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Published: April 24th 2006
Back at altitude with attitude again but I must be getting acclimatised. Great Bogota. Home to Bolivar’s greatest and lowest moments and still alive with a sense of history, passionate, proud and over populated with beggars.
A little scene setting, this morning I took off the damaged panier, you might remember from the dog crash ep, I took it over the road to a small ferreteria (hardware) and told them I needed to fix it….did they have drill, hinges, rivets etc, within 5 mins the boy, the boss and 2 passing bike riders had accumulated tools, bits and pieces, sent the boy off to buy bits, pushed me, gently, aside, after 3 hours, all panel beaten, new hinge and back on bike…we chatted for a while about the bike, the trip, life, the universe and everything…then I asked how much and they all backed off saying nada nada, I couldn’t even buy them a 6 pack and I’m still wondering how to repay this extraordinary generosity…and it’s everywhere in Colombia, people go out of their way to ask if I need help or directions just walking down the street, amazing…however, not far from my friendly ferreteria a few months ago, one
Carving the Roast
Fred and Sandy's Appartment
of the teachers caught a cab home from the shopping centre, the cab stops out on the road and 2 guys get in, stick a gun in his guts, work him over and he sits like this for a couple of hours as one takes his card and cleans out his bank account, then he’s dumped out on the autopista….others have been robbed, assaulted and etc, public and private security everywhere, armoured cars pull up and serious guys with pump action shotties, side arms, RPGs probably, dash into even very small stores to take the daily or weekly cash to the bank…all serves to remind that in this over friendly, sophisticated, modern city, really bad things are …how close?..just a shot away?
I’m walking down the steep, narrow cobbled back streets of the old town, knee jarring steps, barely avoiding falling, slipping on the wet stones, pissing down rain, hail even, a torrent of water up to my ankles washing me along, They talk about Melbourne’s 4 season days, here it’s 4 in one hour!
But first, back to where we start this episode…putting the horse before the......Cartagena, sounding like a smoke related disease, but a fabulous old city,
surrounded by the massive wall and touristified to within an inch of it’s life.
And the touts were out in force, small crowds now but they are practising for the major influx of touries for Easter week and never give up….T-shirts, jewellery and drugs! I befriended the biggest guy, Gabriel, and altho’ there was a price to be paid, he “found” me a hotel and kept the others at bay. I told him if the bike was still safe by Sunday morning I’d give him $20
I rode out of Cartagena at first light, unfortunately Gabriel was not around and so missed his “commission”… I followed the coast by Barranquilla and Santa Marta, pretty ordinary, swampy coast with pockets of beach resorts amongst the mangrove swamps, it was sea-misty and almost cool before heading inland and eventually up into the mountains again.
More beautiful winding road with more of those mind boggling vistas of huge valleys, raging rivers and strings of truck and car convoys that I could sweep past while trying to avoid the double-overtakings coming towards me. I spotted a 1200GS in a small town and did a quick uey. A Bogotonian on a brand
Can you believe it!
new bike, we chatted awhile and he gave me the address of BMW in Bogota.
Stopped the night in Bucaramanga, nothing to report there! and off early for the last 400kms, all mountainous curves but with the added attraction of major subsidences in the road…often signed but always a thrill as the road surface suddenly drops away half a metre and usually on a curve!
Bogota started right on the 400km mark but that was just the start, it’s a long city and I could see a big thunderhead and much rain down where the centre looked to be. Stopped and applied the wet weather gear…getting easier now that I slip the pant liners over the pants and the top liner over the armour, a 2 minute job! Previously a longer, hotter and more frustrating exercise.
Having only a small map of only part of the city and caught in horrendous traffic and pissing down rain I holed up in a park place to get oriented, I was lost, but the parkplace woman and her friends were v entertaining!.. Finally the rain eased and I made it to the area my map covered and found a hotel,
( Ha, it sounds so easy to say that, you’ve got no idea!) and, as always happens, at first you can’t find a hotel anywhere, then after finding one, you see them everywhere!
Next day I went in search of the BMW service centre, Ha, so straightforward on the map Ha, not so easy on the ground, but with multiple stops to question taxi drivers.........and they would always go on and on with the usual torrent of incomprehensible information, hey, what’s wrong with just saying, for example, 2 blocks then turn right? Oh no, it has to be a total explanation of every feature along the way, several alternatives, the party he went to last night, how to get to somewhere else etc etc however, I was able to get enough info at each stop to finally get there, I was stoked, ha, this city is not so hard!
In fact Bogota has a great system, the whole city is a grid (not always regular and straight but sort of logical, Calles from 1 to into the hundreds run vaguely East/West and Carreras North/South, addresses give the street number, the next cross street and then the building number, beautiful!
Eg my hotel is at Cra 5 13 - 46, BMW is at Cra 50 16 - 65. PS I just found out that the last number is actually the metres from the corner, this way any new building built later won’t stuff the numbering system, now that is a cute idea!
My hotel is in the old centro district, La Candelaria, once scary but now cops/military on every corner plus more....sort of reassuring despite the tender age of some, I think conscription is at 11 years old, but they have big sticks and guns. The major roads are lined with old buildings, lots of churches and museums with beautiful architecture. The mornings tend to be clear and warm, then in the afternoon the storms roll in, fantastic thunder and lightning, torrential rain that turns the narrow streets into veritable rivers, today it rained early, I was in the barber shop, nothing much to report there except a woman next to me was having a fantastic foot job, soaking, massage, nail clip, maybe next week, I’m reluctant to force anyone to deal with my plates!, anyway, it bucketed down and this narrow little street was about a foot deep,
I kid you not, raging river, the little taxis almost swept away, I stayed and made small talk with the staff until it cleared a bit.
The BMW people were fantastic and took the bike in straightaway, a 50,000 kms service and a few little bits and pieces, they had a new handlebar (but for 400 bucks) so I’m going to live with the bent one a bit longer! And a rear tyre for another 400, I don’t think so. But, they’ll fix the rear drive seal under warranty, something I’ve been trying to get fixed since Caracas. Come back at 10am manana, perfecto, and they got me a cab home. This morning I went back and hung around, luckily they had a freebie internet for me to cool my heels at for a couple of hours, then they told me they had struck a problem, and as everything shuts down at noon for the Easter break, yes, it starts Wednesday here!, and since I’m happy to stay here for a while, and saving on parking, and so they do it right, I’ll pick it up on Monday.
Last night I found the Café de Buenos Aires, all
tango, steak and red wine, crikey, I’d forgotten how much I missed BA, this was a huge nostalgia trip, reminded again how much I miss BA when the bill came…about twice the cost here!
Well, it’s a few days later, Monday in fact, easter’s over here but a few of you will still be enjoying the break, sort of weird here, no chocolate eggs, or rabbits, and no freaking hot X buns….but, last night, something out of the deep, inscrutable nostalgia-homesick department, home cooked roast leg of lamb, gravy, all the roast veges, I even made the mint sauce, how could this be? I have stumbled onto an ex-pat teaching crowd courtesy of mutual friends in far off frogland,
Another lapse, disculpeme, it’s back to the start and I’ve just booked a tic to Panama for next Thursday 27th? So I’ll take the bike to the airport Wed and the gorgeous Carolina will do the paperwork and have it in Panama Thurs morning…hehehe…yeah right! But I’m conf it will work out.
So, back a couple of steps, friends of friends, I’m staying out in the burbs with Sandy and Fred, teachers here in Boggers, as the locals
call it, 4th floor, split level apartment, huge, Oz garden on the balcony, heath, kangaroo paws, wattle and much more, soo fantastic to be in a “home” after nearly 10 months, the aforementioned roast lamb with everything, a 3kg leg was about 20USD but steak meat is cheap and excellent, Monday I went out and rounded up the ‘gredients and made a lasagna, fark, over baked the top but hey, it was real!….beer gets delivered, and quite frequently, 15USD for 30 stubby crate, nice red for 5 USD and upwards. Sandy is from Melbourne, Fred from Canadia, he teaches IT and Sandy Maths, and I’ve been introduced to several of their friends, quite a fantastic little ex-pat community, aussies, poms, seppos but all such long-time OS workers that they are the true internationalists, but the topics of conversation, deteriorating rapidly with the mojitos, beers and wines, are the same as teachers everywhere!
OK, enough for now, this is a wonderful country, I’m getting to like it very much, don’t ask me about the rest, more for the sealed section…whoo hoo…
OK, a quick updato...went away for the weekend with S&F and a few other teachers,, well Sat/Sun to
an old spanish farm/fort about 200 kms away, fabulous old building, massive gates for coaches and people on horseback to enter, log beam ceilings, fireplaces and a swimming pool of thermal heated water...far out!...altho' the tucker was disappointing in the restaurant we had a relax, lolling in the pool and drinking red wines...the bike loved the outing, the new tyres holding well and all the seals holding, in fact, it was like a new bike!!...talking of which, she goes in to the freight company tomorrow and I fly Thursday for Panama...more from there...
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