Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Collecting the RV in Cartagena. Part 3. December 1st & 2nd, 2010
What a process! We went to Naves shipping at about 9am. Arleme was there but they were still waiting for some central accounting office to credit our account for the shipping paid in Panama. Some 2 hours later, we had the original bill of lading and had to go to Customs to arrange a vehicle inspection. Only it is absolutely pouring with rain and the streets are flooded. After some conferring, a gentleman from the office offered us a ride to Customs. We meet there with a lady who doesn´t speak much English but utilizes Google´s translator, whereby she types in Spanish and it gets translated on her computer screen to English. Very cool and very useful. She schedules an inspection for 7am on Thursday. Tom & I look at each other. Another night without the RV. Also we now have to go to the port to have them arrange the vehicle for inspection and mobilization. It is still pouring with rain and lunch time. All shops, banks, offices in Cartagena close between 12 and 2 every day and we have forgotten to bring an umbrella. By the time we had walked and found a taxi, we were drenched. The cab driver is grumbling about taking us. It is quite a way to our apartment building in the Bocagrande District and as I said the streets are flooded so badly that water is starting to seep into the car. Cartagena is at sea level and after heavy rains a boat would be a better option than a car. People here refer to the city as the Venice of Colombia. As we approach the historic walled city, the roads are getting worse and our cab driver pulls over. He sits and sits, chatting with us in Spanish as Tom and I struggle to understand. Now we get it. He wants us out. He is taking us no further. We look at each other. Tom refuses to pay him. He doesn´t care. He will not go any further. We get out and are immediatelly up to our calves in rushing water. It´s OK, I tell Tom, we are already drenched. We walk a little way up the road and find another taxi willing to take us to our apartment. 2 hours after leaving the Customs building we arrive back. A trip that should have taken 20 minutes! And we still have to get to the port to schedule the vehicle for mobilization. We eat and walk Winston and set off again. This time we decide to have the cab wait for us, regardless of cost. Our arrival at the port signalled another round with officials. It is slow. They are very nice. We are offered tea, coffee cookies. Do we need anything? Only our RV. Finally at 5pm, we are scheduled. "See you tomorrow", they say, "oh and you need to wear long pants and closed shoes". We only have sandals with us, allour other footware is in the RV. We ask the cab driver to stop at a shoe store on our way back to the apartment, so Tom can buy a cheap pair of shoes. And tomorrow we get to do this again. We were back at the port by 7am and we wait. At 8, the lady who helped us Wednesday, arrived for work. "No-one showed", we tell her. She calls and another gentleman shows up who speaks English. "We don´t know what the problem is" he says "we are trying to call the inspector now". We wait and wait. At 9, another man comes to sit with us. He brings Tom a hard hat and reflector jacket. "Let´s go" he says. I sit. Again everyone is charming and helpful. "Do I need anything?". I smile. They realize their process is slow and go out of their way to make us more comfortable. Tom comes back, covered in mud. It was a long walk to the RV and because of the rains, the roads were a mud pit. The inspector hasn´t shown up but it doesn´t matter, they say, you go back to customs and they will issue the release. We are puzzled. If it wasn´t important to them to inspect the RV, why the process in the first place. Like a lot of things, it makes no sense. Fortunately, there are 2 other officials from Customs at the port and they offer us a ride. We get to Customs and meet with the inspector. After lloking at her and her heels and attire, Tom and I surmise that the reason she ditched the inspection was because of the mud and yes, they have our temporary import permit ready. Now we need to go to another office to pay the port fees. We are frustrated. This is now the fourth office we have had to go to and none are really close to one another. We manage to snag another cab. Another lady official, we pay our fees. It is noon. "Come back at 2", she says and I will have your paperwork ready". "Will we get our vehicle today", I ask. "Yes, this afternoon". At 2pm, we get the last lot of paperwork and go back to the port. Tom goes off with another official and 30 minutes later, I saw our RV, my home. I could have cried with relief. What an ordeal and process. We stop off at the apartment and collect our luggage and Winston. We are going to park the RV at one of the city parking lots, close to the walled city, that we had seen on our travels. Imagine our surprise when we pulled in and were directed to the back fence. There, set up were power outlets for motorhomes and trucks. We are the only one´s using them at this time. A safe, 24 hour guarded facility and with power. We decide we have earned a splurge dinner at the Charleston Hotel. A beautiful hotel in the walled city. We order wine and after a great meal, decide to stay in Cartagena over the weekend and enjoy our remaining time here by sightseeing and organizing the RV. If you would like a detailed account of our shipping process in Panama and Colombia, with relevant addresses, contact names, telephone numbers etc., please email me as I have the complete shipping instructions available in a word document format.