How to write a book in a Colombian taxi and get strip-searched for cocaine – the guide you’ve been waiting for

How to write a book in a Colombian taxi and get strip-searched for cocaine – the guide you’ve been waiting for

By March 20, 2014 editing 2 Comments
By March 20, 2014 editing 2 Comments
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The edits are due tomorrow and I’m squashed in a taxi somewhere between an industrial port city and a small fishing town in Colombia.

I’m with two of my friends from Australia and our new friend, Natî, the owner of the hostel we had been staying at. With the night off work, Natî joins us for a round trip and the opportunity to spray our arsenal of pressurized foam cans at the policia. Carnaval starts today, after all.

The trip is a two hour journey, which I think is enough time for me to finish the edits, or it would be if Natî wasn’t teaching us the words to all the Colombian songs on the radio. I have my laptop perched on my legs and a bottle of Club Colombia perched somewhere in-between. A Cuban cigar is shoved unceremoniously in my mouth—like most things are, I guess.

Last time I blogged about editing my novel, The Chimera Vector, I gave a behind the scenes look at the editing process with lots of pretty pictures and step-by-step explanations. I really enjoyed exploring the depths of the editorial process and just how much an editor helps shape a novel. This time I was hoping to continue the journey with you, but editing The Seraphim Sequence turned out a little different.

It’s dark and the driver overtakes another convoy of buses. He slips in front of them moments before we collide with oncoming traffic. This is scary the first time he does it and I pee my pants just a bit, but after he does this twenty times I get used to it.

My plan was to complete the edits for The Seraphim Sequence on my flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to Miami and from Miami to Bogota, Colombia. While my friends watch movies and drool on their travel pillows, I was to peck away at the keyboard for many of the 25 hours, eager to complete as much as possible before our vacation officially starts.

But our vacation starts at Melbourne airport when one of my friends puts his platinum airline card to use before it expires next month. He boards the plane with no less than twenty bottles of alcohol “borrowed” from the lounge. His bag clinks with each step and the flight attendants give suspicious stares. Our tray tables and pouches are quickly populated with a variety of beverages and when offered a choice of wine, my friend replies, ‘All of the wine.’

So I didn’t get much editing done.


So I only have myself to blame when I’m sitting in a taxi trying to write the last scene. The scene is set at Denver International; the airport is almost shredded from the action and conflict crashing through the last twenty chapters. I hope to bring it to a quiet, mournful close. Or that is the plan, anyway. It is more of a distracted, drunken close because the radio is pumping Gangnam Style, I’ve had too many cervezas (beer) and Natî is already wielding the foam cans.

My laptop and I are the first victims of the foam spray. The taxi driver is next, albeit by accident. It was aimed at me, but the foam sprays half his face and the steering wheel instead. I am worried for a moment but he is good-natured about it and laughs—as he narrowly misses another oncoming car.


Natî sprays a tollbooth worker and also two passers-by, nearly knocking one of them off a bridge. My friends’ encouragement fades quickly when they realize one of victims was a police officer. I’m worried we will get arrested soon but fortunately we run out of foam.

By this point everyone needs to pee—quite literally everyone, even the taxi driver who cannot drink alcohol while driving but drinks the sodas we buy for him. He pulls off the road, a dark unlit stretch flanked by a steeply declining forest on one side and a cornfield on the other. If there is a place to begin the first act of a horror movie, this is it.

I stand as close to the dark precipice as possible without falling in, and unzip; vaguely aware that we have formed a line along the road to relieve ourselves, including Natî, who drops her phone and accidentally pees on it. Once we finish, we jump back into the taxi and continue our journey. I am still no closer to finishing that scene.

Our destination, Barranquilla, is nothing like we expect. The city is sprawled, industrial, and the streets remind me vaguely of Port Melbourne. Exhausted, we say goodbye to Natî and our driver, and throw our bags in our rooms. We’re starving and have been running on beer for the best part of the day.

It’s midnight and all we can locate is a fast food restaurant—a sort of KFC clone—but we’re tired and don’t care. We catch a taxi, only to realize it is just three blocks away and we could’ve walked. We secure a table and order a family-sized meal for three. It later arrives in the form of a mountain: fifty pieces of chicken. The girls on a nearby table giggle. We shrug and call ourselves estupido gringos. They start laughing and soda comes out their nose. There’s an awkward silence and we start eating our fifty pieces with plastic gloves given to us by the staff—something we initially found hilarious and then later admit were kind of useful. We leave with a dozen pieces still untouched and return to our hotel with stomachs over capacity.

On the way back, policia stop and search us for cocaine. They are surprisingly friendly and gentle. I am not sure if this is a horror movie or an erotic short film. As their hands pad up my legs I try to think of other things. I wind up thinking of plastic gloves and fried chicken, which oddly enough does not help.



They’re disappointed we’re not carrying anything illegal, but they’re excited to discover one of us is a police officer in Australia and start comparing kit and firearms. We say goodbye to our new friends and return to the hotel. I’m exhausted but I open my laptop and, sober and determined, finish writing. The climax at Denver airport draws to a satisfying close and The Seraphim Sequence is at last complete. To celebrate, I pass out. The laptop slides off my knees and hits me in the neck.

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Nathan M. Farrugia served in the Australian Army in infantry and reconnaissance, and studied film, television and professional writing. He worked as a post-production video editor, colorist and copywriter, where he earned the nickname Fagoogoo because no one could pronounce Farrugia.

Nathan lives in Melbourne, Australia. In his spare time, he discovers hidden places around the world with urban explorers, practices lock picking and escaping from plasticuffs and straitjackets (you never know when that will come in handy, right?) and studies Systema, a little-known martial art and closely guarded secret of Russian special forces. Nathan has trained under USMC, SEAL team and Spetsnaz instructors, the Chiricahua Apache scouts and Aboriginal Australians. He also drinks tea.

  • Candice Lobo

    That was hella wild from start to end.

  • Greg Barron

    Wow, I’ll never complain about my writing environment again! Thanks Nathan

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