Saturday, 24 May 2014

'Early Morning Run in... Bogota (part 2)'

First light: 0604 hrs
Time start: 0600 hrs
Time finish: 0642
Weather: 12C
Altitude 8,300 ft

Don't mean this to become a soap. But, this post follows the cliffhanger in Part 1, posted 29th April (Post 10). We've had the Makeni run since (Post 11). Cliffhanger? Admittedly, not in the same league as the 'Italian Job'. Remember the bus full of gold bullion see-sawing over a sheer alpine drop. Michael Caine calmly, "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea."

Well. No, not exactly in that league. We had Johnny Admin having his expensive pushbike stolen by a couple of street performing hombres. JA has since reminded me the hombre rode off with his expensive aerodynamic helmet as well. HSE conscious bandido. I always tell the kids to wear their helmets. Learn from Uncle Admin...

Before this early morning run finishes back at the hotel, let's return to risk from Part 1. Middle aged managers working in the extractive sector read on with caution. Wives (and Frankie Valli), look away now. Especially if your next posting is South America.

The greatest danger to expatriates in Bogota? Themselves. Lifestyle choices. The main risk? The ladies of Colombia. Some of the most beautiful women in the world. It begins when the oil worker, quite often in a management position, is posted to Bogota. There's a good chance he'll be divorced and married to a dusky Señorita half his age within 27 months. Some may be thinking where do I sign up?

He's typically mid to late forties. Married to his Anglo Saxon wife around the same age. They've been married a while. He's about to have a mid-life crisis. She's 20 pounds over her best fighting weight and neurotic. That's the start. The finish? They no longer understand each other. She's returns home. He meets a special friend. She's early to mid twenties. Did I mention dusky. The punchline. He's walking down the aisle within 27 months of arrival. He's now drinking mojito's and off dancing salsa every night. Life is wonderful. They live happily ever after. Of course they do. 27 months. In the oil & gas league table of marriage disasters, only beaten by Kazakstan. 24 months. I'm often asked which country is bottom. Papua New Guinea. No question. 293 months.

I mentioned two different Colombia's in Part 1. Let's visit the other one. During my second last trip, before moving to Sierra Leone in 2011, there was a visit to the Department of Vicada. A straightforward itinerary. Overfly new drilling locations. Meet the military. Visit a seismic camp.

We taxied to a halt on a dusty bush airstrip. A hot steamy day as we walked to the distinctive seismic orange tents. First, the mandatory safety brief followed by a camp orientation. The HSE fellow was covering actions to take should we hear shooting. Right on cue...shooting. Impressive. Realistic. Sound affects. In my experience most HSE Managers couldn't manage a spice rack. This guy was good.

However, when the Security Manager calmly said 'get down', followed by a Colombian Army officer running in a little too excitedly...well, this was no drill.

Now laying on the floor with about a dozen others listening to gunfire. Initially it sounded distant. There was a substantial earth berm around the tents. We also had a platoon of the Colombian military in close proximity. However, with the exception of the Colombian Security Manager and myself, the remainder were oil workers probably experiencing this thrill for the first time. I remember being laid next to a rather rotund driller, someone who looked like they'd swallowed a bouncy castle. Like being back in the military and this fellow had replaced sandbags.

Quickly the Colombian army got to grips with the situation and began to win the firefight. This went on for 20 mins, often dying down then starting up again. Whereas the dusky señorita skit is tongue in cheek, there remains a real danger in the 'other' Colombia.

That's enough of the 'other' Colombia. Let's get back to the vibrant half. Beautiful. Sophisticated. Spellbinding. Safe. Edgy. Alive. Exhilarating. Johnny Admin stories. Intoxicating. There's one venue that truly encapsulates it all.

Andrés Carne de Res in Chía. An hour outside of Bogota. Google it, go on Trip Advisor. Listed in the top 3 places to visit in Bogota. Nothing prepares you. A restaurant in name only. Over 2,000 people sit down to dinner every night. It's theatre. It's chaos. A spectacle of art. It's mayhem. It's salsa. It's eccentricity. It's confusing (mime artists, actors, trapeze, someone on a trumpet, a brass band, a trick cyclist on a Trek bike). Oh, and they serve excellent food. Argentinian beef, Chilean white wine. Leave your Anglo Saxon reserve at home. You'll be dancing on the tables, whether you want to or not. This isn't a wedding in the Thames Valley, where any reserve is dropped 30 mins before the end, as the Hokey Cokey starts up. A wonderful experience. Go if you ever get the chance.

Ah, there's the hotel coming into sight. A good run. A trip down memory lane. That's Colombia done over 2 posts. When we next go back in time, it's probably to Peru.

However, the next post will be back to Africa and business as usual. 'An Early Morning Run In...Dakar'. A 75 mins flight to Senegal this week, accompanied by Escargot...

Oh, and @roadrunnertns is now on social media. If you receive this Blog forwarded, or stumble across it - then please follow on Twitter. Included will be all new posts, updates, and photos. See you in Senegal...