It has been nagging at me for 3 months now – the fact that we entered Colombia with our bikes illegally – no immigration stamp and no certification for temporary importation of the bikes. I wouldn’t normally be concerned but stupidly we forgot when we came in from Venezuela down a lonely back road and rode past nonchalant border guards, that our intention was to fly the bikes from Bogota to Panama. We remembered that 24 hours and 500 kms south of the border crossing. Oh well we assumed, sort the documentation out in Bogota.
No chance. The response we got there was that we’d have to retrace the 1,000 kms back north and do it all again. With just a couple of days until Xmas we decided bugger that, stored the bikes and hit Bogota airport to come home. Detained for a couple of hours in a little white room and told how bad we were, we then accepted our punishment – a fine of US$200 each and were grateful for our exit stamp. We were even more grateful when they forgot to collect the fines.
Now back in Colombia legally, the only issue has been how to get the bikes out given they are not. Freighting from Bogota is out of the question because of the lack of any temporary importation documentation. So that means we either ride back to Venezuela and repeat the exercise or ride south to Quito, Ecuador, get legal at that border and airfreight from Quito to Panama. We have chosen the latter. The only problem remains can we get the bikes out past Colombian Customs.
We hit the border and rode straight past all the Colombian exit posts, despite some yelling from frustrated officials. No shots fired so we think we’re through to the Ecuadoran side scott free – way beyond our wildest dreams. We’d been anticipating at best a big fine, and at worst confiscation of the bikes. Indeed each time on the ride south we’ve been stopped by police we’ve been concerned they’d ask for our non-existent authorizations for the bikes. We’d been told confiscation was a possibility.
At the Ecuadoran side we’re told by immigration we need an exit stamp from Colombia. Bugger! We didn’t expect this level of cooperation between the neighbours – commonly the destination country doesn’t give a bugger about how you got there. As we show our carnets to the Venezuelans we’re also told that we should have exit documentation for the bikes! We want to avoid raising that issue with the Colombians unless absolutely unavoidable so we go back to Colombia for the exit stamp in our passports and that’s all.
Back to Venezuela and we get the immigration entry stamp. So far so good. Now to Ecuadoran Customs to get them to stamp the carnes for our bikes – have to use carnets this time as we want to freight the bikes out. Not an eyebrow raised, the quickest approval of carnets we’ve ever seen and we’re in. Mission accomplished, huge sigh of relief and all those nightmares of what could have been, disappear into the memory banks.