My plan was to make it to Sibundoy the next day. Sibundoy is a small village a few hours from Mocoa. A German traveler had told me about it. He said that the population is mostly Indigenous, and that there are many famous taitas living in the area. It is supposed to be a good place to attend a yage ceremony, but I was through with that, at least for the foreseeable future. I’d gotten everything out of the two ceremonies I needed, and a change in perspective that was perhaps the best birthday gift I could’ve received.
Angelica was up making breakfast when I went down to the kitchen. Her second experience with ayahuasca had not been so eventful, which was a good thing. We got to talking and she brought up a series of books for children she’d begun writing that dealt with world religions. That led me to suggest that a website might be a good start. It gives you the chance to develop your format and put some feelers out there.
Why I was telling her this, after all the frustration I’d just gone through with my own website, I don’t really know. I gave her one of my cards, so she could check out my site for reference, and she looked it up right away on her phone. For once, everything seemed to be in working order. The small sample galleries I’d recently put up looked pretty good. The pictures were eye-catching and the words meant something, not posts to just scroll through, but to spend a few minutes on and absorb, if you could make the time.
There was a bus to town that periodically stopped by the hostel. When I was all packed, I went down and stood beside the road. At the last minute, Angelica decided to join me, as there were a few things she needed to take care of in town. Along the way, we passed a funeral procession, a black hearse, followed by at least fifty motorcycles and scooters. I thought the driver wasn’t passing them out of respect, but when enough space finally opened up, he blasted around.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the road from Mocoa to Sibundoy is one of the most dangerous in South America, and is referred to as The Trampoline of Death. At the bus station I was approached by a woman who sold me a ticket to ride in the back of a pickup. Just behind the cab, a bench seat had been bolted down in front of the luggage space. A tarp covered the top. The side I was sitting on was wide open.
It didn’t take long to discover how the road had earned its name. It was straight uphill, around a series of deadly curves and devastating potholes. There was a man and woman next to me. We were getting tossed all over the place. I was afraid to take pictures. Every time I got out the phone, the screen settings would jump all around. Instead of pictures of the spectacular mountain scenery, I wound up with a dozen blurry selfies, all grimaces, and gritted teeth.
When we got to Sibundoy, the truck stopped just outside of town. I walked down the road towards a cluster of buildings, and booked a room at the first hotel I came to. There was a poster above the reception desk of some colorful statues, and the guy working there told me the pictures were taken at a park only two blocks away. As soon as I put my things away, I went to check it out.
I was back to taking pictures of street art, which was fine by me. All around the park were paintings and statues of medicine men and women, hummingbirds, jaguars, magical animals, musicians. Now I understood where the artists had gotten their inspiration. At the peak of my trip, the green forest demons had wanted to take me to see their art, and I’d resisted. When I was finally laying down on the jungle floor to die, I’d seen a giant beetle on a wall, like a big screen TV. His body turned electric blue and then began to pulsate into a million blinding colors. It was way more than that, but as hard to describe as a dream. All we can do as artists, is make clumsy replicas of things that can never be fully conveyed. Still, they sometimes end up possessing a rare beauty of their own.
I next went into the cathedral. Here was Jesus clutching his sacred heart. Mary holding her infant son. Behind the church there was a cemetery. A cement path in the middle of it led uphill to an altar. On either side, the tombs were stacked four high, some with painted inscriptions, others with flowers and photos. A few were given headstones. Some had crosses and angels. I thought about what it would be like to be lying in one of them. Given my experience the previous night, I could picture it very clearly. Beyond the altar was a set of older tombs. Some of these had either been broken into or were falling apart. There were wildflowers and ferns growing out of them.
You might have heard of me, the traveler who didn’t know that the war was over, and went on fighting for the rest of his life. You won’t see me on television, or on the cover of magazines, but if you ever fall through the cracks, or reach the end of your rope, you might meet me, and perhaps I can be of some assistance. I’m not trying to save the world, or even change it, but I’ve written a few songs and poems, and of course, there’s the stories. If your heart is broken, or things didn’t work out quite as planned, we just might have something to talk about.
When I got back to the hostel, Angelica had written, saying my website was awesome and I should definitely keep it up. Keeping it up is all I do, but it was nice to hear from someone, besides my mother, who really cared.