Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Road to Neiva

So, let's see. Yesterday we took Coomotor (a fancy bus company) from Bogota to Neiva. It was like a Continental flight. There was a stewardess. They gave us snacks and blankets (more than I can say for the last few American flights I took). They played Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie, dubbed in Spanish. All for $17 a person! There were two drivers, and they switched shifts while the bus was going some 30 mph. (The buses try to make as few stops as possible to prevent thieves and bandits from getting on, so that might have been why. Or it may have just been an efficiency play.)

We saw lots of cows and goats, some beautiful countryside, and some not-so-beautiful shantytowns. We also saw lots of cops on motorcycles, zooming past us with giant rifles strapped to their backs.

The military and police presence is a lot bigger here than in Bogota. It's been nearly a decade since the guerrillas have done any kidnappings or bombings in Neiva, but the memory of them is still strong. As Claudia drove us around the small city (about 400,000 people), she pointed out two apartment complexes that had been taken over in the past, the people sequestered for ransom. Sometimes the guerrillas took people out of the complexes and into the mountains. Though she is skeptical of the paramilitary forces, saying both they and the guerrillas are deeply involved in the drug trade, Claudia has a lot of confidence in the police, so that is good. At the entrance to the parking lot to the mall, police opened car trucks and checked out the vehicles to make sure there were no bombs. Reminded us of Israel.

*Note: Yet another reason we are doing this trip before we have kids.*

All that said, Neiva is a lovely city. We woke up this morning to huevos and cafe con leche, and are now lazing about in the 80-degree heat, looking out over palm trees and traffic. After lunch, we'll go visit Claudia's interior design business and explore the city a bit. Life be tough on the road.