June 5, 2017
Well we’ve made it to our second continent on this journey: South America! The vehicle carrier and our sailboat took both Tigger and us to meet up in Cartagena, Colombia.
Colombia is about the size of the Northwest Territories or Alaska, larger than France or Germany and nearly as big as Greenland; the 25th largest country in the world with a population of 49 million people. It is the only country on this continent with both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, has deserts, an Amazon region and snowcapped mountains. It was first settled by Europeans back in 1525 when the Spaniards came looking for gold. In 1819 Simon Bolivar overthrew the Spanish and founded Gran Colombia which included Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama. In 1830 Ecuador and Venezuela separated and we know from our time in Panama, it separated in 1903. There have been many civil wars, drug wars and coups in its history and since the early part of this century; Colombia has overcome most of these situations.
Here the currency is the Colombian Peso of which approximately 2900 convert to 1USD and approximately 2100 convert to 1CAD. Its capital city is Bogotá high in the mountains and it is in the Eastern STANDARD time zone (which is presently on par with North American Central time).
The national beers are Aguila and Club Colombia. Gasoline costs about $2.78 a gallon (yes it is sold in gallons!).
As mentioned in the final Panama posting, we are staying at a hostel in the Getsemani region of the city which is part of the walled city but not the historic El Centro while we await the arrival of our “casa rodante” (rolling home).
Tuesday, Doug finally heard back from our Panama shipping agent with the name of the agent to use here in Colombia. He went over there to meet him and tried to begin the process of importing Tigger. Good thing he went because instead of the vessel arriving today as scheduled, it is delayed and will not arrive now until Thursday at 1AM and it appears no one would have advised us of this. The agent advised that we could pay his fee tomorrow once he has the invoice ready and he will email it to Doug.
We went for a walk into the walled part of the El Centro today looking for a tourist info office. The entrance way to old town is under the Clock Tower and the walls are very impressive. The main part of the city is surrounded by a series of impressive fortresses and walls. We also walked along the Getsemani walls today taking in another part of the city; we love the vibe here and there’s plenty of eye candy including many murals.
Something we knew could be done ahead was vehicle insurance so Doug took our paperwork and got that sorted out; one step of what appears to be a large number of steps is done.
That night we went out for a nice meal at a trattoria complete with beer and wine and starting with the best bruschetta we’ve ever had. Walking back we found a little shop that sold gelato on a stick so treated ourselves to dessert.
Wednesday, we took a short cab ride to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. We bought tickets and rented the audio guides which were excellent and the tour took about 1.5 hours. It was hot out but as it was still early we could find patches of shade to stand in listening to the history of the place. It along with the adjacent canal, were engineering marvels well before their time. It was built and added too between 1656 and 1798 and designed by a Dutch engineer. It fell into disuse around 1821 but has been restored in parts and well maintained for viewing.
We got back to the hostel to cool off and Doug decided to try and make headway on the importation by heading to the agent to pay the fees and then seeing how much further he could get in the process. Now they tell us the ship will arrive by noon tomorrow……
Anyway, he went over to the office of the DIAN (customs in Colombia) and made some headway on the vehicle permit process. Next stop was the SPRC office where he learned a customs inspection must be done and that cannot be done until Friday after a SPRC meeting on Friday morning….so we have booked yet another night at the hostel.
Thursday morning we wanted to walk around in the historic El Centro so we started by going to the agent’s office to see about getting the final copy of the bill of lading. His office is supposed to open at eight but, of course, it was closed so Doug called only to learn that the ship is once again delayed and due to the lateness of its arrival it cannot get a docking time until 9:30 this evening! But he said it should all still come together tomorrow…….. Jose advised the final bill of lading could be ready to pick up this afternoon.
We walked around and saw many murals, visited a few churches and squares, a few museums: the Gold, the Inquisition and the Chocolate ones (the latter was very similar to the one in Antigua but not as big) and we saw the former fort dungeons along the city walls that are now artesian shops and walked along the actual walls for a bit. It began raining as we entered the Gold Museum but stopped by the time we came out of the Chocolate Museum so we walked back to the hostel to cool off.
In the afternoon, as Jose had not called, Doug wandered over to this office anyway, and after a bit of time received the final BOL and once again learned that the ship is delayed now set to arrive at midnight.
Doug has a meeting with the SPRC on Friday at eight, then the inspection is scheduled to be done at 2 after which more paperwork at the SPRC before actually getting Tigger. This does not bode well as tomorrow is Friday and by the time Tigger gets out, it will be well into rush hour…..
On a different note, as you know, Doug’s company advised him back in April that he will have to be moved from part time twenty status down to part time 19 (meaning no benefits) so we heard today that that is happening this month. They have offered us three months of continued health insurance at their rates so since that’s cheaper than going to get our own insurance, we’ll probably take it. We just need to get cheques to them…..
Today Doug went over to meet the SPRC for that meeting only to learn ONCE AGAIN that the ship has NOT docked as yet. This pushes off the inspection at Customs but we are told this CAN still be done on Saturday.
At 3:30 we still had not heard that the boat was unloaded – lucky for us the hostel continues to have room for us although we’ve changed rooms for the second time. So everything is pushed back to Saturday morning.
Fran had to go out and get Doug some closed toed shoes as you cannot enter the port in sandals and all our shoes are in Tigger. Found a pair of converse like sneakers for about $8. We had been told he’d need long pants as well but that seems to only apply to vehicles in containers.
After a pizza dinner on a small square we returned to the hostel for what we hope is our last night. Doug left early to make the 8AM meeting….
At the “meeting” Doug found out the DIAN had already done the inspection (WOW) and he was given the paperwork to now go to the Port and pick up Tigger. This of course, all took way longer than it should have.
Just after twelve, Doug called Fran (she had just checked out) and said he was coming in a cab and we’d go straight to the Port. When we got to the Port, again, only one person could enter and he had to show that he had accidental injury/death insurance and then was directed to Tigger (we knew this ahead of time and had a copy printed out – again we were lucky Doug is still covered through work!). It appears someone left the lights on in Tigger and the battery was dead so after he was given a jump, Doug left the Port and met Fran outside the Port with the luggage and we headed south a bit in the hopes of getting our propane tank filled. NO luck at four different places. It was Saturday and so we thought we’d head back to Cartagena and go to the one camping place that offered power and spend the next two nights and search again on Monday. Enroute we stopped to get gasoline and a car wash so Tigger could be salt free after over two weeks on the ocean.
Hotel Bellavista is right on the ocean outside the old town and offers “parking” with power, wifi and bathrooms in a gated area. It wasn’t pretty but it was sufficient. We showered and went to have a light dinner in the hotel restaurant. Next morning Doug did a few odd jobs on Tigger (with things Fran had purchased back in the US) and then we walked out of the lot to get some groceries to discover lots of people out on the beach; there were hundreds of red shelters set up and people were in the ocean cooling off. We wandered down the beach a bit to a grocery store to try and stock up for a few days. It wasn’t the largest store but we managed to find what we needed for a few days.
Monday morning we left and headed to a place recommended by someone who might be able to help us with our propane problem but it turned out he could not find a portable tank for us to purchase although he was prepared to set it up for us. We gave Julio our adapter on this premise. We met a couple named Johnny & Juliana here, he had lived in the US for many years and they told us they felt they could order us a tank and they’d meet us tomorrow at Playa Blanca on Isla Barú.
We drove down the Isla, parked in the lot at the back to spend the night (no services) and went for a stroll on the beach and enjoyed a beer at Hugo’s Place.
Tuesday morning, we called Johnny and he’d been unsuccessful in finding us a tank any smaller than 30 lbs (we wanted 20lb) – they had tried all five gas companies in the city. He suggested that other cities would be more likely to help us.
We spent the morning on the beach (back at Hugo’s) and Johnny and Julianna were supposed to arrive by 11 but got there at 1:40. We wanted to make it to Barranquilla before dark so our visit was short which was sad as we really wanted to spend some time with them. They are headed to Santa Marta on Monday and we are going that direction next.
We hurried back to Tigger, changed and hit the road by 2:30ish. As we drove north the sky got darker and we spent at least 30 minutes driving through heavy rain; poor Tigger had just been wash and it was now filthy!