Beautiful Colombia

Fighting the pains in my gut, I managed to get through the border crossing into Colombia, after having to go back into Ecuador - not once, but twice - to get photocopies for the Colombian Aduana officer, as it was Saturday, and the copy shop in the Colombian border post was closed.  At last, I was back into Colombia, the last of the South American countries I would visit on this leg of the trip.

I had not been stopped at all by Ecuadorian police or military, and was not to be stopped in Colombia in the coming days, either, the only two countries where I'd been this lucky.

I made it as far as Ipiales, just a little further into Colombia, before looking for a hotel for the night, which actually turned into two nights, as I was suffering badly from gut pains and diarrhea, and generally felt quite weakened.  I needed the extra day's rest, for sure.  But I felt a little better after the second night, so headed off towards Bogota, through the beautiful, mountainous countryside.

There is a stretch of road from Armenia to Ibaque - 81 km long - which is all tight switchbacks, up and down, over and around the mountains, and of course, it rained, it teemed, for most of the way.  And being the PanAm, it was chockers with trucks and buses, all clawing their way slowly up the hills.  Then we'd come across a semi, broken down in a corner, or halfway up a hill, so traffic was banked up for miles, while everyone took turns at using the remaining single lane.  Very slow travelling, but at least the bike could skip past most of the traffic, ducking in and out of the lines of vehicles as the opposing traffic permitted.

Of course, it goes without saying that there are no photos through this section, although it is simply stunning country.

The outskirts of Bogota were reached, and I slowly made my way through, eventually asking a guy in a car beside me at some traffic lights if I was still on the right road to the airport.  Yes, I was, and as he was going to the airport, he indicated that I should follow him.  So that was a big help, as there were a few twists and deviations and direction changes before actually getting onto El Dorado, the main, wide road leading to the airport. Once onto that, I knew where I was, and waved goodbye to my guide when he turned off, leaving me just a few km from the airport.

I went straight to Girag Cargo, and spoke with a guy to arrange shipping of the bike.  He told me, through a lass who was interpreting, that the price was US$800.  I nearly fell over backwards in shock, and mentioned that I'd paid only US$551 a few months before when coming over from Panama. No, from Colombia, it was $800, in US bills.  So after agreeing to be back at Girag at 8am the next day, I went back to the main airport, found some very expensive parking for the bike, and went in to use the ATMs.  Of course, they inconveniently would not issue cash in US dollars, only Colombian Pesos, so I then had to find the Cambio, to change it into US dollars, which cost me an extra amount in exchange fees.  All cashed up, I headed for the city, to get a hotel.

No way could I find how to actually get to a hotel whose name and address I'd been given by Girag staff!!  Round and round the general area, over overpasses, under underpasses, in and out all sorts of little roads and big roads.  In the end, I gave up, and headed for the expensive hotels area, only to find that they were all booked out, as there was an expo or something on in the city.  But the staff at one of the biggest (booked out) hotels took pity on me, and sent their taxi driver to lead me to the hotel whose details I had.  Off we went, and after he'd asked a few locals for directions, we finally arrived, only to find that this cheap hotel was fully booked out as well!

So began a long journey round several hotels, with the taxi driver popping in to ask if they could fit me - and the bike - in.  No, no, no.  Finally we hit the jackpot, although it cost me heaps for a relatively crappy room, but at least there was secure parking for the bike and it was only for one night.  As luck would have it, there was a tiny internet cafe with very slow connection speeds just around the corner, so I popped in there, looked up a hostel in the city, of which I'd learned from Lonely Planet, and rang to book a room for the next night, as I couldn't get a flight out to Panama until the Friday morning, which suited, as the bike would travel over on Thursday night and be available on Friday morning. Accommodation for Thursday night confirmed, and passage booked with Copa Airlines for myself on Friday morning, I went to bed early, as I had to be back at the airport at 8am, to start the shipping process for the bike.