The Regal “Chivas”

Dripping with bling only Xzibit could love, and loaded to within an inch of collapse with passengers, produce, dry goods – and occasionally livestock – the “Chivas” are the literal bright spot of Colombian highways.

These snort-y, snout-y old Chevys evoke a vibe somewhere in-between Woodstock and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. They are the star of the roads, more so than the Tuk-Tuk with a whose vinyl cover has a faux rear window emblazoned with faces of the maniacal Joker and Harley-Quin. More so than folks riding triple on a 250 cc motorbike, the Chivas make me smile always and occasionally fear for my life, depending on where I meet them.

On the straights, the ancient diesels lug hills with a sturdy drone, majestically solid upon the blacktop. However, they take corners like everyone else here – as though we are in some unsanctioned F1 race and they are duty-bound to use every inch of the road to carry max speed through the corners, hitting every apex. Each time I find myself strolling around a corner and come face-to-face with one of these chivas pushing for pole position, my heart does a little hiccup. The weary springs train under visually concerning amounts of what should be impossible body roll, certainly enough to induce a swaying sea-sickness to any (and there are many) who find themselves standing on the fenced patios built atop the buses to add another floor to the rolling warehouse.

A half-dozen pass by while I drink my coffee, mostly blues and greens in theme color, often with so many people sitting, standing, and crammed in and amongst the cargo it’s hard to tell who of the half-dozen people crowded into the front line is doing the driving.

Another day in Colombia.


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