its next door neighbor Venezuela, Colombia is a reformed criminal, dressed up in suit and tie, not trying to hide its battlescars and prisontattoos- just trying to move on.

Venezuela is more of a thug still out prowling the streets; chaotic and paranoid, wild and raw.

But also painstakingly beautiful.

We arrive at the Colombian bordertown of Maicao, step one foot outside the bus and get instantly swarmed by peddlers selling their “por puesto” seats in one of the many beaten up old Chevvys lining the parking lot. They´re scratched and torned, patched up with ducktape.

We pay 27 pesos a head, sharing a once upon a time maroon Chevrolet with a Venezuelan couple. You´ll need to cross the border in one of these cars in order to get all the necessary stamps in your passport.

The driver pops his trunk with a screwdriver. The interior is draped in a fluffy sincity-red, a piece of metal at the treshhold to the door hangs loose, the panel seems stripped out. He mounted his instrument panel- horn, speed, gas- on a list by the windshield.

The only thing up to date is his stereo system and we´ve got four big speakers breathing down our necks in the backseat. And the driver likes his Venezuelan folkmusic LOUD. He only presses pause when a military checkpoint forces him to.

Still on the Colombian side, we get off to get our passports professionally scanned and stamped, everything computerized, organized.

On the Venezuelan side a woman with no interest in new people takes a recentful brake from her tell-tale magazine to scribble the information from our passports on a piece of paper.

For the first hour on Venezuelan soil, the land where the cockroaches fly, there´s a military checkpoint every two minutes. The wave us in, every time, we show our passports, every time. The only positive thing about it is it means a few seconds of respite from the accordians and vibratos of our drivers, Pedros, favourite artists.

Charming at first, after a few hours of non-stop blasting, I come to think of Guantanamo and the sophisticated method of torture where they put Metallicas “Enter Sandman” on repeat and turn the wheel of volume to max.

Another checkpoint. We pay a little something not to have our bags checked. A heavily armed MP makes the international sign of “roll your window down”. He looks serious. But looks can be deceiving. He´s got a small snake wrapped around his wrist, wiggling its forked tongue in the air.

We all start to laugh, him too, the stern look of hierarchy and discipline melt away for a mischievous kid.

Pedro has to be the fastest driver on the trail between Maicao and Maracaibo. A speedbump to him is only the perfect opportunity to squeeze by a couple of more cars. He´s not interested in lanes, if he feels the need to he pulls out into oncoming traffic, forcing them to balance one wheel at the verge of the ditch on the dusty roadside.

He only slows down to do the Venezuelan pick-up line to a woman pushing a chart with coffee and cigarettes. He says: “kss-kss”. Pussycat. Meow. She obviously knows him , she laughs and calls him “Loco”.

We´re told this trip should take four hours. He does it in three. We´re there. He turns off his stereo. I´m willing to confess to anything.

Taking the nightbus from Maracaibo I´m told to shut the curtain to my window, since longdistance buses with gringos are much appreciated as target practice for malandros. I´m told a woman and her baby were shot dead a couple of weeks ago, right through the window.

Welcome to Venezuela.

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