(Part 1 of 2)

Panama happened in the blink of an eye. Even though we were in the country for five days, we couldn’t see its beauty or get to know its people. We didn’t even try the rice with guandú.

The border was just one of the same: long wait, in the infernal heat. They made us go from one window to another, go up the stairs, go down stairs, and pay the car insurance at a grimy office between a bar and a dump. Tired and hot, we left for the beach listening to Hector Lavoe’s Murga de Panamá, because Nate wanted to cheer us up. Las Lajas is on the Pacific. Its beach is wide and frankly kind of dirty.

Vultures at the Beach.  Photo by Amelia.

Vultures at the Beach. Photo by Amelia.

Las Lajas.  Photo by Nate.

Las Lajas. Photo by Nate.

We met with Guy, a French traveller of 75 years of age and 20 years of travels, who would be our container partner. See, to go from Panama to Colombia with a car there are two options (or three options if you want to be technical). One is to put your car on a boat with a flat deck, called RoRo (roll on roll off). It is more expensive and you must give your car key to the shipping company. We have heard things tend to disappear, both inside and outside your vehicle. Another option is to ship the car in a container, hopefully sharing it with another car to reduce costs. You keep the key and see them lock and unlock the box at both ports.

Oh!  There's a tarantula crossing the street.  The coin on the left is a quarter for perspective. Photo by Benjamin

Oh! There’s a tarantula crossing the street. The coin on the left is a quarter for perspective. Photo by Benjamin

The crossing began with the exit paperwork for Cosmo. We arrived to the inspection 15 minutes late. There was a protest for an unknown cause and it was poring rain, which is important to mention because when it rains, the inspector doesn’t go out to check cars. I would say that saved us because the inspector wasn’t going to see us, but when I mentioned that it had finally stopped raining he said, “K, wait-outside-then”. The inspection lasted 5 minutes.

While they moved our papers from that building to another across the street, which would last five hours (literally), we went to see the Miraflores locks of the Canal de Panamá, the oldest locks of the canal. What to say? Yes, very pretty and impressive. For $15 per person? Better to go to the (free) Ballard locks in Seattle.

Panama Canal. Photo by Benjamin.

Panama Canal. Photo by Benjamin.

Panama Canal.  Photo by Nate

Panama Canal. Photo by Nate

After picking up the exit clearance at the Judicial Research Department, we left for Colon right away. For the first time and by pure ignorance, we paid a bribe. There are two tolls on the highway. On the first one, the barrier was down when we got there but someone opened it from afar. On the second one, the barrier was also down. We had our wallet ready to pay the toll but nobody was at the booth. It is an electronic toll. A guy came from the toll office and asked if we had credit in our card. “Card?” we asked. “Gimme-for-th’-soda-then'” We gave him a dollar. The barrier opened.

Cosmo had to be dismantled of its solar panel, fan and roof rack to fit in the container. We also had to pack; we would be without our home for at least a week. We went to La Granja to work and sleep.

Many people told us that Colon was more than dangerous. That there were gangs that jumped from roof to roof to rob you. That they robbed each other. We were expecting the worst. It wasn’t paradise, but putting Cosmo into the container was much easier than I thought. We met Boris, from Ever Logistics, and went to the free trade zone. He took our five sets of multiple documents and took care of the customs work for us. Then we went to a parking lot behind an empty warehouse. Yes, it seemed a little weird, but it was all legit. A truck with the container and a tow truck were waiting for us. The entire process lasted about two hours.

Loading Cosmo in the container. Photo by V

Loading Cosmo in the container. Photo by V

Boxed in.  Photo by V.

Boxed in. Photo by V.

With Cosmo boxed, we went back to Panama City. The next day, we took off to Barranquilla on the 11 am flight.

Share this Post:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone
  • Lina

    Que emocionante! Después de tantos años de viajar a Colombia en avión, haber completado esta travesía debe significar mucho… Ya llegaron a Colombia, y esta vez por tierra, con miles de kilómetros, experiencias y aventuras encima. Los felicito y los admiro por haber completado esta mitad dela travesía! Besos a todos.

Leave a Comment