Up at 06h00 and on the road. We made it to the border by about 10h00 after annoyingly backtracking to try and buy diesel because the two stations closest to the border did not have any and then neither did Tulcan!
The first customs guy on the Ecuadorian side who was doing 'traffic duty' asked us if we had permission to visit Colombia and then escorted us to the manager's office. We had to explain why we had two entries on the carnet de passage, and then they said we did not have to have it stamped out again, however, we waited until an opportune time and had it stamped out anyway - we didn't want any hassles on the Colombian side and he was probably just being lazy.
The immigration side of things took a little explaining as to why we did not have our exit cards and that our exit stamp had been cancelled before. Fortunately one of the guys who was working the day we had our blow-up with Mr Obnoxious remembered us when we said hello and he confirmed our story. Then there was a debate as to which passport the exit stamp should be put in and in the end, we got one in both, which suited us perfectly.
The Colombian side was fairly simple, except the immigration man wanted copies of our vehicle papers and then once we had finished and had our passports stamped and already had our first conversation with customs, he saw us going back to the car and asked for copies of our passports too. The customs people were slightly gruff to start, but soon became friendly and talkative. They checked a couple of the compartments and stamped our carnet de passage - no problem.
As we were driving away we both said we couldn't believe that we were in Colombia! We stopped at a great supermarket in Ipiales where I bought a baguette and some cheese, ham and juice - all quite expensive!
The roads were fairly good. The scenery was spectacular and the majority of people seem very house proud with neat homes and colourful gardens. There are more horses and carriages here than we saw in Peru / Ecuador and the roadside is often awash with bright colours from hibiscus bushes, flame trees, oleander and many more.
There were quite a lot of police checkpoints and we were stopped three or four times. A couple of them you could see the guy was bored and thought we looked interesting, but for the most part we have just smiled, waved and driven slowly through. We also stopped to check out some noises en route...
We stopped for the night about 7km south of El Bordo at a motel / camping place called Parador Turistica El Patio. It was a little run down, but the swimming pool was half Olympic size and very clean. After Michael had tightened the shock absorbers we went for an evening swim. It was fabulous (who would have thought in southern Colombia we'd be swimming in a pool). Michael also rescued a little snake which had fallen in the pool and couldn't get out.
We also discovered from the manager that tomorrow is election day for local government. It never rains, but it pours, however, we decided people still need to get from A to B and the increased military presence would probably make it safer, rather than not. We had cold showers (not thoroughly unpleasant, because it was quite hot and humid) and got an early night, after a dinner of muesli cereal mmmnnn...
We hate peajes (tolls)! We love Colombia, but the peajes are driving us crazy. There are about 20 of them on our route up to Cartagena and they want to charge us the same price as massive, 3-axle trucks! The toll varies between 11,000 pesos ($4) and 14,600 pesos ($6)! We have managed so far, to pay 4 at the 'unfair' toll and the remaining 8 at what we believe is the correct toll (some of whom needed persuading and others who charged us the price without question). At one of the tolls the ingenious manager took a photo of Nyathi so he could show the powers that be why he did not charge us the 3-axle truck price. We have spent a lot of time arguing our point and in some instances causing a fair back-up of traffic behind us! It just leaves us with a bad taste in the mouth!
The scenery has continued to be lush and rich in colour and vegetation. The people have been very friendly, with some making a point of waving, saying hello and asking where we are from. The same goes for the police who have been efficient, but courteous and pleased to see us travelling in their country.
We tried a couple of places to camp before finding a campestre (resort with cabins, pools etc) just south of Pereira where they allowed us to park for the night and use the cold showers for 10,000 pesos (after I negotiated down from 40,000). The guards and other staff were friendly and came to chat to us and have a close look at Nyathi.
We had a slightly more leisurely start today at about 07h30. We had more debates at the peajes today - it really is a pain in the arse. We have had slightly fewer military checkpoints today. This morning was also the first time we were asked for our compulsory insurance, which they should have sold us at the border - I think. Anyway, we showed them our 'South American Insurance Certificate' and when we explained we were really just in transit, he said it was fine and we could go.
One thing we have noticed is that they are very conscientious about maintaining the roadsides including keeping the grass, hedges and other vegetation trimmed as well as cleaning road signs and clearing litter!
The scenery has varied from lush valleys to steep, winding mountainous roads. We saw enormous coffee plantations, covering hill after hill. We phoned Camilo en route and arranged to meet at a garage south of Medellin city. Just before we got to the garage we saw Camilo coming in the opposite direction, waving at us. He turned round and we stopped at the garage a short while later where we decided to follow him to Ruta 40 - the motorbike shop that he owns with his partner, Mauricio.
When we got to Ruta 40 we met Uwe and Ramona from Germany who have been travelling most of the world on their motorbike. The rest of the gang (including their customers) were all so friendly and helpful too. Wanra (Camilo's girlfriend) let me use the internet to check emails. Camilo phoned the nearest campsite and said it was too expensive and that we could stay at his house in the countryside about an hour's drive away, as long as we liked (Uwe and Ramona were already staying there).
Michael and I went for a late lunch at Crepes and Waffles, a great chain restaurant which serves the most delicious savoury and sweet crepes and waffles for reasonable prices! Then we followed Uwe and Ramon up to Camilo's house. It was raining so the views weren't great, but as we got closer we could see it was a beautiful area with lots of immaculately manicured plots and some very grand houses. We had to go through a peaje en route, but after much persuasion we paid the fair price (and besides, when we drove over there sensor it showed us as a Category 1 vehicle for he lowest toll fee!
Camilo's family's place was wonderful, nestled in a lush green valley with cows and horses for company - so peaceful! We had a braai and made a lovely salad and spent the evening swapping traveller's stories. It was a late night for all of us, but thoroughly enjoyable!
We had a good night's sleep and treated ourselves to a lie in until after 07h30. We decided that we had to leave for Cartagena after lunch because otherwise we would arrive too close to the weekend and not get anything done. It's real pity because we love the new friends we have made here in Medellin, but we can't risk delaying the shipping.
Michael kept Uwe company while he worked on his bike and I got our stuff together. I had some of the ice-cold, fresh milk delivered directly from the cows in the field next door, it was delicious. We posed in Camilo's lovely country garden...
We followed the circuitous GPS route back into town, with a slight hiccup at the end due to road works and a one way system, but we got Ruta 40 at about 10h30, after some very scenic views from above.
I checked my emails, but nothing had come through from Ambrosio in Cartagena yet. Wanra kindly phoned Alan, the other shipping contact whom Camilo had given me and when I then spoke to him he said it would be better for us to be in Cartagena, because there are a number of options open to us, so that sounds helpful. We went out to lunch with Camilo, Wanra, Uwe and Ramona which was great fun (it made us feel rotten for not staying longer)! The lunch was even better than yesterday. I had a crepe with bolognese sauce and cheese, smothered in a mushroom sauce and THEN a crepe with banana, hot chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream. Michael had a crepe with meat in a pepper sauce and then an ice cream dessert called Temptation - need I say more... (no dinner for us)!
Sadly after lunch we said our goodbyes to everyone, took a photo in front of Nyathi and then Camilo lead us onto the correct road and waved farewell! What a fantastic bunch of people, we really hope we see them in Nottingham one day...
The afternoon's trip was uneventful. We were stopped twice by the military, both times they were very friendly, just checking where we were from, where we were going and the second guy welcomed us to Colombia and said it was nice to see tourists here!
We climbed over the Andes again and of course saw lush green jungle-like scenery with the odd waterfall cascade down the black mountain rock. We passed through Santa Rosa (our intended overnight place) much earlier than anticipated so we pushed on and discovered suitable secure overnight stops were hard to find. We also did not want to get too close to Puerto Valdivia as Camilo had recommended it was not the best place to stay overnight. Luckily we spotted a nice looking restaurant with an open parking area about 20km south of Valdivia. The owners were very welcoming and said it was no problem to sleep in the vehicle overnight, Colombian hospitality wins again!
We had a relatively good night's sleep, except for being disturbed by a truck that sat in the parking area with its engine running for ages. We said our thanks and goodbyes and headed north. The road down the mountain past Valdivia left a lot to be desired with a very uneven surface due to water flowing underneath causing the road to sink or collapse. When we hit the flats the road improved vastly and the temperature increased too!
We drove parallel to a river for a long time and saw lots of neat little wooden houses in Caribbean style. Also lots of kids walking to school, smartly dressed in uniforms carrying essential drinks bottles (we also drank load in the heat). We had a puncture thanks to a bolt piercing straight through. I forget what number that is now, but since we've been running tubeless, we have definitely had better success!
We made good time to Cartagena and arrived at about 15h30. We called Alan Duque (Camilo's friend in one of the port authorities) and after some telephone tennis with his assistant, Anna we managed to find our way to their offices, Muelles del Bosque. Alan was really helpful and gave us some additional shipping contact names and an address for camping and we arranged to come and see him after we see the other contacts tomorrow morning.
Driving through town was interesting at peak hour. Loads of buses stopping at a moment's notice, taxis, horses and carts, bicycles, pedestrians and, just to make it all a bit more complicated - a funeral procession. They were carrying the casket across two motorbikes and the mourning crowd was coming directly for us (we were trying to overtake a stopped bus). They weren't too pleased with us and started shouting for us to go back, (which of course was impossible as other cars had come up behind us also trying to overtake). It wasn't too bad, but quite a few of them were banging on Nyathi's sides. Luckily, we were able to squeeze in front of the bus when one mourner made the bus stop to let us in...
We also got to see a few sites on the drive through, like Catillo San Felipe...
We found the camping quite easily. Except for the lovely big pool, the place is in a terrible state of disrepair. The two usable toilets and showers had doors with panels of wood missing/rotting and some of them didn't close. Of course the toilets didn't have seats, but the saving grace was that despite all the leaves and dust/sand lying on the floor, it was quite clean! They wanted 10,000 pesos ($4) each and we told them that was too expensive. Michael went and sussed out another option down the road, but we settled on Camping La Boquilla at 7,500 pesos each, mostly because of the pool!
We had two fantastic evening swims either side of dinner. The water was great and we pulled each other around the pool, floating and looking up at the night sky - very relaxing! We had soya for dinner and the very emaciated resident dogs were treated to their own pot of soya with Bovril and bread. The three of them guzzled the food down like there was no tomorrow. I also mixed up a bowl of milk for them which went down equally well. For the entire night we had three new friends and watchdogs...
We were up early (to three dogs with wagging tails). We caught the bus into town and began our shipping search. We went to see Ambrosio from Seaboard Marine first. He saw us straight away and was pleasant, but his quote was US$1,500 plus $150 for 'taxes' and we could not sail on the same shi. He kindly called Miami to negotiate a better deal and came back with US$1,300, plus taxes. We thanked him and said that we would try the other ports, which may have an option for us to sail with the ship, and then get back to him.
We ended up walking to the next port, which was probably only about 2 or 3kms, but in the sweltering heat it was pretty tiring. The two contacts whom Alan had given us were not there, but we got to see Hernando Guerrero and Maria (who was fluent in English) and they were remarkably friendly and helpful. They gave us a printout of all shipping lines which sail from Sociedad Portuaria and recommended Maritrans for passenger shipping along with the vehicle.
One of the things we have been really impressed with is the general friendliness and helpfulness of Colombians - they often go out of their way to help you, like walking with you to a destination, instead of pointing or telling you where it is. Nearly all the people we went to see, saw us straight away, without an appointment (I think having Hernando's card helped a lot too).
Jose Parra and his team at Maritrans were great and they have a ship leaving for Costa Rica on Tuesday, 2nd March for $700, plus $200 each for passage. They said they would call Europe and negotiate on the price and see if there is passage available. So we'll come back to them first thing in the morning.
We had a simple lunch of soup, rice and fried chicken at a little cafe, filled with local people. Then we went on a less successful visit to four other shipping companies, where they couldn't help us and didn't offer passage. The last company we went to see was Eduardo Gerlein. It took us ages to find their address, only to discover the had moved, but when we eventually got there the manager, Luis Pacheco, was so friendly and helpful, even through he was extremely busy (juggling three phones at once trying to sort out a problem with a container on one of his ships). His quote was also very good at US$500, plus 'taxes' of $150, but no passage.
We walked along between the city walls and the sea - wonderful , but quite long after a tiring day. We eventually found a Boquilla bus and went back to the campsite, greeted with glee by the three dogs. We chatted for a while to the guard, Alfredo and Luis Carlos and also arranged for one of there friends to do all our washing - yay! We had the remains of the chilli soya, with rice and we had bought some bread for the dogs, so they had tasty dinner too! We discovered the dogs are only fed at weekends, from the scraps of the 'restaurant' it's disgusting, but there's not a lot we can do!
We think we have found a shipping solution. Maritrans came back with a quote of $500, plus $35 'paperwork' fee for a ship leaving on early Tuesday morning, but no passage - we are going to have to work on the captain for that one...
So, while they started to sort out the paperwork from their end, we went off to customs to organise that side of things. While enquiring at a 'window' in the customs building a helpful man said he'd take us to the correct office, where we discovered we needed an export form to be typed up and then we could proceed to the port for clearance. We thought the friendly man (Luis Martinez) worked for the head of customs, but it turns out he's a street 'agent' who followed us into the building and then after helping us for two hours (only after we'd already said goodbye and thanked him profusely for being so helpful) did he tell us he chares a sweet $75 for his services. We told him he was deceptive and should have been up front with us in the beginning, we had made a number of references which would have led him to believe we did not know he was an agent. In the end we paid him 30,000 pesos for just under two hours 'work' We felt damn annoyed that we had been had, but we genuinely thouht he worked for customs and was being just as helpful as loads of other Colombians we'd met. Still, he got the form done and typed which was the most difficult part.
We went for lunch at Crepe and Waffles in Bocagrande - delicious! We went back to Maritrans to tell them all was in order and that we would deposit the money in the bank on Monday morning. We also went to see Hernando again to say thanks and we arranged to be at the port at 07h00 on Monday to collect a gate pass from him. They suggested we visit Isla Baru for a relaxing beach weekend. Then our last stop was Alan's at Muelles del Bosque. He didn't know of any boats leaving imminently for Panama / Costa Rica which we could board, but he drew us a good map to follow to Baru!
We went back into Bocagrande for the evening to soak up the nightlife! We bought a lovely little emerald, some Montecristo cigars and an overpriced painting! Then we went back to our favourite haunt for the shabby service, but tasty crepes! We caught a taxi back to La Boquilla at about 11pm and fell into bed.
Up relatively early. We went to the Michelin garage to have our punctures repaired. That took most of the morning. We left Nyathi there and headed into town to try and upload the website, but the internet cafe which allowed us to connect the laptop was closed and searches for others that 'worked' were not successful.
We had to get back to Nyathi before 14h00 and then we headed west for Baru. Of course, just to brighten up our day there was a toll booth en-route, but after much persuasion and a show of the 21 previous toll tickets, we paid the correct fee (as we see it). We stopped and had a somewhat abortive attempt to withdraw cash from an ATM. When we arrived in the village to catch the ferry we had two equally enthusiastic ferry touts trying to tell us their ferry was better, safer, for tourists, anything to convince us to use them (business was obviously slow). We settled on driving straight toward the 'local ferry' and paid 15,000 pesos for a return fare (the receipt for which I got the captain to sign). The ferry was basic, but better than some of the ones we've seen in Africa.
The road on the island was powder dust and quite rutted in places, so it was slow going. We passed a very inventive scarecrow protecting a field of crops...
When we got to the end of the road there was a sign saying we could not drive further, but must park our car in the adjacent parking area. We convinced the parking attendant that we were going to be sleeping in our vehicle behind the beachside restaurants and he said OK. When we got to the beachside restaurants we were greeted by a new wave of locals and discovered the road leading down was deeply rutted and the area at the bottom was not so nice after all. One of the local masseurs (Solima) told us there were some French people further down, so we took a stroll down the beach avoiding further requests to eat and have massages 'tal vez manana'.
We found a nice, rustic little place with a few gringos and discovered it was in fact the place run by Gilbert, the French guy. We decided it was a better idea to drive Nyathi back to the parking area and stay the night down at the beach cabin. We hired two hammocks and brought some kit back from Nyathi and settled down for the evening. We both had a welcome Spanish omelette and then sat and drank rum with Adam, Marcus, Sina and Carrie. It was a very pleasant and giggle-filled evening!
We collapsed into our hammocks for the night - a new experience for us both...
Certainly not the best night's sleep I've ever had, but not as bad as I thought it might be. It was the coolness of the sea breeze blowing in across the veranda that woke me a more often than not. Michael's rum intake fortunately lulled him into a deeper sleep!
We spent the morning reading and lying in the sun. I had a lovely massage from Solima for 45 mins for just $4! I had a great swim in the sea and then Michael poured a couple of litres of fresh water over me to get rid of the salt. (It is really rustics - there are no showers and you can buy 5 litres of 'washing water' for US$0.20)
We had fried egg and chips for lunch (after waiting an hour for it - laid back, beach style) and at about 14h45 headed back to Nyathi. We said our farewells and reluctantly left everyone behind getting ready for their 'Leap Year Party'!
The ferries on the way back were much busier and we queued behind a few buses waiting for our turn, soaking up all the activity of roadside food stalls and sun-beaten beach goers.
We had our standard argument with the toll people and convinced them we should pay the lesser fee. We arrived back at La Boquilla shortly after dark and were greeted by Alfredo and two of the dogs (I felt very bad as I hadn't brought any food for the dogs and they were looking rather expectant). We had refreshing showers and started getting Nyathi ready for boarding the ship.
What an extremely long, frustrating and exhausting day...
We were at the port by 07h00 and the town was still fairly quiet as we drove through...
Unfortunately the staff only arrived at 07h30 and the secretary who had to type up a pass for us to get into the port only arrived at 08h00. Then we discovered that Michael didn't need a pass as he was driving the car so could have gone in at 07h00 anyway! So he drove through and I walked in the pedestrian gate and we met at warehouse two where the customs inspection should take place. When we located the customs office se told us we had to go back to customs about 1km down the road, outside the port. It turns out Mr Martinez had fed us duff information and we had no choice but to go back to where we were on Friday to see the Alberto Rodriguez. We explained our situation with Luis and that we thought he worked there and that he had told us to go to the port first. Anyway, we gave Alberto our planillo (the port job sheet) and he typed up another form for us and stamped a number on our other form. He told us who to ask for Inspector Tony at the port and off we went. Only when we got back to the port did we realise Alberto had not given us back our planillo. We went to see Hernando and he said not to worry if customs had the planillo. We decided to locate Inspector Tony first and see if we needed the planillo. It turns out we did need it so I went back to the customs office and got it! It was incredibly hot which made the walking more tiring. When I got to the office I saw Mr Martinez, but at first he didn't see me, so I looked away. Then I saw him notice me and he hot-footed it in the other direction. Guilty!
By the time I got back Michael and Inspector Tony were already waiting for the planillo and they went off to do more form stamping and the carnet which entailed another walk back to the customs office. I stayed behind with the narcotics police who had to do a vehicle search. I wished Michael had stayed too, because I was trying to keep a very close eye to make sure nothing untoward happened. In the beginning there were there officers and ten the boss left. The two remaining guys spoke no English and one was friendlier than the other. They did a very thorough search opening every box and then all the plastic food containers, washing detergents, fabric softener - you name it, they rattled it, opened it and smelled it! They took out the gas bottle, knocked on all the partitions and looked to see what they led to on the other side. They also noticed that the roof was hinged and could open up and said I would have to open it. I staved that off until last, hoping by then they would lose interest. Michael arrived back, but by then I realised these guys were serious about their job and highly unlikely to plant anything anywhere. They did a fairly thorough search of the cab and then the friendly guy asked if he could bring in his dog. The dog jumped up into the cab and had a good old sniff, he climbed on the seats and got into the back too. He walked him all around the vehicle and then he lay down obediently a couple of metres away.
Then we took them through the grubby side and back compartments with all the tools, spares, water etc. They opened the trunks and got the dog to do some more sniffing. I kept apologising for them getting dirty, but they didn't seem to mind. Lastly, they asked me to open the top. Thankfully it was friendly guy who came up. He started taking the clothes out of the first compartments and then I offered for his dog to come up, if he'd like. He said no, made a few more cursory glances and poked about and said it was fine. Michael shut the top quickly before anybody else decided they wanted to see as well.
All in all it took under three hours, but we were all pretty hot and sweaty by the end of it. The officers had relaxed a bit too, so at the end everyone was very friendly and I must say they did conduct themselves very professionally.
It was lunchtime by then, so we caught a cab back into town. We had lunch in the cafeteria at Vivero supermarket. I ate a few mouthfuls and decided I couldn't stomach it and left the rest, while Michael's rotisserie chicken was OK, but nothing to write home about! I went and got a chicken pie, which was much tastier. Then we went back to Maritrans and gave them the customs forms, only to find out that we needed the form to be stamped by someone in Hernando's office. So, Michael went back to the port while I went to the bank to deposit the money for the shipping into Maritrans' account. The bank queue was unbelievably long and the service really slow. Once I'd finished I went back to Maritrans to wait for Michael and after a while went to the internet cafe to send birthday messages and catch up with correspondence.
Maritrans had done a letter for us giving us permission to go into the port to speak to the captain about possible passage on the ship. We had to be there for 19h00, so we grabbed our packs (which we'd been able to leave at Maritrans to save us having to lug them around all day), got something to drink and headed off back to port. We only got to see the captain at about 20h45, but spent the time watching them offload the containers from ship. The news wasn't good - all cabins were taken and because the ship was carrying hazardous material he had an extra security crew member on board who was sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
Really disappointed, we left the port and went back into town to look for accommodation. We saw a number of really dodgy looking places and at last, at about 23h00 we found a half-decent looking place, with clean bedding and piped air conditioning. We raced back to port as we were meant to be there at 22h30 so Michael could be ready to drive the vehicle into the hold when they needed him. Of course when we got there they weren't quite ready yet and when they called us to drive up to the ship, they told us to go past the drive-on ramp and park next to the cranes, which we thought was a bit odd as we were booked as roll-on roll-off. However, it turns out that they can't put the ramp down in Puerto Limon, so Michael drove Nyathi onto this 20 foot cage with just two centimetres to spare on either side and we watched as the crane lifted Nyathi up and swung her across and lowered her into the bowels of the ship.
Michael went on board to manoeuvre her into place for the journey. Then we had to wait for ages for the ship's first officer so we could leave the keys with him. We left the port after 01h00, where the security guard kindly called us a cab and we headed back to the hotel. We collapsed into bed exhausted...
It wasn't the restful night's sleep we were looking forward to last night. The bed had only a sheet and the air conditioning is piped in so we had no control over the temperature. Luckily I had packed a small travel blanket so we snuggled under that. Our sleep was also disturbed when we first got to be, as well as early in the morning by the porn channels and very loud bumping and grinding coming from our neighbours! We definitely won't be staying there again.
We went to Maritrans to collect the bill of lading which they said would be ready in the late afternoon. Then we went to Club Nautico to see if there were any yachts sailing for Panama or Costa Rica with which we could hitch a ride. No success - but we did get to spend the morning wandering along the pier and chatting to lots of people from all over the world. We treated ourselves to lunch at the club and then I went to Bocagrande in search of a hotel and flights to Costa Rica, while Michael went to the internet cafe to upload the website.
The flights were only available on Friday and all looked ridiculously expensive, especially taking into consideration that they quote in US$ and then you have to pay in pesos at an exchange rate of 2703 instead of 2480! So to get to Costa Rica was going to cost more than $400 each. I went back to tell Michael the bad news and to try a few agents in the town centre, but with the same results. Michael had no better luck with uploading the web page, so we went for a brief walk around the old town. We went back into Bocagrande and had an ice-cream for dinner.
Summary of our shipping procedure from Cartagena
Jose Parra, Regional Manager, Maritrans, Edificio Caja Agraria Piso 3, Tel:
1. Confirm shipping details with Maritrans (ship ETA, ship ETD, name of shipping line, name of ship, type of shipping - RORO). Maritrans provide a planillo (document of instruction to the port giving all the details of the vehicle to be exported and what ship it is on etc.)
2. Visit DIAN (main customs house on right hand side of road about 1km before Sociedad Portuaria) and speak to the head of customs vehicle exportation, Roberto Rodriguez to confirm which form is required to exit country.
3. Buy form from any Servientrega outlet (there is one opposite and to the right of the main entrance to DIAN). Form number is 610 - Declaracion Simplificada Exportacion. Form costs 6,000 pesos.
4. Get someone to type up the form in triplicate. Some particular codes are needed from a manual, but you could ask someone's help for a few dollars to do this, (instead of the US$75 the agents usually charge), when that is the only part of the process you can't actually do yourself.
5. Return to DIAN office, with typed up 610 form and copy of the planillo. They stamp a processing number on the 610 form and issue a letter instructing the inspector at the port to inspect the vehicle.
6. Speak to Hernando Guerrero to make arrangements for entry of vehicle into port and where the vehicle should be taken for inspection (we went to Warehouse 2). Arrange to collect security passes for personal entry and exit of port.
6. Arrive at port with vehicle, planillo, 610 form and carnet de passage (if you require an exit stamp). At the port gate, on entry, they will weigh the vehicle and endorse the planillo. The vehicle is now required to stay within the port boundary.
7. Customs inspector inspects vehicle and checks documents are in order. Inspector stamps 610 form, planillo and carnet de passage.
8. Inspection of vehicle by Anti-narcotics Police. You sign their form, which they keep to say the inspection has been completed.
9. Return to port at allocated time to drive vehicle onto ship (if they allow/want you to do this part).
10. Receive original bill of lading from Maritrans, within 24 hours after ship departure.
I went first thing back to the travel agent to see about flights. They came up with a flight to Panama City for $200 leaving tomorrow. I went back to check what Michael thought and we agreed to book it. So, back to the agent and then I had to wait while they brought their visa card machine over from another branch in town, so I could pay for the tickets. They were still a bit concerned about being allowed into the country without a return ticket and I convinced them that our bill of lading was all we needed (and made a mental note that it might be a good idea to ask Maritrans to type a letter for us explaining that we were flying to Panama City and then using buses to get to Costa Rica to collect our car). I felt much better at least knowing what we were doing and that we could catch a bus from Panama City to the border and then onto Puerto Limon.
Michael went to try another internet cafe to upload the website while I lazed about watching TV. I got us take-away for lunch. In the afternoon we went back to Maritrans yet again to ask them if they would type up the letter for us, which they did - they really have been remarkably helpful! With the letter in hand and saying our final (really) goodbyes we wandered across to the old city.
It was really the first time we'd had to do a bit of sightseeing. The town is beautiful with well maintained colonial buildings and lots of colourful balconies overlooking the bustling streets below. There are lots of horses and traps clip-clopping along the cobbled streets and people relaxing in squares with cooling fountains and lots of shade from the hot sun. We went into a quaint shop selling all sorts of old weaponry from swords and knives to guns and bows and arrows, with a couple of 'suits of armour' lurking in the corners. We ended off the day sharing a savoury crepe and wolfing down some delicious desserts and back at the hotel we lay on the bed under the cool fan and watched cable TV!