CARCASS FRACAS

Not some obscure Latin deliverance, but the alliteration describing the scene from a truck ride. Two day side trip from Cochabamba to the remote markets of Tarabuco.

I woke early, pre-dawn, quickly making my way out of the hotel, through the streets and on to the area designated as the truck stop for Tarabuco. Yawns, and munching on some bread buns I'd picked en route, passed the short time before the truck roared to a halt. I verified destination and the price of the trip, then threw my pack up to the helper in the back of the truck. I hopped on board to the surprise of very few passengers. It had been rare that I'd ever been able to get close to the prime truck travelling position, close to the cabin, but I could already see my spot. The closer to the cabin meant less wind, less dust, protection from rain if it eventuated. In this case, it meant absolute trucking luxury. The slight elevation from the vibrations of the floor atop the four spare tyres. These had a huge canvas loosely draped over them and it wasn't long before I had burrowed out a small fortress. Pack to sit on, canvass to cover my legs and my rain jacket folded to form a pillow.

We drove through the streets, honking our message of intended departure, picking up people and possessions. We slowly filled, to a point where I envisaged that the truck owner had "covered costs", and were away.

The hours rocked past. Passengers had all dug in, assuming the patented sleeping-awake-sleep look. Dozing in and out of dreams. Siesta for ten hours.

But it was at mid-point of the trip that a hiccup in the drowsy state of things occurred. We had made many stops to pick up or put down passengers. I stood up to stretch and looked over the side at the new arrivals. The driver had hopped down from his cabin and seemed to be engaged in argument. The subject matter seemed to focus in on two hessian sacks. I guessed they were disputing the weight; I noticed that one of them was leaking something liquid and red. Blood in fact! A melee of shouts, the customary waving of arms and the bag was hoisted up the side by two compatriots who had boarded through the back. They were tough looking people. Thickened leathery hands and feet, traditional clothing, their pointed Klu-Klux-Klan like hats almost comical. The bag was heavy. Two strong men and in one continued motion they lifted it up and over the side and dropped it to the floor below. The accompanying smell was of freshly killed flesh. A sheep I was told. Non-existent planning of the lift had meant that blood had dripped on people and their produce. Some irate people remonstrated and in the flurry of a moment had hoisted the bag up and out of the truck, sending it to flat thump to the ground outside.

Quechua language fired left and right. The driver and his helper now involved. Blood everywhere, people complaining bitterly. Hard lives, hardened people. After quite some time, and conveniently without spilling of more blood, the bloodied bag and its owners were shuffled into the back corner of the truck. There was animosity in the air, but the crowded truck meant little room for displays. All was soon blown into our distant tracks. Time and motion took control.