Iron Roamer Goes to Albania?!

Yes, it is true, I’m going to Albania to work as a Law Enforcement Development Officer with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). While there I hope to get lots of motorcycling in too 🙂

The Email

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I received an email that created some panic and stress. The email was a job offer from the OSCE. What caused me stress was that they wanted me to start on January 21, only weeks away. Meanwhile, I was home for Christmas until January 10, my motorcycle was in Bogota, Colombia, and I was to be in Vienna, Austria, on January 21! How was I ever going to accomplish that?


Many of you I am sure have not heard of the OSCE before. The following is from their website:

With 57 participating States in North America, Europe and Asia, the OSCE – the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – is the world’s largest regional security organization. The OSCE works for stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people, through political dialogue about shared values and through practical work that aims to make a lasting difference.

The OSCE is a forum for political dialogue on a wide range of security issues and a platform for joint action to improve the lives of individuals and communities. The organization uses a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses the politico-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions. Through this approach, and with its inclusive membership, the OSCE helps bridge differences and build trust between states by co-operating on conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

With its Institutions, expert units and network of field operations, the OSCE addresses issues that have an impact on our common security, including arms control, terrorism, good governance, energy security, human trafficking, democratization, media freedom and national minorities.

Our activities cover a wide range of security issues such as conflict prevention to fostering economic development, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources & promoting the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

I have worked with the OSCE before in Macedonia as a Police Advisor, and then as an Organized Crime and Transnational Threats Advisor. So I am familiar with the organization and the region.

The OSCE in Albania

The mandate for the OSCE in Albania is, “to assist Albania in developing effective democratic institutions and to promote the rule of law and human rights in the country. It does this through a variety of legal and administrative reform initiatives; activities aimed at fighting corruption and trafficking; and programmes to develop the country’s media, support civil society, and train police and customs officials.”

Law Enforcement Development Officer

As for my position, I will be stationed in Tirana, Albania. I will be responsible for working with all Albanian law enforcement bodies to offer strategic and tactical law enforcement advice and assistance.


So the question that may arise for some of my followers is why would I leave my motorcycle adventure. I can assure you it wasn’t an easy decision.

Motorcycling has given me freedom to come and go as I choose. I rarely set my alarm. I also get to see so many sights and cultures that people only dream of seeing. All this on a motorcycle, where I experience the wind in my face and the freedom of the open road. There is also the identity of being a motorcycle adventurer. All very tough things to give up.

However, like everything in my little mind, there are also down sides. First, there is little socialization on my trip. Part of this is due to the language barrier, traveling by myself, being on the move most of the time, and me not being the most extroverted person in the world. Working in one place satisfies much of this.

Second, the trip has taken a toll on my health. This isn’t entirely the trips fault ha ha. But I don’t eat the best and don’t exercise. This can of course be combated with some discipline. Discipline I don’t seem to have. I need a routine and a stable environment where I can focus on my health.

Third, on the trip I am constantly spending money. Don’t get me wrong, I live a comfortable life on the road, but of course it would be nice to earn money for a change 🙂

Lastly, I get this nagging feeling once in awhile of being “useless” and not contributing to society. Much of life is a quest for meaning greater than oneself. I have a need to contribute … even if it is just to help one person.

International police development, along with motorcycling have been my passions. I worked Namibia as a Capacity Building Advisor, then in Macedonia after which I motorcycled around the US for 6 months. Then worked for a bit more at thee Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner in BC, Canada, before doing this year and a half trip from Prudhoe Bay to Bogota Colombia. Now I’m flipping back to international police development.

Having said that, I still plan on riding 🙂 The plan is to buy a motorcycle to explore Albania and neighbouring countries. Also to do motorcycle tours through Italy, Spain and Portugal. So I will continue to blog about my travel experiences 🙂

I look back at all I have accomplished on this trip with satisfaction, and with some sadness that this part is over. But also excitement about what lies ahead.

Making it Happen

Back to the problem at hand, how will I get my motorcycle to Vancouver and me to Albania?

First, I emailed the OSCE and they agreed that I could start February 1, instead of January 21. Phew, that gave me a bit more time to figure things out.

I emailed and phone a bunch or cargo and logistic places. Only one responded. That was Veronica from Cargorider! Veronica was a life saver. She came back with a quote for $3000 US to get my motorcycle from Bogota to Vancouver, leaving Bogota on January 26. I took it. It was going to be tight, but doable. I hope.

It was now back to Bogota to see Veronica and make things happen. Fingers crossed!!


You may remember I have a motto for this trip and life and general. It comes from Helen Keller who said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Here is a similar quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I continue to live an adventurous life and daring greatly.

Home in Vancouver Canada for Christmas

I was really looking forward to going home for Christmas to visit family and friends.

Buying Spree

One of the first things to do was go on a buying spree for not only Christmas gifts but also things I needed to replenish for my adventure. But first was to see a doctor and dentist. The doctor was easy, and I got prescriptions renewed and a 6 month supply of medication purchased.

With the dentist I got my teeth cleaned. However, he also advised that I really needed a tooth pulled and an implant put in 🙁 Well … that was going to have to wait. No time to do it now and I wasn’t feeling any pain anyways. This could come back to bite me 🙂

One of my biggest purchases was a new phone. If you remember, mine had gotten water inside and the screen wasn’t working.

Visiting Family and Christmas

Getting medical checkups, and buying stuff, was the dull part of Christmas. The best part was visiting family, especially my 3 kids, spouses, and my 2 grandkids. Well ….. soon to be three grandkids 🙂

One evening we went to the Stanley Park Christmas train. Very cool …. both the weather and the park. Not use to cool weather after being in heat for such a long time.



And of course there was celebrating Christmas 🙂





The second best part of Christmas was the food … homecooking. My diet on the road is crappy. I know. I eat a lot of processed foods and once in a while I venture out on my own to eat a good meal at a restaurant. This isn’t the same as home cooking though. So I really enjoyed the Christmas meal made by my ex-wife. Thanks!

Visiting Friends

Visiting friends was also a priority. First, was a dinner with old high school friends. Some I hadn’t seen since high school over 40 years ago!!

While at home I took a bit of an excursion for a week to Vancouver Island to visit friends. For the 2 years prior to my adventure I worked at the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner in Victoria on Vancouver Island. So it was really nice to visit with some of my former colleagues.

I also went up island to visit another former colleague from my Abbotsford Police Days.

Panic and Stress

Interrupting my good time was an email I received on my first morning on the island. It was instant panic and stress that would stay with me for weeks. In my next blog post I will reveal what it was all about.

In any case, I made a conscious effort not to let it interfere with the enjoyment of being home.

Coming to an End

My Christmas vacation was coming to an end. One last meal with my kids and their families and it was time to go.

As far as social media goes I was pretty much dormant over Christmas. There were a few reasons for this. Of course I was busy. But also my life appeared to be in a state of transition and stress due to that email.

My Route on December 8, 2017

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My Location from December 9, 2017 to January 9, 2018

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Back to Bogota Colombia and Park 93

It was time to ride back to Bogota and Park 93 to get ready to head home for Christmas. I say Park 93 because when I was in Bogota the last time, one of the nicest areas I visited was Park 93. It is a small park in the Embassy district of Bogota and it is surrounded by restaurants and patios not to mention two Starbucks ha ha. So I was looking forward to enjoying all of this.


The ride from Salento to Bogota was going to be longer than I have done in a long time. About 6 hours. I left early to tackle it. The ride consisted of going over a small mountain range. As I climbed it got colder and colder. But the view were spectacular. Why didn’t I take a picture 🙁 So bad at that. You’d think that after a year and a half on the road I would be better.

The road was full of twisties. Unfortunately, it appeared to be a major trucking route and I was stuck in line ups for a lot of the curves.

The curves also provided another phenomenon. At each curve was at least one person with a flag. These people were not government workers but rather people who set up house on the curve and were there to direct traffic for tips. They were actually very useful. The curves were sharp and big semis had a hard time negotiating them and staying in their lane. So these people would stop traffic if necessary so truckers could take the curve better. They also served as a warning for oncoming traffic to be careful. The people in poorer countries are so ingenious in making money.

To tip these people, drivers would throw money out of their windows.

Soon, however, this will come to an end. The government is building a freeway along the route that will eliminate these “jobs.”


As I entered the outskirts of Bogota I could see the storm clouds gathering. I was only 20 km from my hotel at Park 93. However, it was also rush hour and the traffic in Bogota is horrendous. I was barely moving.

Then it hit. Torrents of rain. It wasn’t long before I was soaked as I had left my vents open in my riding suit as it was also hot. At least once I was soaked it felt better than the shock of getting wet ha ha.

I wasn’t the only thing soaked. The roads too became saturated and huge lakes formed. The outcome of these was me getting splashed as cars went by me. Also they became so deep that they reached my boots and splashed over top of them. As approached lights I tried to time things so I wouldn’t have to stop in the lakes.

It took me well over a hour to ride the 20 km to the hotel.

Park 93

Once I arrived I dried off. For the next week I could enjoy Park 93. During the day I went to Starbucks to work and sit in the park for a bit.



At night the park turned into a Christmas fairytale.







I wish we had similar parks back home. When it comes to socialization the Central Americans and Colombians have us beat with there plazas and parks to hang out at and enjoy a coffee and talking to people.


Speaking of socialization, that is the one thing I miss while riding. It came to the forefront one night as I walked around Park 93. The restaurant patios were filled with people laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Even though I am not the most social person, I miss that and I suppose it being Christmas time brought it more home. I got pretty down.

This has happened periodically throughout my adventure. Social encounters are brief due going from one place to another. They are also rather limited due to the language barrier. One thing I should have done is learned Spanish before heading out. But even if I meet up with someone who speaks english, the conversation is fairly superficial. As a result, small things like a smile become important. Perhaps it is lucky I’m not that social to begin with or it would hit me harder.

Soon I would be heading home for Christmas though.

Motos y Servitecas de Colombia

If you remember, in Jardin I dropped my motorcycle and broke off my mirror. A place recommended by one of the blogs I read was Motos y Servitecas de Colombia. This place is a bit of a hole in the wall but the service was amazing. They were so friendly and fixed my mirror right away. They even detailed my motorcycle. I would highly recommend this place.

Motorcycle Storage

The one issue to take care of before I flew home was storing my motorcycle. I was very fortunate that a person I went to college with knew a person whose father lived in Bogota. As a result I made arrangements to store my motorcycle at his place. It worked out perfect. Now I was ready to go home and see my kids and friends.

My Route on December 2, 2017

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My Location from December 3 to 6, 2017

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In preparation to fly home early in the morning, I moved to a hotel close to the airport.

My Location on December 7, 2018

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Working Away in Medellin Ville

After exploring Bogota, it was time to get back on the road and ride to Medellin, Colombia. Once there I would spend a month in an Airbnb I rented. The reason for spending a month there was to wait out the rainy season, get caught up on my blog posts, study Spanish, and do some housekeeping.

As a retired police officer, Medellin was infamous for its drug trade. However, I understand things have changed. Can’t wait to explore the city I’ve heard so much about over the years.

Ride to Medellin

As I was planning my ride to Medellin I couldn’t seem to figure out how long it would take. Each map I looked on gave different riding times. Because of that I left early.

The first part of the ride seemed to take forever as I negotiated the Bogota traffic. Tortuous! Once out on the open road though it was a nice leisurely ride through the hills to Medellin.

I arrived at my Airbnb at 2 pm after leaving at 7 am in the morning. At first I couldn’t figure out which was the apartment complex and no one seemed to be coming out. I spoke to a manager of one of them to see if he could help. Even though I didn’t understand a word he said, eventually he hooked me up with the mother of the person I was renting from. The Spanish here is Colombia is quite different than what I have been used to in Central America.

After a quick explanation of the rules I got settled in.


My first order of business was to find out where I was, what was around me, and to find a laundromat. There is a washer in my Airbnb, but I figured if a laundromat was close by, why fiddle around with laundry.

Well, I walked everywhere and asked everyone and there just wasn’t any laundromat anywhere near me. Very strange. In Mexico and Central America they are everywhere! I guess I will do my own laundry.

The good thing about trying to find a laundromat was that I got to know what was around me.

For my first full day I planned on going to a local coffee shop to get caught up on my blog posts. I got there at 9 am but it didn’t open until 10 am. Well, this wasn’t going to work. I sat there for a bit and said to myself, “screw it,” and headed off to the nearest Starbucks that was about a 35 to 40 minute walk from my Airbnb.

From that day on for the next week and a half, I had my routine.

The Day in the Life of Brian in Medellin

I would leave my Airbnb at about 9 am each morning. The Airbnb I have it really nice – 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 7th floor.




The garden outside was decorated for Halloween.


Walk down my street to the main road.


Cross the busy intersection.


You can see Carulla on the left of the picture. That is where I get my groceries.

Then walk along a beautiful tree lined street up and down over a small hill.



As I head down to an overpass I reach Santuario De La Virgen de La Rosa Mistica. At first I didn’t know what it was, only that people were there all the time.



At the entrance is a small store to buy candles mostly.


Walking inside you see tile plaques everywhere thanks Rosa for answering their prayers.




And then stairs up to Rosa Mistica.




From what I can gather, this shrine has a bit of a sinister past. It was once owned by Pablo Escobar for his henchmen to go and pray for protection and bless their weapons. Apparently half the plaques there are from criminals thanking Rosa. It is also known as the virgin of the assassins.

From there I walk down and up to the Santa Fe mall.


One really cool thing about the mall is that it has a parking entrance just for motorcycles and bicyclists.


Inside the mall if a very cool play area. Hey Mia and Ben (my grandkids) I wish you were here so we could go play in it!!


As I walk past the mall I can see in the distance a car park that works with elevators!


Ahead is a sign that seems to be welcoming me ha ha


Past the flower vendor I reach my destination. It has it all 🙂 Starbucks, a BMW motorcycle dealership, Hard Rock Cafe, Krispy Kreme and a fitness centre.




The Starbucks here is always filled with people working.



Up to the Barista to order, in Spanish ha ha, my usual.



And then to my spot, ala Sheldon, to work on blog posts and read for the next few hours.



Once in awhile there there is some impromptu entertainment like this photo shoot outside.


Often by the afternoon it starts to rain. I wait for it to subside a bit before walking back home.

In the evenings I hunt for dinner 🙂 and either watch the World Series, NFL football, or just Big Bang Theory, which I downloaded the first 10 seasons to watch.

And that is it for the first week and a half here in Medellin.

My Route on October 23, 2017

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My Location from October 24 to November 2, 2017

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Beautiful Bogota

Now that I was reunited with my motorcycle, it was time to move locations to downtown Bogota to explore the city.

It was only a short ride to my new hotel, but it was unreal! For a year now I have been riding in hot and humid conditions. Bogota though was cool and with little humidity. It reminded me of riding back home in British Columbia, Canada. It was like the oppression of the heat and humidity was lifted and I was experiencing freedom again.

Hotel Abitare 56

I chose the Hotel Abitare 56 in Bogota to stay at.


It was inexpensive and in the middle of everything. Well …. sort of. It was in the middle alright. Everything I wanted to see was either north or south of where I was.

But I got a room with a view.


And my motorcycle was secure.


Given that, as soon as I arrived I decided to head north to explore Parque de La 93.

Parque de La 93

As I walked to Parque de La 93 I came across a church I wanted to see as well – Nuestra Señora de Lourdes.



As I kept walking I ran into something very familiar!


Finally I reached the Park. It was a small park in the middle of an affluent embassy district. The park was surrounded by awesome restaurants with patios. And there were TWO Starbucks!



There was obviously something taking place in the park as a huge stage was set up with lots of activity.




Turns out it was an opera performance.


I kept walking until I ran into a scary clown.


Time to head home before dark 🙂


THe next day it was time for a long walk south to Monserrate. This is a mountain, I guess, that overlooks the city. You get up there by a funicular.

I was exhausted after the hour and a half walk. Bogota is quite high at 2,640 metres. It does make a difference. Of course being out of shape doesn’t help ha ha.

But I finally arrived.


Got in line to buy tickets.


Then I was ready to be pulled up the mountain.




At the top there was more stairs to climb and now the elevation was really affecting me. There was even a sign warning people about it. However, the views were pretty spectacular.




Of course lots of people were posing.


And, like everywhere in latin america, there was a church up top.



Across on the way on another mountain was a statue of Jesus.


After getting a coffee I walked back down to the funicular another way. Along the path, were the Stations of the Cross.






Back at the funicular it was time to head back down to explore the historical section of Bogota called La Candelaria.



La Candelaria

Now I was exhausted from the elevation and long walk. I cheated and took a taxi to La Candelaria. The first stop was a walk to La Bolivar Plaza.








The PLaza is surrounded by the Cathedral of Colombia, Courthouse Alfonso Reyes Echandia and Capitolio Nacional.

I kept walking around the old city.


Until I happened upon the Teatro Colón Bogotá. I read about that and how beautiful it was inside.


I booked a tour even though I was warned it would all be in Spanish. This place is really worth while to see. Amazingly beautiful.















Palacio De Nariño

I have always been intrigued by politics. So one of my stops had to be Palacio De Nariño or the Presidential Palace of Colombia.




Walk Back Home

By this time I had enough energy to walk back home 🙂


Once home I looked up where I could have dinner. According to Tripadvisor, the 5th best restaurant in Bogota was just a couple blocks away – La Castana.


They served awesome empanadas and natural lemon juice. A really informal place with couches and live music. Very cool.

Sunday NFL Football

The next day was Sunday. And you know what that means :-). I looked up where to watch the games and it looked like Hooters in Zona T was the place to go. Of course another long walk. But also a good chance to see another part of Bogota.

Like this church.



Not sure what the significance of the dog is ha ha.

Zona T turned out to be another affluent spot in Bogota with all the name brand stores and lots of nice restaurants.





But Hooters? It was a bust. I guess a pun was intended. They had the NFL on their TVs but were also playing really loud music. After a quick bite to eat I looked around for the NFL at other restaurants. But all of them had soccer of F1 on. So I decided to walk back home to watch the games on my computer.





The one thing really evident during my exploring of Bogota was the tagging and graffiti art. To me, the tagging means they have a significant gang problem in Bogota. When I Googled it I see that Bogota has 107 gangs! And people are really concerned about their increased activity. Here is a sample of the tagging I saw.







Graffiti Art

At the same time there is some amazing graffiti art all over Bogota.















And that was my time in Bogota. Next stop, Medellin.

My Route on October 20, 2017

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My Location on October 21 and 22, 2017

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Crossing the Border into Bogota Colombia Via Avianca Air Cargo

This was an unusual border crossing into Colombia as my motorcycle was entering via Avianca Air Cargo. I know I said in my last post that I was using Girag Air Cargo, and I did, but they in turn contract Avianca Air Cargo to fly my motorcycle to Bogota Colombia. It had me thinking though, why couldn’t I just use Avianca? I’m not sure. I haven’t read anyone using Avianca before, just Girag. Anyways, what is done is done.

My Entry into Colombia

My entry into Colombia was pretty basic. I flew from Panama City to Bogota Colombia via Avianca Air, passed through Immigration and I was in.

From there I took a “taxi” to the Hotel Golden near the airport so I could walk to get my motorcycle out of Avianca Air Cargo.

Now I put taxi in quotation marks because I made a rookie mistake. I thought I had made arrangements for the hotel to pick me up. When I got off of the plane they weren’t there. I ended up standing in the airport thinking about what I should do next. All I had was US money and I had passed the exchange booth on the other side of Customs and couldn’t see another one around me. As I was standing there a man approached me and said, “taxi.” Without thinking I said “yes.” I have never done that before as I know what that means. But before I got my thoughts together I was being escorted into a parking lot and an unmarked car. Oh well. I figured I would just go with it. The driver took me to my hotel and I ended up paying him $20 US. I am guessing way more than I should have. It was late now and I just wanted to go to bed.

Avianca Air Cargo

The next day I walked from the Hotel Golden to where Avianca Air Cargo was. Except there was a fence around it and the entry point was guarded. The guard told me to go into the building and register. I have marked this number 1 on the map.

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At the counter they wanted my passport and checked me in. I then went back to the gate at #2 and the guard carded me through.

From there I walked to Avianca Air Cargo. The first entrance I went to was the wrong one for me and a staff member directed me around the corner up to the third floor of the building that I marked as #3.

No one was at the desk in the lobby but I noticed that the door into the offices was not locking properly, so I walked in ha ha.

Language became a problem as no one spoke English. We had to rely on my Spanish! Eventually we got it sorted out and they found someone that spoke English. He gave me a bunch of papers and said to go to Customs at #4 on the third floor and they would sign the documents. When I was done, come back and get my motorcycle.


Off I walked to Customs.


The same guard had to card me through to the elevators to get to the third floor.

When I got up there, this is what I saw.

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Not knowing where to go I asked the security guard. He pointed me to one desk. When I got there he directed me to the desk you can see in the middle of the picture with the white haired man and woman sitting at it.

The woman at the desk asked for my papers and then told me to leave ha ha. I just walked to where the picture was taken and just stood there looking at her ha ha.

Eventually, she waved me over and went through my documents. The officer didn’t speak English but luckily the woman you see in the picture jumped in and interpreted for me. What the officer wanted was a scraping of my VIN number off of my motorcycle. Ahhhhh …. my Spanish just doesn’t extend to things like that ha ha.

Back to Avianca Air Cargo

Soooooo back downstairs I went. The guard had to card me out of the building and back into the fenced compound where I went up to the 3rd floor of Avianca barged my way through the door that was suppose to be locked and went over to the woman who had been helping me. She got the English speaking guy and I explained what Customs wanted. He explained it to who appeared to be a warehouse supervisor. He was not happy.

Down we went to the warehouse where I had to check in, leave all my belongings at the desk, be searched, and wear these metal covers over my runners. Soon a tractor wheeled in my motorcycle all wrapped up in plastic and netting.

The workers uncovered part of it, took a felt pen to my VIN and then put a piece of tape over it and scratched an impression of the VIN onto the tape and put the tape onto a piece of paper.

Back to Customs

With my VIN impression in hand I was back to the gate where the guard carded me out and carded me to the the elevators and back to the third floor where I went back to the officer. She looked at the impression and then passed me onto a woman you can see at the far end of the photo along the same row of desks.

She took forever to fill in paperwork both manually and in the computer.

Meanwhile, who walked in but Carlos who I met at Girag. It was like an old homecoming ha ha. His English is poor but still better than my Spanish. We just talked while the officer was filling out the paperwork. Once in awhile he had to interpret for me.

Eventually my paperwork was done.

Back to Avianca Air Cargo

Back to Avianca Air Cargo and the same routine with the Guard and the woman on the 3rd floor. The English speaker was there and he said to go downstairs and wait for my motorcycle. Down I went.


Eventually it was my turn to pick up.


Finally. Four hours later.

Hotel Golden

With my motorcycle and I finally into Colombia and reunited, I went back to the Hotel Golden. Now this hotel isn’t the nicest, but it is within walking distance to Avianca Air Cargo. And it is inexpensive. The area isn’t that great either. But is seemed safe. It reminded me a bit of an old run down English village. I had booked 2 days there just in case it took that long to get my motorcycle out. So I had a day to kill before heading into downtown Bogota to explore.

My Location for October 18 and 19, 2017

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