By an act of the Congress of the Republic, Tejo is the national sport of Colombia. Some version of it has been played here for over 500 years. The premise has evolved, and the modern version almost sounds like a joke, but it’s serious business: throw a two kilogram metal disc 15 meters at a clay pit studded with explosive packets, and get points when it goes boom. It’s free to play, you pay for the beer, which is obligatory.
Kevin and Rachel had just arrived in Bogota. For an authentic Colombian welcome, I took them to a local dive with cheap beer, mud floors, concrete walls, a video jukebox playing traditional music and a Pamela Anderson slideshow, and six ragged canchas de tejo in an airy back room. It’s a tough sport, and our inexperience showed immediately. As a group, we were inaccurate and weak. Even our best shots often bounced off the clay, so we began experimenting with our technique. Kevin decided to add arch. A lot of arch. His next shot careened into the battered wooden back stop, but not before smashing through the fluorescent light fixture delicately suspended 12 feet above the pit. The resulting crash seemed to make more noise than any explosion of gunpowder, and fine shards of glass peppered the red clay below. For an awkward beat, all eyes turned on Kevin, who suddenly looked something like a frightened turtle. The room erupted with laughter.
We were allowed to carry on undisturbed, but we struggled to make a competitive game of hopelessly timid throws. Needless to say, Kevin’s shot suffered the most, and I won in a landslide. Our final tab came with a smirk; three beers, a coke, and two fluorescent light bulbs.