Why I loathe, and love, taxi rides

The driver was mumbling to himself. Actually, it started as a mumble but became progressively louder, until you could almost say he was yelling to himself.

Not being able to speak Spanish, it was difficult to tell what was going on. He might have been reciting his shopping list to make sure he didn't forget something, or possibly berating himself for running a red light earlier, or - the more likely option - he was completely insane.

Either way, my friend Craig and I were starting to get a little worried.

Five minutes ago we'd been so grateful to find an unoccupied taxi that we would have jumped into just about anything. The fact we were now sitting in the back of this car was proof.

Bogota at rush hour is not the greatest place to be. The Colombian capital is manic at any time but at rush hour the angry knots of traffic become even more tangled and the drivers more intense.

To make matters worse, it was raining - it started as a light drizzle as we stood on the pavement trying to flag someone down and increased to a downpour as we flapped our arms in vain. Cabs with lights on sped past seemingly untroubled by the potential clients getting sodden in the dark by the side of the road.

Finally, one stopped: success. Craig and I ran across the busy street and wrenched open the doors of the old yellow car, diving onto the little seats to get out of the rain. We thought our problems were over. Really, they'd just begun.

I both love and loathe taxis - I've had funny experiences in taxis, frightening experiences in taxis, enlightening experiences in taxis and just about everything in-between. Bogota was not in-between.

The first thing our driver did was cut across four lanes of traffic in an attempt to take a side street. Unfortunately the side street was quite steep and his taxi was quite old, and without a long enough run-up the car just wasn't going to make it up the slope.

I think I can, I think I can, I ... Nope.

It chugged and coughed a few times before the cab slowly rolled back into the four lanes of traffic. Cars honked. Our driver yelled. Craig and I looked at each other and grinned. We'd come to Colombia for adventures - this was going to be an adventure.

Our driver gave up on the vicious side street, mumbling something to himself as he put the car into gear, slammed on the accelerator and roared away. Except, he didn't really roar, because the car seemed unable to go more than 30km/h. It didn't roar so much as rattle slightly louder.

If you've never been to Bogota you might think this is normal, but don't be fooled. Most cars in the city are in perfect working order; we'd got one of the only ones that wasn't.

And it really wasn't. Case in point: as the rain was quite hard now, the driver, talking to himself at a conversational level by this time, decided to raise his window. Of course he couldn't use the handle because there wasn't one - he just gripped the steering wheel with his knees while he used two hands to pull the glass up.

"Muy bien!" he yelled, cackling as he indicated to change lanes. Of course he couldn't indicate because he didn't have an indicator - it had fallen off. He just put the hazard lights on and then squeezed his arm out of the window to point in his intended direction. Then he raised the window again.

I'd also noticed that the windscreen wipers, unlike normal windscreen wipers, didn't seem to be moving in time with each other, but were drifting across at random intervals like drunks in a fight.

Craig and I were starting to get worried. There are adventures, and there are adventures. At what point do you decide that this little bit of fun is actually too dangerous? When do you make the call to just get out and walk?

Rush-hour traffic was now roaring past us as our friend up the front began yelling at no one in particular, still chugging along at 30km/h, radio blasting, windscreen wipers fighting, hazard lights on, steering wheel between the knees, arms out the window, rolling through the dark Bogota streets.

What an inglorious way to go. Not kidnapped by militia, not caught up in a terrorist attack, not affected by any of the things your parents say will hurt you - killed by a taxi.

But we still didn't have the guts to put a stop to it, to pull over to the side of the road and call it quits. We just gripped the door handles and hoped it would be all over soon.

Eventually, it was. We got out at our hotel, paid and then watched as the driver pulled away, still talking to himself, hazards still on, radio still up, arms still out the window, and rattled off into the rainy night.

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Have you had any memorable (good or bad) experiences in taxis while travelling? Post a comment below and share your stories.