Beginning on Christmas Eve and leading up until mid-January Bogotá empties out as thousands of people make their way to different areas of the country to enjoy the weather and the people. The two words most representative of this season are family and vacation. Meanwhile, Bogotanos staying in the city enjoy the decrease in trancón (traffic) and the breath of fresh air.
Like the thousands of others, I too made my way out of the city before the rising sun at 4 am in hopes of beating traffic and making the awaiting 10-hour-drive go by faster. Sleep won while we drove out of the city and past towns until we reached a region called “La Linea” in Quindio where our hopes of making it to Pereira by noon came to a disturbing halt.
Once rumors worked their way down the hills about the overturned chemical truck, vendors came out of nowhere. People did not take long to get out of their cars to walk around, appreciating the scenery and attempting to find more information wherever possible. Some said it might take until the next day for the road to open, others said the evening. Bottom line: it wasn’t promising. My initial reaction was to turn back to Ibagué, a decision that may have added four more hours to our trip. But we decided to wait.
With so much time on our hands, we meandered and saw families quickly turning their cars to face the side of the road, music turned up, and picnics set up to eat, sleep, and kill time. Motorcyclists weaved their way to the front of the line, confident that they might cut through the accident only to be disappointed. The few roadside stores profited from thirsty and hungry travelers – I even saw a man carrying four freshly killed chickens to make soup. Many, including myself, napped.
The uncertainty of when the road might open subsided as those waiting for us said the news showed the traffic snaking down the mountain. What impressed me most, however, wasn’t the time it took for people to clean up the mess, which wasn’t until the evening, only 2:30 PM, but the placidness of those waiting. Taking the inconvenience of a long trancón, people instead found entertainment. After all, what better way to spend the time than with family on a sunny day?