Colombian Cops - Parts 1 and 2
I arrived at Girag at 7.30am, which gave me time to reorganise all the luggage on the bike, so that only the camping bag, under its security net, was left "loose" on the bike, with my hand luggage put off to one side. The staff arrived, and directed me to ride up the two steps, to a level area, then up another 6 steps, into the security checking area, do a 90 degree right hand turn, ride through the office area and into the warehouse! Yeah, right! I hesitated, shaking my head at going up the steps, then staff appeared with timber pallets to make "ramps" over the steps. It was still a bit hairy, rapidly bumping my way up over the uneven cross members of the pallets. Then they nearly dragged the bike over on its side, turning it the 90 degrees.
Into the warehouse, and ride up onto the scales with the help of a pallet. That's fine (280kg) but then I had to get the bike down off the scales. The pallet came to the rescue again, only to render an agonised screech as it finally smashed to smithereens under the weight of the bike, with the bike's rear wheel jammed in the broken timber. Oh, hell, I hope a shard doesn't pierce my tyre, I thought! But the combined muscle of several workers lifted the bike clear, without damage.
Through the warehouse, out onto the apron, then back around into another warehouse, in which there were several portable "stables" containing some very pretty horses, of Colombian lineage, going to Panama, I'd guess, or else they may have just arrived from Panama. But they were lovely, if a little shy. Next I had to disconnect the battery - major effort on the 650, having to take off the fake tank panels, which meant totally unloading all my gear to get the seat off! - then reload all my gear. The warehouse supervisor did the "wink wink, nudge nudge" thing about removing all the fuel. Good, I thought, coz I don't know how to get the fuel out!!
I trooped back upstairs, only to be given the invoice for the freight - in Colombia Pesos! I queried this, as the waybill was in US dollars, only to be told that the guy "had made a mistake", and that Pesos were the only currency accepted! Bugger! Can't they be consistent?? So off I walked over to the Dian (Aduana, Customs) to get the bike cancelled out of Colombia, then back to the main International airport to the ATMs and cambio, to get a little extra money "just in case" and have the $800US converted back into Pesos, at a $55 extra loss to me, of course. I was NOT happy by this stage of proceedings, as it was quite hot and I'd done a lot of walking! So back I walked, almost to Girag, around the fence post, only to have to walk halfway back to the airport to get to the Policia Nacional, where I had to register the bike as leaving the country. The guy said he'd come to Girag at 2pm, to do the check. Which meant I'd have to hang around for 2.5 hours, as I had to be present. Oh well, nothing for it, but to wait, relaxing in the grass under a shady tree after having some lunch in the cafeteria.
Back to the offices at 2pm. Fell asleep on the comfy couch upstairs, till Anna - the Englsh speaking lass who was now handling the shipment - suggested I go downstairs to wait for the Policia. And wait I did! Eventually I was escorted into the warehouse, where the two Policia with their black Labrador sniffer dog were inspecting another shipment of goods. It was my turn - to get the bad news that they wanted to check EVERYTHING!!!!! Bugger! I had to unload the bike, totally, yet again! I can be VERY, VERY slow, when I want to be! So they went through everything in great detail, with my stuff spread all over the warehouse floor. The Vegemite had them baffled. So I shocked them - by licking my finger, dipping it into the Vegemite then licking it all off again, saying "tostado, tostado" all the while. They lost interest in it, then. The ziploc bag of powdered milk got a second look, but they accepted my "leche" (milk) comment without hesitation.
All this time, the dog is jumping up on the bike seat, sniffing around everywhere. Just as well it didn't rip holes in my custom seat, or I would have been VERY upset! Then, when they'd satisfied their curiosity as to what I was carrying, they demanded that ALL fuel be removed. I just stood there, watching, as a staffer got a syphon hose and some plastic drink bottles and proceeded to extract about 4.5 litres. I'm now saying "fini, fini", knowing full well that there must still be about 3.5 litres in it, as I'd remembered what the odo reading was! They gave up when they couldn't get any more out, and signed off on the doco. Nothing incriminating found - naturally. Still, they're only doing their job, I suppose. It's just so bloody inconvenient and time consuming! One of the Girag workers made the comment to his boss that I should play poker. Did I really keep my face so unreadable, despite the frustration I was feeling? Haha!
Walked back to the airport yet again, to catch a taxi to the city, to the hostel I'd booked into, which was located in the centre of the historical secion of the city. After checking in, I wandered off downtown, to a little supermarket to get some fruit for dinner and yoghurt for brekky, as I'd have to leave before 6am to get to the airport on time to check in for the 9am flight, as they suggest arriving 3 hours before departure, and I've seen their queues, previously.
As it was, I left at 5.45am, and was at the airport before 6am. There were no queues at the Tax Exemption Claim counter (as I was entitled to pay less departure taxes, having been in the country for less than 30 days) or check-in, and I was in the caferteria by 6.10am.
After a nice leisurely brekky and checking email with WiFi, I gathered up my things and went through the security screening area, the the long walk towards the gate lounge for the flight. Yet another Policia screening area (they're everywhere, in Colombia). The woman who checked me, called over another stern faced woman, who beckoned me to follow her. Oh no, what's going on here, I wondered? Off we went, through double security locked doors, into a tiny room full of electronic gear and x-ray machines. She indicated I should drop my dacks (I had my riding pants on). Then I had to step out of them. She picked the very dirty, greasy pants up delicately and became very, very interested in the bumps, just above the knees. Shame the bumps are merely the covered zips for the zip-off legs of my BMW Summer pants!! But she still had to fully unzip each leg, to prove to herself that they really were zips and not concealed drugs! D'Oh!
Her dreams and visions of a major drug bust foiled so completely, she threw the pants back at me and indicated I should get dressed, before walking out of the office ahead of me without even thanking me for my cooperation. How rude! Oh well, such is life. I'd just about had enough of Colombian Policia by this stage.