October 2022

The first 10 days of October we spend in and around Panama city. We finally received our parcel with our new drives licences, phone and tablet, even though DHL managed to cause a delay of a week in Panama city, because one employee was sick… Import fees and custom fees added up to a ridiculous $205,-. This is the last parcel we have had send unless it is a vitally important replacement part for the van that we just can’t get in the country we’re in. We got the papers for Binkie and started to prepare for shipping. In between we spend a few days relaxing in the much cooler Valle de Anton, a quiet mountain village where we did very little but enjoy the peace and quiet since Panama city was very hot and to be honest, overrated, overcrowded and overpriced! Kilian also managed to install the new battery, a lithium battery instead of an AGM battery. Doing those things outside wasn’t easy as the rainy season was now at it’s worst.

We spend our last night in Panama city in a hotel with a pool, and somewhat relaxed we arrived at the Tocumen airport at the 12th of October. Despite a small delay because of a thunderstorm, everything went reasonable well. The whole ordeal of flying, especially with lots of luggage and a cat, is stressful no matter what. After customs we had to get the import papers for Binkie so we followed the guy from the agricultural department. Unexpectedly he led us outside the airport in to an office, this would cause us some trouble later on. After we received the paperwork we took an Uber to take us to the address of our Air bnb. Getting there took well over an hour (7km), because heavy rain caused the streets of Cartagena to be seriously flooded. Trash and big branches floated through the streets while traffic came practically to a standstill. We would soon learn that this happened at least twice a week in Cartagena during the raining season.

Anyway finally we were dropped of at the beginning of a street in a walled of neighbourhood. A lot of neighbourhoods in Latin America are surrounded by high walls or fences with a security guard at the entrance. So we started looking for the right house, but couldn’t find anything. Now because we unexpectedly left the airport we hadn’t yet been able to buy a simcard or get any cash. We had used the airports wifi (standing very close to the exit) to get the Uber. After walking around for half an hour and asking directions we were pretty much lost. We went to a shop and asked for help. By using their wifi we managed to contact the owner of the Airbnb, Yessid. Guess what? A lot of street names in Cartagena are used more than once! So we had been dropped of at the right street, but still 3km away from our Airbnb. After a long day of travelling, the heavy luggage, 30°C heat and poor Binkie still in his backpack we couldn’t laugh at this misunderstanding! Fortunately the people at the shop were very helpful. They called a cab and spoke to Yessid and the cab driver. And with the right directions the cabdriver dropped us of at the Air bnb where Yessid paid the driver for us, we repaid him later. Even though the flight only lasted one hour and ten minutes, it had still taken us 9 hours to get form our hotel in Panama to our Air bnb in Cartagena! Fortunately our home for the next two weeks was comfortable and clean and there was an airco in the bedroom. After the take away dinner and unpacking the essentials, we had an early night. The next few days we checked out Cartagena. Which turned out, had a lovely old city, very colourful with lots to see. And the upcoming neighbourhood Getsemani is the most colourful neighbourhood we have seen so far! Truly beautiful. Those of you who follow us on Instagram have already seen all the beautiful photo’s, here are some for those who don’t.

We also went out to dinner with several other overlanders who were also waiting for their vehicle to arrive. After Kilian had picked up our van we spend the last two days preparing the van. Thankfully our Air bnb had a parking lot as well within the walls so we could safely park the van and pack everything up, fill up the water tanks and Kilian finally managed to get the heating working again. After installing the new battery it had stopped working. It turned to be a broken cable somewhere among our many, many cables. We won’t really need the heating in Colombia but the further South we go, the higher the mountains (>4000masl) and it’s gonna be really cold there.

A few days before we left we were walking from the Bazuro market to a main street to find the right bus stop, when I saw a kitten lying in the dirty gutter along the very busy road and in the scorching afternoon heat. The kitten wasn’t moving and at first I thought she was dead. But when I picked her up it turned out she was just sleeping. She was very skinny and weak though and dirty as well. Obviously I didn’t leave her there but took her back to the apartment. I gave her a bath and treated her against worms and flees. The next day I had her checked out by a vet and for Binkies safety (she had spend the night in a spare room) I also had her checked for 2 contagious blood diseases (FIV and FELV) that are always deadly. Fortunately the test came back negative so the next few days she ate and cuddled a lot and sometimes played with Binkie. I called her Luna and with help from Cartagena Paws I managed to find a foster home for this 9 week old girl. They will vaccinate and sterilize her and then put her up for adoption. I am still getting updates and she is doing very well! We come across many, many stray cats and dogs. Unfortunately I can’t help the majority. But every now and then I come across a cat (mostly although we have also helped a horse and a dog in the past) that so obviously needs help, that they won’t make it otherwise and I just can’t look away.

So with Luna safely in her foster home and stocked up on food, water and LPG (for cooking) we drove out of Cartagena on the 27th of October. Our first stop was San Basilio de Palenque. One of the first towns where escaped slaves were safe due to the walls. There was nothing left of the walls though, so we walked around the nice square and Kilian bought some overpriced candy from a local woman who had a very good sales pitch 🙂 Next stop was Santacruz de Mompox. A colonial town that hasn’t changed much. We admired the buildings and had a nice dinner. Wild camping wasn’t really a possibility here so we parked near the cemetery in town. The cemetery Municipal is beautiful and also housed a colony of stray cats. Fortunately none of them needed urgent help 🙂

We travelled on to our last stop in October; La Playa de Belen. This is a mountain town with not a lake of river in sight, let alone the sea, so no idea why it is called Playa. Anyway close to this sleepy little town you can find Los Estoraques. These strangely formed rock formations are similar to those found in Cappadocia, Turkey. We hiked through the rock formations and camped at the campsite near this National park where we happened to come across a German family that we met in Cartagena. So we enjoyed the company and also the much cooler temperatures. Where in Mompox sweat dripped down our face just from the effort of breathing, we now needed our duvet. Colombia has 5 different climate zones so we will experience more sudden change in weather while we travel. We will see what November brings.

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