You are herePart II: An evening on the Putumayo

Part II: An evening on the Putumayo

Our mean looking crew headed for the centre, where Julio allowed us a quick drink in a half empty bar before hurrying us out. Too dangerous was his comment, which may have been so, judging by the truculent service we had received. But he assured us - after quitting another bar where we were equally unwelcome - he would take us somewhere relaxed and safe.

By now the whole population must have heard that two Gringos were in town. The whistling and spitting in our general direction as we drove through the streets began to take the edge off our enthusiasm for a night out but Julio assured us that where we were heading was secure.   

His destination turned out to be a long cement block construction, raised on cement posts. A Cumbia was being played at full volume, which even from outside prohibiting any conversation. Communication was conducted by hand signals. Three lawless looking doormen stood in the doorway, which was reached by a flight of wooden stairs; one with a billiard cue in hand and the other two with pistols jammed into their overtight jeans.  Julio was recognized and we were allowed in. Our two guards remained on-guard, sitting in the jeep.

The music did not stop when we entered but if there had been any conversation above the din, it immediately ceased as everyone in the place turned to check us out. It was quickly obvious that even here, Alfredo and I were not going to be the flavour of the month. But we did get a bottle of Scotch and ice filled glasses slapped down in front of us.

It did not take us long to see that the place was a bordello and the reason Julio had brought us there was to be with his leggy mulatto girlfriend who happened to work there. We also realized that it was all pre-planned. As if on an unspoken order, all the men present started to drift out. At first we thought we had walked into a trap but Julio assured us all was well. He just wanted to surprise us by taking over the entire brothel for the two of us.

His girlfriend removed herself from his knees, which she had been sharing with his AK40
and the satchel of reserve mags and collected all the girls together at the bar. There must have been fifteen of them of every shape, size and colour and whatever was said, the girls, who were obviously miffed at losing customers, cheered up and began checking out the two remaining punters – Alfredo and myself.

Before the evening began, the two of us made a pact that, whatever happened, we would not allow ourselves to be separated and we were to look out for each other. Being an Anglo Saxon my body was not created to bend, twist and turn to the manic rhythms of salsas, cumbias and meringues but Alfredo was – God bless him. Following a few failed attempts to get my arse into Latin gear, the females turned to Alfredo and I headed for the protection of the bar and Julio. He and his girlfriend had been experiencing difficulties dancing together with his AK47 in one hand.  I asked his friend how she had managed to make the girls look as though they were enjoying our company. “Whisky.” She said. “They love it more than fucky-fucky.”, “And who’s going to pay for all this whisky?” I queried? “The DEA, of course.” She reasoned. Thereby blowing any pretence of cover that Alfredo and I may have thought we had. Julio continued staring gravely at the strobe lit, multi-mirrored globe, rotating in middle of ceiling.
Even an American of Mexican descent cannot keep fifteen whores happy on a dance floor, so when the music changed to Mexican Rancheros, and they all joined in the choruses, he escaped to join us at the bar. We decided that enough was enough and we asked for the bill. At that precise moment the place was plunged into darkness and the girls started screaming. Alfredo threw some dollar bills over the bar and drawing our weapons we made for the door, charging down the stairs covered by Julio.

It was black dark outside. The whole town was without lights. Julio said it was probably done deliberately with the idea of ambushing us and we should get back to the compound ASAP. He suddenly realized the seriousness of the situation he had gotten us into and - he was the man responsible for our safety. We could hear the sound of gunfire in the distance. Whether it was meant for us or not we were not going to hang around until it came any nearer. The three of us dived into the open jeep behind the two guards, one of whom was attempting to start the motor but – as in any dramatic action film – it refused to start up.

It would have been foolish to stay with the vehicle; already the hostile locals were beginning to gather around threateningly. Julio shouted for us to move out and we did – fast. Single file, weapons at the ready with Julio leading and the two guards bringing up the rear we set off running through the blackened streets. A few stones followed us but  they were more acceptable than the alternative – a bullet in the back.

We did make it back to the safety of the compound and – with throbbing heads – were helicoptered back across the Putumayo to our Ecuadorian base to find they had also had a little excitement. The Captain, who we had left in command, had flipped out and had to be restrained. He had shot up the camp, fortunately the only damage being a lot of tents riddled with bullet holes. My only thought that morning was that I would have been better off with the Salvation Army.

*Major Sanchez was ambushed and killed by the FARC guerrillas two weeks after our visit.




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