I recently got a chance to play tejo, a traditional Colombian game involving a metal disc and a target of packed mud and explosives. It was the thirtieth birthday of an expat friend, and despite four Colombians coming along, he was the only one who had ever played before. We threw our discs from the halfway line, marvelling at the skill of the man in the far lane with his own gear, who managed to hit the gunpowder regularly from the full distance of twenty metres.

The target is roughly a metre square, and sits on the ground with the far side angled up. You have to throw the disc underhand and have it land in the mud and stay there without ever touching the ground, backboard or sides of the target. In the centre of the mud sits a ring of about fifteen centimetres diameter. Landing the disc in this ring scores six points. Two triangles of paper containing the gunpowder are placed at the top and bottom edges of this ring. Exploding one of these gets three points, so it’s possible to score nine in a single throw. Failing anyone achieving one of these goals, the closest valid shot scores one point.

We split into two teams of three and began playing. Jonny and I started using the heaviest disc, and eventually the girls joined us as well, finding that it was more accurate, but the game is as hard as it sounds. Jonny managed a ‘mecha’ or explosion on his second turn, then spent the rest of the night trying to repeat that feat. The rest of us tried to match him, but the targets either side seemed to regularly pull our discs off course, if they even covered the distance. One of the girls on my team was the only one to reliably hit the target most of the time. When she left, the rest of us kept playing without scoring.

By this time, I’d learnt that I needed to use as much power as possible to cover the distance, and my aim had improved. I even hit the mecha twice, but not hard enough to make an explosion, so no points. On one occasion I managed to land my disc inside the ring, which would have been the highest score of the night had we still been playing a game. I was rewarded by being excluded from the next round, as enforced by the official showing us how to play the game.

Jonny then decided to have a go from the full length. He took a ten-pin bowling style run-up, as we’d seen the expert do, and sent his disc into a neighbouring target. Despite knowing that I was about at my limit for accuracy, I also had a go. My run-up was horrible, feet out of time with my swing, and I aborted. My next go was better and I gave it all I had. The disc arced up beautifully, on a direct course for the target. I was sure that it was going to land short, but it hit almost dead centre and the boom drowned out my victory shout.

I watched the others have a few more goes, but I refused to try again. I would finish my tejo career on a high.

Categorized as Colombia

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