Colombia South America

Tejo: Colombia Has Created the World’s Greatest Drinking Game

Playing tejo in Bogota

I believe that I have found the world’s best drinking game: tejo.  It involves lots of beer, throwing metal objects, and explosives.  Check it out:

Tejo is a Colombian pastime, especially in rural areas.  If you’re visiting and like drinking games, then you must play tejo in Colombia.

Why is tejo so great?

Playing tejo in Bogota
Tejo fields at Club de Tejo La 76 in Bogota

Essentially, you throw metal discs at a post.  On the post, there are mecha, which are essentially packets of gunpowder.  If you hit one, it explodes – you get a loud noise, some smoke, and some fire.  After you hit one, you just want to keep hitting more.  You do all of this while drinking large amounts of cheap Colombian beer.  What’s not to like?

Setup

Picking the tejo disc
The first two things you do when you go to tejo: pick your beer and your disc.

 

A tejo field has two sides.  On each side, there is a tejo post, which is filled with clay.  In the middle of the post, there is a metal ring.  On this ring, you are traditionally supposed to place 4 mecha on each side.  You can always add more, however, if you want more explosions!  If you hit the packet with your disc, it should explode as long as it’s sitting on the metal ring (separated by clay.)

Gameplay and Scoring

All players are supposed to stand behind the thrower for obvious reasons – getting hit by a flying metal disc isn’t ideal.  The thrower is supposed to throw from the other side of the tejo field, which is around 18-20 meters.  For beginners, I’d recommend starting halfway to make sure you can throw on target and then work your way back to the regular throwing length (unless you want to have errant throws hit innocent bystanders – probably wouldn’t be a great scene.)  For each round, each thrower throws one disc.  Points are allotted for the following:

  • 9 points: Hitting a mecha (gunpowder packet) and the disc lands within the circle (rare)
  • 6 points: Within the circle (between the gunpowder packets)
  • 3 points: Hitting a mecha and causing an explosion
  • 1 point: For the throw that gets closest to the middle, if no thrower gets one either in the circle or hits a gunpowder packet

The interesting thing about the scoring is that, for me at least (and I think most players), I really like hitting the mecha, even if it means less points than landing inside the circle.  However, I can’t say I’m precise enough to be able to pinpoint my shots that well anyway.  The throw below yielded precisely 0 points:

At the end of each round, the throwers walk to the other side, replace any mecha (if necessary), and then throw again.  The game keeps going until someone gets 21 or more points (if you go over 21 points, you win.  It doesn’t reset like cornhole.)

There are some certainly some similarities to cornhole, however, the biggest difference is that tejo isn’t lame.

Drinking

Oh, and another very important point – drinking is crucial to tejo.

In fact, at the places I’ve been going to (my favorite is Cancha de Tejo los Bucaros, located at Calle 20, 8-74 in Bogota), they don’t even charge for use of a tejo field.  However, you do have to buy beer, and not just one beer.  You have to buy a minimum of a half case of beers for your group, which is 15 beers, to use a field.  Beers cost 4000 COP each, around $1.35 USD.  Essentially, drinking is mandatory.

However, I’ve noticed my playing improves the more I drink, although I’m not sure if this can be attributed to the alcohol or the throwing repetition.  Or both.

Additional info/tips for playing tejo

A few things to know before you go:

  • The clay from the target post will get your clothes dirty, so prepare for that (the clay does wash off.)
  • Always watch where you walk when at a tejo place, since there are flying discs everywhere.  Be extra careful when crossing a tejo field.
  • The explosions are loud, much louder than they seem on video.  You might even get some ringing in your ear if a mecha explodes near you but it generally won’t last long.
  • A key aspect of tejo places is that they typically play vallenato, which is traditional Colombian music.  Not my favorite, but in this case it enhances the atmosphere.

Where to play tejo?

You can find tejo places in small towns and big cities in the Andean region of Colombia, including Bogota, Medellin, and Cali, and they are generally pretty easy to find using Google Maps.  There are also places on the Caribbean coast but it’s harder to find (in Cartagena, you’ll have to go a bit outside of the city to play.)

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