If you like playing bags (or cornhole, corntoss, whatever) or horseshoes AND harmless explosives, go to Colombia and locate a “Tejo” court. I am 100% positive you will be pleasantly surprised by the game. Sorry, not game… sport. Tejo is a sport and quite a serious one. In September 2000, the traditional game of Tejo was officially declared a national sport in Colombia and I can easily say it is even stranger than Aussie Rules Football OR Cricket (which I did not understand a bit while in Australia). After being in Medellín for a couple of months, I heard a lot of hype about Tejo, mostly from traveling European men. I can honestly say I knew nothing about Tejo except that boys (of all ages) and foreigners loved it.
I only had two weeks left in Colombia and was “vacationing” on an eco-farm in a tiny town called Salento. After dinner and drinks with my father, his girlfriend, another American, a group of Irish and an English couple from the farm, someone brought up Tejo and how they wanted to try it out. The American had been in South America a couple of times,knew, and loved the sport. The rest of us had never played. He explained it as “horseshoes where things blow up.” Horseshoes where things blow up?! Sign me up, NOW. The group was craving Tejo. We needed to locate a Tejo court… at night… in a very small town… on a weekday… where everything closes after dinner… and there are no taxis. Tricky. Our other American asked a couple of Colombians on the street (who looked at us like we were nuts) until we ran into two teenagers that replied “We are the ministers of Tejo. We can help.” I have no idea what “ministers of Tejo” meant, but I knew they were my new best friends when they led us to a closed bar, unlocked the door, and flicked on the lights. We had entered Tejo heaven of sawdust, beer, and long rows of Tejo courts! We offered to buy them a few beers to let us play and they happily obliged and explained the rules of the game, while laughing hysterically at us gringos.
I won’t bore anyone with the specifics of the sport, but if you are curious, check this out. More or less, the sport is is played by dividing into teams, alternating turns, while throwing a metal disc (about 2 kg) at a target attempting to strike the “mechas” (gunpowder) in the middle of the target. The target is a box packed with clay with gunpowder in its center, so there is an explosion when the disc strikes the center. The scoring is a little complex for me, but whoever makes the most “mechas” explode wins!
Most Tejo teams are sponsored by beer companies, so it makes sense that the Tejo “cave” was decked out in Aguila beer paraphernalia and the beer was flowing freely. Our 3 hour Tejo tournament (probably the longest rounds of Tejo to date) was Team America vs. The European Union. It was competitive. Very competitive. Couples were fighting. Metal discs were being dropped on toes. The English and the Irish were fighting. America and Europe were not being very friendly with one another. But, all in good fun… I think. I was on the floor laughing 40% of the time. The inner frat boy inside me was beaming each time I made a successful explosion and our team rejoiced. And by “each time” I mean twice. This summer, I am going to try and craft up a Tejo court wherever I am living to play with harmless explosives more often… to my (inner frat boy) heart’s delight.