Colombia

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I fly from Panama City to Cartagena with a stop in Bogota. It’s funny, both Panama City and Cartagena are steaming hot but it’s rainy and cool in Bogota; people are wearing coats which is something I have not seen in awhile

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I’m staying in the old walled city of Cartagena, it’s very picturesque. The old city is not all that big so it’s easy to walk around the whole thing. I didn’t know much about Cartagena before arriving but after a few days I can see why it’s a big tourist destination.

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I have a few days to wait for the container ship to arrive and spend them just walking around the city. Great street food, one day I ate nothing but food from carts.

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It is incredibly hot and humid though, best to take an air conditioned siesta at the height of the afternoon.

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Monday morning arrives along with the first snag; the ship is late. It was due in Sunday night but does not arrive until Monday late morning. We can’t get our official Bill of Lading (first step in the import process) from the shipping office at the port. They say to come back Tuesday morning. They did give me an unofficial copy which is good enough to start the customs process. I catch a taxi to the Aduana office and once I find the right office it’s great; they are actually happy to see me and assign an English speaking assistant to help me complete the form. Once it’s done you usually have to go outside and down the block to make a copy but since it’s pouring sheets of rain they tell me just to fill out a second copy in their office.

Tuesday morning first thing Will and I are at the Seaboard office in the port to get the Official Bill of Lading. Now there is an issue with our agent; Seaboard says she has not released it while she insists that she has. Lot of back and forth then they tell us to come back after lunch. After lunch the situation has not changed, finally after a couple of hours we get the documents. It’s almost closing time in the port but we go to the port office to get started on the clearing. They look at our documents and tell us “Oh, your container is in the OTHER port.”

Wednesday morning Will and I are at the other port when it opens. We are assigned a port consultant who will assist us in the rest of the process which is pretty nice as we were expecting a day of running around from office to office. The first snag of the day is when he asks for our medical insurance. I just have an old Blue Cross card and Will has something similar. It does not work. They want a detailed policy showing coverage for any accidents occurring in Colombia. We both buy an internet policy from World Nomads for 1 week coverage ($48 USD ouch) which satisfies them. Lots of form filling and I got designated as the container owner which means I have to sign and print my full legal name and passport number many many times. Every once in awhile we have to go out to the bank counter in the lobby to pay one fee or another. Finally we are ready to go into the port and open the container, except the machine that brings the container to the unloading area is broken. Come back after lunch. And they are serious about their lunch hour and a half here, at 12:00 the office lights go out, curtains down, doors locked. After lunch we return and get ready to enter the port. Safety vests and helmets are mandatory, except they have only one set so Will gets the helmet and I wear the extremely smelly vest. We get there just in time to see our vehicles coming out of the container. A brief check by the customs agent and she hands us our TIPs. We drive off to the other side of the yard then back into the office for more paperwork.

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We return to the port to claim our vehicles, but still need to have them weighed for some reason then a couple more forms and we are set loose into Colombia.

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