Adam Writes on 2014-02-21:

Today is Jenn’s birthday.  Unfortunately it hasn’t been the greatest of days so far.  Who wants to have a nasty head cold, as well as well spend four hours at the airport retrieving bikes and two more hours commuting?  I would not be happy either.  To top it off, it is raining and miserable here.

The process of getting our bikes wasn’t too complicated, all told, but like everything else, there is always a story to tell.

We woke up this morning, gently trying to bring Jenn back to life.  She wasn’t feeling all that well last night when we had our pint at the Bogotá Beer Company, and she began to feel worse and worse as the night progressed.  It is probably fair to say that most people would prefer the comfort of their own home while nursing a bad cold, and trekking out to an airport to deal with bureaucracy is probably at the bottom of most lists.  Having fed Jenn with breakfast and some warm panela (raw cane drink), we dragged ourselves to the local TransMileneo (metro) station, and after a couple of of transfers arrived at the airport.

For the most part it was signing in here, going here and going there, and observing strange contradictions.

For example, having gone up to customs, the customs agent wanted to inspect the bikes in my presence.  When we entered the “secure zone”, Jenn was require to stand near the entrance and me surrender my bag (with all of my important stuff in it), my helmet, etc.  I had to sign in using my passport number, walk 20 feet, sign in again with my passport number, be frisked,  put on a reflective vest, and then proceed to assist the customs agent with the inspection of the bikes.  Now returning to the starting point, I was frisked again – perhaps I stole something from my own motorcycle in the presence of a customs official (?!?).

Having finally completed the customs paperwork, and that of the cargo carrier, we proceeded back to the cargo building.  This time we were basically whisked in to the open area, were forklifts played bumper cars (almost), and again were asked to “hurry up and wait”.  Apparently a gentleman was supposed to assist us with our bikes and he then sort of just disappeared without a word.  He finally came back, in a very nonchalant manner, and instructed me to move the bikes close to the loading bay.   What?  No hoops?  No song and dance?   In other words, I sauntered over to the “high security” zone without question.  No sign-in, no frisking, no reflective vest.  What the hell???  I mean it didn’t bother me but what an insanely stupid process.

Having signed all of the necessary paperwork, we started to remove our riding gear which was attached to the bikes with a security cable and get out our rain gear.  Shortly into this, said gentleman started to get slightly impatient with us.  Besides that this guy was in no rush to help us earlier, and had just left us hanging, Girag as a whole let us down by delivering our bikes to us five days late, and had provided us what seems to be false promises, and just poor communication.  We only really got somewhere when Gloria somehow got the phone number for someone in Bogotá who had real answers, that we could feel comfortable with the status of the bikes.  I wish I had enough Spanish language skills to tell him where to go.

When we were finally ready, I proceeded to start to roll one bike down the ramp, and then realized that there were about four guys behind me all trying to stabilize the bike.  For those of you who ride bikes out there, you probably know that there are times when you don’t want any other hands on the bike as it screws up your balance.  I politely asked them to back off, and may well have even impressed them as I gracefully rolled both – rather large by local standards – down the wooden ramp in the rain.  No problemo.

Ready to leave, we look around for our “new best friend” to see if there was anything else to do.  We weren’t really sure whether he was absolutely finished with his process, but it seems like we gave him enough time, and nobody came running when we started to depart.

Getting into this compound on foot involves signing in with your passport, getting a photo taken, and fingerprint scan, and being swiped through a turnstile by a guard.  Exiting the premise on motorcycles, however, involved nothing more than driving through gap of some tire puncturing spikes at the exit gate, no questions asked.  Nobody asked to see paper work, passports, nada.  We had inquired at the exit gate with the officers if they want to see paperwork and they just waved us through.  What the hell???  Another insanely stupid process.

We arrived back at our hostel without much fanfare and are parked in the public, but pretty secure lot next door.

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For those of you who are interested in shipping your bike with Girag in the future, here are some useful contacts.

Xenia Juardo
xenia.jurado@girag.com.pa

She either speaks something English, or uses Google Translate.  She is the one who sort of have us the runaround, but is seems to be the most common contact (Panama)

There is also a contact in Bogotá by the name of Rosalinda (or something close) at 57-312-457-2305.  She is speaks Spanish, but using various “friends” we were able to get real answers about where the bikes were at.