Nope, not the Star Trek movie, rather just Bogota to Cornwall. My voyage home was less sci-fi, more black comedy…. The fun started benignly enough when trying to get my bike in a cab to get out to the airport. The cabs in Bogotá are similar to those in Quito… i.e small, yellow and Korean – so they have folding seats so I wasn’t expecting any trouble… how how wrong I was, in Bogotá they run on propane so have a dirty great tank in the trunk/boot*. Thankfully in my experience Bogotá cabbies have an excellent sense of humour, it was needed as our attempts to get the boxed bike wedged into the cab somehow all failed miserably… eventually we resigned ourselves to the fact that the bike was going to have to come out of the box and go in the cab in pieces, the box was stamped flat, folded up and jammed in while I went off in search of more packing tape to put the whole lot back together again at the airport. My driver was brilliant once there, there was a load of construction work going on so the normal arrivals drop off was blocked off, no problem, he parked right by the entrance and with one hand helped me repack the box, and with the other fended off the coppers keen to move us on. We laughed about the whole deal, best humoured cabbie I have ever met. He earned a large tip, and not just because I had a bunch of Pesos to get rid of anyway…….
Check-in then… Iberia have a rather generous baggage allowance of 46kg(!!) but you have to book a bike separately (which I had done)… however despite the rather obvious fact that somehow Iberia had been happy to carry my bike from London the agent said “nope, sorry, you can’t take the bike” (or words to that effect in Spanish)… I was ready to dump the thing anyway (great excuse to build a new one for the next adventure, mine is well worn). I just looked sad and smiled wearily… the ploy worked, she and her colleague took pity.. spent 10 mins conferring and eventually simply said “OK, have a nice trip”. Sorted.
Chainsaws and cattle whips…. you know it would never have occurred to me that I wouldn’t be allowed either of those things in my handbaggage, just as well the enormous list of prohibited items at security was so comprehensive, you never know… I might one day have found myself travelling with a pick-axe “just in case”….
That should have been it right, nice and easy all the way home….? Nope. Just as the aircraft was boarding the airport police decided I looked particularly dodgy (I suppose), took my passport and dragged me off for gut x-rays just to see if I was carrying anything in there other than the remains of the chicken and mango salad I had for lunch… Even then the Colombian friendliness shone through.. they had a job to do but were most apologetic about it, nice smiles all round though with the flight about to leave my thoughts were elsewhere. It did leave a bit of a bad taste but in my mind it’s not a black mark against Colombia at all, rather just an unfortunate consequence of the state of western society that drives demand for drugs. I made my flight, just… they held it for me.
I really did figure that would be it… however Madrid wasn’t plain sailing either, once again a copper singled me out on disembarkation from the aircraft for a search… heck, I thought I looked pretty respectable… shaved, clean clothes etc etc. The final humiliation was when I wasn’t allowed on the flight to London.. problem with my passport apparently… you see it is a quite new one with validioty beyond 10 years because I filled my other one up and replaced well before it’s expiry date. My new one just has stamps in it from countries that folk expect to be a bit ‘dodgy’ on the narcotic front… India, Morocco, Ecuador, Colombia, Pakistan…. and the Morocco visa is so smudged it is illegible (not my fault, the ink just bled like that)…. Still, I got to London about 5pm Friday afternoon, and home here to Cornwall yesterday (Saturday) afternoon. Tired…
None of it seems real now, I am really not happy to be back, Colombia especially was a fantastic experience despite any potential risk of riding a bike in the rural south. In Villa de Leyva an old lady asked me what I thought of her country… I said “I love Colombia, I really do.” She said in reply “I love my country too….” This is something I noticed all over, Colombians are proud of their country. and justifiably so, it is beautiful, warm, welcoming and so tidy. The contrast with the general scruffiness in Ecuador was remarkable. Riding away from the border towards Pasto honestly did feel like I was in someone’s vast, lush, mountain garden. I have already made plans to head back that way….
p.s. in case you were wondering, or even if you weren’t…. my bike did make it home undamaged :o)
* delete as appropriate depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside.