Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Thursday, May 26, 2011 06:08:44|
Rolls Alaska to Argentina & back: 33 Cartagena Columbia to Colon Panama
Tuesday, May 17 until Monday, May 23, 2011
This morning I took a taxi to the office of Enlace Caribe, an importing and shipping agency, where I met the owners - Luis Ernesto and his wife Sonya. Several hours were spent with Sonya at the port arranging to ship the car. The ports are privatized and quite efficient - everything was done in one building. What a difference from the corrupt, inefficient, government operated system in Ecuador!
Once back at the hotel we headed for the same plaza and restaurant as last night. Our chosen drink is the Mojito, based on the Cuban original but made with mint, lime and soda water. A couple of those and some appetizers did for dinner.
Wednesday Sonia met me at the parking lot where the car has been for a couple of days and rode with me to their office, where Luis Ernesto took over to guide me to the porr while Sonia finished required paperwork. All customs and port formalities were quickly finished - then the police got involved. They virtually took the car apart. Two pallets were brought and every item in the car laid out on them. Every bag and box was unpacked, the spare tire was removed, carpets pulled up and access panels to the battery and other compartments opened. I was not happy
I was a whole lot less happy when unpacking the cooler in which spare parts and lubricants are kept to find that a litre of power steering fluid had blown its cap (likely from the altitude change) and run all over the other contents of the cooler. It took an hour and a half to clean up the mess and throw away items that could not be cleaned During this time we were waiting for drug sniffer dogs, but after another hour it turned out that they weren't coming and the job of repacking and assembling everything was left to me. Finally I drove the car into the container, which was then sealed.
The ship is due a day early, so I made reservations at the Sheraton in Colon, Panama where the car will arrived. It is less expensive than the small place we are staying, and offers much more. I heard from the people Luis Ernesto arranged to handle the paperwork on the Panama side, so that is arranged. We invited Luis Ernesto and Sonya to join us for dinner in the evening. They are really fine people, and it was a fabulous meal.
My 70th year got off to a shaky start when we couldn't get a flight to Panama the day our hotel is booked. After trying various options for an hour the hotel internet stopped working. In desperation we went to a travel agency who didn't want to sell us a one way ticket, as they said we would not be allowed into Panama without a return ticket. After showing the car shipping documents they sold us tickets for an outrageous $400 each for the one hour flight. The internet price was $158 each plus tax.
After an excursion to a shopping mall with Marilynn we had a good dinner at a ceviche restaurant where we met a fun couple from Boca Raton Florida. We all moved to a bar for more drinks, so it turned to not be a bad birthday in the end.
On Friday we took a boat to an island resort which was part of the hotel where we were staying. The only other person there was a girl from Switzerland. It was a relaxing day swimming, laying around and reading. The included lunch was fish, which didn't impress Marilynn, but was OK.
The original bill of lading was to be at the hotel on our return, but the ship will be late sailing so it wasn't ready. Luis Ernesto emailed to say he'll have it sent to Panama Monday morning first thing.
When we arrived at the airport early Saturday morning a kind COPA employee made up document showing a return flight in case there was a problem in Panama. Security didn't open until 1 ½ hours before the fight, and only one X-ray machine worked. Then each piece of luggage was hand searched and everyone was patted down - a very slow process that had people at the end of the line concerned about making the flight.
In Panama the return ticket wasn't even mentioned - we had a friendly welcome and were stamped in. Rose, a driver arranged by Dania who is to get the car cleared, drove us over new four lane divided highway to the Sheraton Four Points in Colon - a quick run from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.
Sunday we hired a taxi at $10 per hour. We saw the new canal construction, watched ships going through the Gatun Locks - the last before the Caribbean, had a swim at beautiful, sandy La Angosta beach, and then continued along the coast to Portobelo which was subject of various pirate and British attacks. A superb seafood lunch was enjoyed at a small restaurant built on pilings over the sea. The trip ended with a drive around the old city of Colon, where many of the colonial buildings exist - some restored, many very run down.
Monday morning was spent going over the many emails flying between Cartagena and Panama concerning the car. Luis Ernesto in Cartagena has taken a very personal interest and is demanding blow by blow updates from all concerned. Dania and a driver picked me up at 1 PM just as a blinding rainstorm hit. We worked through the shipping office, insurance, and customs, all in far separated buildings. Getting insurance was the worst - it took 1 ½ hours for the same scam as Venezuela. It is necessary to pay for a full year even though we will have the car in Panama less than 24 hours. Hopefully we will receive the car tomorrow morning.