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Day22– Adios Central America!, Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011

Border Crossing #8 at Bogota Intl Airport, Reclaiming our Bikes

Air Flight: Copa, Panama to Bogota, Colombia

Girag Air Freight and the two Canooks

Mileage: 12 miles

Lodging: Hotel San Francisco de Asis, Cra 10 No 23 63 | Cundinamarca, Bogota, Colombia

Dean: Adios Central America! Wow did I learn a lot the hard way.  The seven Central America border crossing were similar but each had various challenges.

Our early morning flight from PTY to BOG was effortless.  In fact Lisa found us Business Class for $10 more that coach.  We got to sit up front!

Lisa: So Tuesday morning we took the shuttle to the airport, getting there about 2 hours early just because we didn’t know what to expect. The Panama airport is really quite nice with some great shopping and since I sent my headphones back in the hi viz jacket I miss terribly, I got another pair of those.

Panama uses the US currency (they have their own, but long story) so Dean and I have used every opportunity to cash larger bills we have with us and stockpile smaller bills. The young lady at the cash register was not happy with me when I gave her a hundred dollar bill for an $8 set of earphones. Ooops, sorry ‘bout that.

While we’re talking about Panama, we perceived a rather sad thing while we were there: the Panamanians aren’t thrilled with Americans. We’ve talked about it a lot and very few people actually even smiled at us, many wouldn’t even try to work with me and my crappy Spanish, but most offensive was really the Panama Canal Museum. I can understand their great national pride, but the way the canal hand off was presented was rather off putting, to say the least.

A little back story: since the transfer in 1999, Panama began charging ships using the canal basically what the market will bear. The signage there said they even factor in how much the short cut will save the shipping company when setting the fee. The tanker we saw was reported to pay $400,000 US for its 8 hour trip.  According to everything we heard, the canal is a major, major portion of the economy there. At the very least, the building of the canal is responsible for eliminating malaria in Panama and many other really good things. So, how about: gosh, thanks guys. We’ll take it from here, but sure appreciate the work you did.

Not a word of that. Nada.  So that was interesting.

Anyway, when we made our plane reservations, I thought the website had an error – it was only $10 difference between Business First and back o’ the bus.  Hmm, lemme think…so yeah, they call out priority boarding and I walked up, handing over my boarding pass.  I guess I look a little rough because, without looking at it, she hands it back and says, “No, senora, special class.”  After I pointed out that I WAS special class, she allowed me to pass, albeit a bit reluctantly. The gentleman next to me would not make eye contact.  Yup, I am bringin’ it.

Dean: Hola América del Sur! We arrived in Bogota around 11AM and walked 1/4-mile to the Girag Airfreight dock.  Lisa had a check in bag and helmet.  I had a check in bag and my Mac laptop.  Our bikes were not due until 1:30 PM.  There was a internet / photocopy / snack bar in the airfreight compound so Lisa looked for places to stay in Bogota.

Lisa: We got out of customs just fine, changed some money and headed to Girag, hoping to get our bikes. We got there early and were told to come back in an hour. We wandered across the parking lot and sat in an internet café for a while, trying to find a hotel for the night. When the bikes were there, I left Dean at the terminal and ran down the street ½ mile with the bick importation paperwork from the Girag cargo dock and our passports. It’s a long way down the block and up 3-floors to a rather busy large office but it was air-conditioned. Ran into two riders from BC whose bikes came in with ours.  Fun.  When it was my turn, I found I didn’t have the registration for Dean’s bike, so back I ran to get him.  I grabbed my huge duffle bag and he got his and we walked really fast back there.

Getting our paperwork to our motocicletas into Colombia.

The last BMW broke the ramp. Lisa decided to let longer legs ride down the ramp.

Lisa and I with the two Canadians - Neil Jack & M. Hogg

It was a fairly easy process this time, sitting in an upscale office building, in an air-conditioned office with people who are accommodating and take your paperwork for the necessary copies, smiling nicely and telling you to have a great vieja.  MUCH different than the typical borders yet Dean somehow thinks he’s crossed this huge hurdle because he now participated in a border cross. Yeah. Whatever makes you happy.

Dean: Was that a whine?  It sure sounds like whinin’!

The bikes had to be ridden down a wooden ramp.  The two BMW’s went first.  They had a wooden pallet to get the height the same as the ramp.  The second BMW crushed the pallet.  Oh crap!  In the end, all four bikes made it down safely.

Lisa: Bikes are out, no problems; we reassemble and head toward our chosen hotel. Hotel San Francisco was picked because it was NOT $285 USD like many of the Bogota hotels and it was close enough we didn’t have to mess with Bogota rush hour traffic. Nice, older hotel staffed and owned by very accommodating people.  All good.  We walked out and over a few blocks but didn’t find great food. Oh well.

Dean: The Hotel San Francisco was great.  It was in a not-so-good location (but it was 2 blocks off Av Carrera 7 a major business street).  The San Francisco had a secure parking lot across the alley with razor wire on the top of the chain-link fence.  A camera pointed at the area where we parked our bikes.  We walked over to Av Carrera 7, which had lots of activity including casinos and tons of cheapo fast food joints.  We walked around, picked one and it was bad!

3 comments to Day22– Adios Central America!, Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011

  • Chuck Hickey

    Remember that smooth sailing problem free flight at the beginning???
    Remember the problems this caused???
    Remember my warnings?
    I urge you to go stub your toe or get yourself arrested or something (Dean would make a good south American prisoner) just to balance the karma scales!

  • Bounce

    “Was that a whine? It sure sounds like whinin’!”

    Geeze! Channeling the lady herself. You ARE brave. Very good by the way as I could hear her telling me the same thing when I read it.

  • H Marc Lewis

    Remember to breathe! Seriously, when you get grouchy or irritable, just close your eyes and concentrate on your breath coming in and going out. Sounds “new age”, I know, but it really works. The trip is going to be over before you know it, so enjoy the moment!

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