Feb. 6 – Flight to Bogota

2009 February 11
by joe

With the help of a Panama-style wake up call  (they come and knock on your door), we get a very early start, and after some great coffee, cab it to the airport.  The usual Panama city traffic slows us down a bit, and we wind up getting on the plane just before take-off.  Airport security managed to find some tools in my carry-on to confiscate, of course.

Nice plane;  leather seats, extra leg room; even served food on a one hour flight!  Arrived on time, and our baggage was there when we got through immigration!  Airport staff was friendly and helpful.

Found Girag office and started the paperwork chase.  Really not bad, just had to find and walk to one customs office, and the customs officials we had to deal with were super nice and very helpful.  We were all done with transit documents in one hour.

Back at Girag terminal, we were all loaded up and ready to ride out when I noticed than the windscreen on my bike had been broken on the right hand side.  Something large and heavy had smashed into the from cowl on the right side. I of course complained, and that started a process that delayed us another two hours.  After having a bunch of people look at the damage, I was finally offered $100 USD to settle my claim for damage. which I accept, since there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway. 

Finally, we left the airport, at around 2:30 PM.  We followed the main road into Bogota, and immediately we were confronted by some of the craziest and most reckless driving we had seen.  These guys were nuts.  They would simple run you off the road.  It was a very intense ride into town, and we got lost when we tried to get off the main road onto the street we hoped would have a hotel we could afford. 

The next two hours were another nightmare.  It tarted to rain just as we exited the highway, and that became a downpour of biblical proportions;  the streets flooded, and became curb-deep lakes.  The surface streets were a maze of one-way and crazy-angle tangle that got us hopelessly confused.  then, we managed to get separated when I made a sudden left turn and Levi could not follow.  In the downpour we tried to find each other, but even with our radios we spent an hour wandering the flooded streets looking for each other.  The street numbering system in Bogota is no system at all, and just too confusing for us simple gringos to follow.

At last, I found the spot that Levi was holed up at, and we waited out the rainstorm like two drowned kittens together.  Soaked to the skin and cold.  When the rain subsided, and the lakes receded, we worked our way north through the city until we found a wierd hotel with enclosed parking.  Over-priced, but we could not be fussy at this point.

We dried off, and warmed up, and then got overcharged for a very mediocre dinner.  Went out to a couple of local bars for a beer, and got nothing but poor service and very weird looks.  We went to a pool hall, and played some pool,  smoked a couple of small cuban cigars we got in Panama, and I went back to the hotel and went to bed!  Levi went off into the nearby University area to see what the nightlife was like.

Our first day in Columbia was a very mixed bag.  The experience at the airport was very positive.  People were friendly and helpful.  But Bogota is no place I ever want to drive a motorcycle in again, and the people, at least in the are where we wound up,  were not so friendly at all.  One interesting thing we noticed, was that about half of the vehicles on the street were motorcycles!  It was amazing how many there were.  Mostly small (125-250 cc), but everywhere.  They swarmed the streets in droves.  It is wild to see so many bikes at the lights and corners.  It looks like some sort of motorcycle rally in progress at every traffic stop!

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