03.06.2012 28 °C
A lot has happened to us since the last blog update. In fact in many ways the last week or two have been the most pivitol of the trip so far. Upon leaving Isla Bastimentos we were due to head to Santa Fe for two days before our trip to Colon to catch the ferry onwards to Colombia. Rather alarmingly though we had started to hear rumours from fellow travellers that the ferry had been delayed once more! The original launch date was May 10th, postponed to May 16th and then finally May 31st (the date we were hoping to travel on). Alas, these chinese whispers proved to be true. Various political permit problems on both the Colombian and Panamanian sides have scuppered the launch date yet again. With much embarrassment, little communication, and lots of money floating about in the ether the Greek shipping company that had built the vessel in question were trying to retain as much credibility as possible from the ensuing fiasco - whilst we were left to piece the news together for ourselves via hear say, internet forums and lots of speculation!
Aborting our trip to Santa Fe we headed straight back to Panama City to claim a refund on our tickets and find a plan for our onward travels. You would think that getting your money back from a service that has clearly not been provided, and for which you have the tickets and receipt, would be fairly easy. Think again! After locating our rather embarrassed tour operators, Adventuras 2000, in the Multicentro shopping mall we were told to go to the Head Office to claim our refund. Clearly the 'alarm bells' were starting to ring for both Charlie and I now and in the back of both our minds was the possibility that we may not get our $388 back! Fortunately for us, and after some very active and persuasive action from Charlie, we were handed a cheque for the full refund amount and subsequently cashed this in at the nearest Banco Nacionale.
So now we were back to square one. 35 days and two countries (that we didn't plan to visit) later, we were no closer to getting to Colombia. We were a lot poorer and also getting short on ideas. The cheapest flight to Bogota from Panama City was now in the region of £500 each and the cheapest yachting option was now about $450 each!! With much trepidation we decided to cut our losses with South America and head home before going back out on the road to Europe. It had become fairly clear that whilst we could still afford to fly to Colombia, the remaining money left in our accounts would no way cover the experiences and adventures that we had left to see and do. However, we knew that the European leg of our trip was very much still alive and financially viable...
...With a swift call to our travel agent, LIz, in London, we actioned our last free flight change and brought forward our flight from Buenos Aires to Sunday 3rd June. All we had to do now was get a flight from Panama City to Buenos Aires at the cheapest possible price. This turned out to be a complete nightmare!
On the morning of June 1st Charlie booked two flights with an online booking company - Rumbo, which were confirmed. Having mentally got prepared to see black cabs and red buses again; and of course family and friends, we got to Panama City airport early. Things went wrong at the check-in desk - they had no account of our booking. After much confusion, spanglish conversations and time ticking, Charlie was asked to go to an office and call the agent for the booking. No response. Emails with passport details ensued, back and forth using a defunct scanner but their response was too slow and we were going to miss our flight, which we did. Phonecards, phone calls to banks, phone calls to other agents....8 hours later, we were still in the airport with no apparent problem with our cards. We tried to book two more flights overnight but we had the same problem. By this point we knew we wouldn't make it to Buenos Airies to get our flight to London, so we would have to cough up and pay about £1300 to get home from Panama City. The booking situation was impossible. It turns out that several companies are willing to 'sell' long haul flights that are due to take off within 24 hours of booking, yet they are unable to offer a 24/7 service to confirm the flight with the airline within 24 hours!! How ridiculous! We could have gone around in more circles like this for days. By this point Charlie was on the red wine and I was downing Panamanian lager in an overpriced airport restaurant we had become far too familiar with. We cut more losses, called another company the next day and booked a flight to...
...Madrid of course!
We are currently a quarter through our journey at Cali Airport, Colombia (how ironic!), waiting for our third flight of the day, to Madrid (the fourth is on to London). We have been living in the 'airport environment' for 30 hours now with another 33 hours to get to London to have a shower. As you can imagine, we won't be making many friends on the plane...or in Madrid.
Aside from the last few days, the last 7 months has been amazing, and while we are sad to be sitting in a Colombian airport without seeing the country we've spent 6 weeks trying to visit, hopefully this blog has made our senseless decisions make sense! Expect the unexpected we were told!
Well, we are now getting really excited about an adventure we didn't think would be possible in this year off. After about a week in London, the journey will continue with a roadtrip through Spain and we will keep going until the wheels fall off....and so will the blog.
Sorry the blog has gone on and on ... it's been groundhog day for a while now and we wanted to paint the picture!
Lots of love to you all and hope you're enjoying the Jubilee weekend,
Charlie & Ross