13 – 17 October – OUT OF HERE!!!!!
Just a short update to let you know that we have finally got the Toyota off the dock and will be back on the road tomorrow morning.
After our return from Galapagos, we have been hanging around, waiting for phone calls and going backwards and forward to the docks and the agents. JC has been enjoying the South American football and celebrated with the waiters and bar staff when Ecuador beat Chile 1 – 0 - sadly later this week they lost to Venezuela and it looks like they are now out of the World Cup! When I went to meet him at the bar there were no other customers, just JC, his Heineken, the kitchen staff, the bar staff and the waiters – who needs to speak Spanish – football is the same all over the world.
The following day we had been told that the agent would go to the port in the morning to deal with the customs documents and then collect us in the afternoon to go there too, hopefully for the inspection. No such luck – we are beginning to learn the true meaning of “manyana” – anytime you like!! When we called the agent in the afternoon, everything had been put back by one day – but no one had told us. They told us they would email or call us with new information the following morning. Guess what – no call so we enlisted the help of Andrea the receptionist at the hotel just in case things were getting lost in translation. She spoke to the agent who needed some extra documents and money! Within twenty minutes we were at their office with everything they needed and sat around waiting, first being told we would have to go to the port the following morning and then shortly afterwards being told we could go that afternoon at 3pm – at last something was starting to move!!
We arranged to meet Xavier at the port and whilst he was dealing with the various documents, we met up with Chad and Anna doing the same thing. Things were looking a bit desperate as the time went on, people started to leave their offices for the day and we were still hanging around with a bunch of other agents all trying to get seen before 5pm. Chad and Anna got through and we made it too with the determined efforts of Xavier. As they locked the doors around us we got the vehicle stamped into JCs passport and our permit to drive the vehicle in Ecuador – ONE STEP CLOSER and tomorrow we are scheduled to meet Xavier at 8am for the customs inspection. We shared a taxi back to town with Chad and Anna and had a few beers together, comparing our experiences and trying to cheer each other up after a long and frustrating day. I had been warned that I won’t be allowed on the dock in my blue shoes and my trainers and boots were inside the truck so we all had a laugh as I went into the Hong Yan shoe shop and bought a pair of trainers from a Chinese lady who could speak neither Spanish nor English. All of the shoes were just in one size so I had to make do with one size too big – but at least they only cost me 6 pounds. Chad and Anna still didn’t know when there inspection would be so at least we were a little further on.
Next morning, in my new shoes and two pairs of John’s socks, we were up and away early to meet Xavier. It was an interesting start to the day. First we got our reflective jackets and hard hats. Then we waited in line with a lot of temporary port workers to get our passes. Fingerprints of both index fingers and a photograph were taken before we were issued with a pass code to get a little bit nearer to our goal! As we drove inside the dock compound JC was in his element and was rubber necking all over the place. I think he would just have gone round and round all day on the bus if he had had the chance! Finally, off the bus we wandered amongst a long line of containers until we found ours – it would be good to see the Toyota again after all this time and we waited impatiently for the police and customs to come along. The seal was broken and the dock crew were all over the inside looking for the chassis number and engine number. We were concerned what might be going on inside of the vehicle at that time but fortunately we had not left anything portable lying about! When they couldn’t find the engine number JC did his panto trick and climbed up on the top of the vehicle to point them in the right direction!
We must have looked honest people, as the customs did not even ask us to open the back of the truck which was all securely locked up. Xavier told us later that the policeman had thought JC was the ship’s Captain – maybe that helped. A check of the numbers and the container was sealed up again to be moved off the dock. Apparently they move the goods off the dock for security reasons. We handed in our dock workers gear and headed back to our agents office with Xavier and the driver from Hell! In his tiny Chevrolet, talking all of the time to Xavier and not watching the road, he wove in and out of lanes at great speed. We began to wonder where we would end up, at MSL Ecuador, the hospital or the morgue!! Thankfully we reached MSL in one piece and, after paying the transport costs, headed back to the hotel for lunch with arrangements made to meet Xavier at 3pm back at the dock to get the container and the vehicle off the dock. NEARLY THERE!!!
What is it they say about the best laid plans……..??? Just as we sat down to lunch we had a phone call to say that there was too much traffic on the port that afternoon and we would have to wait until the following morning. Oh, how we longed for a Coxy motor and trailer and we could have sorted it all ourselves!. JC says they must have booked Readers and not Coxy’s. So, there we were stuck for another day. The hotel could not give us the same room for another night so we had to move the following morning. You can only begin to imagine how we felt. Chad and Anna had not fared much better, they had hung around all day waiting for news.
As check out time at the hotel is not until 3pm I had thought that we could leave the stuff in our room and then shift it when we got back from the dock, as our arrangement was to meet Xavier at 10am – surely it could not take that long to move a container off the dock and then de-stuff it? Usually the optimist, JC convinced me that after everything else we could have another long day so we were up early, packed the suitcases, left them for the porter to move later and headed for what we hoped would be our last ever visit to Guayaquil port. As we waited for Xavier at our usual spot – people are starting to get to know us now – we spotted five grassy mounds in front of the bank. JC reckoned these were the graves of overlanders who have gone before us and died waiting for their vehicles to be imported! At least we still have a sense of humour.
First problem for Xavier the shippers in Panama had only shown the weight of the cargo as 2,100 kilos and when it was weighed at the dock it was 3,600 kilos – we faced the possibility of another inspection!!!! JC, however, remembered that the Carnet de Passage shows the vehicle weight as 2,800 and I explained this plus the weight of the personal effects and roof tent etc to Xavier. He went back in and HOORAY we got away with a $28 fine to alter the documents. As usual all of this took time with multitudinous copies of everything to be made, so to keep us cool Xavier left us in a small café cum office at the back of customs. What a place tiny office with internet, phone booths, photocopier, fax machines, plastic tables and chairs, cold drinks, lockers, microwave and very importantly a loo!! The agents on the dock were coming and going using all of the facilities constantly – what a great business the two girls running it were on the go all of the time. It was good that it was cool, as we were to spend a long long time there. When he first left us it was 11.35 and as most things close for lunch at 12.30 we were not hopeful we would see Xavier too soon.
Finally just before 12.30 he came back and gave us the thumbs up – the fine was paid, the documents altered and we had our release pass! Then it was off to find a haulier – Oh for a Coxy truck and trailer – we were told we would have to wait at least another two hours before they had a vehicle available! So it was back to the café to while away the hours watching Game for a Laugh in Spanish and be the centre of attention again – not many other Brits hanging around there I can tell you. Xavier kept coming by to see if we were OK. Funny thing over the past couple of days his confidence in speaking English has improved and he has done very well, asking me for new words – bit of a mix up though over keys and kiss. To pronounce kiss he would say “keees” – sounds a lot like keys and he did wonder what we were on about then! We too, even JC, have learnt a bit more, particularly shipping terms! At 4pm we were told that the truck was loaded on the dock, just stuck in a queue trying to get off so we headed off with Xavier and Johnathan, his helper to catch up with it. All around the outside of the dock, vehicles were waiting to load and offload, some of the oldest trucks I have ever seen – JC even spotted a 140 Scania which must be 35 years old. Still looked good though – you can’t be a Scania as he always says! We wondered how the offloading would go, especially when the haulier kept on asking if JC was happy to drive it off??
As Xavier waited for the truck, JC, Johnathan and I went off by taxi to what looked like a haulage yard. JC was impressed – he thought we might have to take her off in a field somewhere. He was not far wrong. Not in the haulage yard the truck had pulled up in a side street a bit like Abey down Merrick street. Apparently this was a groupage area for goods loading for Quito and Cuenca. There was cargo at the side of the road, one guy with a fork lift, others sitting around watching, run down old trucks, bald tyres and a large “coloured” gentleman with a hacksaw who cut off our seals. Still wondering where the ramp was, we opened the back doors and the driver and Johnathan started to remove the chocks and ropes. Still expecting the ramp to come by fork lift, we waited. The fork lift was there but still no ramp. 15 minutes later a 7.5 ton recovery vehicle arrived. The plan was to put the forks under the recovery vehicle and back the Toyota off the container onto it. No wonder the guy had kept on asking if JC was happy to drive it off! Surrounded by “interested” people we had to have eyes in the backs of our heads to make sure nothing went “walkies”. They all had a laugh when JC rode the lift tines to get into the container and then repeated his journey over the roof to get in. BAD NEWS – flat battery – must have been the dock crew when they were climbing about inside because the lights had been left on and the ignition was left on! Don’t what Spanish is for winch but we got it sorted and JC was winched back onto the truck. I was taking photographs but he says that the best photograph would have been of my face as the tow truck sank when the back wheel of the Toyota went on. Have to admit, I thought it would all just drop onto the ground in a million pieces – but I should have know JC was smiling – he was in his element and after a pantomime of jump leads we were finally up and running to the delight of our audience!!!
Well, we did manage to catch up with Chad and Anna finally that night. They had their inspection and are hoping to get the VW out tomorrow – Chad looked a bit pale when he saw our photos of JC’s exit from the container!!! We were all on a bit of a high last night, despite being tired and the beer went down well. We have all agreed, however, if you ever think of doing this trip GO TO CARTAGENA in Columbia. It’s cheaper and quicker with only an 18 hour sailing time. Having said that, the service we have received from MSL Ecuador has been excellent and Xaviers determination to get us moving as soon as possible has certainly been a great help – we could have been one of the grassy mounds of the future.
JC has had a hair cut today - says that will last him now to the end of the trip. Lucky him - haven't been able to find anyone I'd trust to do my roots or give me a trim so watch out for many bad hair days in the months to come. Off tomorrow to the Northern Andes – not sure what if any Internet connection we will have, so don’t worry if the update takes a bit longer next week. We’ ll be writing it up and taking photos ready for when we have access.
Thanks for all of your messages. Its really great to get them when you are hanging around feeling sorry for yourself.
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