It’s Christmas Eve here in winter bound Billings Montana, with the 20+ inches of snow on the ground and another storm forecasted for tonight, there is a one hundred percent chance of the Sloan family waking up to a white Christmas. This afternoon we’ll go to Christmas mass, eat Pork Loin for dinner, and all fall asleep anxiously awaiting the morning, which will bring breakfast casserole, followed by a trip to the bowling alley and cap the day with a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Throw in the tradition of driving around looking at christmas light displays, a gift exchange, a few games of Catan and we’ve got a weekend of family time that rivals the Rockwells. For that we are thankful.
Ten weeks ago I was driving loops around the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota Colombia, awaiting the arrival of a best friend and worthless co pilot/travel campion PFC Bidwell. Together he, Marlie and I, tackled paragliding school, becoming licensed, fairly proficient at flying, and fully proficient at lazing about between weather windows. After flight school completion we continued on north where we were able to spend a couple of weeks exploring the northern coast with Brother Bear, before spending nine days in Cartagena preparing for and eventually shipping the Savvlinvan across the Darian Gap.
Taxi, flight, flight, bus, taxi, and 24 hours later we completed our crossing of the gap, arriving in the scummy port town of Colon, Panama. Having an affinity for setting unrealistic expectations of the amount of time required for specific steps in the process of vehicle shipping, I held on dearly to the notion that we would be able to rescue our van from the port and be headed to surf land by the evening. We arrived in Colon at nine a.m., headed straight to the shipping office, immediately entered back into the haze of confusion that fills these types of offices and was promptly told to wait. Apparently there was some confusion with some of our paperwork that we spent the previous nine days ironing out, a sort of here-we-go-again-scenario. thankfully your office had wifi and we were able to sort the issue out in a timely fashion (a first in this whole process, as timely seems not to translate in Colombia).
After receiving our official landing documentation we were able to head across town to pick up our Panamanian insurance, driving through colonial neighborhoods in various stages of decay. Thankfully the insurance office had a nice couch and free coffee, allowing me to enjoy two hours of free coffee and affording Marlie a power nap on said couch. Knowing that there was actually a chance that we could have the van back that afternoon we raced to customs where we discovered a few more unknown steps of the process, necessitating a trip to the Internet cafe to write up and print import documents. Long afternoon summed up briefly, we completed all the necessary paperwork by 4 p.m., headed to the port only to find that we needed 5 stamps on the documents by various offices that closed at four, hooray for expectations and the opportunity to spend the night in Colon!
On the advice of everything we read, we cooped up with a bottle of rum and listened to, rather than joining the ruckus on the nighttime streets of Colon. The city has reputation as the most dangerous in Panama and judging by our lovely hotel window view of the street below, it’s a town thats living fast, lots of youth, lots of drugs, all topped off with a bit probable prostitution. With a lack of nightlife opportunities for us savvlin folks, we settled with an early night and earlier morning. The stamp process took a few hours, lots of hand gestures and 4 different windows, each with a line of truckers fighting their way forward. Withe help of a few of the truckers we managed to accumulate the necessary stamps and make our way to the storage area. Unbelievably after 28 hours we had our documents double checked and the van was released to us, 13 days and we were back on the road cruising to check out the locks of the Panama Canal.
surfing, bowling, and more eating
board games and no board meetings.
Merry Christmas from our savvlin family to yours,