City to City, Continent to Continent

The power generator here just kicked in. Here is the hotel El Virrey in Bogota, Colombia. It’s not the first time the power has gone out on our adventures, but it’s surprising in the middle of such an expansive metropolis. The city is big and it bustles – I looked up “bustles” out of curiosity and I like even better the phrase Merriam-Webster offers: this city is busily astir.  We left one for another – we spent two days rambling around Panama City.  Neither of us had been to Panama City since I was about nine years old.  My father can tell you how different the city is now – there is more development then you can imagine. Skyscrapers appear out of nowhere, and more then likely they are under constructions and in the realm of 100 floors. I can’t see how different it is –  I, of course, could only see how much it resembled my fuzzy 3 ft tall memories.  We set out for our old neighborhood in search of our apartment building.  The cab rolled up in front of a shopping mall when we told him the neighborhood – replete with a D&G and Jimmy Choo. It’s a more recent addition to the landscape. We marched through the streets on the hunt for crappy buildings with fewer then 10 floors.  There weren’t many and we bobbed back and forth through the streets trying to reorient ourselves through time, development, and decay.  Finally we found it, the Vista Mar, just where we left it so many years ago. Its a bit dingier than it was back then, but it was pretty cool to see, dwarfed in the path of time passing. Seeing proof that we had lived there, that we had some small claim on that city, made it a bit more accessible and less different.  It opened up just a bit more.  Its a beautiful place, much saltier and rough then Costa Rica. The roughness gave it some raw appeal- though the slums were vast and unsettling.  So much poverty sits beside its opposite.  You know things are tough when your cab driver applies the automatic locks on certain streets.  We made the requisite stop at the canal, too, which I think neither of us were really psyched about but both of us really enjoyed. We showed up to the restaurant after the visitors center closed and before the dinner crowd arrived and had the patio to ourselves. It was pretty cool. I took a video that I’ll post on flickr, though i doubt it will be as interesting as it was in person.

The last two days have largely been devoted to getting us to Colombia. We took the bikes to the cargo section of the airport yesterday morning and spent the better part of the day trying to get the paperwork square and find a cab back in to town. We booked flights and bought jumbo bags because we couldn’t ship any of our luggage in the bags on the bikes. This morning we trekked to the airport with unreal amounts of baggage and got in line for … air travel. It was a strange feeling.  The best part about it was that we sprung for business class tickets because there was only a $32 difference but it bought us 40 kilos of permissible baggage weight.  So for an hour and a half we flew in big squishy chairs like classy bitches and were waited on hand and foot. It seemed like we might be on the path to the fastest border crossing day yet. That was foolishness.  The bikes were there when we got there, which was very exciting, but there was a still a hike across the airport campus, a visit to the aduana, a search for a photocopy machine, a trek back, and the most excruciatingly slow form filling out I’ve ever beheld.  All told it took about three hours to import the bikes which gave us the paperwork we needed to have the shipper release the bikes.  Then there was the process of getting the bikes off the loading dock. I’m trying to load the video – I’m not sure if the WIFI here is strong enough, but I will get it here soon to watch- it was a tense four minutes! We didn’t make it to our hotel until about 6 this evening. The ride in to town was confusing and landed on rush hour, but we got it done.  The ride in was also strange because EVERYONE stares at us on our bikes here.  People would stop in the street to stare.  The crowd that saw us off at the cargo hold was surreal. So of course we rode off in the wrong direction.  They were still there when we came back to go the correct way.  Every last one. There are a surprising number of bikes on the road- at any given time you could find yourself a part of a moto posse.  The city here is crowded and messy – construction, buses, dogs, exhaust and grime.  Its totally energizing and indeed, busily astir. I’ll try to get some decent pictures tomorrow.

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Its tomorrow and we’ve had a day full of nothing much, yet somehow its been exhausting.  We decided to start out by taking our bikes in for service to the Autogermana BMW center here in Bogota.  About halfway to our destination, a policeman stepped out into three lanes of busy traffic to pull us over. You can be pulled over here absolutely arbitrarily.  We were asked for our insurance, which we had none, and told to leave our bikes in the street and walk four blocks up the way to purchase the appropriate coverage.  So I stayed with the bikes while Dad went off on an adventure.  I can’t express how much attention we draw here – I’m not sure if its the size or our bikes or the fact that we’re not wearing the safety vests the locals wear or what but its a little unnerving how many stares we get. So I sat on the street with the bikes for an hour and was the subject of silent fascination.  Eventually, Dad returned with insurance cards in hand and we were told by the officer that the insurance wasn’t valid until midnight so we should leave the bikes there.  Which we argued down and convinced him to let us get as far as the dealer. Thank God.  Watching the hordes of buses just skirt past the very edge of the bikes was…uncomfortable. 

We made it to Autogermana and were met by Edgar Gomez who generously gave us his time and advice with regards to our bike service and our stay in Bogota. He was so kind and enthusiastic – we’re both looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow when we pick up the bikes. He also offered to go to buy safety vests with our license plates on them, so maybe we’ll be a little bit less conspicuous.  Maybe.

We spent the latter half of our afternoon roaming the halls of the Museum of Gold – just a few blocks from our hotel.  The museum itself is beautiful, before you even begin considering the incredible collection of pieces the have.  Dad kept marveling over how amazing it is that across the world people were inventing the techniques of metallurgy independent of each other.  Honestly, about three wall plaques in I gave up reading descriptions and just gave over to wandering and staring at the surprisingly intricate figurines and jewelry.  It was a lovely way to spend a meandering afternoon.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “City to City, Continent to Continent

  1. Dina

    Heather,

    I am so glad you are writing about your trip. It makes my day a little brighter knowing you are out riding around having the time of your life.

    Be Safe,

    Dina

  2. Bonnie & Dave

    Hi Guys Glad to see you and your bikes made it to Columbia without too much hazzle. Many more happy trails ahead!
    We’re back in cold BC (Canada) Enjoyed our stay in Costa Rica. Didn’t get lost heading back after we met in Dominical. Enjoy your adventure.

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