It’s an hour until sunset and we are late. We can see the truck ahead of us but the mountain fog is thick enough to mask the three other trucks in front. We’ve been averaging 20km/h for the past hour with a stream of continous traffic coming toward us. At 1700m, we can’t see what lies past the barbed wire and (occasional) guardrails but we can feel the threat of the land dropping away. We had seen the valleys below when we began this switchback climb. There’s fog rolling into my window, touching my face and moving onto Robbie’s. It’s a welcoming feeling that makes me close my eyes and savor it. We haven’t felt the cool mountain air since El Salvador and are used to wiping the sweat off our brows, lips, foreheads, arms and so on. We had just spent a gruelling morning in the heat fixing a leaking hose, followed by hours of driving in the unforgiving afternoon sun. Another puff of exhaust from the truck fills my nostrils and brakes screech. The moment is ruined.
We pause to let the first truck in line get a run up the hill. There’s a roadblock and someone is directing traffic around an accident. A flock of children are running along the roadside yelling to the stalled vehicles with their hands out. I guess they see a good opportunity. We pass a truck in the other lane that has the hood of a small car pinned under its bumper. One of many brave (stupid?) passes we’ve witnessed that did not go as planned. My head starts to ache from the black fumes and the wall of white is suffocating. Out of the blue, the wall is cracked open and there is the sky, the trees, the hills.
The road widens at 2300m, straightens out and the trucks are gone. A spectacular view spreads out before us; a feast for the eyes. Cows graze nonchalantly on the steep, grassy hills that rise up from a valley. The clouds have parted to let the blue sky peak out in patches. Around a turn a red brick city appears, beautiful in it’s precarious location. Crumbling stone walls and a grand church catch my eye just as we fly over an unmarked dip in the road. My stomach lurches and Rambo’s contents shift and come down with great thunk. We whiz through mountain towns, me trying to capture some photos through the twists and turns as Robbie is forced to play the game of the road. He weaves in and out with patience and skill, an admirable art I am grateful for but cannot comprehend.
The sun sets and the fog returns. We’re held up in a great line of traffic, manuvearing slowing on the snake-like roads. We’re descending into the Medellin valley. Something skims by with no lights; on our right, then our left. Two young boys on bicycles are flying down the hill, wobblying dangerously close to an 18 wheeler. They pass in between the cars, scooters and trucks, on the inside and out. I grip the armrest for the hundredth time that day, imagining a mother’s worst fear. Eventually we pass them, their heads down to pick up speed and free of threatening traffic. It seems I worried for nothing. Finally, we see a line of street lights, flanking three straight lanes. I’ve never been so happy to see a freeway. After nine hours of driving, we covered 350km to arrive at Medellin. We’re greeted with a familiar face and a bed to sleep in. The best possible ending to our day.