Today is the sixth day of attempting to export our car from Colombia and, as our ship comes in tonight, we hope the last. If you like filling in forms and waiting for officials to find stamps then this process is for you – if not you are going to find this very tedious.
We are generously sponsored by shipping line Wallenius Wilhelmsen and their Cartagena office has been guiding us through the process of getting permission to export the car. Without their help we would still be struggling in limited Spanish with an uncooperative officious official lost somewhere in a back office of the Kafka-esque bureaucracy that surrounds the port.
Actually process works something like this:
First you go to the customs office with two copies of a form, two photocopies of your passport and proof you own the car. A man stamps the top form and gives you a time for your customs inspection. So far so good.
Then you walk to another office (Tim stubbed his toe on the way) called the Sociedad Portuaria to secure different form allowing you to enter the port terminal.
At the terminal you get in a long queue with a lot of lorries. One person is allowed into the port with the car - via a weigh bridge where we discovered Beatrice weighs 2700kg and Tim was assumed to weigh 100kg (he is not happy about this).
The customs official takes a couple of hours to inspect the car. He doesn’t have the right form with him so back at his office we wait another two hours.
There are days more to-ing and fro-ing between the customs and the Sociedad Portuaria with various forms.
Then back to the terminal to make an appointment with the narcotics police who occupy an air conditioned office you are not allowed to enter. Negotiations are conducted through a small window while you swelter in 34C outside.
You give them many forms and the policeman says he needs two copies of them all. There is a photocopier around the corner but it is 12.05pm and the man who operates it goes home at noon.
Next, its time to export ourselves so a trip to immigration to get our passports stamped. Apart from it is Sunday, so it’s closed but it is possible to make a special appointment – more waiting.
This afternoon we have our fingers crossed for the police inspection if they manage to complete it and agree we are not smuggling any drugs we might make it onto the ship tonight.
Mexico – here we come.
In the picture Lynn recycles all the documentation accumulated during the importation process into Brazil. Its final act of revenge was to slice her finger open as it went into the bin.