Sunday, May 17, 2009

29: Panama.

Bye bye south america with Cartagena city on the background.

Loading Hope Too on Fritz the Cat.

Across that 'bridge'.

It's solid gold!

Cartagena, Columbia was hot and humid. we had rain attacking us everyday in Columbia except in Cartagena. We had to reach Cartagena as soon as possible to meet up with the only sail boat setting off on the time we wanted; else, we had to stay here for another 1 month to re-apply for the Panama visa.
So, how far are we away from Alaska from here?

We met up with the captain and he quoted:

US$375 per person
US$300 for Hope Too
total US$1050 we have to pay.

else, he could accept Columbian pesos of 920000 per person. that means he was using the exchange rate of 2453 pesos for US$1.

at that time, the market rate was 2223pesos for US$1.

Our captain.

if we pay him all in peso, which we withdraw from the ATM, we would lose equivalent to about US$100 for that transaction. we have some options…

1) to withdraw US$ from the ATM directly. It only convert Singapore dollars to US dollars BUT our Citibank and HSBC wouldn’t let us do it.
2) get Peso our from our ATM and change it to dollars. luckily we had a bit of money in our Citibank and we could withdraw Peso without any transaction charges if we use the Citibank ATM. We went to the bank. there is some tax involved if we buy US$ with Peso. (we would defiantly do not want to buy US$ with other private companies or black market. most of the world’s fake US dollars comes from Columbia.) To reduce the tax involved, we took out our spare US dollars that we always carried and reduced the actual sum to be bought.
Cartagena had very thick history about the Europeans attacking this city.

anyway, if you don’t understand the above, it’s ok. We had to think of the best way to save money from these small transactions.

meanwhile, waiting to sail off from south America, we visited the mud volcano nearby. walked the old town of Cartagena, that was filled with tourist and touts, expensive restaurants and souvenir shops.

we could not believe that the volcano is 2km deep!Can you see us?
Our guide for the day.

Anyway, we met the deadline of 17th May 2009 to reach Panama. We sail with Fritz the cat. Total, we had the captain, his girlfriend, 11 passengers and Hope Too. First night on the open sea was terrible. According to the captain, it was a calm sea. Sam had seasick, vomited and had bad appetite. For me, beer was not for the night. Strongly recommended for non-seasick-patients. After 44 hours of sailing, we reached the San Blas Island of Panama. We saw some Indians living on the island filled with coconut trees and banana trees. The island was owned by a family of the Kuna Indians. Their house was built with palm tree leaves and they survived by eating fish and drinking water from coconut and rain. they dressed like modern humans like us but do not have access to the outside world. Google on Kuna of Panama.

the moment we woke up, the beautiful coconut island and clear blue water welcomed us.
Snokering? we felt that the Malaysia waters are much better.

The situation we had now:

Thou we reached Panama safely, had our entry stamp on our passport, we still need to wait till Monday to visit the custom office in Panama City. The immigration office that the captain went to do not have a custom office. the only documentation that we had for Hope Too was a stamp on my vehicle owner’s registration. That does not look official to any government officer in Panama or any part of the world. We need a proper paper to say that Hope Too was imported into Panama legally. The captain just came back to the ship with our passports and papers saying that it is ok to have it ‘stamped’ like that. If I need a proper paper, I must go to Panama city to get one. I asked him where and he said:

I don’t know. The custom officer also doesn’t know too. Its ok, you know this is Panama. That stamp will get you out.


He will not be the one that is going to exit the country to me. How am I suppose to explain to the custom officer when I exit Panama into Costa Rica?

I asked the captain to request the custom officer (that he visited) to write me a letter that the ‘stamp’ that he gave me is a proper stamp and the captain says:

yeh, that’s what I asked too! but they don’t write any letters here. you know, it’s the way it works here.

anyone needs a cook at home? we were well fed by Erica on the boat.

so I requested the captain to accompany me to visit the custom office in panama city. He said:

call me on my mobile phone then.

now we tried to call them, nobody is responding. well, the money was paid. we are now in Panama, they can say bye bye to us. He charged US$300 for Hope Too. that includes all the paper work that we need, else Hope Too should only be categorized as a luggage for the passenger. Then why we pay the US$300 for????

Abrahim (Holland) Justin (UK) and Alex (Swiss) were partying with the 80's music.

Christina (USA) came alive when we anchored.

Bryan(USA) and Sabrina(UK)

hmmm…. we are not in the mood to write about anything. without this import permit we can’t get out of Panama.

we were welcomed by the Panama road when we got off the boat.

Well, the rule of the game is: Do not fight with your captain.

we found this video in my hard disc. i have not publish this yet, i think. it's on 1st January 2008.


Marisol said...

ohhhhhhhh I hope you can solve the issues of the papers of Hope Too soon!! It's a pity that you found such a capitain :(
While reading your report, I imagined to wake up in a boat and seeing those waters and a beautiful island full of palms and couldn't help to feel the excitement of such a great view... I WANT COCONUT WATER NOOOOOOOOOW!!
Big kiss for both of you!

andrea and thomas said...

Happy Birthday to yoooouuuu!!!! happy birthday dear samantha, we wish you the best of luck and that you enjoy your travel for this year and next year there will be other nice experiences... we hope you have a great day and you got your papers for the bike and that you have a lot of fun, big hugs from us from switzerland and i hope that we will hug again someday in future, for the rest of your trip, we are following your way and keep our fingers crossed for you!

singaporedream said...

Andrea and Thomas:thanks for remember my birthday.we had done the paper work just less than 15min to did it.i hope is correct one.we still in Panama will go costa Rica tommorrow and planning to aply my nicaragua and mexico visa in San jose(another visa again!).
write by :Samantha