May 28, 2006 GMT
Helmets

You may remember the nightmare of addresses in Japan, which are vague in the extreme and where even the posties* don't really know which building is which.

Reminder: All my pix are here.

The centre of Caracas has its own conundrum. None of the streets have names, or even numbers. Instead, the street corners are named, and an address will be expressed as in between two corners. Aargh.

Bogotá has yet a different scheme. All the streets are numbered (and some have names as well). Calles run E-W, numbered from south to north, and Carreras run N-S, numbered from east to west; which sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Ha, gotcha. Addresses of individual buildings are a little more challenging.

For instance, my hotel has the address Calle 106 14-49. Aha, you may think, it runs from number 14 to number 49 on Calle 106. You have the Calle 106 bit right, but the 14-49 bit means it's 49 metres from Carrera 14 in the direction of Carrera 15. Obviously it's all a bit approximate, but even locals and taxi drivers have difficulty sometimes. And everything's complicated by Diagonals and Transversals, and as street signs are minimal even really strict counting doesn't necessarily work too well as it's occasionally difficult to distinguish between a street and a building site.

They repealed the helmet law in Colombia some time ago; by which I mean that they allowed motorcyclists to wear helmets. But it went further. All motorcyclists have to wear a bib with their registration number front and back in big reflective characters. The number must also be on the back of their crash helmets (and those of their pillions). Often they don't bother, and it doesn't seem too strictly enforced. I asked a motorcyclist about it the other day, as he had several bikes, and he said you either have to have a helmet or two for each bike, or arrange some sort of removeable sticker you can transfer from one to t'other. Nightmare. Still, if you can afford more than one bike you can afford more than one helmet, I suppose. A standard 1200GS like mine is double the price here, and the guy I spoke to (Andreas) had the new 12GS Adventure so must be loaded.

The fun gets even better this weekend for the election. Not only are the streets absolutely crawling with soldiers and armed police, but I've just had an email from Rupert in Cartagena to say that no bikes are allowed on the streets at all this weekend there, which has caused him some accommodation problems; here in Bogotá no pillions are permitted, so unless a bike can be found for me I can't go on any of the rideouts. Even worse, no booze can be sold between last night (Friday) and Tuesday morning. Don't worry, I've checked that the hotel has a sufficient supply of my medicine.

The reason for all this is that a few years ago there were many ride-by shootings, both criminal and political, so they banned helmets to provide a better chance of identification. Then on safety grounds they repealed that law but insisted on the provisions I described above. And the same fear is the reason for the ban on bikes and/or pillions this weekend.

Hope you all had a good Bank Holiday weekend, but bet it's not as much fun as here.

* Non-Brits: a postie is a postman.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at May 28, 2006 07:42 PM GMT
 


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