As the youngest member of the World Cup Travel Club (WCTC) I’ve been appointed to be the ‘scribe’. I am entrusted to regale the next generation with the stories of our adventures and heroism (or something like that). Helen says that I should do it because everyone else has poor eyesight, but Arthur often assures us that his prescription has remained the same for fifty years, to which Helen always replies that he must have been a pretty nearsighted twenty-year-old.
I admit that my age (I’ll be 27 next month) made it difficult to form friendships with the others in the beginning, but never in my wildest imagination (which is quite vivid thanks to all the Friday night double-features I’ve seen) would I have seen myself with best friends the age of my grandparents. But they are all so precious to me!
But I digress, so back to the story at hand. We of the WCTC believe that the way to truly understand our global neighbors and find a place of mutual respect and appreciation is to first experience their coffee. Okay, that may be overstating our vision just a smidge, but our love for the “elixir of life” brought us together and we believe that a love of coffee may just be the catalyst to world peace. (We’re dreamers, can you tell?) Our first trip as a group of coffee-loving, adventure-seekers was to the beautiful country of Peru.
I’ll spare you the details of the plane ride, which was frightfully dull—the best kind, in my opinion. But once the plane landed, the adventure began.
We piled into the run-down bus that would take us to the coffee farm (or ‘ranch’ or ‘plantation’? I’m still not really sure) where we would stay. None of those sissy, all-inclusive spa-style resorts for this group. We wanted to feel the land, embrace the people, learn about the country from the “grounds” up (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Forty-five minutes into the bumpy, dusty ride, I was jarred out of my MP3-induced dream world when I heard Helen scream, “Don’t hit them!” The bus swerved violently and landed in a ditch. Before we could come to our senses, two men stormed onto the bus, yelling and brandishing knives.
One of the young men pulled the driver out of his seat and roughly shoved him into the aisle. I slid over to make room for him as our guide took charge. Rapid-fire Spanish flew through the air between Guillermo, our guide, and the men. My first-year Spanish abilities only allowed me to ask where the restroom was and discover the exchange rate, so I was forced to wait for the interpretation.
Finally, one of the kidnappers, (I’ll call him Larry), started up the bus and we took off. Guillermo returned to his seat and the other man (I’ll call him Moe), stood in the aisle, looking grimy and menacing with a knife in one hand, holding onto the pole with the other.
Guillermo spoke. “There is a conflict between the Castillo and Ruiz families. Our tour included a stay at the Castillo farm and the Ruiz family heard about it. They decided that if they got to our group first, used us as—“ he struggled for the right word “—to bargain with, then they might gain an advantage.”
What were we going to do? I’d wanted adventure, but Peru’s Hatfields and McCoys? No thanks.
I glanced at the others. Guillermo, rosary in hand, had begun to pray, mouth moving, but eyes wide open. Arthur suddenly looked like the Army colonel he told us he’d been rather than the worn-out elderly gentleman I had previously mistaken him for. Helen and Gayle, more angry than scared, convinced me they were true ‘steel magnolias’. Their Southern charm melted away until only toughness peeked out from under floral-trimmed hats.
I saw a look pass from Arthur to our former driver and without a thought the driver lunged at Moe knocking him back into the dashboard of the bus, knife clattering to the floor. This startled Larry, but before he could do anything, Guillermo and Arthur hauled him out of the driver’s seat.
The bus slowed and lurched, as we ladies hung on, the men in a tangle of bodies on the steps. I stumbled into the driver’s seat, turning the bus safely off the road.
So we deposited the kidnappers in the nearest jail, recounted our experience a few more times and went on our way. Luckily, the rest of the trip was all the brochure said it would be. Except our friendship was solidified and before the week was out we’d planned next year’s trip to Sumatra.
Who would have thought coffee-drinking could lead to such adventure?
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