Leaving El Cocuy was interesting…
Our truck was secured in a nearby parking lot. I went to go pick it up one Sunday morning around 7AM, hoping the garage owner would be awake.
As I approached the garage I heard a lot of singing and revelry taking place. I figured, maybe its church?
I round the corner to the garage and find 15 guys streaming out of the bar across the street. They are singing songs and taking shots of Aguardiente (The anise-flavored Colombian liquor of choice).
The man in the middle is signing loudest of all. The crowd parts and who do I see? Why, the owner of the parking garage!
“Hello good day sir, Could I get my car please?”
“MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND, MY WONDERFUL FRIEND, YES YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAR, BUT FIRST YOU MUST TAKE A SHOT WITH ME!”
Well… It may be 7AM on a Sunday, and I may need to drive all day through crazy mountain roads but it would be rude to refuse. Yes, I tell myself. It would be rude to refuse…
We all file back into the bar. The oldman barks at the bartender who brings him a bottle of Aguardiente, he grabs one of the random crumpled plastic shotglasses strewn about the bar and fills her up overflowing. He grabs one for himself and hands me some sort of little unpeeled fruit. (I later learned it was a “Lulo” fruit)
SALUD! He knocks it back and bites into the unpeeled fruit.
SALUD! I knock it back as well. MMMM… the taste of ether and licorice fills my throat as I bite into the fruit to dull the pain. The fruit tastes sort of like a semi-sweet miniature orange and surprisingly compliments the anise very well. That was actually pretty damn good, I think to myself.
“DO YOU LIKE IT?”
“Oh yes, very good. Thank you very much my friend. Could I get my truck please?”
“YES YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAR BUT FIRST YOU MUST TAKE A DRINK WITH ME!”
“Haha well my friend, I have a long drive today!”
“YES BUT FIRST A DRINK!”
He lines up the crumpled glasses once more and fills them up, spilling 1/4 of the bottle in the process.
Welp… when in El Cocuy.
One drink quickly escalates into Ten.
Eventually we are all back in the street, signing to hills and swapping stories of our travels. My new friends want to learn American curse words. I teach them some. They in turn teach me some curse words in the ancient mountain dialect of their people. I now know how to say “ASSHOLE” in chibchan… They also asked if Mexico was safe. (Damn, the media even has Colombians scared haha!)
I have found there is a level of diminishing returns while drinking and speaking in a foreign languages. The more you drink, the easier the foreign words flow, in turn the better you communicate… However, if you keep drinking eventually you tip over the edge into rapid freefall and communication becomes impossible. Luckily by that point words are just details.
We are all friends and brothers under the glow of Aguardiente.
After an hour or so, I remember that Lauren was waiting at the hostel and probably wondering where the hell I am at, eventually I am able to convince the owner to release my truck. I stumble back to the hostel.
“Are you drunk!?”
“Ya well… I had to get the truck!”