For those of you that were expecting a daily blog like last time, if this week is anything to go by, you’re going to be sorely disappointed! I’ve simply not had the time to sit down and compose my thoughts since we arrived in Bogota on Monday. And I’ve probably only got a few minutes now before I need to meet up with Kevin and Jairo (pronounced Hi-Ro) to discuss tomorrow and run through what’s in the support vehicle.
So a quick run through what I’ve been up to.
Julia and I left the hotel for Heathrow at 3am, only to discover that it was in night-time mode and we couldn’t check in until 4.30. Then we had the worst long haul flight of my life with Iberia, via Madrid. The food was inedible, the entertainment consisted of a few small screens down the centre of the fuselage showing rubbish films and the toilet door didn’t lock. The cabin crew we inattentive and within minutes of the seat belt sign being switched on the toilets resembled those in Nepal during the mani-rimdu festival (see an earlier blog for gruesome details). Just before landing in Bogota we had to complete the customs declaration forms, on the back of which was a stern warning that it is illegal to bring in automotive parts, which was a minor concern as I now had a rocker cover, engine bars, screen support, spotlights and various other bits and bobs needed for the bikes that are already on the trip stowed in my luggage!
Customs was a doddle, though and we were met at the airport by Jairo who drove us into the traffic jam that is Bogota, weaving in and out of the lanes and dodging the tiny yellow taxis and motorcycles that buzz along like pinballs bouncing across the wide roads. We got to the hotel safely, showered and changed and then drove back to the airport to pick up our first arrival, Alex the Austrian photo-journalist and motorcycle instructor. We finally got back to the hotel at 9pm, had one beer and then off to bed, ready for the next morning’s jobs.
Tuesday morning was customs day as we tried, unsuccessfully, to get our bikes out of the bonded warehouse they’d been moved to when they arrived. We were unsuccessful only because the customs inspector needed confirmation all our paperwork was lodged correctly and this hadn’t been given before he left his office to come to the warehouse. Still, we had an entertaining few hours uncrating the 6 bikes that had flown in from around the world – for Julia, John and me from the UK, Alex and Joachim from Germany and James from Canada. Most of the bikes were in the same crates that they get delivered to the dealer in when new, but James’ bike was housed in a wooden box that was several levels of quality higher than the poor families’ tarpaulin home that we saw just round the corner from the warehouse.
With the morning’s work complete, the afternoon was spent meeting the other arrivals – James from Canada, then the group from Panama arriving with Kevin (Angelica, Baltasar, Bryan and his wife Kelly, Sir Charles, Darren, Dave and Tim). We then ferried them back to the hotel before I went back to the airport once more to pick up Joachim who arrived at 7:30pm. Another busy day done, I collapsed into bed, reflecting that I need to ensure I eat as I’d had nothing but a small empanada since breakfast.
Wednesday was back to the warehouse in a rush as we weren’t expecting the customs inspector to go to the warehouse at 9 – we found out at 8:30 and the warehouse was a 45 minute drive away! But all was good and after several hours of form filling we managed to get all 6 bikes out, including John’s despite him not being present, something we were repeatedly told was a mandatory requirement! Having ridden them back to the hotel, our first taste of riding in South America being Bogota in rush hour (eek!), I went back to the airport yet again to collect the final arrival, John. Meanwhile, the rest of the group were dropped off at customs to start the clearance of their bikes, something they’d hoped they could do in the morning but were told they couldn’t until 4pm – it was 9pm by the time they were back at the hotel. At least I managed a trip out to a restaurant with James, Joachim and Alex to get some food inside me.
Thursday and it was bikes to the dealership day for those arriving from Panama, and a day for me to try to arrange a city tour, which turned out to be non-viable as it cost over $60 per person for just 4 hours!! In the afternoon I led a small group (John & Alex) out to see the salt cathedral at Zipaquira some 45 Kms north of Bogota. This wasn’t as challenging as it sounds, as we simply followed Jairo in his pickup!
Thursday evening was a quick meeting and Kelly’s birthday presentation followed by a trip to the Bogota Beer Company, where, because it started pouring with rain, we also ate. Now I know what you’re thinking, “here he goes again, the p*sshead”, well, you’d be wrong because I only had 3 beers.
Friday was pretty much free, although I did spend the morning trying to sort a few things out before John and I caught a cab to the old town for some sightseeing, including the excellent free Museum Botero and the Musea de Oro (Gold Museum). Friday evening was a group meal in a very good steak restaurant and again I was sensible, returning to the hotel with the 2nd taxi and into bed by 10pm.
That was because of the early start this morning to take Alex and Charles’ bikes to the dealership and to pick mine up which was being fitted with road tyres (it had inexplicably been sent out with full on knobblies on, not ideal for the lovely Colombian roads), Alex’ bike had been knocked over in the hotel car park by another guest in a 4×4 and had a dented tank, broken screen and twisted hand controls whereas Charles’ had been overheating on the way back from its service. So I skipped breakfast expecting to be back quickly (I’d been told my bike was ready, it wasn’t), and then spent all morning at the dealers making sure the various tasks were completed, missing out on the pre-departure briefing Kevin was holding for the team.
Which pretty much brings us up to date, just in time for me to head off for another meeting. Just like work, really!
Oh, and if you are wondering about photos, I’ve not worked out how to upload them here yet and don’t have time to sort it now, but if you follow this link, it will take you to my photo stream… PHOTOS