Camioneta Dreaming, Part 2

IMG_0784Central Belt Shuffler and Dr D are back at the side of the road, waiting for the camioneta home. The light is starting to fade.

We stand a few paces away from three men, two older, fatter ones, wearing straw cowboy hats, and a younger, thinner one. They drink from beer cans, their language slurred. They’re doing a sum, ’17 and 17 is 42’, says one. ‘Oh God,’ says Dr D. ‘I hope they’re not getting on the camioneta with us. If a taxi arrives, let’s take it.’

A taxi comes, but it’s headed in the opposite direction from where we want to go.

A camioneta arrives, also heading in the opposite direction. The drunk men ask the driver something, then, as the camioneta heads off, swear at its retreating exhaust.

Walking down the road comes a small group of Mexicans, accompanying a tall, thin black man, smartly dressed with a calm demeanor. A visiting preacher from Paraguay. The drunks recognise one of the women walking with him, and say hello. She replies, nervously. The preacher calmly greets them, ‘Buenas tardes.’

Another camioneta arrives, heading in the right direction. It’s already quite full, and we get on quickly, making our way to the front. The three men also get on, causing a commotion on the camioneta. A few of the Mexicans look at them in disapproval, and shift around to give them space to sit together. A little girl is carrying a tiny puppy, which a woman then takes on her lap as the camioneta sways with the number of people on it. Several men are standing on the back bumper.

The drunks fall asleep. One lets fall an unopened beer can, which the younger man picks up. A family starts singing, the young boy repeating the words, to everyone’s delight. Then, the clear strong voice of the grandma singing by herself. Most of the camioneta join in for a moment, and laugh together at the end of the song.

An older woman, large in frame, gets on. One of the drunk men wakes up and tries to give her his seat. The woman, quickly assessing the situation, tries to dissuade his alcohol-fuelled courtesy, but he is insistent. She sits down, and he stands, swaying.

I reach my stop, and struggle to make my way through the throng to the back of the bus. The other passengers helpfully shout so that the driver knows to wait, and to the drunk, so he gets out of the way.

I squeeze my way out, then reach into my purse, counting out my 6 pesos, handing it to the driver. The camioneta continues onwards, passengers still clinging to the back. I hope Dr D manages to get out in due course. I head for some shopping, and a cooling margarita.

Dr D later reports on the continuation of this journey. The drunks start swearing, and she tells them off, reminding them there are children in the camioneta. When she reaches her stop, she climbs down. ‘Suerte,’ (Good luck), she says to those passengers continuing the journey.

They laugh.

 

Camioneta Dreaming, Part 1

IMG_0680The camioneta arrives. It’s empty. We’re waiting at the side of the road with a middle-aged couple, who have a red plastic crate with them. We climb in, and the man pushes the crate along the floor to the front of the van. With a start, we realise that the crate contains a very large fish, which hides bags of meat, and another, smaller, fish, underneath. I get my camera out, and the woman tells me it will be 20 pesos for a photo of the fish. She’s joking. I think.

In the hot afternoon, the smell of the fish and meat combines with the odour of petrol from the camioneta. After a couple of minutes, Dr D stands up, looking slightly sick, and faces out of the front of the camioneta. It’s moving at a snail’s pace up and down the hills between the two coastal villages.

I sit at the back, while the couple comment on what all they see as we go past: someone lying, seemingly dead to the world, in the scrubland at the top of one of the rises. They try to work out, with mild concern, who it is. A man on a red motorbike drives up to the open back of the camioneta, and makes some comment to me which I don’t understand, and then overtakes. The woman tries to explain, in a disapproving tone. The sound of his throttle fades away ahead of us.

We arrive at the village, climb out, and head for a beer. The fish continues its journey.