Archive for the “Colombia” Category
It’s been oppressively hot and humid for months now and I’ve been looking forward to cooler weather for a long time. I put in a couple of big days driving right through the heart of Colombia, headed for the mountains. Not just any mountains either, but the Andes. Winding my way up into them is the realization of a dream I’ve had for a long time and I can’t stop grinning the entire time up the very steep and windy road.
The temperature drops quite quickly and I smile when I have to wind up my window due to the cold and not long after I turn on the heater, a novelty. I climb and climb and climb and take the turn-off to Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. Before long I roll by a sign announcing I’m at 4,000 meters, clearly the highest I’ve ever been in my life. The sun is falling fast so I find a quiet spot off the side of the road to pitch my tent. My only visitors for the night are a herd of cows that are very curious and seem to like hanging around. Once the sun disappears it’s not just cold, but freezing, my little thermometer showing below zero before the night is done.
Guerilla camping in Colombia at 4000 meters
Early in the morning I move up into the park itself which is already busy due to the Easer holidays. All of the rangers are extremely friendly and try exceedingly hard to help me as I move from an orientation session (in extremely fast Spanish) to filling out a basic form to enter the park. Entrance is quite expensive for foreigners, I pay (in $USD) $19 for entry, $12 for a mandatory guide, $6 for the Jeep and another $6 to camp in the official campground for a night.
Rock formation in the National Park
Our guide, Michelle, jumps in my Jeep and we form a convoy of four vehicles driving up high into the park. Every five minutes or so we jump out to have a look at the beautiful scenery while Michelle explains the geological features around us. While we drive together I practice my Spanish which again improves a lot in a very short time. We drive up and up, until we reach 4,700 meters where we have to climb the rest on foot. Michelle explains how quickly we’ll run short of breath at this elevation and so we hike up as slowly as physically possible. I’m careful to make sure I don’t have to breathe really hard, though I can feel my heart rate racing to keep up.
Road to the top
In just over an hour we reach the glacier, at 5,125 meters. It’s stunningly beautiful and everyone is really excited to see ice and snow, the first time for many of the locals. It’s surreal to be up this high in the Andes, the first time of many for me I’m sure. After an hour of hanging around and walking on the glacier I make my make back down to the campground, at around 4,200 meters. By this time I have a mean headache that doesn’t go away until late the following day.
At the summit of Nevado del Ruiz, 5125 meters
At the campground I meet some locals who are crazy about hiking and camping, and even crazier about showing off their fantastic country. We quickly pour over my map of Colombia, talking excitedly about all the places I need to see. The night is again frosty cold and I have out all my cold weather gear, including thermals and two sleeping bags. A couple of times in the night I can feel my heart rate skyrocket just from the exertion of rolling over.
Driving up into the mountains, at about 4500 meters
Interestingly the Jeep performs really well at such high elevations, only take-offs are a little sketchy and need a lot more accelerator than usual. I can think of no better way to relax and cure my headache than a soak in a Hot Spring, and as luck would have it there is one just on the outskirts of Manizales, which I make use of for a couple of hours.
Crater La Olleta, the inactive volcano
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Posted by Dan in BlogSherpa, Camping, Colombia, Hiking, Road-tripping, SCUBA Diving, tags: Aquantis Dive Center, Arrecifes, Parque National Tayrona, Pueblito, Taganga
I’ve been writing way too much lately, so I’m going to let the photos do the talking in this one.
I got my PADI Advanced Open Water certification in the sleepy fishing village of Taganga, which involved a drift (strong current) dive, peak performance buoyancy dive, night dive, deep (37.5 meters) dive and a navigation dive. The reefs and sea life here are incredible and every time I get out of the water I just want to get straight back in. Taganga is an amazing place and after striking up a friendship with the manager of the Aquantis Dive Center I get a couple of days free diving in exchange for playing the victim for a diver doing a rescue course.
The sleepy fishing village of Taganga
Some kind of eel thing
All OK diving at night
I move around to Parque National Tayrona, an extremely beautiful reserve with an abundance of white sand beaches. I have to hike in a few kilometers and camp just back from the beach at Arrecifes.
The highlight for me is a serious jungle trek to the ruins of the ancient city of Pueblito with a few friends I made along the way.
The Arrecifes campground in Tayrona
Beach in Tayrona
The runins of Pueblito in Tayrona
The runins of Pueblito in Tayrona again
The runins of Pueblito in Tayrona and again
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Posted by Dan in BlogSherpa, Colombia, Road-tripping, Shipping, tags: Colon to Cartegena, crossing The Darien Gap, Marfret, Panama to Colombia, Rozo, Shipping a car across The Darien Gap, shipping a car from Panama to Colombia, shipping container Darien Gap, shipping from Panama to Colombia, The Darien Gap
Before leaving Panama City we go to the Marfret office one last time to settle our bill. Apparently it’s quite normal in the shipping industry to pay the bill after the ship has sailed because the agent knows they have the original Bill of Lading, without which you have nothing. When you pay, you get the paper. Seems fair.
When all the calculations are made, the final figure is significantly lower than we were expecting. Both of us keep out mouths shut and pay the $554 each.
Skip a few days to Colombia and the port in Cartegena is not far from our hotel, so on another blisteringly hot & humid day we walk down to our customs agent, hoping to start the paperwork game on the Colombian end. We’ve heard all manner of horror stories from paying many hundreds of dollars to vehicles being impounded to waiting weeks for customs clearances. Sounds like fun in any case.
The agent working for Marfret knows all about us and has our paperwork ready and waiting. Again there are stamps and signatures, this time even a really fancy one that makes the paper bumpy, and us say ‘Ooohhh’. The agent wants us to pay $35 each for a ‘Documentation Fee’, which we try to get out of. When we show the original quote that included a $50 fee, the agent happily raises the price to $50. Damn. After a good deal of negotiating we end up paying $35 each and then split the other $15 (?!?). We’re OK with this as we think it partly makes up for paying less in Panama City.
We move just down the road to customs and get the process happening there and are more than a little amused to once again run into our French friends. It’s great to see familiar faces and we catch up on all the news since we saw them.
I’m impressed when a customs guy checks our container number in a database and immediately knows exactly when the ship docked, when our container was offloaded and exactly where it is. After filling out a standard vehicle form and making certain we have just the right number of copies of everything we’re told to wait while it’s all typed up. The office is extremely professional, clean and air conditioned and I’m really happy with how things move along, not at all stressed. Unfortunately it’s now time for a two hour lunch break, so we settle in for some waiting. After lunch we discover the only person that can give us the final signature is in a meeting and we wait a further two hours for that one signature before we are all set to collect the container.
Around the corner at the port itself we a given security passes and move inside and meet a guy that has been waiting for us. He speaks great English and obviously assists tourists through this process regularly, making things much simpler for us. I don’t have life insurance so am not allowed to enter the actual port to collect the Jeep. I want to go in, but hand the keys over to Vince to keep the process moving along. They seem pretty serious about safety here, actually checking up on his insurance and giving him a vest and hardhat to wear.
Vince playing workman
Vince moves the two vehicles out of the container and parks them in the port, a service we have to pay for. It must be our lucky day as we are not selected for ‘random’ inspection so the process can continue and we don’t have to pay extra for the inspection. A few hours later I watch Vince drive the Jeep out of the port, before he returns for his Land Rover.
I’ve never heard of anyone getting their vehicles from this port in only one day and most people end up paying around $115 after the inspection fees. Talk about a lucky break.
It’s 9:15pm when I drive out into the streets of Cartagena, more than a little dumbfounded to be driving my Jeep in South America. It makes my head hurt
Final Price (per car, sharing a 40′ High Cube container):
- Actual Shipping (inc. Ocean Freight, Bunker, Stuffing & Unstuffing & Lashing) $554
- Documentation Fee for Bill of Lading paid to customs agent Mario $100
- Bribe for Mario’s guy to correct paperwork at customs $10
- Port Fee in Colón: $5
- Documentation Fee in Colombia: $43
- Port Fee in Colombia: $58
- TOTAL: $770
(A regular 40′ container is the same price as a High Cube)
Our shipping agent
Rozo / Marfret:
ROZO & CO. (PANAMA) S.A.
URB. NUEVO PAITILLA
DUPLEX NO. 38
The man in charge who helped us immensely was Mr. Martinez (email@example.com)
I would take his advice on which customs agent to use (maybe Mario, maybe not)
Feel free to ask any questions about the entire process, I’m more than happy to help anyone attempting this.
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I originally toyed with the idea of sailing from Panama to Colombia through the San Blas Islands, a stunningly beautiful trip by all accounts.
A number things made it not work out that way:
- Sailing is about $375-$400 and takes 3 – 5 days.
- We couldn’t leave Panama City until the ship with our container departed allowing us to collect our “original” Bill of Lading. This makes timing difficult and we would have to pay for container storage if it sat in Colombia more seven days after arrival.
- Sticking with Vince and Marie wasn’t 100% necessary, though it kept things a lot simpler.
- We got plane tickets for $150 each (inc. taxes), see http://www.aires.aero/Home/Default.aspx
Late in the afternoon we catch a city bus for two and a half hours through downtown Panama City rush hour traffic. It’s obvious everyone else on the bus makes this trip daily and they zone out after no more than two minutes. Security at the airport is similar to elsewhere I’ve been in the world, and we soon find ourselves loaded into a little dash-8. I haven’t been in a plane with a propeller for a long time and I somehow feel like I’m back in small town Australia.
The flight itself feels like it’s over before it even begins, barely an hour in total. I step off the plane onto the tarmac with an enormous grin on my face as do Vince and Marie. We’ve made it to South America and couldn’t be happier.
The guy at customs is very friendly, simply asks if I am on vacation and happily stamps my passport and waves me through.
The old "walled" city of Cartagena
We find a cheap hotel in the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartegena and head out to explore. Immediately things feel different than in Central America – it’s very busy and more motorcycles and tuk-tuks give an Asian/Indian feel. Wandering into the old walled city is really cool, the whole area is very clean, well patrolled and heavily touristed making it feel very safe. Outside the old city is a lot more raw and dirty, though I have no reason not to feel safe and quickly get the hang of things.
Cartagena is a very beautiful city.
Buildings in Cartagena
When my friend Mike’s trip to South America was unexpectedly cut short his ‘wish list’ of activities sat uncompleted – until now.
I’m not going to make this the focus of my journey, though it will be fun to see how many I can complete along the way:
- Bathe in the Amazon (but do not get a parasite).
- Have a fresh cup of Colombian coffee.
- Go to Carnival in Rio.
- Go to a soccer game in Brazil (but do not die in a riot).
- Visit the ancient ruins of the Incan city Machu Picchu.
- Stand on the Equator.
- Find penguins at the southern tip of Argentina.
- Ride an alpaca.
- Shear an alpaca.
- Eat chili in Chile.
- Learn five new swear words and say them to people.
- Go to a beach in Argentina.
- Helicopter tour of the Nazca Lines.
- Go to Lake Titicaca.
- Visit the Galapagos Islands (swim with iguanas).
- Visit Iguaçu Falls, if possible kayak or barrel roll down them.
- Visit the Patagonia glaciers.
- Meet a gaucho.
- Eat a guinea pig (Jess Baran highly disapproves of this).
- Eat world’s hottest pepper from Chile.
Feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions
Castillo do San Felipe in Cartagena
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