When you arrive to the terminal, the bus is already full
You and your friend each slip the busetera 20 extra bolis to let you on anyway
you ride up front with him
Government commissioned art on the highway walls
The charter bus stops to pick up a woman off the side of the road.
The busetera stops to buy coffee from a man standing at a speed bump
he buys a cup for you and your friend.
Later stopping for the two buseteras to piss
on the side of the bus.
<<Vota pa Chavez 98>> sprayed on a rock
A prostitute in a shiny bra and panties, jumping up and down smiling.
An old man stands on his porch, watches the cars go by.
A bird flies into the window
A man lounging on the open flatbed of a semi
while passing you on the highway.
The bus driver tells you a story,
this is where a terrible bus accident happened.
He honks at a girl walking alongside the shoulder, <<Qué culo>>
You need to pee as it starts to rain.
Passing yet another military checkpoint
avoiding eye contact with the guards.
Not carrying your original passport
and don’t have enough money to spare for a bribe.
A lightning strike confirms that you are out of the Andes.
Your friend takes out his contacts
drinks some water, crawls to a mattress on the floor to sleep.
It’s 11:45 and you’re running low on paper.
Doing 80 kms in a tunnel marked 40.
The stop light counts down in giant, red digital numbers
the busetera blows it with 9 seconds left.
He mumbles something about blowing them when no-one’s around
You get the idea and laugh.
It’s now past midnight and you consider sleeping.
Stop for a family of 3 holding blankets, waiting in the rain
You offer the busetera some platanitos.
He accepts silently with an outstretched arm,
eyes fitted on the road.
It starts to pour.
Passing a fruit truck with an open bed literally full of people standing,
you count 15 as you pass, but there were more.
One woman waves.
The rain seems to be flying, angling towards the windshield
There’s a woman selling coffee at a speed bump despite the storm.
3 motorcycles in a row, 2 guys on each, and a 4th stopped ahead.
The chamo on the second is driving with his feet.
Arms crossed, leaned back.
Sleep is considering you.
Stop for gas and arepas.
There’s a woman outside the bathrooms selling toilet paper.
There’s a team at the gas station from the University, dressed in white and blue tracksuits
you spot the girl from the comedor at school.
Turns out they’re a <<kicking ball>> team
<<es como beisball pero con las piernas>>
About to leave the gas station, 2 chamos join the bus
They take your seats and you take the unoccupied mattress on the floor.
Mickey Mouse sheets.
It’s 1:44 am, might as well sleep
At 2:47 you’re woken up by the other busetera.
Evidently after an hour it’s his turn to use the mattress.
The 2 seats are still taken so you wake up your friend to share his mattress as a seat,
<<¿Como estás?>> <<bien.>>
From here you can look out the window.
It’s 5:27 and it has stopped raining
You wake up in the flatlands of Venezuela
and watch the sun rise over the scattered mountains in the distance
the sun fills the infinite sky above. Jiropo on the radio
You’re surprised you slept for 2 hours in this position
and devise a plan with your friend to sleep at each others’ feet.
The bus has become uncomfortably cold.
It’s getting colder.
6:45am, the second pee break for the bus
You recognize the gringo of another bus from the last stop,
the buses must travel in packs.
The buseteras switch, the first gets to sleep
but he’d rather talk to you and your friend.
More jiropo, view of the rolling mountains outside the windows.
Some kind of fruit trees, the busetera falls asleep.
The busetera said only 3 hours left with cola
so you should sleep.
can’t seem to close your eyes, reject the morning sun
gently waking up the rolling, green mountains outside your window
Techno Europop on the radio
Woken up briefly to hear the other busetera ask a woman out the window where the cola’s coming from
Didn’t hear her reply.
There’s a show about finding your feung-sheu on the radio
It’s almost 10 am, waking up to see there is an immense cola in front and behind
It is the topic of conversation and jokes
They’re watching a movie with Spanish subtitles in the cabin
<<sólo necesita el popcorn pa un cine>>
The busetera is laying on the mattress on the floor
You offer him some platanitos.
This time he replies
You have been together for 13 hours now
Joke about the complaints around the sound quality of the movie, why should they care–it’s in English.
The busetera says it hasn’t even come out in theaters yet
but he bought it on DVD last night, in the street
SUVs and jeeps form a steady new lane in the ditch along the highway.
The semi passing reads <<se aceptan los pasajeros>>
It’s 10:30 and the busetera gives you the best piece of gum you have ever tasted
and you talk about marijuana laws
You show the busetera the chapter about Spanish swear words in your book.
There’s a massive Polar factory out your window
You pass an accident on your right,
2 sugar trucks have tipped, men standing on mountains of brown unrefined sugar
The reason for the cola.
You and your friend talk to the busetera
taxes, capitalism, curse words, socialism, working, imperialism, gasoline, money, corruption of police
but not in so many words.
he pauses to point out a drunk driver and laughs
At 11:22 the chamos are leaving, you and your friend take the seats back
They get let off
On the side of the highway
No buildings within sight
The busetera offers you some chimó
You accept, your friend doesn’t.
This chimó is particularly strong and instantly you feel like you’re floating, your eyes start watering, your bottom lip burns. You feel like you are having a heart attack.
It is not a pleasant feeling.
Your water bottle is 1/16 full of your thick, brown spit and the feeling passes.
Now you just feel like you drank too much coffee
still can’t write straight
You are soaring between the mountains
There’s a hitchhiker
A family walking on the side of the highway
Later a dead dog
A cola many miles long going in the other direction
Venders walking down the center of the cola
ice cream, agua, bracelets, platanitos, t-shirts, slices of San Juaquín cakes, flags of fútbol teams on boards, in bags, platters, by hand, on top of their heads
A multistory white statue of Jesus
A billboard for Levis
A mountainside blanketed in shanty-houses
30 minutes from the terminal
Arte, beautiful graffiti
toucans, jaguars, the Earth and a gas mask, resistencia, Bolívar
The buseteras point out a national park
they tell you where to find prostitutes
Qué cola, American 80s music on the radio
<<if we took a holiday, c’mon let’s celebrate>>
An ambulance drives with sirens between lanes
So do families on motorcycles.
A slow jam on the radio, a duet between French and Spanish
Women in red t-shirts painting the guard rails yellow
Entering the city, brown concrete apt. buildings on either side
plastered with billboards, scraping the sky
Samsung, Heinz, Nivea, “Yes” live in concert
16 hours later, 12:23pm the Caracas terminal
a 60-ish year-old women drinking cough syrup on the bench
a 60-ish year-old man ranting about Chávez
a women playfully snuggling with her son, giggling.
The art, the people, the size, the music
The living, breathing cultural center of a nation
Bienvenido a Caracas.
– Charles C. Lehnen