26th April. Panama City, Panama. Part 3

12th April. La Pintada, Colombia.

50 miles was the day’s target which sounded easy on paper, but we had seen the profile and knew it was to be 30 of uphill and 20 down, with maybe a short flat’ish bit at the top. The altitude at the beginning was around 6,000 ft and the top would be over 8,750 feet, falling to Medellin at 5,180 ft. We were also working to a timetable, due as we were to meet Flavio Escovar Restrepo at Caldas, several miles before Medellin, from where he would be our guide into the city.

Early morning mist shrouded the mountainsides

Early morning mist shrouded the mountainsides

We were ready to go at 08.00 and the 100 yards down hill from the hotel was not really a sufficient warm-up for the climb which then began. In the lead, I barely had time to get into 3rd before dropping back to 2nd and being there for the next 50 minutes. The steep hill wound back and forth, passing enticing fruit stands laden with ‘corrosos’, a red berry about the size of a gooseberry but hanging from green stalks in great bundles.

Corroso fruit looked enticing

Corroso fruit looked enticing

Colourful stands of fruit at the roadside

Colourful stands at the roadside

There were also mangoes in profusion, avocados and other unidentified varieties. Stopping for a breather when we met Stan and Diana who had stopped beside the road, we looked back down the way we had come, watching the 40-tonne trucks negotiating a particularly tight bend. Those trucks ascending had to make a wide swing at this corner, because the short route around it became as steep as 1 in 3, I estimated. The descending trucks would stop and allow ascending ones priority, but even so it was a titanic struggle, which I had nearly lost when I took the short route around the rising right-hander to avoid a descending truck.

Since Diana had removed the in-line fuel filter, Feisty had not stopped once due to fuel starvation or a sticking needle valve in the carburetor. The fuel was all now filtered as the tank was filled and this procedure had rendered the in-line filter superfluous. Previously, with the under-bonnet heat, the fuel had often been vapourising in the filter and/or affecting the float valve, preventing it from closing and thereby flooding the carb. Today, it would have provoked a stoppage every 15 minutes or so. Bertie was enjoying the set of new plugs fitted in Popayan, Dusty was still a little off colour, but plugging on gamely. Both front-tanked cars needed more than half a tank full to avoid starvation on the steeper inclines.

We also began to see many milk cows, Brahmin/Angus crosses, the milk from which was collected in churns and taken by tanker to village dairies to be processed.

Horse transport was prevalent

Horse transport was prevalent

There were many sightings of farmers or workers, riding horses to town, wearing large straw stetson-like cowboy hats, sometimes with milk churns hung from the saddle pommel. Horse and mule-drawn carts were also in abundance. Altogether an agricultural idyll, from the days when ‘infernal’ combustion engines were too expensive for the subsistence agricultural community, probably the case now.

As we reached 8,500 ft, the climb began to ease and we were occasionally able to get into 3rd and then top! However the flat top to the climb proved elusive. Dropping a few hundred feet, we would then be subjected to re-climbing that and more, often on quite fierce slopes. Finally we topped out at 9,185 feet and almost immediately began the descent which proved to be as difficult as the ascent had been. Our advisors had mentioned that the road was bad in places and that there would be many trucks to hold us up. In fact the road surface was poor in places but because we were travelling slowly on the inclines, we could pick our way through the bad patches and, since we were travelling more slowly than the trucks uphill and a little faster downhill, we were barely bothered by them at all.

About 1/3rd of the way down we came across the second truck smash in three days, this one looked like a case of runaway brakes and cutting corners, which had taken the rear wheels over an impressive drop and tipped the trailer over taking the tractor with it.

This truck had missjudged the corner or had brake failure and paid the price

This truck had missjudged the corner or had brake failure and paid the price

The descent continued, seemingly without affecting the drivers’ nerves; they still overtook on blind bends, crossing double yellows and generally behaving as if theirs was a God-given right to overtake and that if someone came the other way, the smaller vehicle would simply give way. This fatalistic attitude is probably reflected in the many shrines seen alongside roads in South America.

A lucky escape for the driver

A lucky escape for the driver

We were however able to overtake, safely, on some downhill sections and in the main, truck drivers seemed to be both considerate and admiring of the little cars, as we were often waved on enthusiastically and with many encouraging gestures.

 

 

There was also plenty of evidence of the security measures of which we had seen some previously.

The army and their small tanks

The army and their armoured personel carriers

Nearly every bridge more than a few meters long is guarded against terrorist threat    by the army and we had also seen soldiers on the roads in the mountainous regions. On this road we saw small tanks and armoured personnel carriers, sand-bagged observation positions and soldiers on foot and motorcycle. It was either alarming or reassuring, depending upon one’s point of view. The soldiers were, without exception, friendly and alert, we felt reassured by their presence, at least during daylight hours and we had made the decision not to travel after darkness at any cost.

The road wound downwards and eventually the bottom of the valley, which had been visible for a long time, stopped being the bottom of a chasm and I could see the stream and its details.

Flavio's Model A Ford

Flavio’s Model A Ford

Rounding a corner I saw a Model A Ford, driving onto a filling station forecourt and pulled in beside it. Flavio introduced himself and we had a quick look at this very well-used car which has been lightly restored, before setting off to complete the journey into Medellin.

En route, Flavio received a call inviting us to visit another enthusiast’s collection, so we diverted to meet Arturo Vayda at his ‘shed’. Arturo has a taste for British cars and we found a fascinating collection of Triumph sports cars as well as several micro cars, another growing passion and his interesting collection of 40s and 50s American cars.

The Triumph line up in Arturo's collection

The Triumph line up in Arturo’s collection

Part of Arturo's collection

Part of Arturo’s collection of Eastern European micro cars

 

Trying to decide which would be the "take-home-car-of-choice"

Trying to decide which would be the “take-home-car-of-choice”

The special building, as shown in the photos, provoked serious ‘shed envy’ in Stan and me, it being handily alongside a restoration workshop, which we were also privileged to be allowed to look around.

An Austin front end graced the wall

An Austin front end graced the wall

Here there were several Austin and Morris cars of the 50s as well as a MkII Jag and several Land Rovers.

I could have spent many happy hours admiring all this treasure trove of automotive metal, but we were now pressed for time to arrive in Medellin, so we left with thanks for the viewing and a later date with Arturo.

Part of the adjoining restoration shop

Part of the adjoining restoration shop

 

Ford Model A, with dicky seat

Ford Model A, with dicky seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flavio was understanding of our needs regarding driving in the city and we arrived at the gates of a ‘castle’ after a few hairy moments on the impressively steep streets, some of which involved hill starts in the heat and heavy lunchtime traffic – the least favourite conditions for our vehicles.  The castle was built in the early part of the last century by a family in a Spanish style and was left to the city by the family, now housing a museum of indigenous peoples’ artifacts. The gate house was given to the Federation of Antique Car Clubs of Medellin as its headquarters, in recognition of their pivotal role in the annual August Antique Car Parade along the streets of the city. It is estimated that more than one million people turn out for this event, and similar, but smaller, events take place each month in the smaller towns and villages in the region. A full-time staff and Director keep the organization going for the three clubs.

At lunch with the Federation of Antique Car Clubs Medellin

At lunch with the Federation of Antique Car Clubs Medellin

We were welcomed by Juan Guillermo Correa, the President of the Museo de Transporte de Antioquia,  Luis Alberto Moreno the full-time Executive Director of the Federation, Herman Gutierrez Maya, a member who has a business renting his cars for functions, Flavio , who had kindly met us at Caldas and Arturo whose collection we had already visited. During lunch other members called in to say hello and a very convivial time was enjoyed by us all. The club had generously called upon one of their sponsors to host us at the Diez Hotel in the centre of town, where we later drove to meet our next deadline. On one of his flights to meet us, River had fallen into conversation with a journalist from Medellin and we had agreed to meet a photographer here for a photoshoot that would accompany the article that resulted from the conversation with River, all for the Dinners Club Magazine.

As we were booking into the spectacular hotel, the Diners Club photographer arrived. Having put the cars into an underground car park, we were now faced with retrieving them and circling the block in rush hour traffic to a small service road at the main entrance to the hotel.

The top of the steep ramp from the car park

The top of the steep ramp from the car park

This might not have been too bad, except the ramp from the garage was far too steep for Feisty to be able to make it in 1st and Dusty would struggle to get away after negotiating the speed bump at the bottom. I positioned myself at the bottom of the ramp, with Amanda forty feet away at the top of the ramp.  This emerged straight into a traffic lane and crossed the downward ramp, which entered at sharp angle and down at about 30 degrees. We awaited Amanda’s signal and when the all-clear was given I pushed and Stan let the clutch out. Dusty having been given some urge was then able to reach the top of the ramp.

I returned panting heavily – we were still at some 5,000 feet altitude. Diana had Feisty lined up and ready, backwards. The car park attendant was by this time outraged by these antics and insisted that the car park tokens were returned immediately.  I fended him off, with vague gestures indicating he should check with his boss.  At the signal, Feisty got off the mark in reverse and Diana bravely launched the car into the traffic at the top of the ramp. Amanda similarly risked life and limb by holding up the traffic with an imperious hand and fierce glint in her eye.

I returned once more, too breathless now to argue with the attendant, and got Bertie up the ramp, collecting Amanda for the trip around the block to the service lane. On the instruction “just be yourselves” we all slumped exhausted and had to behave in order for the pictures to be taken.  Later we returned the cars to the garage and finally got to see the rooms we had been allocated. Stan and I were occupying a corner room 12 floors above the city streets. This was by far the most luxurious modern hotel in which we had stayed and, across the end of the room, a hammock was slung, beyond which the floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over downtown Medellin.

Medellin by day

Medellin by day from our 12th floor eire

Approaching the windows with trepidation and standing with ones toes against the glass, it was possible in the corner where the glass was glued together with silicon, to look down more than 150 feet to the pavement below.
Distracted however by an establishment across the street, we soon descended to the Medellin Beer Factory and slaked our thirsts with excellent local beer and pre-dinner nibbles, the better to talk over our really exceptional day and all the people we had met.

Stan and Jack lift a well earned litre at the ned of the day

Stan and Jack lift a well earned litre at the end of the day

The kindness and generosity we had been shown was beyond exceptional. Colombia was, on the strength of this day alone, going to be hard to beat and tomorrow we were going to be led out of the city by several club members in their cars. The very attractive older part of the city lay a few blocks away and we walked there in the heat of the early evening dusk, enjoying the sights and sounds of this, Colombia’s second biggest city. The population of 2.7 million now produces more than 11% of the country’s GDP.  IMG_3953In February 2013, Medellín was chosen and announced as the most innovative city in the world due to its recent advances in politics, education and social development and is important to the region for its universities, academies, commerce, industry, science, health services, flower-growing, festivals and nightlife. Can you tell I was rather taken with the city?

We had supper at Crepes & Waffles, another Colombian innovation, developed for the employment of single mothers, the chain now spreading to other countries, its ideals being allied to excellent food and beautiful surroundings.

Stan and I had left the blinds and curtains open and during the night I got up to stand at the window and take in the colourfully lit city-scape below.

The 'view' down at night

The ‘view’ down at night from the corner window

 

Medellin from our 8th floor window

Medellin from our 8th floor window

13th April. Medellin, Colombia.

Breakfast on the rooftop terrace was delightful, we enjoyed one of the best breakfasts since Hacienda Majoro at Nasca. Arturo arrived at 07.45 to tell us that the members were assembled in the street and after packing and loading the cars we once again push-started Dusty and then Feisty, this time forwards, up the ramp, now however with assistance from the club members.

Breakfast on the roof terrace

Breakfast on the roof terrace

 

IMG_3979Arturo brought his beloved TR4A, the first antique car he acquired, Herman a recent american acquisition and only recently returned from the workshop. Flavio accompanied Herman and Luis was with Arturo. Esteban, the photographer, was

More out than in the photographer was enthusiastic keen!

More out than in the photographer was enthusiastic!

Our farewell photo in the underground car park. Arturo, Flavio, Diana, |Herman, Amanda, Stan

Our farewell photo in the underground car park.
Arturo, Flavio, Diana, Herman, ??, Amanda, Stan

also in attendance in a modern car driven by his brother-in-law to get some action shots on the streets. This provided some entertainment for all, as he spent most of the time sitting on the passenger window cill, more than half out of the car. Further amusement was to be had watching Herman driving Flavio, for despite the enormous size of the American behemoth, Herman’s arms would frequently appear from the windows as he ‘talked’ to Flavio.

Herman's new car, will it be replaced by an Austin?

Herman’s new car, will it be replaced by an Austin?

We left through early morning Saturday traffic and were soon on the road north. Stopping for excellent freshly-squeezed mandarin juice, we were again entertained by Herman, who had decided he really needed an Austin 7 for his business and was also searching

Flavio and Herman, ready to lead the procession

Flavio and Herman, ready to lead the procession

for wheels for an Austin County Series car and spares for his very good-looking Crayford convertible Ford Zephyr 6. Luis rode with me, Amanda with Flavio in the Yank Tank and Herman in Feisty for the last leg of the journey, to where we would branch off onto the Ruta 25 towards Caucasia on this, the penultimate day, of travel in South America. Herman had been entranced by his drive in Feisty and despite the the hindrance of no common language, he and Diana had enjoyed an animated exchange during the 20 minute drive.

Refreshments along the way

Refreshments along the way

 

Herman prepares for his 'Mr.Toad' impression, poop-poop!

Herman prepares for his ‘Mr.Toad’ impression, poop-poop!

 

Flavio and Luis try their hand at swinging Feisty

Flavio and Luis try their hand at swinging Feisty

 

Luis tries some Brit metal instead of his usual Yanky metal

Luis tries some Brit metal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arturo with his TR4A import, a total rebuild

Arturo with his TR4A imported to Colombia when new, since totally rebuilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the road the British/Colombian Procession

On the road the British/Colombian Procession

We said our farewells at the foot of the next challenging climb and turned away from Medellin and the friends we had made in our all-too-short visit. Our hoped-for destination was Planeta Rica, a total distance of 240 miles. However, enjoying time with the car club members had eaten into the day and our fall-back target was Caucasia. So began the last significant climb in the south. We toiled in the broiling heat, the cars running well, except for a

Our last big climb in South America, hot, steep and unforgiving

Our last big climb in South America, hot, steep and unforgiving

slight and intermittent missfire on Bertie, through beautiful countryside, with lush pasture and many milk cows.

Feisty on a charge!

Feisty on a charge!

The villages and small towns were animated but evidently poor, their inhabitants proud, interested and enthusiastic as ever about the cars and our passage. We reached and passed 8,500 feet and despite the road-map profile assuring us of a height below that, we finally reached more than 9,300 feet.

At last we began to descend and then passed our third lorry accident of the week, an uphill incident this time, fortunately not involving any other vehicle.

The third lorry crash, this was a miss-judgement of speed, up-hill or perhaps overtaking?

The third lorry crash, this was a miss-judgement of speed, up-hill or perhaps overtaking?

Then we hit dense cloud and the road became a dangerous place to be. This side of the hill was rather steep and uphill vehicles, reluctant to sit behind a slower vehicle, would launch-out into the mist, with no signal, often no lights and woe betide vehicles coming downhill. For our part, creeping down the poor road surface and around poorly-marked, unguarded bends, we represented a mobile traffic jamb and were frequently passed at speed by the vast lorries whether they could see or not. My fear, when these trucks were overtaking, was that if something big was found to be coming the other way, we would fall victim to the “South American Blindness”; meaning that, as soon as a driver has passed you at 90 degrees, you no longer exist.

The many roadside shrines become more understandable as the accidents are witnessed

The many roadside shrines become more understandable as the accidents are witnessed

We had had many examples of drivers passing us and then cutting in, forcing a hurried and extreme swerve and brake to the side of the road to avoid being wiped out. Well not, that extreme a brake perhaps, which is almost impossible in a 7, but the swerve was often impressive.

At length out of the swirling cloud, we had descended to below 2,000 feet and could begin to eat up the miles. More productive farmland, river crossing and horse transport in ever increasing numbers, we purred on as the daylight began to fade.

The Cauca river, flows to the sea at Cartagena

The Cauca river, flows to the sea at Cartagena

 

Countryside that, with a little imagination, could be in northern Europe

Countryside that, with a little imagination, could be in northern Europe

We had been put in touch with Rodrigo Hernandez Falla by Hugo and we had several telephone conversations with him during the day about where we might reach as he was planning to meet us at Planeta Rica that evening. By now it had become evident that we would not make it to Planeta Rica by nightfall and Rodrigo suggested a hotel near Caucasia, in which he kindly booked us a couple of rooms. The day stretched on, the light grew dimmer and as dusk fell we entered the outskirts of the town and followed the usual pattern, stopping at a gas station.

We filled up with fuel and were told the hotel was “five minutes further” on. After a further ten or more minutes of driving in the usual thick traffic going through a town at this hour, and without sight of the hotel, we began to voice our doubts out loud. We stopped again and two older men said, yes, it was just past the police post, “about five minutes further”. Now the town gave way to countryside, thick trees and no lights. Another ten or so minutes passed and we were about to turn back, when a filling station hoved into view. “Do you know where this hotel is please?” “Yes, five minutes further!” Now I don’t mind a joke, but in the sultry heat of the evening, pitch black and no sign of anything resembling a hotel, I was about to have a sense of humour failure on an unprecedented scale, when, across the road as we emerged from the forecourt, was a police post and next door, the hotel! My relief was tinged with regret at not being able to let the world get the full benefit of the hissy-fit that had been brewing.

My irritation level was also reduced when the receptionist agreed that they had a booking for us and “would we like coffee or cool drinks” while we checked in. The resulting glass of homemade lemonade on crushed ice was magnificent in its cooling properties and very, very welcome. It has been one of the delights in Colombia to drink freshly squeezed fruit juice of many and various fruits, all brim full of taste and tart in the case of citrus fruits or lusciously sweet in the case of soft fruits.

The hotel soon filled up with a coachload of teenagers and soon the pool was full of attempted pyramids, giggling groups flirting with one another and the shouts and screams of people happy to be in the cool water and out of a bus.

We retired to bed and the benefits of air con, the sultry evening heat being too much of a good thing after a day in a roasting Austin 7.

14th April. Caucasia, Colombia.

Up at 05.15 and ready for 06.30 we began our last day on the road for a week or so. Yesterday we had covered 190 miles and a stiff climb and long descent. today we had 240 miles to cover and a deadline of 17.00 for gaining entry to the apartment we had booked in Cartegena’s old city, within the walls. En route we would be meeting Rodrigo in his Model A pick-up, who would accompany us for some distance.

Milk cow herds were frequently seen

Milk cow herds were frequently seen

 

A Brahmin/Hereford cross

A Brahmin/Hereford cross

I was still having a missfire problem with Bertie and stopped once or twice to try points, plugs and things electrical. The missfire was evident when pulling hard, either up hill or when accelerating on the flat, but at speed there was no sign of it. We encountered Rodrigo on the road.

Horses and riders were everywhere, an everyday means of transport

Horses and riders were everywhere, an everyday means of transport

Rodrigo, came out to meet us on the road in a Ford 'A' pickup

Rodrigo, came out to meet us on the road in a Ford ‘A’ pickup

Travelling towards us, he went past indicating that we should carry on and that he would turn round and catch us up. In convoy with him was a young man on a motorbike, who was heading home to Bogota after 9 months on the road through South and Central America.  We exchanged a few travellers‘ stories then he went on his way southwards and we continued north, with Rodrigo.

Rodrigo and his wife

Rodrigo and his wife

In Sincelejo, Rodrigo’s home town, we met up with his wife and daughter, his brother, sister-in-law and other members of the family who made us feel most welcome again. We travelled in company for many miles, stopping for Colombian hats, fuel, drinking water and photographs. Rodrigo had come out, despite having dreadful ‘flu and not feeling at all well. At every turn we were met by his kindness and generosity and when we finally parted it was with promises that should anything go wrong we would be sure to turn to him for help. His business in Sincelejo being reboring and crankshaft grinding, we were grateful but sincerely hoped we not need that level of help.IMG_4077

Today at noon the sun was directly overhead on its journey to the Tropic of Cancer. It will pass over us again when we are in Cartagena and we shall catch up somewhere in Central America. “A moment for the anorak”, I heard muttered as I, at least, enjoyed the moment.

At midday the sun was directly overhead

At midday the sun was directly overhead

I was riding in the navigation seat as we approached Cartagena. Since Amanda and I are the only two-person party at present this means we usually undertake the task of leading and finding the way. I had been playing with Diana and River’s SatNav during the day and discovered that, despite the machine not recognizing the city name of Cartagena and not being able to accept a final destination address, I could make a pin-point on the map and the machine would accept that.

Strays on the road

Strays on the road

By working out the shape of the city streets from a paper map on the back of a tourist guide and translating that to the representation of streets on the GPS,  the machine managed to get us within 200 yds of the destination to everyone’s surprise and my delight.

Family transport, Colombian style

Family transport, Colombian style, thats six peopke on a ‘125’

The pre-booked off-street parking parking below the apartment was just fine and when we stepped out of the elevator on the 8th floor, the views from the apartment were spectacular and remained a delight for the rest of our stay.

The flatlands as we neared the coast at the Caribbean Sea

The flatlands as we neared the coast at the Caribbean Sea

We unloaded all our goods and chattels so that we could have a good tidy of the cars’ contents and make the most of the opportunity to rationalize our luggage for the cars’ sea crossing and our flight. Supper was taken in the open air of one of the many plazas in the old city and we managed for the first time in several weeks to get in a supply of ice, and a tonic substitute with which to toast our arrival and end of the South American leg.

The view from the apartment balcony was delightful

The view from the apartment balcony was delightful

We had, since arriving in Colombia, been in touch with Luis Ernesto La Rota of Enlace Caribe, a shipping Agent in Cartagena. In October last year, when Diana and River made a recce trip to Colombia, they had met up with him on the recommendation of previous travellers through the port.

Like an Italian city beside the Caribbean

Like an Italian city beside the Caribbean

We called him to announce our arrival and, despite it being a Sunday evening, Luis Ernesto called in at the flat within twenty minutes to collect various documents that he needed to begin the process first thing in the morning. He arranged to collect the three drivers at 07:50 the following morning.

Vultures on the adjacent rooftops, take a break from endless circling

Vultures on the adjacent rooftops, take a break from endless circling

 

Supper at Crepes and Waffles, stylish dining, Cartagena style!

Supper at Crepes and Waffles, stylish dining, Cartagena style!

 

 

 

 

 

 

15th April. Catagena, Colombia.

We breakfasted in the apartment and by 07.50 were in the lobby when Luis Ernesto stopped outside. He took us to his office, where documents for shipping were prepared. He then took us to a notary to have the copies authenticated, including iris photos and fingerprints.

Returning to the apartment by 10.30 we now had the remainder of the day to prepare the cars for shipping. We all wanted to give our cars a thorough service and grease and to tackle various problems so that we could get a flying start in Panama. Two days previously a slow puncture in a tyre had begun to go flat within a day and I had changed it for the spare. In the sticky 90%+ humidity and 30+ temperatures I swapped inner tubes and changed the wheel. In the garage work was being done to strengthen the 1940s structure and so our efforts were accompanied by pounding pneumatic hammers, chipping concrete and a dense cloud of dust from the whole operation. Within minutes the heat had reduced me to a limp rag and it was with difficulty that I completed the task.

Meanwhile, Diana was swapping wheels around when a stud on the offside rear hub pulled out. This was the hub which had had an oil leak in Mendoza, Argentina, and, although much improved, it had been stripped once to deal with a small ooze of oil which had contaminated the brake shoes. Now it had to come apart again to replace the hub back plate. Stan and Diana tackled that job, with occasional interruptions from me. The replacement hub back plate was a spare I was carrying and the new oil seal and flange gasket were Diana’s spares. My tube of black gasket compound was still in workable condition and within a couple of hours the whole shooting match was back together. I had replaced the points and condenser on Bertie, in case that was the source of the missfire and, on starting the engine, I found in the darkness of the garage that the ignition advance and retard rod was acting as an earth return for the distributor, so I was able to deal with that, which might be the cause of the missfire. As a final job I checked the oil and water levels and found the radiator almost empty. Puzzled I poured water in and just as soon it was on the floor! Then I found a cylinder head core plug which must have given up the ghost as we pulled into the garage. It was literally sitting on the head and with the edge of a fingernail I was able to lift it out and the second one below, the gasket-goo being all that had retained it for some time I think. A rummage in the boxes and new ones were inserted and the water put back in the proper place. By now it was approaching 17.00 and I was completely soaked in sweat, covered in dust from the concrete and the filthy floor. An hour later I emerged from the shower, several pounds lighter and feeling dehydrated. We had all had a very trying day and were barely able to raise the energy to visit Crepes & Waffles. However, raise it we did and enjoyed discovering a new place.

16th April. Cartagena, Colombia.

The cars were ready and warmed up, spare luggage and equipment packed into them by the time Luis Ernesto arrived on his bike at 06:50 on Tuesday.

Leaving the garage for the docks

Leaving the garage for the docks

His wife pulled up in the family car and in convoy we passed through streets of the old town, Luis Ernesto stopping at the office and leaving Sonya to take us to the dock. It was another scorching day by the time we arrived before 08.00 and the slow and

Through the old colonial city, past balconied former merchants residences

Through the old colonial city, past balconied former merchants residences

 

Luis Ernesto kept up rather easily

Luis Ernesto kept up rather easily

patient game of entering the docks began. Sonya was calm, smiling and very efficient. We were into the loading area by 09.00 and then waited for an hour for the customs officer to make a first examination and check vehicle and chassis numbers. Another wait and we had the drugs search, at first a search by two officers, including removal of all contents, with suitcases opened on the dusty ground, then the under back-seat storage turned over rather roughly, engines run and revved-up, before we put some of it back and were stopped. Another wait for the sniffer dog and a search that lasted more than ten minutes, was very thorough, and included every part from radiator to interior, engine compartment, tyres and underside.

A weighbridge at the docks, Feisty 740 Kgs, Dusty 810 Kgs, Bertie 840 Kgs

A weighbridge at the docks, Bertie 840 Kgs including luggage and driver

 

Dusty on the weighbridge

Dusty on the weighbridge at 810 kgs

Now we could open the container, which had been sitting in the hot sun from 06.00 to 11.30. Once inside it was

Feisty gets the weigh-in

Feisty gets the weigh-in at 740 kgs

 

Waiting for inspection beside the container, cooking gently in the fierce morning sun

Waiting for inspection beside the container, cooking gently in the fierce morning sun

like an oven and within minutes of driving in we were liquid again.

 

 

The cars firmly lashed down, the dock workers then

A thorough drugs search was made by officers and a dog

A thorough drugs search was made by officers and a dog

nailed in chocks at each wheel and did a final tighten-down on the ratchet straps. We took photographs of the cars and lashings, and waited for the police to attend and close and seal the container. By 12.15 we were being checked out of the docks, fingerprinted and identified on camera. Sonya had bought iced tea and water and we began to recover in the air-conditioned comfort of her car on the way back to the office.

In the container at last

In the container at last

We had unfortunately missed the customs officer in his office in town, as he had gone to lunch, but Luis Ernesto kindly returned us to the apartment and after a shower and quick bite to eat we were ready to be collected again and back to the customs office. Now the progress was fast, by 15.30 we were back in Luis Ernesto’s office and the paperwork was complete. We had paid the fees, thanked Luis Ernesto and his team and were free agents, without ties or responsibilities until delivery in Colon on the following Monday.

The container seal

The container seal

 

Securely strapped and chocked

Securely strapped and chocked

Meanwhile Amanda had been busy, delivering washing to the laundry, booking flights to Panama and researching a place to stay. With time to spare I now, started the mammoth task of catching up on the web site. We all needed some rest and relaxation and for the first time since Buenos Aires we had neither any place to be, nor car-related task to perform.

And that should have been that! But as you may shave guessed, that was not that. On the Friday when the ship should have loaded and taken away the container, it was reported by the shipping company as having a technical fault and would be replaced by another

Seine net fishing at Cartagena

Seine net fishing at Cartagena

 

No load is too awkward on a motorcycle

No load is too awkward on a motorcycle

 

Fruit stalls on the streets

Fruit stalls on the streets

 

IMG_4202ship loading on Sunday, delivering on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4205

 

 

IMG_4211

 

 

 

IMG_4208

 

 

 

 

IMG_4229IMG_4230

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4231IMG_4232

 

 

 

 

 

The old city streets

The old city streets

 

Flower decked houses, a colourful scene in the old city

Flower decked houses, a colourful scene in the old city

 

 

 

 

We left Cartagena by plane on Sunday, hoping we might get the cars back on Thursday, at least two days later than anticipated. Now the second ship had a technical problem and was delayed. Present information says that it will not deliver until Saturday 27th, which is a big problem since Monday is a public holiday and we shall probably not be able to leave until Wednesday after clearing customs etc. The additional delay is very trying, costly in terms of accommodation, and has thrown River’s plans to return to us in Costa Rica into confusion.

Whilst Panama is a nice city and the weather is good, we would rather have been on our way and we are all missing the road and the cars.

Ricardo met us with this notice at he airport in Panama

Ricardo met us with this notice at he airport in Panama

On a brighter note, Hugo kindly asked his brother Ricardo, who lives in Panama, to book us a hotel and to meet us at the airport. This kindly gesture has turned into rather an onerous task for the thoroughly amiable Ricardo, his wife Dora and good friend Rafael. Rafael was roped in to add much-needed car space on Sunday. We all spent the remainder of Sunday together when they took us to the Miraflores Lock complex on the Panama Canal and later to the popular Sunday haunt of the Causeway IMG_4254for helados and to view the sights. Exceeding his brief and extending extraordinary friendship, Ricardo found and met us for lunch on Monday, then delivered us to the casco viejo to visit the museums and colonial district.  On Tuesday evening, after a testing day with the auditor in his office, Ricardo collected us again drove us to the older ruined remains of the first city that had been demolished by IMG_4267Pirate Morgan in the 16th century. There, Ricardo engineered access after dark in the moonlight, an atmospheric visit to the coral stone ruins. When Dora returned from her yoga session, we all went for dinner at a spectacularly-situated restaurant in IMG_4274the new Panama City, at the base of the Trump Tower, on the water’s edge looking out across the bay.  Dora and Ricardo are very good company and we have enjoyed spending time with them, and we hope we have not exceeded their reserves of tolerance.  What we need now is a little more “Trail Magic”; this time to unlock our cars and get us under way again. Wish us luck!photo

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4299

 

IMG_4315

 

 

 

Palacia Bolivar

Palacia Bolivar

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4317

 

 

 

Captain Morgan the welsh pirate was responsible for the destruction of the original city of which this church tower come lookout are some of the biggest remains

Captain Morgan the welsh pirate was responsible for the destruction of the original city of which this church tower come lookout are some of the biggest remains

 

IMG_4333

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4352

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4354

 

 

 

 

Dinner with the 'trumps

Dinner with the ‘trumps, Ricardo on the left

 

New building is evident all over Panama

New building is evident all over Panama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stats:-

Total distance recorded on Dusty’s Mileometer (which seems to be quite accurate when checked against the GPS trip recorder)

Miles from Zarate Docks to Cartagena            5,783 miles 9,791 kms

Longest days mileage                                            285 miles 459 kms

Days over 200 miles/ 320 Kms                                                       10

Days 150 to 200 miles/ 240 to 320 Kms                                         10

Days 100 to 150 miles/ 160 to 240 Kms                                          11

Under 100 miles / under 160 Kms                                                    8

Average days distance                                               148 miles 238 kms

Total days driving                                                                           39

Elapsed time since collecting cars                                                 55

Days resting/repairs on the journey                                                 6

Repair days in Lima                                                                         4

Side trip to Macchu Pichu  and Colca Canyon                                6

Fuel for Bertie (not including Atico to Lima)            133.8 Imp galls 608 litres

Fuel consumption (corrected for topping up tank)           38.7 mpg 14 k.p.l

Other than small adjustments and tightening of nuts, bolts and fittings and the difficulties Feisty had with fuel vapourisation and consequent carburetor flooding the following have been the repairs needed. Plugs have been cleaned and gaped, points adjusted and timing and carbs tweeked for poor fuel, altitude and up to 19% ethanol and octane ratings as low as 85.

Dusty

1 puncture (tube replaced), replaced fabric coupling, 2 radiator repairs to bottom tank, electrical fault behind switch panel, 1 spark plug lead needing refixing to terminal, one spark plug.

Feisty

Replaced offside back hub plate distorted, replaced again due to wheel stud pulled out, including new oil seal, attempted repair to faulty gearbox, involving engine removal, engine removal to replace faulty gearbox, during which, new battery, new starter motor brushes, repaired motor dog, repair to starter fixing bolt. During an undiagnosed electrical fault, most ignition components changed, fault not identified, but possible faulty battery. Petrol supply modified to eliminate vapourisation, two plugs replaced, another set of points due to pitting.

Bertie

Cylinder head removed to replace head gasket twice, second time, head skimmed. Engine removed and rebuilt to replace broken compression rings, points replaced due to pitting, oil gauge pipe repaired due to split, puncture (tube replaced). Core plug in head replaced, pin in carburetor spindle lost and replaced.

THE BEAR FACTS

There has been one personality on this trip who has bearely had a mention. We should paws for thought here for one moment to consider the hardships and privations endured, without complaint or harsh word, apart that is from the sulking!

Beanie has made the trip his own, he has charmed and delighted all that have met and greeted him along the way. He has been blamed, often unjustly, for many things, from snoring, to eating the last of the pringles, drinking more than his fair share of gin and much more besides. However he has for the most part kept his own counsel, paid his way and served his time. Here in Panama he has decided to take a well earned break and catch some ‘rays’ before he gets back on the road! His approval of these few intimate photos which later will be offered to “Hello, all bears” magazine in an exclusive!

IMG_4404IMG_4399IMG_4421IMG_4417IMG_4410IMG_4422IMG_4426

12 thoughts on “26th April. Panama City, Panama. Part 3

  1. Hello you all! I’m happy you finally made it to Cartagena. The pictures I took on the road are great and my editor at the magazine is very pleased. Hopefully the whole story -article and photos- will come out in June edition.

    Drive safe!

  2. los felicito y que bueno que estén con el hermano de Hugo suarez en Panamá
    les sigo deseando éxitos en su viaje
    Cordialmente
    jaime Chacón

  3. Once again, a fantastic blog and great pictures. Well done all and my congratulations on a major success in making it so far. Can’t wait to hear about your continuing adventures.
    Cheers, Johny J.

  4. transalation for jaime arturo chacon legarda : Congratulations and very glad you are with Hugo Suarez brother in Panamá. Again I wish you all lots of success in your trip. Regards

  5. Always fabulous reading and wonderful pictures. What really impresses me is that you men are always so well shaved and that all of you are always so impeccably dressed. Even Beanie looks indecently decent at the poolside. Do you dress up before taking pictures?
    Looking forward to following your adventures in the next blog!
    All best wishes, Steve

    • Most of the photos were taken in a studio in Penge before we left, to save time, and of course PhotoShop is a great help with the personal grooming issues.

  6. WOW, could be a film as well as the book. keep driving

    Leigh, Chloe and not so little Archie
    xxx

  7. Having been away since 24th April have only just caught up on the blog of 26th. What wonderful tales you will have to tell and the memories! Wow! Bear has been a paragon of virtue and will deserve the best of everything that can be given to him.
    Love Veronica

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *