Traveling to San Gil

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
San Gil, Santander, Colombia
We got up at 5:45 a.m.  Scott had been awake for about an hour prior. We had all showered the night before, so we got ready and packed our bags and went down to breakfast by 6:15 a.m.  We ate heartily knowing that lunch (if we decided to eat) would not be until 2:00 p.m. or later.  They had chicken and sautéed vegetables on the buffet, so that was great for Scott. He didn’t have to wait and order something.  God was watching out for us even in this small thing.  I also had the chicken, vegetables, fruit, granola and yogurt, and coffee. Scott shared the story of our last visit here a few weeks ago when they (the hotel staff) “lost” our luggage.
We retrieved our luggage and checked out.  I went to get a taxi while Scott paid the bill.  I said I needed a big taxi for four suitcases and three people.  One taxi driver said he could take us and walked us to a Kia Sol car.  I was highly skeptical and as soon as he opened the back I knew that even one large suitcase would not fit.  He said he would put it on the seat.   I said, “Where do you expect me to sit?”  He pointed to one seat which Montana and I would have to share, and I flatly said, “No way; it is too small.”
There was another taxi there which was like a small van, and I asked if that was available and it was.  We were able to get all the luggage in and we all had a seat.  Success!  I asked for the price and he said $16,000 pesos.  Also, acceptable. Scott carries only a certain amount as they seldom if ever will make change. He’s learned to show them his wallet, and say, “Here’s what I have…take it?” Americans are easy targets some times.
We arrived at the bus terminal almost without incident.  On our way there the taxi driver decided to make a right turn when the pedestrians had the right-a-way, and he almost took out a bicyclist.  Fortunately, the brakes worked, and we did not have to witness an accident. Our luggage dumped to the floor and on Scott. The bike rider soundly yelled and gestured at our driver, and we could tell he realized his mistake. Each day before we leave our hotel one of us asks a prayer for God’s protection and guidance on all aspects of our trip. We do not take His answer for granted. Since day one of our marriage, Scott before each trip, even when backing out of our garage at home, asks a prayer. It’s what we do.
Now, to negotiate a bus ticket at the terminal.  Scott watches over all our luggage, and explains to Montana how we tag team and watch luggage and each other for pick-pockets etc. It’s something he learned years ago as you face each other, constantly scanning the area. There are multiple bus lines with individual counters.  I went up to one to ask when the next bus to San Gil was--10:00 a.m.  I knew there should be one at 8:30 a.m., so I proceeded to another counter. One listed a time of 9:00 a.m., but I went to the next one Berlinas, and they said they had one at 8:30 a.m. at the price of $40,000 pesos.  He said I could pay with VISA which was also good, but in the end, Scott and I ended up paying with cash as the transaction would not go through.  The internet line was SLOW, which is not unusual.  Fortunately, we planned ahead of time for this inconvenience. We try to always have a backup plan. We are seldom disappointed.
Of course, I asked for internet on the bus, air conditioning, bathroom, and front seats.  He said the bus had all of the above.  We have experienced that before, where they said, “Sure! …the bus has it,” but in reality, it doesn’t. So, we ask and pray for the best.  We got front row seats, air conditioning that worked, private TV set, clean bathroom (but no toilet paper), and internet.  The only complaint was the bus was extremely bumpy.  It bounced and really wobbled and swayed from side to side.  It made it very difficult to type this blog, but I persevered.  Scott was able to connect via Messenger with several people, and catch up on emails too for the several hour trip. His work never stops, and he enjoys having connection with those we serve.
It took us about an hour to get to the edge of Bogota.  After we leave the city, the view is pleasant. There are lots of farms and pastures.  It is green, with high hills and lots of trees.  Montana points out several “lawnmowers” (or cows eating grass. )
After a couple of hours of typing on my blog, I decided to watch a movie.  I chose “Captain Phillips,” the story of the shipping tanker that was hijacked by Somali pirates.  Captain Phillips was a man of integrity.  This movie, I think, was a “pirated” or illegally purchased movie.  The audio was in English, but it had subtitles in two different Asian languages, plus subtitles in English for “The Hunger Games” movie.  When the Somalis would speak there were subtitles in the Asian languages, but none in English, so I know I missed parts because of this.  Despite the challenges, I thought the movie had some redeeming qualities to learn from Captain Phillips.
At 2:00 p.m., we stopped for lunch.  Montana and I went into the restaurant and Scott stayed to watch our hand luggage on the bus.  We ordered beef with arepas for $7,500 pesos ($2.50 USD).  The beef was tough, so we got a take-out tray of chicken for Scott.  Chicken would be much easier to eat on the bumpy bus.
We finally made it to San Gil.  We walked our luggage out to the taxi line.   I surveyed the taxis to get one large enough for our four bags, plus three people.  There was one man who had a decent size taxi who was willing to take us.  He had difficulties understanding me, but I don’t think it was my language.  He kept asking me how many people and I said, “Tres” and he looked bewildered.  This put a red flag in my mind, but I tried to ignore it.  Scott was carefully watching our bags, Montana, and me all at the same time. We helped him load the luggage as taxi drivers are notorious for being unable to get in maximum luggage.
In my last blog we talked about some of this. We got in and I asked him how much the fare would be to Hotel San Gil del Campo, and he said “15.”  I knew last year it was eight, so even with inflation, I knew this was really inflated.  Scott said, “How much?!” I argued with the driver, but he would not come down.  I said, “If you won’t change your price, please take the luggage out, and we will take another taxi.”  He pulled to the side, and started removing the luggage.   I made the mistake of not asking him the price before I got in the taxi. Scott said, “He’s purposely being deceptive thinking we are Americans and will cave in and say okay, I don’t trust him.” He was grumpy when we first negotiated with him.
I went back to the taxi lane, and another driver asked what the problem was. I said that the other driver was trying to overcharge me.  He pulled out his rate sheet, which is regulated by the government, and he showed me the rate to our hotel –maximum $10,400.  I said that was fine.  His taxi was big enough, and we helped him load the luggage, and we arrived safely at our hotel.  He was very friendly, helpful, and easy to understand.  He said he could not believe the other guy wanted to charge us $15,000. He felt he was purposely trying to rattle us to “get more money.”  I know that Americans look like easy targets, but after taking the trip to this hotel for several years, Scott and I are somewhat aware of what the price should be.  Because the man was so helpful and friendly, we even gave him a generous tip.
As we drove into the hotel at 4:00 p.m., we saw Vicky in the parking lot.  She used to work at the hotel two years ago and she loves the campers.  She purposely came to see if we had arrived yet.  She works at another hotel in the area, but she will be back on Friday to see all the campers. She really likes us all.
We checked into our rooms and unpacked.  Montana went for a run after having sat all day—a 7 ½-8 hour journey.  We met up again at 6:15 p.m. for dinner.  Mercedes, the head cook, was happy to see us again.  She made us a dinner of grilled chicken breast, rice, French fries, and a green salad.  She knows Scott’s special diet, and she brought him chicken, sautéed veggies, and a huge salad.  Montana and I had mora (berry) juice to drink. We sat in the absolute quiet and tranquility here for a couple of hours talking.  The mosquitos started to find us and we moved to our room.  About 9:00 p.m., we were all feeling tired and we retired for the night.  We were thankful for our safe travel and arrival here.  We prayed for the safe travel of everyone else who would be arriving tomorrow.



Thank you


So glad the cyclist wasn't hit! When growing up, my family always prayed before setting out in the car, and we've made a habit of this in my own family over the years. Praying for your continued safety!