Friday, 15 March 2019

Motorcycle Taxi

Another week has gone by, not a lot to show for it, my days have been mucked up to a degree, because without a car, I have been running Marcela from home to Niquia, which is on our side of Bello, and then she has caught the bus to work, it was the only way we could do it, because at the moment there is a local rule, that no Motorcyclist can carry a pillion passenger in Bello, because of the drive by shootings. It hasn't changed the number of deaths, but has proved very inconvenient. Although, I am told by family, that there are a number of menacing looking armed men in uniform, to be found prowling the back streets. Apparently they are another branch of the Policía Nacional, but brutal, more akin to mercenaries than the normal Police or Military, their job is to remove armed gangs not arrest them.

Then I have had return to Niquia for 2pm, to collect Marcela to come home, that has been my excuse to have lunch out this week.

Anyway, we went today to collect the Nissan, Marcel's Uncle, has opened up the engine and hopefully all is repaired, we left home about 11am, rode to Medellin on the bike, collected the car, and we both went to the Hypermarket, to get my orange marmalade, and to have lunch, then over the road to Makro and stocked up, as the cupboard was nearly bare, after which we made our way home. We don't do convoys, it is in my opinion, dangerous, you spend more time concentrating on the other vehicle than on the road. Anyway, I arrived home first, and had time to put the bike away before Marcela arrived. Now we give the car a few days trial to see if everything is OK.

Tomorrow, Marcela is going early morning shopping in the City, to get her bits for our upcoming holidays, I will nip down town to get a few bits I forgot today, and then I am gardening, weather allowing.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Time to Look for Another Car?

Yesterday morning, I was checking the levels in the Nissan X-Trail, when I found oil in the radiator, but no sign of water / refrigerant in the Oil, that put paid to Marcela going to work, which thanks to the Local Authorities had already been mucked up, more on that later.

So the car ended up going on a breakdown truck, over to Marcela's Uncle's workshop in Medellin, he rang us later to say there was a trace of water on the cap of the oil filler, so he was not convinced there was not engine damage, and wanted to take the engine apart to confirm that it was not the head gasket gone, one way or the other. The breakdown Driver had looked himself, and thought it was the transmission cooler, so we will just have to wait and see, Hernan (Uncle) thinks it will take a week to do, but he is going to contact us once he is sure and give us a quote.

This Nissan is just jinxed, not only by the problems we have had since buying it, but also here the parts are a horrendous price. If the problem is not an easy fix, I think we are going to sell as fast as possible, and look for another Montero, the only thing that put me off, is that the newer models only have four seats, and when Marcela is taxing the family around she needed five, tough, they will have to make their own way in future if that happens.

I said Marcela had been mucked about, as most of you that follow my posts will know, we have Pico y Placa here in Colombia, which effects all vehicles running on solely Petrol or Diesel (with the exception of 4 stroke bikes) , the idea being to reduce vehicle emissions. You are restricted to when you can use your vehicle in the towns and City nearby according to the last number on your registration plate, when it runs normally, that stops you going on the road between 7am and 8.30am also 5.30pm to 7pm, two days a week,normally this is not a problem for me, but for those who work...

Then a few weeks ago, they brought in Pico y Placa Ambiental, which added every other Saturday to your list of prohibited times, and included 4 stroke bikes for the first time.

 The problem of smog has apparently got so bad they have declared it 'Red' and this week they have introduced further restrictions, you can no longer use your car between 5am and 10am also 4pm to 9pm, which defeats the object of having a vehicle, and paying high taxes for the privilege of doing so.

The fact that these restrictions have had to be imposed just goes to prove my argument that Pico y Placa in Colombia does not work. For a number of reasons, they do nothing to reduce the emissions from Public Buses, because the owners pay Transito (Traffic Police) to look the other way. Nothing is done about the pollution from Factories that belch out smoke, it is just the ordinary Joe on the street who suffers, because he or she,  can't use the vehicle he has paid taxes for, and Public Transport is apalling to say the least, but they are then expected to pay again to use that, only lining the pockets of those service owners who are already allowed to flout the law.

The reason there is such a pollution problem in Colombia, is not solely down to vehicle and factory emissions, but the fact that the Government National and Local will not invest in the highway infrastructure. Motorways in Colombia are little more than 'A' or main roads, they go through every town and village, anyone can use them, from pedestrians, to horse riders, pedal cyclists to fork lift trucks, in many areas the speed limit is 80kph. The result of this is that towns and Cities are gridlocked by vehicles that only want to pass through, resulting in sitting traffic, and avoidable pollution. Local traffic wanting to avoid these gridlocks, then takes to the minor road, causing exactly the same problem.

What Colombia needs, is to invest in a proper Motorway system, by-passing all urban areas, allowing traffic that can move at a pace, to travel from A to B without sitting in queues, and thereby  reducing pollution, and the need for pico y placa.

In the mean time, the Government should insist that when we reach the 'red' zone all Public Transport should be free at source, because most of those people have already paid for the right to access those roads, and here in Colombia that is not cheap, but which Government Officials can get away with lining their own pockets, and making people's lives a misery, they will.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Another Week Passed

There is not much to report, it has been an odd week, I seem to have been bobbing in and out on the Bike most days, mainly shopping, that is one of the disadvantages of being on a bike, it now comes down to buying our food, little and often!

Pepe, seems to be improving with his change of food, his benign tumours are reducing in size, and now he has got used to receiving dog treats and not helping us eat our food, he has settled down to a 'Dog's Life'... hahaha!

I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't always pay to go for the helpful option, not only as I commented the other day, is it the Pharmacies that have a system where you take a ticket according to your situation, (Pensioner, Pregnant, Disabled etc.) which in theory gets you to the front of the queue, but Banks and many Institutions use the same system.

However, it is not guaranteed to work, and I have come to the conclusion you have to size up, who is in the waiting room before deciding which option to pick.  On Friday, I went to the Bank, to deposit our holiday pesos saved in tins, over the year, I took a Pensioner ticket (albeit it is once you are over 60 here) and then noted there were 70 people in front of me, the place was full of 'Oldies', after an hour and a half, the queue did not seem to be moving, so I gave up and left, humping my bag of pesos with me.

I returned yesterday, there seemed to be an equal number of  potential 'Oldies' and normal, so I took my 'Oldies' ticket, there were 20 in front of me this time, but then I found they had allotted one cash desk for us, and three for normal, so it was two hours before I handed over my bag of bootie, 30 seconds it was done, as they give you a 'temporary receipt' and it would be counted the following day and confirmed by phone, or by going online.

I am getting very short tempered at the moment, all because I am not sleeping through the night, why? because our Druggie neighbour has let his cat out again, and again, it is stuck up the Teak trees opposite, so far it has been there four days, the night before last, through a horrendous thunder and lightening storm, they know it is there, they were all gazing up at it, when I returned home yesterday, but no one is doing anything to rescue it, consequently it spends all night crying, and me being a light sleeper...

In between my excursions, I have been keeping on top of the garden, which like much here, has benefited and also suffered as a result of the heavy rains. The grass is now green again, and growing at a fast rate, but we have had more problems with the azulina hedge, with the force of the rain, it has had to be wired upright. As nice as azulina is, I would never use it again for a hedge, it is not self supporting, and since I put the white roofing panels along the fence to block out the neighbours, it falls over if not fully supported, that in itself causes other problems, because when using the hedge cutter, I have to be careful that I don't cut the supporting wire