May 26, 2006 GMT
A Pint of Bitter

Everyone in Colombia is amazingly friendly and helpful, and very aware of their country's reputation in the rest of the world.

When they ask what I expected I give the usual list of drug barons, shootings, kidnappings and so on, and they know that's the perception, but they're working really hard to make all visitors really welcome. When I came into Bogotá (dark, raining) I was trying to follow a raving lunatic taxi driver to a hotel (beds are scarce here as it's the business seasonm whatever that is) and other motorcyclists kept engaging me in conversation when we were stuck and I had to keep saying "Love to chat but I'm trying to follow this raving lunatic taxi."

The Old Dear is in the workshop at Autogermana, who are the main BMW importers for South America. Henry speaks excellent English and did the motorcycle engineering course at Merton College (I remember Tim Stevens starting that in the '70s). My sidekick is Alejandro, who's a very fetching young man and an excellent machanic. Edgar, the workshop boss, speaks hardly any English and has a great sense of humour. Most days I go round the corner with them for lunch - 3-course set meal for around thirty bob. The list of things to fix seems to be never-ending - I've been tolerating all sorts of minor niggles and have the opportunity to get everything perfect while I'm here, and the chaps are bending over backwards to help. Major welding and patching has been done to the right-hand pannier and topbox, and a new topbox mount is being fabricated. Another chap appeared today to re-helicoil the threads for the rocker cover centre studs, both of which have been missing for at least 10,000 miles. Incidentally, I've now ridden nearly 45,000, 20,000 of them in South America.

Rupert turned up on Friday evening (he knew where I was staying). We spent most of Saturday being interviewed for the telly and a bike magazine (video will allegedly be sent to me), then on Sunday Pedro and Juanita and their son and his girlfriend took us to an antiques market and then to lunch. Pedro knows absolutely everyone (he directs TV commercials) and has given both me and Rupert loads of contacts. Tomorrow (possibly) Pedro's taking me to a GPS place where I can upload detailed Central America maps to my GPS. Beats having to follow raving lunatic taxi drivers.

Yesterday Rupert and I took a day off and did tourist - the Gold Museum, a spot of lunch, then up the cablecar to Montserrate to get a stonking view out over the city. He went off to Medellín this morning after taking his leave from the chaps at Autogermana who'd done some repairs to his bike (he *will* keep chucking it down the road and setting fire to it). It's been really good having someone to swap tall stories with and consume copious quantities of Irish Red at the Red Lion.

Looks like I'll be here for a while longer; my parts are allegedly arriving on Tuesday (Monday's a holiday), and part of my deal with Autogermana is to demo the bike to a bunch of technicians from all over South America who'll be here early next week as no-one here (of course) knows anything at all about the old boxers. And I have to do another TV interview once the bike's rideable again.

This weekend will be interesting as there's a presidential election on Sunday and the city has been filling with military. The other afternoon Rupert's bike died on the way home, young Alejandro came out in a taxi to see what he could do, and produced a really loud backfire. Everything suddenly went quiet and three soldiers closed in on us. They quickly understood what had happened but still hung around until the trailer arrived to take the bike back to the dealer. It was just a frayed wire to the crankshaft position sensor so an easy repair.

Anyroadup, don't believe everything you read in the papers or see on the telly. Even if it's me being interviewed.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at May 26, 2006 07:40 PM GMT
 


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