20. Shipping the car - Panama 2 ColombiaSeptember 9, 2019 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 84 °F
Although they share a border, there is no way to drive from Panama to Colombia. The main intercontinental road, the Pan American Highway, which stretches from Alaska to Argentina, has a 150km gap in it as it passes through what is known as the Darien Gap, located at the east/south end of Panama.
The Darien is a tropical jungle, with parts of it inhabited by indigenous tribes. While some if it is accessible with a guide, the parts that preclude safe travel have no roads, and ill-defined trails (if any). Visitors are subject to ticks, snake-bites, and disease. The area has limited to no police presence, and is known to be utilized by narcotraffickers. You are considered "on your own" if you run into trouble there.
Hence, we (Craig) are engaged in coordinating shipment of the car via container (shared with one other traveler's car) from Colon to Cartegena. Craig did exhaustive research on this prior to our arrival, but coordinating the sharing of the container required much last minute communication with a several transport brokers to find someone who wanted to do the same thing as us at exactly the same time.
The brokers are invaluable, but even with them, there seems to be so much room for things to go awry. We needed to be at the car inspection checkpoint between 6 & 7 Monday for car export inspection. Our Frenchman container-sharing partner was driving in from Costa Rica, and was scheduled to be there as well. He showed up just around 7, and the official told him he was too late and had to leave. Since we were scheduled to load the cars on the container Tuesday, this would have been a disaster for us, delaying us for days, since car shipments only get sent certain days of the week.
Craig pleaded with the official, and we were granted clemency. Whew. (The Frenchman later communicated that he got caught unaware of a time zone change. Geez. Things can go wrong so easily.) We returned to pick up our inspection paperwork at 2, only to have to wait over an hour for it as it wasn't ready. you have no choice but to be patient.
Tuesday we drove to the east Panama port of Colon to watch the car be loaded onto the container and locked. We caught a bus back to Panama City ( about 50 miles?) for $3.15 each. On the way, we saw an accident involving a container that looked exactly like ours. Our hearts were in our throats momentarily, until we remembered our car is getting shipped from Colon, and not on the road to Panama.
In the meantime, our flight is booked for Friday, and we have a few days to toodle around Cartagena before picking up the car next Tuesday.
Fingers crossed!Read more