Tuesday, December 8, 2015

L O S T. In Translation.

We arrived in Maicao late and checked-in to our favorite hotel across from the bus station. Little did we know, this would become our home for the next week.

The next morning, Roberto (our DIAN contact) picked us up at our hotel and brought us to lunch. We showed him the memorandum from Cartagena's DIAN office, but he maintained his concerns that our situation was wildly complicated, and after determining that "arranging different" paperwork would not solve the issue he brought us to DIAN headquarters in Maicao.

At this point, I really began to kick myself for not studying more Spanish or at least watching the Spanish channels while we were in FL. I was having AMAZING difficulty understanding Roberto's Spanish. And therefore understanding why on earth we were in such deep doo doo. 

This is a theme that continued for the next few days. At Roberto's office, we were introduced to one high-ranking official after another, our case eventually making it all the way up to the guy who was so highly ranked he didn't even wear a uniform. 

Still we had no clue why our situation was such a problem. All we could understand them saying was exactly the facts of our situation:

1. We had exported the bikes from Colombia and stored them in the International Zone.
2. We had done this 5 & 6 months ago.
3. Then Maduro closed the Venezuelan border. 

We waived the memorandum from Cartagena around like the worthless piece of paper it was, and at the second mention of it being "impossible" to re-import our bikes and the statement "Your situation is so complicated, it breaks my head" I considered for the first time in our travels, calling on a friend to interpret for us.

We were at a complete and total loss. 

The office closed at 5:30pm and Roberto invited us to join he and his wife to watch the soccer game between Colombia and Chile. Of course, we were eager to join in and think about something other than our border issues for a while. It ended up being a great match and a fantastically fun night of dancing and Club Colombians (beers) with Roberto, his lovely wife and a few of the other DIAN officials.

[​IMG] Enjoying a distraction from our predicament. [​IMG] Pretty girls giving away free soccer jerseys... what's not to smile about?? :rofl

We returned to the DIAN office the next day, and sat and waited while the officials were discussing our case. We were now very popular. Apparently white guys who don Colombian jerseys and white girls who dance are OK by these folks. 
Roberto mentioned we needed to draft some sort of appeal stating what had happened and what we wanted. We waited, and waited. The high-ranking official we had met the day before, Raul, had gone to inspect our bikes. Roberto told us all would be well and that as soon as he returned, we would be ready to go. 

[​IMG] Drafting an appeal for the freedom of our bikes in Spanish... I'll call that being thrown back in, in the deep end! 
He returned 6 hours later at 5:00pm. Our new friends at the DIAN office were behaving oddly, and we eventually found out that Monday was a holiday so if Raul didn't return with enough time to handle our situation, we would be SOL for the next 3 days. Raul returned and all but waived us off and went to his desk without another word. 

Our anxiety and tension levels were building. Were our bikes OK? We hadn't seen them in 5 months. What on earth was going on?! And what if we got stuck here for 3 more days without answers. 

Raul called us over a few minutes later and irately began to ask us for the information that could be found on the papers in front of him. We complied and before he even finished with Roel's document he slammed his palm on his desk and turned to us:

"You cannot have the normal permiso. Because of your situation, we must make a special permiso for you."

I'm thinking "yea, yea, we know - the memorandum we gave you the other day clearly states that!" But what he said next made my jaw drop open.

"You cannot have 90 days. I can only give you 5 days to get from Paraguachon to Ipiales, Ecuador. That is all. And you need to understand this, because you need to stamp your bikes out of the country at Ipiales within 5 days." 

At this point, he called over a gentleman who was supposedly going to interpret for us. He had one of those awful little phone apps and tried to relay what was going on through that. The only mollifying aspect of our interaction with him was that he also said "I don't understand what the problem is? The bikes were in the international zone. Why can't they have the normal permiso? They didn't do anything wrong... nothing is wrong with their bikes."

Raul became even more agitated and dismissed him at this point.

At which point negotiations began. (Fine, realistically, it was more like borderline hysterical pleading and begging on my part.)

1. Roel needed at least 3-4 days working on his bike in order to repair/replace everything that was damaged in the accident in Venezuela. 

He said, OK, then you go ahead on your own and he can enter the country when he is ready. 

2. I emphatically stated I would not travel without him. (This received a blank stare.) So I pointed out that if I fall on my motorcycle somewhere, I am not strong enough to pick it up. (I so hate playing the pitiful female card.)

His response to this was that I should put my bike on a truck from there to Ipiales. 

3. I had to firmly explain that we do not have money for that kind of thing. 

And he finally capitulated to some extent and proposed that we could have the 3-day weekend to work on Roel's bike and then we could go there on Tuesday morning, pick up our paperwork, then have the 5 days beginning from then to ride to Ipiales. 

Roughly 1800 kilometers through the Colombian Sierras in what would amount to about 44 hours of daylight. Nice. 

I was ready to head outside, hop in a cab and cry all the way back to the hotel, but Raul insisted upon driving us back to our hotel. But first, we had to stop at the house of his friend. 

We wound up meeting the whole family and Raul eventually rounded everyone up into his big 4x4 and took us out for empanadas. It was a nice way to end what had otherwise been a nightmare of a day.
[​IMG] Family dinner. [​IMG] This one's for my Mom.


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