Panama Part Two: David.
If you'll remember last week that Danielle and I were in Panama City and, once again, debating our options on what to do with ourselves and Bilbo. Our choice of options had been narrowed down due to the fact Bilbo wasn't allowed back into Costa Rica because of me cancelling the Temporary Import Permit as opposed to leaving it open. Thus, we were left with the option of storing the vehicle in Panama, or selling the vehicle.
One thing I forgot to mention in the last blog was that for a couple days we had actually left Panama City and drove a bit North into the 'burbs to stay in a couple's Airbnb for far cheaper than staying in Panama City. While we were there we didn't due too much aside from work on our computers. Notably, however, we gave ourselves a timeline and added a lot more stress to our lives by booking plane tickets out of Panama City for the 8th back home to Victoria, BC.
Anyway, with no option of driving out of Costa Rica in the next three month and plane tickets booked home with no cancellation insurance we needed to figure something out yesterday. We'd heard the best place to store a vehicle was at the Aduana in David, and so I posted a for sale ad up on the web and we headed to David.
I'd had a bite on the ad from some American Expat in David so I messaged him saying that we were coming his way and planned to meet up. I'm not going to go into every little detail that transpired between us but after three full days of frigging around with him, customs workers, and importers, he essentially backed out of the sale. It was very frustrating to waste a few days with this guy leading me on and running me around the David area, but little did I know how frustrating it was to become.
So, with the American expat backing out, I had to find someone else to buy Bilbo. Thus, I threw an ad up on a Panamanian classifieds site, encuentra24.com, with an incredibly low asking price of USD$1500. I got quite a few hits from the ad but one response in particular I followed through with.
But let's back up a bit. As you know, Bilbo was a Canadian vehicle, registered in Canada. This meaning that for me to legally sell him in Panama, meant the buyer, in order to legally purchase the vehicle and to insure it, would need to import Bilbo to Panama. Now, I'd done some research as well as, at this point, after frigging around with the American, found that the total import fees would be in the area of USD$1500. So quite a bit of money, but all things considered, still a damn good deal for Bilbo. I should note that in my ad I did mention this detail about the importing.
Now, back to the story. I had a message, I'm not sure if on encuentra24 or on Facebook, from a Dutch guy who's father-in-law lived at hour from David in Boquette. I can't exactly remember his name but I think the Dutch guy's name was Mark, so we'll call him that. Anyway, Mark's father-in-law owned a coffee farm and was looking for a vehicle suitable for moving coffee beans around to replace his rusted out Landcruiser. So, Mark's father-in-law, Fernandino, came, with his wife, to our hotel and checked out Bilbo. Oh, and neither of them spoke any English. After checking it out for a couple minutes, Mark called me over wifi and, through his wife, translated what Fernandino had to say: he was interested in the vehicle but could only offer USD$800. Fine, whatever I'm desperate here and don't care, let's make it happen.
Now Mark assured me that Fernandino had done his research and knew how to get the vehicle out of my name and into his. He also assured me that he could do all of this up in Boquette, despite me reading online that the transfer must be done at a customs office (Aduana). What I had read was this: for me to sell my foreign vehicle to a Panamanian I had to get a notarized bill of sale, and give that, plus the registration, plus the vehicle import permit, to the Aduana, whereby they stamp my passport saying the vehicle is no longer mine, and they take possession of it. Once that's been done, the buyer must then complete the importation process through a customs broker, and then pay the importation fee and take possession of the vehicle. However, the seller of the vehicle does not have to be involved once their passport has been stamped. This entire process should take only one day and be fairly simple – if only that had been the case. Regardless, we arranged that I would meet Fernandino in Boquette the next day and we'd complete the sale.
The next day Danielle and I drove to Boquette with plans of selling the vehicle and busing back down together. We arrived and found Fernandino. He took us to a Municiple office where we spent about 30 minutes talking to a lady who had no idea what she was doing and was in no way involved with customs. I'm still not sure what she was and I don't know why we went there, but from there we followed Fernandino to a random hardware store (I don't know why). At the hardware store I was able to find someone fluent in both Spanish and English who translated for me what I believed we had to be doing. That didn't get us very far until we were able to get a hold of Mark on the phone. Mark told me that Fernandino wanted to go talk to a customs broker so we were to go there. Okay, sure. We then came to find that she wasn't located in Boquette town centre, but instead a few minutes away. This was a problem given Bilbo only had two seats and therefore Danielle took the bus alone back to David and Fernandino and I headed to the customs broker's.
We arrived at a some lady's house who sat us in the kitchen and started asking me (in Spanish) if I had some form, showing me an example. I told her no, because I'd never seen that form before. After many minutes of trying to communicate this, she called someone on her phone who could translate. I told the mystery phone lady I didn't have the form (I still don't know exactly what the form was but I think they thought the vehicle was Costa Rican or Panamanian or something). Eventually the custom broker's son showed up and helped me translate. For some reason they then had a moment of clarity and took some copies of Bilbo's documents from me and sent Fernandino and me on our way to David to the Aduana. Before I left, the customs broker told me to make sure Fernandino payed me before I signed over anything at the Aduana.
We then began heading to David, with it already approaching mid-day. However, Fernandino took me (by means of point when to turn right or left) to his mother's house to have lunch and give me some coffee. This took probably 45 minutes.
We then reached the Aduana where no one on this day spoke English. What a mess this became. I'm not sure why, but instead of just doing the signing they sent us to some municipal building. Fernandino spoke to someone there, and then we went a block over to some random office (non-governmental) where some lady asked to look at my forms. From there we went to the notary (finally we're getting somewhere).
At the notary we were supposed to have some kind of appointment that Fernandino's wife, who met us there, had arraigned. However, the lady was very late, and when she finally did show up wouldn't notarize the form. I'm not sure why she was refusing (again she didn't speak English). Then, Fernandino was finally able to get a hold of Mark on his cell phone (which he didn't know how to use). I explained to Mark what was happening and he got his wife to talk to Fernandino. I'm not sure what was said, but we left that particular lady's office and went to the main desk where promptly we were able to get a bill of sale notarized and signed by all parties.
At this point I thought we were finally getting close but the day was running short and the Aduana was to close at 4 and it was getting close to that. On the phone at the notary, Mark had told me that once we had a bill of sale notarized we would head to the bank and Fernandino would pay me. So we headed to the bank and found a huge line up running outside the building. There were a couple ATMs in front of the building but apparently Fernandino wouldn't or couldn't use them so had to wait in line. By the time he got out of the building, it was well past four.
Fernandino insisted we drive back to the Aduana, which, of course, was closed and it was a Friday. We got a hold of Mark and explained the situation. We arranged to meet at the hotel on Monday morning at 9:00 and then we'd head to the Aduana and get it sold.
I drove back to the hotel to find Danielle. Danielle explained that on the bus she'd been harrassed by some creepy dude who kept touching her leg and trying to see her phone as well as tell her that he loved her. Once she finally got to David she booked it off the bus as the guy tried to follow her. She hailed a cab and luckily made it to the hotel without problem. A shitty day for the both of us but at least Fernandino and his wife offered to take us to dinner at a small soda where we got fried chicken. Fernandino ate everything, bones and all. It was somewhat awkward as we could only communicate in broken Spanish on our end and very broken English on Fernadino's wife's end but whatever.
When Monday March 6th (I've lost count and honestly think the day-count has been wrong for some time now) arrived, 9:00 came and went with no Fernandino. I got a hold of Mark and apparently Fernadino had gone straight to the Aduana – are you kidding me? I booked it to the Aduana to find him and we once again spoke to the lady who didn't speak English. I finally thought we were going to be finished but instead no, we had to run around David again for another entire day. Honestly the details are fuzzy but we once again drove to multiple places frigging around unnecessarily for god knows what reason. Here's a few of the stops I can remember:
One was a random guy's place out in the ghetto. I have no idea why we went here. Fernandino just yapped to some guy for a bit and then we left. What the hell?
Another stop we made, that was apparently actually a necessary one was to go back to the municipal office I'd visited on Friday to get what I believe was essentially another Bill of Sale. This, of course, took a bit of time as no one really knew what they were doing.
Perhaps the most frustrating stop was the police station where apparently the vehicle needed to get inspected. This is where I knew something was very wrong and I was indeed wasting my time as there was no reason I needed to get the vehicle inspected. I knew that the Aduana lady had sent Fernandino here because he'd need it inspected to get it registered in Panama, but I didn't need to be involved with this process. The police officers told Fernandino that they only do inspections on Thursdays and he'd have to come back then. Of course they didn't speak English. I was finally able to get Fernandino to leave and I demanded we drive back to the Aduana.
Back at the Aduana a miracle happened. As I and Fernandino sat in the office wasting time as the lady and him fussed over what to do and I became increasingly frustrated. I noticed a white guy looking a bit pissed off waiting there beside me. I asked him if he spoke English and he did. I then asked if he would be able to translate for me and he said yes. Through the Coloradan I was basically able to tell the Aduana lady what needed to happen and how to do her job. Apparently this is all she needed and all of a sudden my passport was stamped. Finally Fernandino payed me the USD$800 and I was free. I chatted a bit with the Coloradan and thanked him profusely. I then booked it out of there and tried to get back to the hotel as fast as my legs would take me because it was 13:47 and check-out at our hotel was at 14:00. I jogged back to the hotel to find that Danielle had already checked out of the hotel and all our stuff and her were waiting in the lobby.
From the hotel (which we'd stayed at for many many days), we got a cab to the bus terminal to make the long journey to Panama City. Before we continue the story I should mention that while in David, when we weren't frigging around with the American or Fernandino, we did a tonne of computer work, walked around quite a bit, saw The Great Wall and Logan in the theatre (we actually saw three movies while in Panama including John Wick 2 while in Panama City), and on one of our very last days in David, drove a bit out of town to spend a day at the beach.
Anyway, we arrived at the bus terminal with our two large backpacks, our two small backpacks, the Pelican case we'd had on the roof, and a snowboard bag stuffed with the traction pads plus a bunch of stuff that didn't fit elsewhere. As we were just loading stuff onto the bus, the latter bad ripped completely. Thinking quickly I used two bike lock chain things to wrap around what was left and try to seal it up – surprisingly I don't think I lost a thing.
After many hours (and many Spanish-dubbed movies) later, we arrived in Panama City at around midnight. From there we caught a cab back to La Cresta Inn (where else?) where we stayed from the night of the 6th, to the early morning of the 8th. Early the 8th we grabbed breakfast and caught the hotel's airport shuttle to Tocumen International Airport. We arrived early and got in line before our check in was even open yet. I'd done the math and for all our extra bags and oversized/overweight ones, we were looking at spending +USD$400 to bring it all home. Luckily however, the guy checking us in either didn't care or didn't know and it only cost us USD$80 to bring all our stuff home. We were stoked.
After a few hour layover in Miami, we arrived in Seattle quite late at night. Luckily we didn't have to recheck our baggage and so we left Sea-Tac in the frozen night and got some sleep at a nearby airport hotel. The next day, March 9th, 2017, after almost exactly six months on the road, Danielle and I touched down in Victoria International Airport to be picked up by Danielle's mother and grandparents. As we drove home it snowed.
Okay so as for the photos. Because of all the frustration and confusion that surrounded this period of time I actually took zero photos with my camera. I did, however, take a few with my phone which I will attach below. The first of which are ones I forgot to add last post and are actually from Panama City.