DAY 1 - Thursday October 30th We met at 6:00am in front of my home and got going north-west towards the border. It was 4 of us. Guido and Andreas on their XLV-650 Transalps, Francisco on his GS1150 and me on my F. As is usually the case when you ride through a familiar (and straight and boring) road, there are not many pictures. I did remember to take some at our only longer stop: lunch at "The Embassy"... (La Embajada), so here are some porn food pics. This is typical Venezuelan Plains food: carne en vara (meat on a stick). You order the meat by the pound and whatever you want to go with it... Yuca, salad, beer, etc. After lunch we got on our way. The only other pic we took that day was this one of the river that marks the border between Venezuela and Colombia. We arrived in San Antonio del Tachira (Venezuelan town at the border) around 7:30pm. To give you an idea to how fast (or slow) travelling in our countries is, here are some facts: it's around 830 Kms/ 518 Miles from Caracas to San Antonio, most of the road is straight, only the last 100 Miles or so are mountain roads. It took us 13 and a half hours (with 2 and a half hours total stops between lunch and fuel stops). The last section of road between San Cristobal and San Antonio is a nightmare, tightly packed bumper to bumper cars for several miles and the road is very narrow, so passing the cars is quite difficult. Since sunset comes early here: 6:00pm, this last stretch of road was ridden in the dark. Drivers here don't care too much if they have the high beam on when they have other vehicles coming towards them. We rode directly to Venezuelan Immigration (ONIDEX), bought the required stamps for the immigration fee (about $10) and stamped our passports. The immigration official never adhered the aforementioned stamps on our passports, instead she put them in her pocket and probably sold them to the next "customer" but as long as you have the rubber exit stamp on your passport with the appropiate date, you're good to go... As for the "stamp scam"... you just play dumb and go with the flow . Afterwards, we found a hotel with secure parking. San Antonio is not a safe town to stroll around. Too many illegal things going on, so the less time you spend there, the better you are. Dinner was at a restaurant across the street from our hotel DAY 2 Friday October 31st Friday morning was a rainy morning. But we where eager to get going so we ate breakfast at the hotel (included in the $20 price for a single room) and jumped on the bikes early. San Antonio del Tachira is right at the border, so in less than 10 minutes we where crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge that connects both countries. The white buildings you can see on the right are the Immigration Offices (DAS) on the Colombian side (the Venezuelan ones are "hidden" on some sidestreet in San Antonio) There´s good parking right in front of the immigration office so you can keepan eye on your bike while you stand in line waiting for your passport to be stamped. Nevertheless it´s a good idea to secure anything that might be easily swiped by a passerby. There weren´t too many people today, so we where done in about 30 minutes. If you cross in December-January or Easter Holidays, be prepared for a VERY long line (at least a couple of hours). Can you see the pissed off Immigrations Officer? "Hey Señor!!! No photos allowed in here!" Yeah, yeah... Once done with the immigration process, we formally crossed into Colombia and rode about 10 kms / 6 Miles to get to Cucuta, the Colombian city closest to the border. Cucuta is much nicer and safer than San Antonio. Cheaper too, so if you don´t know your way around and find yourself in this area having to spend the night, I advise you to find accomodations in Cucuta instead of San Antonio. You can freely cross the border, even with a vehicle between the two cities without any problem, so even if you are comming from Venezuela and don´t feel like going to the ONIDEX that day, you can still go sleep in Cucuta and go back next morning to stamp your passport. For us Venezuelans is easier to move around in San Antonio than it is in Cucuta (that is: we have excellent GPS maps for Venezuela and not for Colombia), so we chose to stay in San Antonio. Our plan for that day was simple: Get ourselves and our bikes properly processed into Colombia by midday and ride 300 kms / 187 Miles to a small town called Barichara. The rest of the guys had done a similar trip two years ago and they knew that the customs process for the bikes would take aprox 2 hours, so we where on time when we arrived at DIAN (Colombian Customs) at 8:30am... but our plans where about to be changed. DAS is obvious, right next to the Simon Bolivar Bridge, DIAN on the other hand, you have to look for inside Cucuta. And it is a big city. So in case anyody reading this needs them, here are the GPS Coordinates for - ONIDEX (Venezuelan Immigration at San Antonio del Tachira) N 07 48'50.8" W 072 26'39.1" - DIAN (Colombian Customs in Cucuta) N 07 55'05.7" W 072 30'6.5" BTW, we kind of cheated with our bikes when leaving Venezuela, since from prior experience we knew the Colombians would not request any paperwork from the Venezuelan authorities stating the bikes had properly left the country, so as far as Venezuela is concerned, our bikes never crossed the border and we saved ourselves a lot of paperwork (and time). Since free transit is allowed on neighboring towns at the borders, nobody cares what you do. Having the correct paperwork is up to you, but if you don't get it and get stopped by the authorities once on the road, you will get into trouble... This means I don't have any GPS Coordinates for the Venezuelan Customs though, because we never even went there. Once we found it (it took us about 20 minutes) we lucked out since there where no other vehicles in line at this little shack (across the street from the real DIAN building) where this guy with the blue/yellow vest checks your VIN # and hands you a piece of paper with your bike´s information as well as your own. Afterwards, you go down the street to the photocopy shack, you have to photocopy your passport (photo page, exit stamp from Venezuela and entrance stamp from Colombia), your bike´s title and the paper the guy in blue/yellow gave you (they will ask to check your ORIGINAL bike title, the photocopies are for them to keep, but they won´t accept them for proof of ownership and only the person appearing on the title can take the bike over the border) All this paperwork must be presented at a window inside the main building. The process is fairly simple and should take 1 or 2 hours tops. Not this time.... We handed the papers at the window at 9:30am... Almost no other travellers in line... Officials where very polite (as is the case with almost all Colombians) and with that politeness, they told us: "thank you very much sir, now, come back for your Temporary Import Papers in the afternoon, after 2:00pm"... No begging or negotiating on our part could change their minds. We where forced to wait. Our plan of reaching Barichara that day was shot. 300 kms in the Colombian mountains meant at least 6 hours non-stop riding. Sunset in the area is around 6-6:30pm. So we went to a local Mall where there was a Money Exchange Office, ate something and came back at 2:00. Seeing very little movement on the part of the officials inside the window (they even told us that we could consider to be lucky if we got our papers by 6:00pm), we went outside to talk to the "Blue/Yellow Guy" (which had been quite friendly and helpfull in the morning) and we managed to arrange a "Priority Service" which finally got us our Temporary Import Permits by 3:00pm. After the Import Papers are received, you go again out on the street and buy the SOAT (mandatory third party insurance). This insurance is the only document you will be asked for when stopped by the police. They do not care about your drivers licence, passport and sometimes they don´t even ask about your bike´s papers, but the SOAT is always required. And not any insurance will do, only SOAT, so you can´t bypass forking the $20 for a 3 month policy. The rest of the Temporary Imort process is free (aside for the "Priority Service", that is ;-) ) The SOAT is taken care of in 30 minutes and we where on our way on the great Colombian roads. And although the cloud cieling was pretty low due to the rain, the views started improving fast.