So…. Lisa and Hiske headed off to spend the day shopping whilst the men did the work… Kind of.
Me (Alex) and Gaby decided to take the aggressive approach and get in the ‘police check’ office the moment it opened, we were instantly told to wait outside and that we could not sit on the provided seats in the air conditioned waiting room. When Gaby asked why (in perfect Spanish) the answer was simply ‘no’.
After waiting outside for 30 minutes we went back in to receive the same answer. This game was repeated 4 times more before finally someone came out to spend 1 minute noting the vehicle number plates. Gaby explained to the official that we had to get to Colon before 2pm and was there anyway things could be sped up… He did not answer but instead made a call to someone; we presumed this was to ask. He finished the call and said no more!
Finally after asking him three times what he was doing he just said ‘no’.
Still to this moment we have no idea if that call was to the office or to his pharmacist to order an extra packet of asshole tablets.
He wandered off and after 10 minutes of standing around we went back into the office to ask what was next. Basically we had to wait until 2pm (it was 10am) until they would take the piece of paper across the road to another office and the process could continue. We asked again if this could be sped up and I even offered them hard cash but all we got was yet another ‘no’.
Convinced that we were starting to ‘get’ the central American way, we decided to just head straight over to the second (2pm) office anyway partly as we had nothing else to do and partly because the asshole illness was starting to rub off on us.
Despite the fact we had been told by several people in the last few weeks that we HAD to wear long trousers and shoes Gaby rocked up in shorts and sandals and we had no problem getting straight into the director general’s office.
When asked why we were there 4 hours early we should have answered ‘no’ but we didn’t. We explained that we were running out of time to get the vehicles on the ship and the lady (amazingly) just said “OK I will do it now!!!!!!!”.
Trying not to grin too much for fear the room might implode or the world end this lovely lady proceeded to fill out the paper work. She even asked where our police check was; we explained it had been done but they wouldn’t bring it until 2pm she rolled her eyes and shrugged and continued with the paperwork…. It was all going too well…. And then she stopped and asked what year Gaby’s car was built…
It turned out the Panamanian border control had filled the paperwork out incorrectly when Gaby crossed from Costa Rica to Panama. Now the Panamanian government couldn’t process the vehicle for export because the Panamanian government had incorrectly filled out the paperwork….Who’s fault was that? Gaby’s of course!
So all we have to do is walk 3k through Bagdad (unbeknownst to us this was the place Lisa and Hiske got put into a taxi by the police!) to the Panamanian equivalent of the DVLA and get that paper work changed….
At this point there was no point thinking about it or talking about it, our wills had been broken. We headed off in the 100’c heat and got the job done. Barring a broken flip flop, almost getting run down by a crazy woman and sprinting across an 8 lane motorway to escape a scary looking tramp asking for money it was uneventful.
Back at the first office and I got the chocolate chip cookies out to lube the wheels of motion with our new angel. Kind of smiling she completed the paper work without bothering with the police check! The police check we couldn’t get done the day before and hence we found ourselves in this position! They must be on the same tablets as the guy who checked the number plates!
Shrugging ( no longer shocked by anything) we hot footed it to the cars (1pm). We arrived in Colon at 2pm bang on time to get the cars in the container, after calling our agent he said ‘we had just made it, another 10 minutes and we would have missed the boat’.
If this is the only bit you remember from this painfully long post please let it be that last bit… ‘we had just made it and another 10 minutes and we would have missed the boat’.
We were smiling again and sat smugly and waited for our agent to turn up. A random guy turned up who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak and proceeded to point at where we needed to go. All was going well and as far as we could tell the port paper work was complete.
Our random guy just needed to make a copy of the freshly stamped paper work and we would be putting the vehicles in the container. We sat and waited 40 minutes for him to return after making 1 copy and we then drove to the dock another 3k away.
Once we arrived we parked up and the random guy indicated we should wait whilst he went into the dock to sort things out. 20 minutes later he came out and was on the phone. He passed Gaby the phone, after a short conversation Gaby explained to me that it was too late to put the vehicles in the container as the dock closed at 4pm…. We stood in shock as we felt like we had achieved the impossible and kept to our end of the deal and still not made it, we had missed the boat! We asked the guy what we should do. He shrugged and called our agent back.
Boris (our agent) said ‘It’s ok we will just do it tomorrow’. Only 90 minutes had passed since this same man had said ‘we had just made it and another 10 minutes and we would have missed the boat’. Gaby rightfully kicked off and said he would have to pay for a hotel for us, the best he could offer was to let us stay outside his house in Peggy.
Disappointed but in no way surprised,we went to his house and to be fair it was an interesting evening. We sat out in the street watching the kids play football and fell lucky as a local guy offered us warm Tamales out of a paint tin for $2. Dinner done and beers drunk we retired to the van to get some sleep.
We decided against spooning in Peggy’s little bed for a fear of a rerun of Brokeback Mountain and Gaby set about constructing a makeshift bed on the floor. Suddenly a little boy appeared at the open door behind the mosquito net and asked what we were doing. Gaby explained in Spanish in a polite way that our idiot of an agent had failed to get our vehicles onto a boat and we had to spend the night there in his garden.
Suddenly there where 5, then 10 kids all wondering what these weird white men were doing in the neighbourhood. It took us 2 hours to appease them and it included dancing, singing, telling them all our life stories and of course, hearing theirs.
I think after that I must have passed out with exhaustion and if there was a re-run of Brokeback mountain I don’t remember it!
Travel diary shared by Lisa Gant