April 20, 2014 – April 21, 2014
After now having taken a couple dozen bus rides of various lengths in Colombia I’m ready to declare myself “hardly an expert” and share just a few observations. Buses are a great cheap way to travel the long distances and with so many amazing views I actually have begun to look forward to them. Buses are definitely popular, more people get around on buses than any other mode of transportation by far, and many choose to go from A to B on an overnight bus. One benefit of the over-night bus is that you don’t have to pay for a place to sleep for that night. We decided to take one from Bogota to Medellin, 9 hours of… what’s the opposite of comfortable?
Our bus was one of the big modern buses you can see fighting for space on the road with dozens of smaller more ancient buses, some of which are twice as old as I am. It turned out to be a double-decker bus and we got the seats in the top front! Our bus even had wi-fi. The top front offered an amazing view, for example I could easily tell if the side of the road had trees or no trees, okay I couldn’t see much at night. The awesome view was bit wasted at that hour. However there were lots of things that I did get to see at night.
The road between Bogota and Medellin, for most of its length, is a small too narrow two lane road, one going in each direction, and its crowded with other buses, semi trucks, and all manner of various other cars, horse drawn wagons, people, dogs and live stock. After watching our bus race around corners and scream past other buses and trucks, with at times inches in between, I began to regret being in the top front left passenger seat. Although I assured myself that a quarter inch of Plexiglas was enough to shield me from that logging truck that looked wider than a lane, or that bus ahead that was just wandering over the line, I’m not sure that I fully believed myself. I suppose if nothing else I was going to have a great view of my own demise.
*Note to self: The back right side of the bus seems to have less large objects hurtling towards it at any given moment.
Being awake for most of the night and posted right up front, I was able to see many interesting things that everyone else missed while they slept. Like people walking down the middle of the road at 2 am in complete darkness. People standing along the center line of the road, trying their best to make themselves thin, while holding a bottle of water or soft drink in case some driver going in either direction decided they were thirsty. The bus swerving around a fallen tree in the road, that was fun. The bus swerving again around a rock landslide, also fun. The bus turning down a random too narrow dirt road and zig-zagging around a bit in the jungle before returning back the way it came, checking out some retirement property perhaps? I’m pretty sure our bus took out at least a dozen orange traffic cones at a construction site. At one point our driver who had been previously driving like a mad man suddenly slowed to a walking pace on a flat open stretch of road for a good twenty minutes before suddenly remembering we had somewhere to go and driving like crazy again, maybe the coffee had kicked in? Although perhaps the most interesting view was of the massive lighting storm that lasted all night, with the sky being lit up every few seconds.
Overnight bus rides are a great idea to get from one place to another, but I think next time I’ll not take the seat right up front. If you have a chance for the top front on a daytime bus its probably amazing, but maybe think twice on the overnight bus.
Tip: Overnight buses in Colombia are often extremely cold, and the more modern a bus looks the colder it seems to be. We always bring a jacket and sweater along for the overnight trips.