This morning we were on the road by 8.40am, and went to pick up my Passport, with the attached Visa, now I feel more comfortable, at least I will not need the return plane ticket!
From there we headed back home, or so I thought… Marcela had other ideas, as it had not taken us long to pick up the visa, we went to a clinic to obtain my blood group certificate, required for my Residency card. On arrival, there was a sign outside saying they were completed within two minutes!!! quick work by any standards, then I found out why. The lady asked me if I knew my blood group, so I told her, and the certificate was completed without any blood being taken! I am not sure that it should be done that way, but I\’m not complaining.
I said previously, that I would write a bit about the local culture, I know it crops up from time to time, but driving in Colombia, is something, I find fascinating and frightening at the same time!
Drive here, and you take your life in your hands, I know that city driving is aggressive where ever you go, but here it is tantamount to suicide. You not only have to watch in front, and behind, but both sides as well, and to be safe, above and below as well!
Professional Drivers are the worst culprits, especially Taxis and Bus/Coach drivers, they will drive out of junctions at speed, and cross three lanes without any indication, the road is theirs, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way. If you try to drive defensively, you might as well stay at home, because you will get nowhere. Leave a gap for safety and two seconds later someone has filled it, motorcycles will pass you on both sides at the same time, and at 80kmh with no helmets or protective clothing, it makes your blood run cold.
If you are in a queue of stationary or slow moving traffic, make sure you are tight up against the vehicle in front, otherwise, you can guarantee that a motorcycle will try to weave in and out of the traffic, and not be too concerned whether they hit your car when passing, with no chance of catching them for any details if they do.
When you are at the front of the queue waiting at a red traffic light, do not take your eyes off the lights for a second, because, when they change to green, if you have not done a formula one start, the drivers behind will immediately sound their horns, once a millesecond has passed.
Most of the road around and through the city, are either dual carriageway of three lanes, once you are on these roads, you hit the fast lane and stay there, the other lane is only used for ancient wagons and men pushing handcarts, yep! pedestrian vehicles happily take up a lane!!!
On the plus side, the cities, have what is called Pico and Placa, which depending on the last number of your registration plate, restricts the days you can freely you can drive into the city, and eases traffic congestion. Private vehicles are restricted, and not allowed on the city roads between 6.30-8.30am and 5.30-7.30pm, Taxis and commercial vehicles are not allowed at any time during that day. There are cameras all around the city, monitoring, and ensuring that drivers comply with this regulation, and it seems to be one of the few that is enforced.
The other fascinating fact is that people seem to be able to adapt their vehicle to suit their needs, most of it self done by the looks of them, and apparently unless there is an incident, the Police are not interested, and that is backed up by the fact that despite riding or driving along beside these contraptions, that range from ingenious, to downright dangerous, they ignore them. When I remember to put my camera in the car, and I am not driving, I will try to get some photos.
Having said that, and you haven\’t been put off, then welcome to Medellin!!!!