We chose the Peublito Playa Hotel in Bocagrande, Cartagena because Trip Advisor said it was pet friendly and had parking. The traffic in Cartagena was a nightmare last time through, so we were relieved when we managed to get to Bocagrande and we managed to find the hotel. We felt a little dubious because it was located on the 3rd floor of a shop and office building, but were greeted so warmly that we knew we had come to a good place. When we walked in, the owner, Brian and the manager, Carlos, poured us juice and treated us like old friends.
As we checked In, Capi looked miserable. A vet had just given her a clean bill of health that morning, but she was panting, scratching and depressed. I asked Brian about a vet. He phoned his vet, made an appointment and took us there by taxi. The vet did blood tests and phoned us later to say Capi had Lyme disease, carried by ticks. Although she has constantly been on Advantix and various other flea and tick preventatives, we had found ticks on her while we were in Peru. We went back to the vets the next morning for antibiotics. They bathed her and applied Advocate, a different version of Avantix, and we got another health certificate.
Monday morning we had to go to the Colombian food and animal inspection agency at the Port, ICA, get documents from them and then drive 2 ½ hours to the Panamanian Consulate in Barranquilla. We had to be at the Consulate before noon then wait 4 hours to get the documents authenticated. We had to do it Monday as the ICA certificate had to be issued within 3 days of departure, and we were departing Tuesday. As well, we needed to get the shipping documents from Rozo, the Maritime Agency that arranges the Bill of Lading for the truck, and we were told those documents then had to go to the Colombian Agency called DIAN for yet another document needed to get into the port and onto the Ferry.
We consulted with Brian, and decided we needed a taxi to make it to Barranquilla on time. The taxi we hired wasn’t able to take us to Barranquilla; for that we needed a special taxi, so we had to change cabs. Then the new cabbie was confused and started for Barranquilla before we had gone to ICA. So we got a late start, the Port office was busy, and when we finally got to see a veterinarian from ICA he said we needed a ticket for the dog from FerryXpress before he would issue the document. We told him we weren’t going to get the ticket until we had the documents and he had to provide the documents. With the help of two understanding women from the Port, he finally agreed, but said we had to pay for the documents at the Port’s bank before he could issue them. Bill rushed over to the bank. Nancy and Capi pressured the ICA veterinarian and Bill returned to say the bank wouldn’t let him in the door because he didn’t have cargo in the Port. The ladies intervened again, and, armed with the documents, Nancy took off in the taxi for Barranquilla at 09:20, while Bill and Capi took another cab to Rozo. By the end of the day we had everything we needed. Cost of documents and taxis: about $500.00. Feeling of being ready to go: priceless.
The next morning we said our goodbyes to Brian, his wife and staff, and headed to the Ferry. When we got to the appropriate Port office, the lady at the counter directed us to go to the FerryXpress office in a shopping mall saying the ferry was not arriving until the evening. A gentleman who spoke English stepped in, and determined the ferry had not left Colon because of bad weather and the sailing from Cartagena to Colon had been cancelled. The next sailing for vehicles was in a week.
In a mild state of shock, we went to the Port office to talk to ICA. Our pal the vet showed up and, with the help of the ladies told us they would issue a document to attach to our document explaining the dog’s departure had been delayed. So we had a week to enjoy Cartagena. We headed back to the Pueblito Playa and were greeted with enthusiasm. It’s so good to have a home.
Later that day we received an e-mail from FerryXpress saying the ferry wasn’t going to sail that day and they had to change our ticket. In a subsequent e-mail our agent dropped the bomb “Am not able to add a pet in the reservation yet because we are unavailable to transport pets. Thanks. “
With the help and pressure and advice from the best people in the world, FerryXpress finally agreed to take Capi. We are very grateful to everyone who got involved to help us.
After we finally sailed on March 17th, FerryXpress announced that they have reduced the number of sailings and will be shutting down “for the season” in 5 weeks. The news is not surprising, as there were only about 100 passengers and just 6 cars and 6 motorbikes on board. The trip takes 18 hours. The vessel carries about 30 crew, plus takes on a pilot for entering and leaving Cartagena. It is beautifully finished with carpeting, wood paneling and etched glass. There are 3 restaurants where you can get everything from cocktails to cappuccinos, sushi, pizza, fancy salads and desserts, as well as a buffet. There is a ballroom for kids, a disco, numerous staterooms, 10 decks, huge open areas and a gift store that sells Venetian glass earrings. The Panamanian climate has played havoc with the steel, which, in the 4 months since we last saw it, has deteriorated horribly. The boisterous passengers have left their mark as well, with dented panelling, stained carpets and abused washrooms.
As dogs are supposed to be left in kennels at the stern, and Capi doesn’t like to be left anywhere, never mind in a kennel, we bought hammocks and strung them up in the dog area. Our kennel was a great place to store our overnight bags, and the hammocks were far more comfortable than the staterooms.
Cartagena is like Victoria mixed with Trinidad, with tourists everywhere. It has a beautiful old walled town and an amazing fort and good restaurants and shopping. Most of all it feels safe. The most dangerous thing in Cartagena seems to be the traffic, and we quickly learned to scuttle across roads along with the locals.
The weather in Cartagena would be perfect, except for the humidity. We were dripping wet most of the time. Capi’s belly was constantly damp, and we all consumed litres of water each day.
On a trip to old town, Nancy saw a group of people who looked strangely familiar, yet there was no one she recognized. There were about 20 of them on a tour, all of whom looked out of place and slightly stressed: some tired and cranky, some drenched in sweat, some pale and sun-burned. They looked like Canadians. She realized she looked just like them. For the first time she realized what she looked like to the locals. Gringo, Gringa and dog.