Tag Archives: Shipping Panama to Colombia

Love in the Time of Cartagena

“Hey, where you from?” A street hawker approached me on a corner as we explored the old town of Cartagena. He was selling jewellery.

“Australia.”

“Oh yeah, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane?”

“Keep trying.”  This is a pretty typical routine for any traveller from Western Australia. But this time it took a hilarious turn.  Another guy overheard the conversation and joined in.

“Perth?”  he shouts out. “West Coast?”

“Yep, you got it.” I was a little surprised by this, most of the tourists I had seen here seemed to be North American, South American or European, and many of them don’t know Perth either.

“I got a very good friend from Perth.” he said this with a cheeky smile. “Ben Cousins.”

I was even more surprised to hear that name.  Aussie rules football stars aren’t exactly world famous. But then the penny dropped and I couldn’t help laughing out loud.

He leaned in closer and lowered his voice. “Yeah, I know him well. You want cocaine?”

I politely declined, still laughing, and took off to catch up with Bec and Sally. “Hey guys, you gotta hear this…”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASal. Enjoying one of Colombia’s more legal pick-me-ups. 

Oscar was sitting at the port and we were keen to get our van back as soon as possible. So I spent the better part of two days on the back of motorcycle taxis zooming between our hostel and the various port and customs offices dealing with paperwork. In the evenings we strolled around the Getsemani area and soaked up the amazing sights and sounds salsa’d the night away with some new friends from the San Blas trip.

Cartagena 03Oscar at the port. 

Cartagena 01 Cartagena 02Getsemani crew

Cartagena is a huge milestone for us. It not only marks the starting point for a new continent, we had to leave the road and the van to get here, and it has also been driving our schedule for the past few months since we had plans to meet Bec’s parents here this week. It has been great hanging out with Sal and Shaun again, catching up on the latest news from home and indulging in good food and good wine. And, the apartment that they rented was pure luxury, with a rooftop pool and amazing views of the sunset over the Caribbean sea. Such a treat.

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Cartagena has to be one of our favourite cities in Latin America so far. The old walled town has been well preserved and is colourful and lively and easy to explore on foot. The food has been amazing and the street art, local characters and caribbean music add a little extra flavour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Cartagena 14OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sweets for my sweet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Touring the old fortress. 

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We hopped in the van after an idyllic few days here and pointed the nose for Santa Marta, with hope in our hearts that Oscar would handle the tropical heat and get us there without hassle.

The Waiting Game : Panama

There is no road connecting Panama to Colombia, in the 48,000 km of road all the way from Alaska to Patagonia, there is only this 100 km or so of road missing.  So, to get across to South America we had to spend a bunch of time in Panama City arranging for the van to be shipped as cargo to Cartagena.  

Knowing from the experience of others that this week would most likely be expensive and stressful, we chose to book a guest room through airbnb and took the opportunity to enjoy a little downtime in between rushed visits to shipping agents, customs inspections and the port. I think this was a good plan.

In reality, we spent most of the week watching tv and movies in air conditioned comfort.

After a few days, we finally handed over the keys to the port workers and they assured us it would be carefully loaded into a container. We crossed our fingers and hoped that we would see it again, safe and sound in Colombia. Now vanless, we had some time to wander around the old town, and enjoy our last night in Panama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The new Panama City, from Cinta Costera

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It looks a little different after sundown and with a low tide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Deep fried whole fish with patacones- Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood market)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Birdlife, Casco Viejo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Street life, Casco Viejo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Kids on the balcony

Also, our hosts David, Nicholas and Nahun treated us really well, keeping us well supplied with good company and good food throughout the week. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bbq

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHomemade patacones

We had the feeling that we were missing out on much of what Panama had to offer.  But that’s sometimes just the way things go.  A quote from one of my favourite John Steinbeck books puts it perfectly:

“This journey has been like a full dinner of many courses, set before a starving man. At first he tries to eat all of everything, but as the meal progresses he finds he must forgo some things to keep his appetite and his taste buds functioning”

This is kind of how we felt in Panama, we’d been moving quickly and were concentrating on the logistics of getting across the gap without really stopping to look around much.  But now, with North and Central America behind us, we’re hungry for South America.