“I do not just write, I write what I am. If there is a secret, perhaps that is it.” Jose Saramago
– You’d better go to the police station – said one of the policemen we met. – They will help you. In that area I would not recommend you to stay overnight, unless you are very desperate. You are asking me if it is dangerous over here. No, not really, it’s rather safe, but you never know. Look at the sky – the storm is coming. If you put up your tent here, surely you’ll get flooded at night, and then you will flow straight to the coast, you will pick your bicycles up from the sea. Go to the police station, I know what I’m saying; they will find you a better place to stay.
We came up against those two policemen just as we entered the town. The sun had disappeared over the horizon, which meant that in a few minutes the world, abruptly deprived of its colours, would plunge into the darkness of the coming night. We had to find a place quickly, while still being able to distinguish some shapes or even the outlines of the buildings. If it hadn’t been for those two policemen, we would probably have set up the tent by the road, choosing any piece of land that would give us a makeshift protection against more or less realized night hazards. This time however, perhaps of the fear of the approaching storm, or maybe for some subconscious reasons or intuitive motives (which, by engaging in the network of decision-making processes often save you from oppression) we followed given advice and in a moment we stood in front of the police car park.
Three men saw us and came closer. We started explaining why we were there and what we were looking for, but cops were very far from being sympathizing. In the end we were allowed to stay at the car park, no more than two steps from the sidewalk, just under a furiously lit street lamp. We looked at each other with discontent but anyway, at least the place was safe. We took out some stuff from the panniers, and as we were about to put up our tent, a few people came to us from a nearby restaurant.
– You are not gonna stay here, are you fucking crazy? – said a tipsy-looking lady, whose smile seemed to cover her whole face. – Let’s go to my house, I have an empty apartment. You are not afraid, are you? There is no need to be worry, everybody knows me here. You do know me, don’t you? – she turned to one of the cops standing next to her, who nodded his head. – You see, everybody knows me, including the owner of that restaurant. And if you stay here, you’ll get robbed as soon as you zip your tent. The police won’t help you – they do nothing, they sleep all night long. Come to me, there is enough space for everyone; the house has a roof, a strong, corrugated one. Are you coming? Oh, that’s great, how nice of you. You don’t even know how happy I am. Are you hungry? That restaurant here is very good. But let’s go first to the house. You’ll leave your stuff and come back in a moment.
Having made a spontaneous decision (which, contrary to popular belief, it is not always as easy as it seems to be), we followed the woman. She did not stop talking, asking questions, showing, explaining, and at the same time expanding in her seemingly increasing, friendly smile. Perhaps we even regretted accepting that sudden and unexpected invitation, mainly because of the strenuous and tiring day we had, at the end of which the only thing you dream of is a bit of intimacy and a sort of peaceful retreat. However, the word was said and it would be difficult to withdraw and return. So, we walked through the town in a kind of queer procession, being accompanied by more and more “relatives”, whose shadowy shapes were emerging from the dark alleys.
The house (which was supposed to be empty), was occupied by a man lying in the hammock. In fact, it didn’t really matter, because the man was watching a TV show and he didn’t pay any attention to us whatsoever. We were led to a cosy, warm and, most importantly, a dry room. And when it turned out that we could plug in our electronic appliances and even were allowed to use the stove to brew coffee – we were absolutely delighted and quickly put up our tent.
Half an hour later we were sitting at a restaurant table. Our friendly hostess, (who, on the way home was literally bursting with energy) lay on the bed and fell asleep almost immediately after entering the house.
– Did you really go to that woman? And left all your belongings there? – asked the restaurant owner who had witnessed our conversation before. – She is a very bad person, dangerous, and she is not from here, and you saw that she was a little drunk. Come with me, because the cops want to talk to you.
We were extremely astounded when we walked up to the policemen, and had to endure a long, boring monologue about how insane it was what we did. And that the police would not be held responsible if something happened. And that it would be best for us to return to the police station.
I could not understand at all why all that jaw (if it was really true and there was anything to be afraid of) was not told before, the more that the same policemen saw us with the lady an hour earlier.
– We’ll stay where we are – I said. – And, anyway, the woman had already fallen asleep. – As you wish, but don’t tell us later we did not warn you. – said the cops.
We went back to the table and started eating our broth, rice and chicken – not surprisingly, the only available menu. We were about to leave the restaurant, when our hostess appeared at the door. – I knew I would find you here! – she came in to us and sat at the table. – Can I help myself? – and without waiting for any reply, she dipped her fingers in our dishes.
Outside it started raining. It wasn’t just a drizzle, but a real downpour. – We can’t go back in that shitty weather – said the woman, after virtually having cleaned all the dishes. – Wait a moment – she added and ran out. A few minutes later a police car pulled in. We heard a loud “Come on, come on,” and in a moment, with a flashy, emergency signal, we drove through the rain-covered town to the house.
– What are they here for? – she replied when we asked her how she managed to find that sort of a special lift. – Let them know where you are. If they wish, they may even come in and see for themselves how I live – she added, when the car pulled in near the house. The cops did not seem to be interested in any form of further inquiries, so we left the car, slammed the door and rushed inside the building.
So, it was about to be unsafe, but it turned out to be very pleasant. We slept well, nobody disturbed us. In the morning we got good coffee and warm words for the road. The road, again full of fruit: platano, pitaya (or pitahaya) rambutan, called achotillo, guaba, mango and plenty of bananas, which we often get for free, because people here did not use to selling only one or two, and we don’t want to buy a bucket.
We are getting closer to Colombia, and I can hardly wait to get there. I don’t know why exactly. After all, I’ve been twice in that country, so what more could you expect to see or to experience? Maybe that’s exactly what I’m looking for – to see and to experience exactly the same things that had already occurred. The brain is melting away. We are going to the mountains to get some fresh air.