(This is the 2nd of 3 parts of the Colombia story originally posted on March 16th.)
One of the greatest reasons for not wanting to backtrack to the border was that we were trying to make it to Cali on Sunday to visit a church that we had heard so many great things about. It was now Sunday and we were now only a few hours away. So we continued to Cali, hoping to make it to church on time, and hoping we could resolve the paperwork issues later when we arrived in Bogota.
I’ll say it now, if we knew at this point what was in store for us, we would’ve jumped on our bikes and made a mad dash back to the border immediately. Something we have laughed at many times since then is that the very day before we had huddled and discussed security tactics for our ride through Colombia. We would ride closer together and never lose site of the other riders. We would not stop for anyone for any reason. We would not allow any vehicles between us, giving anyone an opportunity to cut us off or separate us. We would only stop in populated areas. All are great strategies used by military and law enforcement worldwide; however here we were without any paperwork, registration, or clearance to be in this country. Suddenly our strategies seemed meaningless. I have never felt so helpless and exposed.
We enjoyed our time in Cali. And yes, we made it to the church service on time; which was a wonderful worship experience. We were treated as guest; invited to sharing with the audience about our trip and mission, as well as bring greetings from our home churches in the USA. It was a special time for all of us.
We left early the next morning for Bogota. The roads between Cali and Bogota were some of the most treacherous we had experienced on the trip. Although danger seemed to be around every curve, the scenery was magnificent and we were astonished at the beauty of this incredible country.
The most dangerous segment of the ride was through a stretch of steep and curvy mountain roads called La Linea. Besides daily rain showers, which make the roads slick due to the diesel and oil on the road from so many transport trucks, the fog can get very thick making it impossible to see the car ahead of you, much less the huge trucks coming toward you. The greatest fear are the areas where the road literally ends and you come upon a stretch of washed out dirt and gravel. We saw several serious accidents. The switchbacks were so steep at times, you could reach out and touch the road while turning the corners. While turning a steep and very sharp curve, Gary clipped his front safety bar on the pavement which acted as a fulcrum and lifted his front tire completely off the ground. His bike fell over and upside down. Normally you can lift a Harley Davidson with two people, one person if you know the special technique. This time it took four people to get the bike upright on the steep pavement.
At this point we are around 7,000 miles into the trip and we had yet to feel the enormous stress and fatigue we were now feeling trying to get through Colombia; and all the while knowing that if we were stopped by a military or police checkpoint our bikes would be confiscated and we would be arrested. We had no stamps in our passports and no paperwork for our bikes. This honest mistake was now feeling incredibly complicated, dangerous, and stupid.
Just before we left the USA we registered our trip with the US State Department which enabled us to receive daily email briefings for all the countries we were visiting. We received ten-fold the amount of emails about Colombia as any other country (besides Mexico). During the time we were traveling between the Ecuador border and Bogota, the rebels known as FARC, had attacked three times killing eight people. (**NOTE** We would later learn that 9 people had actually been killed.) We were hearing all of this during our trip and frankly, due to our situation we were very concerned, to say the least.
We arrived in Bogota late in the day on Monday. We hired a taxi to lead us to the Harley Davidson dealership. When we arrived I literally got off the bike and kissed the ground. We made it!
The Harley Davidson dealership in Bogota is first class. Andres and his team took great care of our bikes and us. We immediately told them of our situation. After their initial shock to the fact that we were there illegally, they went to work on our behalf, making phone calls and trying to find a way to resolve the necessary paperwork. Our bikes were scheduled to ship to Panama in two days (on Wednesday, March 9th). We would need to resolve the issues quickly in order to make the flight.
The hotel was a few doors down from the Harley Dealership. When I walked into the hotel room, an incredible amount of tension and stress that I had been carrying overcame me. It included many tears and prayers of thanksgiving. We were finally in Bogota, safely. (…continued)