A friend of mine in work has recently returned from a trip to Colombia. We were exchanging stories about that glorious country when I was reminded about a relatively interesting tale.
Let me take you back a few years ago to Cartagena, the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Cartagena is an absolutely gorgeous part of the world. I would highly recommend all of my readers / listeners to make the journey. I have been in some ropey places on my travels and this ain't one, I still love the ropey places as there is a sick satisfaction of staying somewhere off the beaten path. It makes me feel more like a traveller / wanker when I can talk about staying in a hut with no running water. In reality, I stayed in the hut because I was broke. If I had the opportunity to stay in the five star hotel down the road, I would. I merely told myself that staying in the rat infested brothel is more fun because it is more of an “experience”.
I told myself that to stop crying myself to sleep.
Anyway, Cartagena is absolutely beautiful. I recommended it to my parents. It is THAT nice. It is a beautiful colonial town with winding streets, stunning architecture and gorgeous sandy beaches. Naturally, we stayed in a hostel that I am fairly certain doubled up as a brothel. Colombia was towards the end of our trip and money was running low. We could not afford to be picky. I remember cutting my side rather badly on the bed there. To this day, I am unsure what actually cut me. Best not to think about it.
I had a really great group with me in Cartagena. My initial pals who I began the trip with rejoined us and a big group from the volunteering place also. It was a great few weeks. Many, many late nights. After one particular late night, we spent the next evening nursing beers while sitting on the wall that surrounded the city. It looked over the beach and sea. It was a fairly stunning place to have a few beers.
We were in a corner of sorts. There were plenty of people around. All having a few beers on the wall. Very pleasant. The wall is huge, by the way. People cycle across and whatnot. In the distance, I saw 4 police officers approach us on their motorbikes. You are allowed drink on the street so there was no issue. Or so we thought there was no issue.
The police officer asks us to put down our cans and empty our pockets. No one had anything on them that would interest the police. One of my friends, we shall call him “Milk”, leaned over to me and whispered that he had pills.
“Why the f**k do you have pills?!”
“No, no, not those kind of pills. They are different types of pills”
“What types of pills?”
I just start breaking up laughing. I didn’t even bother asking why he had them. Well, its obvious why he had them. I explained to Milk that they are perfectly legal and not to worry.
It came around to us to empty our pockets to the police. I had nothing so just showed my pack of cigarettes. Milk, full of shame, opens his palms to show a few little Viagra pills. The police become very suspect. Everyone just starts laughing. Not the police. The police demand to know what they are.
The Spanish speakers amongst us were laughing too hard to explain the pills. So, I, the hero , with very little Spanish, stood up to the challenge. I can speak some Spanish. I can order some food and ask for directions but explaining a pill that gives you an erection did not come up in my Spanish classes.
Anyway, I basically mimic the after effects of what happens after a Viagra. You can imagine. The Police did not share our enjoyment of the situation. They become fairly aggravated. They continued their search but far more stern now. Andy, who was standing beside me, then emptied his pockets to show an empty cigarette packet.
One Police officer leaned forward to have a look and did something weird with his fingers at the box. Andy, thank god, noticed that he actually placed a small bag of cocaine into the cigarette packet. We all freaked out.
“Woah! You put that there! He put that there!”
We pleaded with the main officer. He looked at the officer who placed the bag with disdain. He appeared to be angry that he got caught rather than actually planting it. I was freaking out. I feared the worst. It was going to be their word against ours. And I can imagine the law will favour the Police.
They clearly just wanted a cheeky bribe. My time in South America was dominated by people trying to get bribes from us. I actually paid very little in my time. Not through the lack of bandits trying. I usually called their bluff. Not because I was brave. But because I was cheap.
Thankfully the poorly attempted plant was so obvious that the police had to withdraw and left us alone. Once more, I avoided spending the rest of my life in a Colombian prison.
Brian 1 Colombia Police 0
I do want to reiterate that Colombia is one of my favourite places ever and the people are incredibly friendly. Just be careful about some minority of dodgy police officers.