Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cargo an RV from Panama to Colombia. Part One. November 16th, 2010.

We have done a lot of research on RV shipment and it seems everyone has a different experience during the shipping process. We knew the procedure and now is the time to put it into reality. The first step on Tuesday is to go to the Policia National Dirrecion (DIJ) to have the RV checked against the VIN/ID number to be sure we have not been involved in an accident or have any outstanding tickets. Then to the Secretariat General office to get an authorization for permission to leave the country. Everyone who takes a vehicle from Panama needs to go through this process and it must be done no more than 6 days prior to leaving the country. So, 7:30am on Tuesday finds us outside the DIJ even though they don't technically open until 9:00am. The reason for this is that all vehicles both import and export must go there and if you don't go early enough then you are told to come on another day. As it was, we parked and Tom went in. Five minutes later he comes out and gloomily says "They said come back tomorrow". No explanations, no reasons just, come tomorrow. We talked it over because Wednesday would cut it close for us as we need to be at port on Thursday. After some discussion we agreed that I would go and try. Putting on my most cheerful face, I went in. I shmoozed, I cajoled, I was adamant. We had to be seen today. The gentleman I was trying to win over was also adamant. "My captain has told your husband to come back tomorrow". "Then I need to talk to your captain", I said. "He speaks no English", I was told. Undeterred I flashed back "Fine, then I will practice my Spanish on him but we need to be inspected today". The officer walked away and came back not a minute later "Come back at nine am today". "Gracias' I smile. I walk back to the RV. "Today, at nine" I tell Tom. "Great" he says "maybe you should deal with them, they like you better". Since it is 8:15, we decide to wait, as the office is downtown and in a really rundown, seedy area. As I walk Winston, I can't help but notice the slum tenement buildings and poverty of the area. Definitely a part of the city that tourists don't visit. At 9am, we are back in the office. We wait and wait. There were 5 other people waiting and many others were turned away. I guess 6 is all they can handle on any day! At 10:30, a man came out of an office and gestured to everyone to follow him. We were told to lift the hood and have our temp importation permit and shipping confirmation forms ready. He walked over, checked our paperwork against the vehicle ID number and we were told to return at 2pm in the afternoon. After a 3 and a half hour wait, we were inspected in five minutes. At 2pm we return and Tom goes in, whist I walk Winston and warily eye the neighborhood. Ten minutes later, Tom and an officer come out. Because of the danger in the area, the DIJ escort you across the street with an armed officer but first... Tom has been told he needs to put on long pants and a dressier shirt. (He was in shorts and a T shirt). Maybe that is why they sent him away this morning, his informal dress style. To see the Secretariat General it seems, one must be attired correctly! Also, the officer said to me, "it really isn't safe for you to be walking in this area. Bad people with guns. Much shooting. You need to stay inside and lock the doors". This is in the police yard but even the police do not come out alone and are always armed. "This is crazy" I say to Tom. "Tell me" he says "who would have thought there was a dress code. I hope sandals are ok. Oh, and stay inside, we don't want you shot!" "Gee, thanks, try not to take too long". Tom leaves and I turn on the generator to get A/C. An hour later he appears and waves the authorization form at me. We are done for the day and more important, successful. "Let's get the heck out of here" I say and Tom agrees but only after he puts shorts back on. He also agrees that we deserve a beer and Winston needs another walk. Tomorrow is another day.

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