We leave Cartagena tomorrow for Barranquilla where we hope to get our solar panels re-wired and re-attached to the camper’s roof.
Getting the camper through customs and out of the port was a nightmare of epic proportions. The process took most of 2 days. The second day started at 8am and finished with us driving out of the port at 8pm. Without the help of a spanish-speaking couple who were doing the same thing that we were I doubt that we could have been successful on day 2. Muchas gracias, José and Luisa.
How Chris felt about the process:
How I felt about the process:
Chris’ update #1:
After stowing damaged solar panels and all gear from truck cab into locked camper shell, we drove across Panama from Panama City to Colón on the Caribbean Coast. Because of the lay of the land, we actually drove from the Southeast to the Northwest.
Once in Colón, we got all necessary paperwork and paid fees at Manzanillo Port from four different locations. After a visual inspection and a visit by the world’s most lackadaisical drug-sniffing dog, we turned in our truck for the shipping between Panama to Colombia on the Hoegh Inchon autotransporter ship on Tuesday, March 7th.
This was to transport our truck and camper around the only place on the entire Panamerican Highway from North to South America you cannot drive. This section is called the Darien Gap and is impenetrable jungle and dangerous.
After a taxi ride to the train station, we took the 1 hour train ride on the Panama Pacific Railway back to Panama City. This railway was built to facilitate the building of the Panama Canal and all materials and workers used this railway during the Canal’s construction. One of the most interesting sections is the man-made elevated track across a large section of Gatún Lake – one of the bodies of water the Canal uses for ship transit. During our ride we saw four large ocean-going vessels doing the transit.
After arriving back in Panama City, we took a cab ride from the Albrook area across Panama City out to Tocumen International Airport where we caught our flight to Cartagena Colombia on Weds. March 8th.
Chris’ update #2:
After an uneventful 1 hour flight and a taxi ride, we arrived at the Hotel Stil Cartagena in the La Matuna neighborhood. The hotel is clean, has good AC, a courteous staff and is ideally located between the old UNESCO World Heritage site of the old Walled City and the unique and quirky working neighborhood Getsemani.
We have spent the last two weeks while waiting for our ship to arrive wandering and photographing the two neighborhoods.
Cartagena has a long European history with the Spanish using it as one of their main ports transporting goods and precious metals back to Spain and bringing in slaves from Africa from the early 1500’s to Colombia’s Independence in 1811.
Cartagena today is a vibrant bustling cosmopolitan city of 1 million people. It was informally determined to be a hands-off place during the protracted civil war between the government and the FARC and FNL rebels who recently signed a peace treaty so didn’t suffer economically during that period. It has a rich Caribbean flavor in style, temperament, food and drink and weather making it an important cruise line port.
We’ve taken a three hour walking tour through the Walled City, tasted our way through a two hour street food walking tour, visited the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas fortress with its 7 barracks and toured the Convento of Santa Cruz de La Popa – at the highest point in the City with a 360degree view.
Cartagena was wrapping up an international film festival when we arrived and last weekend hosted the four day celebration to select the 2016/2017 Miss Colombia. (You might recall last year Steve Harvey erroneously gave the Miss Universe crown to Miss Colombia and she held it for five minutes. You might not remember but the Colombians do.)
All in all we have enjoyed our time in Cartagena and have survived the heat and humidity by retreating to our hotel but are anxious for our ship to arrive so we can continue our journey. The ship is to arrive today the 23rd. We will see.
Click here for Cartagena photos. The Google Photos UI should be self-explanatory. The slideshow feature – accessed by clicking on the 3-dot icon – should only be used on a fast internet connection. On a slow connection the show will advance before the current photo finishes loading. Contact me if you have any questions, criticisms or comments.