Monday, April 16, 2012

Surviving a Car Crash in Colombia

The trip from Barichara started on Friday the 13th, and while I am not normally cognizant of these mythical ‘bad luck days’ I have to say it was interesting. First, I was supposed to have a real car taxi to take me to the bus terminal, but the number I was given turned out to be for the three-wheeled jitney, So it was kind of like riding a motorcycle but with plastic cover and room for a suitcase. It actually only took about 15 minutes longer than the car taxi and I was grateful it wasn’t a horse and buggy which would have taken all day AND all night.
This was my jitney and driver from B'chara.
Then I was rushed onto the 11 p.m. bus and as I sat down and started to gather my wits, I realized one critical wit was missing - my passport! Oh crap. I knew we were on our way to Socorro and I had to think about how to solve this problem. About five minutes out of Socorro, I moved up to talk to the driver and told him I had forgotten my passport and he would have to let me get off the bus in Socorro. He reluctantly agreed and I found a taxi to take me back to San Gil.
Well, the first part of the problem - getting the passport - was solved when I called my Angels in Barichara who agreed to hire a car to drive them to the bus station and meet me there in time to catch the 12 a.m. bus. But because I was expecting to have my passport (and the slush fund I had in the same envelope) I only had $28,000 COPs for the taxi driver who really wanted $30,000. ($15 USD +/-) I told the taxi driver I could take his name and see that the money got to him... he said “No,” and judging from my frazzled appearance I can see why he wanted to be well rid of me.
I waited and waited.... time ticking by and the woman in the terminal was calling out “Bogota! Bogota!” meaning the bus was arriving. If I missed this bus, the chances of making my flight at 9 a.m. was slim to none. Just a few minutes before 12, my friends rushed in with the passport, and the money inside (so I could buy another ticket) and then they explained to the bus people what had happened and I was allowed to use my old ticket !! Yippee!! But the car man said it was going to $50,000 for this midnight run. And the reason they nearly didn’t make it was because he was just about out of gas! I think I understood correctly that he took off the gas cap and blew into the tank to get them the rest of the way to the terminal!
Finally on the bus, I was unable to sleep thinking about how many blessings I had had and how close a call it was for me to make the flight. Eventually fatigue took over and I did catch a couple of hours of sleep and as we pulled into Bogota, I had no idea what a close call was.
The right front fender and bumper were damaged in the hit;
my arm at the elbow was bruised - not worth a photo.
I did the usual bathroom run so I could push onward to get through all the lines at the airport without interruption. But the line for the taxis was horrendous... silly me, I never realized it was, of course, Saturday - the weekend. By the time I was through the line, I was already past the three-hour international arrival-at-the-airport-time. The taxi driver was young, eager, and quick. I was just about to tell him what good driver he was as we were approaching the last set of curves at the airport, when he skidded coming into one of the curves that had filled up with water and mud from the rain the day before, and plowed right into a guardrail, causing me to jam my elbow into the door.
Another reminder to wear seatbelts, folks! He jumped out of the car and instead of coming over to see how I was, he went to look at his car - WTF? I knew as we were coming into the curve that he wasn’t going to make it. I could feel the car sliding and I think I must have braced myself before he even realized he was in trouble. The jolt to my elbow wasn’t the first bump, but the second when we bounced off the guardrail and back into traffic, neatly avoiding being crashed into by some other rushing fool.
I did a quick assessment of myself - head still attached, no blood, sore arm, any whiplash? Nope. Just at that time, he stuck his head back inside the car and asked how I was. I said, “I am furious! You were driving too fast! And you caused me to hurt my arm. I am going to be even madder if you make me miss my plane!”
I took a picture of the car and driver in case there are any consequences of his bad driving, and hurried inside before the shock of the accident set in. The line at JetBlue was short and I explained to the agent what had happened. They asked if I wanted special assistance and I simply nodded, not knowing exactly what that meant. I was moved into the Special Assistance line which was very much shorter than the other one.
JetBlue staff was very helpful and I was glad
for a seat where I wasn't crammed into it.
By the time I was through getting my bag checked and received my boarding pass, they had a wheelchair for me and rolled me past everyone else in the line for the immigration and the next one for the screening, hurried me on down to the pre-boarding waiting room and I was shortly thereafter rolled down the ramp to the aircraft.

The nice young lady who was in charge of wheeling my wheelchair also got me some ice to keep the swelling down on my arm. As I write this, I am giving thanks for the accident because I never would have asked for help if my arm hadn’t been hurting so much, and  it would have been a huge rush for me to make the plane on foot. But I am also offering up some warning to riders in taxis in foreign countries... they are not very concerned with YOUR well-being, but in the investment that makes it possible for them to earn a living. If you are going to be doing a lot of taxi riding, it might be worthwhile to have accident insurance from your own country to cover mishaps.
SIDE NOTE: Once I was settled on the aircraft I began doing Reiki on myself, along with intentions for quick healing. I think the ice, the Reiki and the intention process all contributed to my being able to gather up everything and move on my own speed into US Customs and out in the humidity of Florida in April.
It’s a crap shoot when you walk out of the terminal - bus or plane - and get assigned a driver. You don’t know if he’s a drinker, a fool or worse, except that in Bogota and other cities in Colombia, the driver does have to have credentials. I guess it’s all part of the adventure.


  1. I'm glad that you're OK, my friend. Your headline got my heart pumping! xoxo

    1. My review of the accident, after a few days, is that I was incredibly lucky - no other cars or people involved, I wasn't traveling with this lunatic on the scary road between San Gil and Bucharamanga, and I was already pressed into the back seat with my big suitcase, so there wasn't much room for moving about. Whew. Thanks so much for the comment and your concern. Hugs bakatcha!

    2. Now listen here, I've got enough to do without having to worry about you and Denise! :-)

      So glad no major harm was done to you. x

  2. Oh, Sandy, close call indeed! Thank heavens there were no other vehicles or people to crash into! Good you were able to start the intending and Reiki along with the ice (from that NICE young lady)- I hope your arm is non the worse for wear now. And that big, fat, full suitcase - made me laugh a little. i once was wearing a huge, bulky, orange coat i loathed (what was i thnking??), then one day found myself catapulting down a steep set of 30 steps; when i reached the bottom i realized i had not a scratch, nor a single broken bone. it was because of that silly coat! anyway, i am sooo glad you are okay. warm hugs, karen

    1. Thanks Karen for the hugs - belatedly. And my arm is doing well; no indications of anything more than the bruising.

  3. Oh my giddy aunt - the lengths some people will go to to avoid queuing! ;D

    1. I know - I felt slightly fraudulent waiting in the wheelchair with all the 'tick-quities' who obviously really needed Special Assistance. Intending I don't need to go that route again any time soon!