We are in Colombia.

We are safely reunited with our vehicles and parked in a fine secure 24 hour parking lot almost on the beach in Cartagena at Bocagrande, Ave. Malecon, #7-12 (near the Hotel Capilla Del Mar, just across the road from the sand sculptures). (For others intending to use this parking area, please note that it is probably going to be developed into a hotel or apartment block so may not still be here when you arrive. N 10.402918 W 75.556028).

After leaving our vehicles on the docks at Colon we took a taxi to the New Washington Hotel, an oasis of decaying charm beside the canal, amidst a very non-charming city (nobody has to tell you not to go out at night, but they do anyway!)

Rather than risk public transport back to Panama City (with all our documents, computers, cameras etc.) we opted for a taxi. Rather than just a direct taxi journey we opted for a Servicio Especial de Taxi de Turismo and a visit to the three sets of locks along the Panama Canal.

Our driver was Guillermo Stephen (known to his friends as Gato, Mobile: 6587 9056) who spoke very good English and was a mine of information about the canal. Ask for him at the hotel reception desk.

After two nights in Panama City, we left for the airport and our flight to Cartagena (unfortunately delayed for six hours.) Whilst in Panama City we had contacted (by e-mail) the Cartagena agent of the shipping line, as recommended by Evelyn.

Raymundo Barreto LeClerc
CATNAVES Cartagena, Colombia
As Agents for Naves S.A.
Phone: +57 5 6609450
Mobile: +57 311 660 1079
E-mail oprctg (at) navescolombia.com

Raymundo Barreto recommended the Barlovento Hotel in Cartagena (+57 5 665 3965, e-mail: reservas (at) hotelbarlovento.com www.hotelbarlovento.com They don't answer their e-mail, but they do answer the phone! The hotel is friendly, small, reasonably priced and near the 24 hour parking above.

On our first morning in Cartagena we took a taxis to the CATNAVES office. Raymundo explained (in good English) the procedure for getting our vehicles out of the port and what would need to be paid and to whom. (All costs below in $ USA and per vehicle.)

We had to pay $60 to CATNAVES for their part in landing the vehicles.

We had to appoint a customs agent. Raymundo recommended the company next door, took us round to see them, explained what was wanted (in Spanish) and they allocated us a Mr. Wilmar Camacho (or XCJ75A as we came to think of him. This was his motorcycle registration number also emblazoned on his fluorescent safety jacket.). Cost $50.

For the first stage of the operation we waited in the CATNAVES offices whilst XCJ75A took our documents to various offices and returned with forms for us to sign. At lunch time Clive and I decamped to the Cartagena Yacht Club marina (about 300 metres from the office). An interesting place to sit and watch the world sail by, far more like an RV park than my image of a "Yacht Club".

On our return, we followed XCJ75A in a taxi to a nearby customs office, smiled at various people and signed where we told to sign. Then, again in a taxi following XCJ75A, we drove to the docks. Here we sat in a central area whilst XCJ75A ran between offices occasionally summoning us to sign forms or add our index finger-print to them. As closing time approached, XCJ75A called upon the help of one of his colleague/competitors to speed things up. Eventually we ended up paying $120 for port fees and $25 for "late processing" (there were computer printed receipts with our names on them for both payments). All payments at the docks had to be made in Colombian Pesos (there is an ATM near CATNAVES office).

By 19:00 we able to drive K-Nine and Mog out of the dock gates. Both vehicles were in good condition and at no point we they inspected internally! The drive from the port to our secure parking area would have been a nightmare without the motorcycle and fluorescent jacket of XCJ75A to follow.

Thank you very much Wilmar for efforts well beyond the call of duty.

After one day sorting out the vehicles and our route south, we explored the extraordinarily beautiful old walled-city of Cartagena. Described as "more Spanish than Spain" and a World Heritage Site.

Stephen Stewart.

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