We are back in the hotel after a long but productive day that ended up with the cab ride from hell. We won't tell the story here, but next time you catch up with us in person be sure to ask us about it - it's worth the price of admission!
We are pleased to announce that we were reunited with Manuel this afternoon. Here is how it happened:
We received a call this morning from our agent Luis telling us to meet at his office at 1:45 pm to head over to meet the DIAN (customs) agent. While we were sitting at the pool in the morning, Luis' wife, Sonia, was submitting our paperwork to DIAN, getting our SOAT (Colombian insurance) and setting a time for our DIAN inspection at the port.
After arriving at the office, we set off to pick up our inspector, Kevin, who we took to the port with us. The port is 30 minutes south of town, and is brand new (about 6 months old). There was nobody else in the entire port except for us, a Canadian couple trying to get their car as well, and the 50 or so port workers.
We were shown in to the office, were we exchanged paperwork (I have no idea why) for about 30 minutes. We found out the Canadian couple was from Montreal and had decided not to use an agent like Luis - they had been trying to get their car out for 7 days! Turns out they were unsuccessful on this day as well.
After exchanging paperwork (even our inspector, who had been to this port just 3 times was flummoxed), I donned a hard hat and vest and was put into a port vehicle where I was driven to the vast compound. The only things in the compound were 4 combines, 6 farm tractors, about 20 New Flyer buses, and... Manuel!
After a brief inspection, Kevin said I was good to go - I drove the vehicle to the exit of the facility. I wasn't quite finished, as the next 30 minutes were taken up by inspections by the port workers. It was like a skit right out of Monty Python - I would drive the car 20 feet, the car would be inspected, then I would get called to turn the car around and go back 30 yards the way I came and another guy would inspect the car. This happened 3 times, all under the watchful eye of Bob, Luis' son who was driving us, and Kevin the DIAN inspector, who were all looking perplexed by now.
Finally, we were free to go, and we drove out of the port, following Luis' son back to the office. However, after about 20 minutes of driving, our cars got separated in traffic. About 2 minutes after getting separated we were stopped by the Colombian police at a check stop.
The police asked for our documents; can you guess where they were? That's right, in the other car, somewhere ahead of us! So, in my poor Spanish I explained we didn't have documents - more police arrive on the scene. In the meantime, we see the car with our documents (and the DIAN inspector) reversing in the far right lane of the highway. They pull up, and another long conversation begins between the police and Luis' son, who now gets on the phone to make a call.
Turns out the SOAT (insurance) is at the office and the police won't release us until they see it. So, we wait at the side of the road for 15 minutes until Felipe, another of Luis' sons, pulls up on a bicycle and hands the SOAT to the police. Handshakes all around, thanks to the police, and we drive the 6 blocks to Luis' office!
We plan on leaving early tomorrow to start our journey, and will get as far as we can - you can follow us on the SPOT as we will keep it on all day to track our progress.
Now it's time for some sleep!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain