December 26, 2003 GMT
The truth and Other Lies About Colombia

The most dangerous thing for a traveller's trip is for the traveller to fall in love.

This happened to me with the City of Bogota. It has positively been the highlight of my trip so far. The warmth of the people there has created an affection debt that I will find very hard to pay... I'll definitely be back at some point.

This love affair started about two or maybe three years ago, when I first concocted the idea of a transamerican motorcycle trip... at that time, however, Colombia was not a part of the travel plan. As a matter of fact it only became a part of it while I was already in Panama. (Maybe I should start this blog with Central America, but I tend to eat dessert first anyway, so bear with me).

As many other travellers I was advised against visiting this fabulous country. I am still in the middle of it and can´t tell what might happen as I make my way through a region where guerrilla activity has been heavy in recent months. But I can tell you it is a friendly and stunning country, well worth visiting. As with any love affair, one does not come into it free of risk... you all know that.

From Panama, I sent the bike via air to Bogotá using the good old Girag Cargo company. They charged me 250 US for the bike and then slapped me with an extra 75 bucks for "dangerous goods" certificate, they could not provide a decent receipt for this charge and I still think I got ripped off. The service was good, they had me disconnect the battery and that was it.

After leaving Tewke (bike´s name meaning "young woman" in the Tarahumara language) I took a cab to the passenger airport to find out that there were no tickets to be found to get to Bogotá that same day. Not only that, the lady at the counter evcen said to me: "you might have to stay in this country untill the first week of January". I have never cared for Christmas, so I forgot to consider that everyone else does... and that half the population of Panama City is Colombian and wants to be home for the holidays!!!!!

I had to get a first class ticket (ouch $$$) for two days later. In the end this turned out to be a good thing because I got to meet a gorgeous Colombian girl in my exact same situation... we visited Panama City together and shared the expenses... Panama is a good place to party and no too expensive. I had a really fantastic time.

So I finally got to Bogotá. The next day I went to the customs building. As I was getting my paperwork started a very friendly guy approached me, he told me he was a biker as well, the proud owner of a Virago 750. We immediatelly started talking bikes and trips. The bike was released smoothly and Germán agreed to guide me to my hotel. He then invited me to a "Harlistas" ride on Sunday. I immediaty agreed, of course.

Sunday ride was the most fun I've had on two wheels since I got my xr400 under water at a river crossing back home.

We were about 80 bikes. Most of them Japaneese cruisers, but there were a few Harlys there as well and only two dual sports: mine and a Suzuki Freewind 650.

The road to the city of Tunja was wonderfull... people ride and drive like Juan Pablo Mntoya (the F1 Colombian pilot) all the time; they have absolutely no respect for speed limits, lane lines, speed bumps, on comming traffic... it was a teen ager's dream ride. Lots of risk and total freedom.

As we made our triumphant entrance into Tunja, we were met by 10 police bikes. My heart stopped for a few moments, I could see my self in a Colombian jail for breaking every traffic law in the country. To my surprise... they were there to escort us into town!!!!!!!!!

The reason for our trip was to donate a bunch of toys to the town's poorest children. So we paraded through the main streets with sirens and horns and fore crackers.... it was incredible!

We alla parked at the ain square and hundreds of people cheered us in. As I was the only forigner I sort of became a one day star. I gave away authogrphs and kissed a bunch of babies... well I did kiss some babes as well. Then we took children for rides on our bikes. The look on their faces was of sheer joy. At one point I had three children on the bike as I road down main street roaring loudly at very low speed... It was memorable.

More later.

Posted by at December 26, 2003 06:25 PM GMT

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