Children, some cute as a button and others subtly menacing, come running as your vehicle approaches the leather band strung across the desert road. Tires on either side mean circumvention is impossible.
Adults, parents or other family members, sometimes wait in the distance…just in case.
Just in case you don’t have cookies.
That’s right. These ‘tollbooths,’ run by Wayuu indigenous children, require galletas–cookies–and if you don’t pay, well, I don’t know what would happen.
You might not be able to pass, for one thing–and that would mean that you wouldn’t be able to complete the journey to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point in South America, an other-worldy Mars-like area with gorgeous sand dunes that are something out of a dream. As in, this photo below.
Anyway, these kids take their ‘business’ quite seriously. Very few smile or say ‘hola’ when they approach your car. The cookies are simply expected.
Sometimes the kids ask for mas galletas. More cookies.
What If You Don’t Have Cookies?
If you don’t have cookies with you (and I think most people who venture into this part of the country remember to buy them), you might have to cough up some Colombian pesos.
Well, actually, they’ll sometimes ask for money in lieu of cookies. Or their parents will.
I witnessed this at one point. A Wayuu woman was asking for a ‘toll’ from the driver on the other side of the toll both. According to my tour guide, she was most likely asking for money. He did say that most often, however, tolls aren’t required of other Wayuu. Just of the tourists.
But in La Guajira, where the people govern themselves however they choose, the rules probably changes as often as the wind blows.