Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cartagena to the Venezuelan border, 314 miles

Since it is so far, we had decided that our first stop would be in Barranquilla, which is 73 miles but about 3 hours from Cartagena. The roads are still flooded due to the exessive rains and it is slow going. Barranquilla is another port on the Caribbean coast and we intend to get our air conditioner in the car fixed. We entered the town and found a cab to help guide us to a repair shop. He took us to Aire Express, owned by a wonderful gentleman called Jairo. He arranged for the A. C. repair and chatted with Tom about our trip. It was getting late, so we asked him about a place to park. We were hoping he would offer his parking lot but he said he knew a better, safer place for us. At that moment, his 16 year old daughter arrived. She spoke fluent English and told us her father was arranging for us to stay in a enclosed, secure parking area. Fantastic. We parted company, with Jairo providing us with his home and cell numbers and if there were anything we needed to call him. That night, our generator started to splutter a little so we decided to stop by and see if Jairo could help again on Tuesday. Before that though, we had seen a hospital across the street from the parking lot and thought we would try to get the final vaccine shot in a series of three for Hep A & B. The hospital directed us to a clinic and we decided to take a cab there. After a couple of minutes in the clinic, I looked at Tom in horror. We had both taken our Sony Ereader´s in case there was a wait and I realized I no longer had mine. I had either left it at the hospital or in the cab. Please God, let it be at the hospital. Not 5 minutes later, Tom saw the cab driver climbing the stairs to the clinic, holding my ereader. Thank you so much, we told him. No problem, he said and did not want any more money. Tom insisted he take the $10.00 we offered him. I was relieved. After getting the shots, we headed back to the RV, to once again visit Jairo. He called a friend of his, who came over to his shop and worked on the generator. All fixed up, we were on our way, next stop 55 miles to Santa Marta, which we had heard was pretty. The only problem was the darned flooded roads which made driving very slow. We got lost leaving Barranquilla and finally pulled into a police station close to the airport. It was shift change so we gave two of the policia a ride to the road to Santa Marta. It was quite novel for them and us. When we parted company, Nola gave me her contact information and let me know if we had any problems to call her and she would officially take care of it. That night we had to stop about 20 mile from Santa Marta but it was beside a restaurant on a beautiful riverbank. On arrival into Santa Marta on Wednesday, the pretty part was right but there were no good places to park. We could have parked in a city parking lot or at the Port Authority but neither was on the beach, nor looked good to us. We decided to keep going towards Riohacha which is the last beach resort prior to crossng the border. Again, we found a great spot right on the beach but close to a hotel which had 24 hour guards. Thursday, we were up bright and early as we wanted to cross both borders before lunch, so we would have plenty of time before dark to get to Maracaibo in Venezuela. It was not meant to be. Just before the border we were stopped by the miltary guard. The road just past the border in Venezuela was closed due to flooding. They said the water was chest high and would take about 3 days to subside. All the trucks that pass through the border were lined up for about a mile. Oh well, back to Riohacha and another holdup. Also, three days put us to Sunday and crossing the borders on Sundays can be a problem because not all branches work the weekend and we need three, immigration for us, customs to get an import permit for the RV and Animal Control for Winston. It turned out we were right. In Venezuela, customs for the RV is only open Monday through Friday and they close for 2 hours at lunch. So, Monday it would be.

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