After what seemed like an eternity of late nights and early mornings we got up at 3am to walk down to the garage where Amilka would pick us up and take us to the border with Equador.
Amilkar appeared from his truck, beaming, and we scrambled into our four day home of 40 kg sacks of salt-based animal feed. Not the most comfortable bed but I was relieved that it was not the same as his last load: bricks. The smell is something else though. At first it is the kind of smell that your brain is not sure how to process. It is not quite a bad smell or repulsive, but it isn´t pleasant either. You kind of get used to the smell but are again overwhelmed after leaving the lorry for a few hours for fresh air. In my grumpy, ill, sleep deprived state I fell asleep instantly.
When I woke up we pulled up next to a small restaurant for breakfast. A group of locals were in disbelief at the site of two Brits abroad scrambling over the truck gate. Amilkar insisted on paying for breakfast and so we kept the small amount of money we had made from teaching someone at the service station English. After breakfast we sat in the back of the salt truck and watched the Colombian countryside roll by, jumping into the back of the truck every few hours when we saw a police check point. By midday we had hit traffic and Amilkar turned his engine off on seeing the other parked vehicles all the way into the burning horizon.
“Come on, out!” Amilkar shouts enthusiastically, totally unfazed by the mother of all queues. It was probably essential that we got out of the lorry as the black canvas roof and walls created a giant tarp death trap in the midday sun.
We sat under the truck for shade and talked about books for a while until Amilkar couldn’t hold it in anymore and asked to play Jenga. Amilkar had never seen Jenga before he met us at the truck stop in Malambo, and was in total awe of the game. I honestly think it was this that swayed him to take us in the first place. After a few hours of amature Jenga we all fell asleep under the truck.
Four hours later Amilkar tells us about a time when he was stuck in traffic for several days and had to drink stream water and was unable to eat anything. Fortunately, shortly after this horror story the traffic begins to move and we spend the next six hours slowly stopping and starting until we finally make it to the final service stop of the day. I had felt worse as the day had progressed. Amilkar refused to let us contribute to this meal as well and told us that this was his gift to us and not to worry as his boss paid for his food. I was taken aback by his generosity which would not be the last time during this hitch. After picking at my dinner and almost vomiting we returned to the truck and slung our hammocks underneath with Amilkar.
The night was a long, loud, salty and sweaty for me, but I fell asleep thinking about how open and generous Amilkar had been to complete strangers. I began to consider how closed and selfish I had inadvertently been while living in the UK.