Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ferrying Around the Darien Gap to Cartagena, Colombia

Sorry for being MIA for a bit... we're in Colombia (obviously) and keep finding ourselves riding awesome roads that lead to incredibly beautiful places with ZERO wifi. It's been good to unplug a bit, but I'm excited to share all of these wonderful stories and places with you!

I’m going to just make a long story short: there was nothing Xpress about the Ferry Xpress. (Never mind the alternative affordable option being bushwhacking through 80ish kilometers of jungle.) And in all fairness, it's not really the Ferry Xpress's fault - it's Panama's fault. 

It is unlikely that the Ferry Xpress will return to service the Colon, Panama > Cartagena, Colombia route again (they weren’t making enough money) and therefore, my giving you a blow-by-blow account of the process, like I have with other border crossings, will only serve to bore you and re-frustrate me since folks from this point forward will have to cross the Darien Gap using the Stahlratt or by shipping.

Waiting and waiting and waiting to get on-board the Ferry Xpress.

Over the course of 8 hours, we were subjected to some of the most inept bureaucratic BS we have encountered with any border crossing so far. (Big thanks to Yankee Goes South for warning us not to get to the port any earlier than 11am - the Ferry Xpress office tells you that you need to be there at 8am.. so then it would have been 11 hours of BS and I likely would have yelled back at the “officials” who thought the best way to handle 50+ foreigners whose first language in not Spanish was to scream at them. Yes, because that helps us all to understand that after 7 hours of waiting around it’s all of the sudden time to rush towards the ferry that has been sitting 100 feet away all day. Riiiiggghttt.

Anyway, ineptitude.

As soon as we stepped foot on the ferry, I popped a Dramamine. We found a seat and within moments the meds kicked in and I was passed out in the comfy reclining chair. At some stage, Roel blew up our NEMO pads and Fillos, unrolled my sleeping bag and somehow maneuvered my body onto the pad between the rows of seats. (I think most people had opted to upgrade for a cabin, which left us with nearly a full row of seats to ourselves.)

Port of Colon

Our pads were practically camouflaged between the ferry rows

14 hours later, I awoke to freshly brewed coffee (yes, I really am very spoiled) and enjoyed the rest of the ferry ride. Roel, unaffectedly by sea-sickness, roamed the ship for much of the night and day and was quite impressed by the boat.

When we arrived in Cartagena, we rode the bikes off of the boat and onto a holding pier. We went through Migracion, and then handed over our bike paperwork, etc. to a DIAN official who took care of arranging our bike importation (they even paid for copies to be made for us - lovely!).


Everything was going smoothly until only half of the group got insurance paperwork and we were told that the insurance office had only been able to process half of them before closing. CLOSING until 11am the next day!!!

Walking back to the ferry and our rides while the sun sets behind the port. About to find out that only half of us have gotten lucky.

So thus began the process of figuring out where to leave Roel’s bike (I had insurance). Against our norm, we had booked/paid for a hotel room and 1. wanted a shower and 2. didn’t want to lose out on the $25. The other stranded overlanders offered to keep an eye on the Twin and after we locked him up with every lock we had available, we headed into the city for our first night in Colombia.

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