Gail Howard’s Colombia Travel Adventures Story Part 4
Written by Gail Howard
As we walked down the street, I looked back and saw him waving. My eyes welled up with tears and I could barely see as we walked back to our hotel.
Terry and I were determined to visit the Sunday market in Sibundoy. We could take a bus south from Popoyan to Pasto, but from Pasto to Sibundoy, it would be a difficult trip. Miraculously, we ran into Ronnie Rosenberg, a fellow I had met briefly in Bogota. Ronnie offered to fly us to Pasto, a one-hour flight, and then fly on to Sibundoy with us. Terry and I squeezed together into the single seat behind him. We spent the night at Lake Cocha, and arrived early in Sibundoy.
It was Sunday, market day. We were unprepared for the dazzling spectacle. Out of the rich green hillside, moist with morning dew, emerged brilliant specks of red, fuchsia, rose and orange – ruanas of such intensity of hue, they vibrated against the green hills. All the Indians had Buster Brown haircuts. (They place a bowl over the head and cut around the rim).
As we began taking photographs, a tall dignified Indian (they all looked dignified here), approached us, speaking precise English. He was the village chief. He asked us where we were from and would we send him copies of the photos. He proceeded to arrange groupings of people. No spontaneous shots there.
When we returned to the Pasto airport, it was about to rain. The airport radio in Popoyan was out of commission, so Ronnie could not use it to help him land. We had to make a fast decision: chance it or not. With only two hours of daylight left, we took off. Within a few minutes, rain pelted the windshield. The little plane was buffeted about like a leaf in the wind, creaking and squeaking, jolting up and falling off and up again.
We flew directly into black clouds that filled the sky. When the clouds parted, we would see a mountain loom up directly in front of us. We were flying between the Andes mountain peaks with almost no visibility. We hoped Ronnie had all the flight experience he claimed he had. As he aimed the nose up over a small mountain top, we wondered if the flimsy little plane could make it.
Ronnie was sweating profusely as he shouted to us, “Get ready to parachute out.” Then, “We will have to fly on to Bogota ... too stormy in Popoyan. Not enough gas to fly to Bogota. We’ll have to turn back to Pasto. It’s getting dark. We have no instruments.”
Terry and I clung to each other and prayed forgiveness for our sins – to be ready to meet our Maker. For awhile, all three of us thought, “This is the end for us.” But we managed to land safely in Popoyan.
Next day we flew to Cali, Ronnie’s hometown, where Terry and I could catch a flight to Quito, Ecuador. At the airport, I was told by immigration that my police permit had expired and that I could not fly to Quito without a renewal of that paper. The paper was issued in Bogota, and only in Bogota could it be renewed.
We could be delayed in Cali for weeks waiting for them to write to Bogota to send it. I called Antonio Turbay. He said he would call his uncle, Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala, the Foreign Minister of Colombia, to have the papers sent immediately. My papers were rushed down from Bogota, thanks to Antonio’s uncle. Three days later, we left Cali.
Ronnie drove us to the airport.
Months later, Ronnie sent me a wedding announcement and a letter. He said that within minutes of seeing us off at the airport that day, he met the woman who was to become his wife.
Fate has a way of rewarding good deeds.