Hitchhiking in A Country of Drug Trafficking and Armed Conflicts

I was planning to hitchhike from Medellin to Bogota, which was about 400 km from each other. I started early in the morning, with a luxurily big cardboard. On one side, it’s written “Bogota” and the other side “Anywhere but preferably bogota”. Yes! I was well prepared! I walked from the nearest metro station to the starting point suggested by hitchwiki. That was a Mobil gas station. There was a lot of traffic, dust and eyes on me…… I asked about 20 drivers in the station and everybody politely said they were not going to Bogota direction and then off they went, to Bogota direction……
A couple of passers-by suggested me to try another spot which was a bit up the road. I moved there, with all the attention on me.
5 minutes later a car stopped! There were 3 people inside and they looked neat and friendly. I got into the backseat. The driver spoke with a strong accent of Medellin. His name was Alejandro, driving to Rio Negro with his wife and brother. Alejandro was doing business in Cartagena, He imported things from China and sold them wholesale. In the meantime one of his friends was in China buying things. They kindly invited me to stay with them and the next day go to Cartagena together. No, I would still go to Bogota, where my couchsurfing host was already waiting for me.
It was only a 50 km drive but we were stopped by police 3 times. They checked Alejandro’s driver license, ID and the trunk. The last time they asked all the men to step out, hold up our arms, facing the car and then meticulously searched all of us. That was my first time to be searched by a police because of no obvious reasons. I was searched once by a militia in Congo, who found that I crossed the border illegally from Uganda. Anway the policing was really tight as Colombia was unfortunately famous for drug trafficing. When we were nearing Rionegro, Alejandro gave me 20000 pesos, which was about 7 USD. WOWO! There was no way to say no.
They dropped me at a perfect spot where a lot of trucks would stop for a meal and there was plenty of space to pull over.
The sky was blue again and I felt that the world was such an amazing place! 😀
Then I waited and waited in this great spot, trying signs on both sides. It got rainy after 2 hours. I put the cardboard above my head. There was a local woman who just bought a big mirror and some vegetables who was also hitchhiking. She was picked up within about half an hour. The rain stopped and I was still there.
Many children from middle school or primary school were passing by and they stared at me like seeing an alien. Two of the little school girls came up to ask me how Chinese language sounded like. In case you don’t know yet, unlike Panama, Oceania, North America or Europe, there were very few Chinese people residing in Colombia. I had been asked by Colombian people for photos several times, both inside Colombia and in Panama.:)
I waited and waited. Whenever a vehicle stopped I would come up to ask, but the answers were always negative.
An old man came up with a cup of coffee and big smile to welcome me to Colombia. I drank the coffee with sugar. It was heart-warming!
Soon it had been 4 hours since I arrived there and the rain started seriously pouring down. I then went to the nearby bus station and bought a ticket for Bogota. On the way the bus passed all the trucks which said they were not going to Bogota direction. I witnessed a car/truck crash. The road was so winding, mountainous and narrow that I arrived in Bogota at midnight. 🙂
Good news is that I am still alive and kicking. 😀
In a country torn apart by armed conflicts and drug wars trust is not an easy thing. The nobel prize winning president was trying to push another referendum to reach a peace deal with FARC rebels, who had been fighting with the government since about half a century ago. I saw big billboards with “Saber Perder” (Learn to Forgive) on the roadside.

Right now there is an American TV serial based on the story of the drug lord Escobar on TV and Medellin was the very place he based in. As my couchsurfing host in Medellin said “Colombia is famous for two things, drugs and prostitutes. Foreigners come mainly for these 2 things.” There was no doubt that the police would enforce such a tight security routine on the roads out of Medellin.

No, hitchhiking in Colombia is not easy…… especially for a guy who looks totally like a serial-killer like me. 😀 😛

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