I am writing from a backpackers’ hostel called the Cranky Croc in the Candelaria area of Bogotá. It was suggested by a fellow adventure rider Michael who I met in Panama City. I was glad to have this lead as I have already had my fair share of arriving in a city and having to find random accommodations.
I arrived at the airport without much issue beyond traffic and confirmed my bike’s arrival in Bogotá before check in. The flight was reasonably enjoyable, having cleared customs and the x-ray machine I became cashed in a few bucks for Colombia Pesos. While I am not one, it is quite easy to be a Colombian “millionaire”. While not exactly accurate, multiply by two and add three zeros to the dollar.
I jumped in an official airport cab. While apparently the dispatch booth knew about Girag Cargo, the driver did not and it took a while to find Girag. When we did find Girag, I had to carry my bags a distance reasonable enough that I was a little annoyed at the taxi driver. He was also making some sort of noise as to be put out by the extra distance traveled. It ain’t my fault that and airport cab doesn’t know the basic airport structure.
I checked in with Girag and was allowed to leave my bags in their secure locker which was welcome. I was told that I needed to go to aduana (customs). A few questions later and wrong turns later, I found myself in the aduana. Most accounts suggest that it can take several a day or two to spring a newly imported bike. The office was rather modern compared to all the other aduanas I have been to. It was, however, lacking in an sort of sign or indication as to who to access services at the row of desks.
While there were a few people hanging about both seated and standing, I decided I better assert myself or else I would never get anywhere. As a woman walked by, I attempted to communication the need to speak with aduana about my motorcycle importation. Shortly after Gladys was serving me. We had to resort to Google translation (not very accurate) to get the job done. After some effort we came to an understanding as to what I was looking for (temporary vehicle importation) and that I had already permission to stay for 60 days. By the end of it, quite a number of forms were completed. I’m pretty sure that Gladys was about to go for lunch before I had showed up so I attempted to show my appreciation on the matter. So much for aduana closing for a two hour lunch. All and all, I cleared customs in less than two hours including questions, walking, waiting an so forth. And I was worried about arriving on Thursday thinking aduana could run over until Monday.
There was no issue with the shipping of the bike. A few people have reported problems with Girag dropping bikes, my bike arrive as I left it. I think there service was just fine. No issues. I say this as, no doubt, others will find this blog while researching Girag. Perhaps Girag has made some changes over the years as other recent posting by others mention good experience. The price is high, mind you — I am not sure what is up with this — perhaps it has something to do with that motorcycles are now considered “dangerous cargo”.
I screwed my mirrors back on, had left enough gas in the tank as to not have to worry about it, and started the ignition. Nobody at Girag had pressed the issue about disconnecting the battery so I didn’t. It is a standard demand but apparently (not confirmed by me) is not an FAA regulation.
Having neglected to write down the address on the Crazy Croc but somewhat recalling its location from the previous night’s search on Google Maps I picked a museum on my GPS and rolled with it. Indeed, it put me in the general area of where CC turned out to be. In search of an internet cafe I had turned around on the road I had been traveling and hit some traffic. Someone in an SUV was trying to get my attention. It turned out to be Elkin who rides a V-Strom DL1000. Elkin comment on that he had a bike and wanted to ride to Argentina and we parted. Shortly after at a red light, a figure ran out of an SUV towards me. It was Elkin offering my his cell number in the event that I needed assistance with anything in Bogota. I gladly accepted it. I little further up, I ran into Elkin again in some heavy traffic. It turned out his office was near by. His English basic and not at full conversation level — and my Spanish certain is much less than his English. Elkin was attempting to invite me to a gathering, which turned out to be a ride, in the evening.
I was curious but very tired due to poor sleep the previous night. Noting that his office was nearby, I communicated to Elkin that I was looking for internet. Low an behold I found my bike parked securely in a garage, and my in his office being pandered on by various associates. It turns out that Elkin in a paster at what seems to be a fairly large church. The office was very office-like and I was provided with internet access, bottled water, and then fruit juice and pastry. And then tourist maps of Bogota. And directions to CC, and then (successful) attempts to talk down another hotel to a price similar to the hostel in part to better facilitate the evenings happenings. These were a ride out to a town called Chia, dinner and then a ride back. While torn, in the end I had to decline as I was tired enough that I was questioning my responsibility to my own safety by taking “pleasure ride” when so tired.
On exit, Elkin explained to me that kitty corner to the office was a sort of convention centre. He was quick to bring me over and show me the thousands of people in attending some sort of church related matter — a service if I understand right — quite a crowd. The interesting thing is that the same convention centre is to host a motorcycle event the following night. Elkin described it as a “touring” event, and upon further questioning, it was described as a sort of “adventure touring” gathering/convention/show. I am definitely invited and a more than welcome to bring my fully loaded KLR. I suspect that rather than being a guest, if I understand things correctly, I may well end up being a micro-celeb at this ADV show. Why not? They are showing off bikes like Elkin’s V-Strom — and I just happened to roll in from Canada.
I suspect that I will spending the day in and around Bogotá, change my oil, and possibly get a “reflectivo” vest made with my license plate number on it to keep the fuzz off my back. All motorcycle riders and passengers in Colombia must wear a reflective vest with their license plate number affixed. As I understand it, this was instrumental in combating gun related violence were gunmen rode as pillions (passengers) on motorcycles. It makes it pretty hard to illegally wield a firearm when you ID is all over your back. So while the reflectivos are not required for tourists, they are reported quite cheap and would give the police one less reason to pull me over and ID me — and would make a good novelty.
Ciao for now…off to bed.