From Colombia to Panama in a Bolivian cargo ship

Some miracles are difficult to explain. Surprises, unexpected events, wishes could change into a dirty or brilliant page of your story. Hopes of being promoted to Aladino’s rank/status. Only the use of the word, miracle, comes with the image of a bearded Christian God, as if the Old Man was the only one authorized by the universe laws. But the chance to break the bank or that number 25 comes at first chance, in between all the 37 numbers of the roulette/wheel, doesn’t have anything to do with religion but with the number/amount of times you try. With persistence and mathematic probability.

Finding a ship to take us from Colombia to Panama was easy. There are companies specialized on that. The difficulty was that Plan B would work: find a company who said ‘I take you because I like what you are doing’; or ‘I take you because you must be crazy’; or ‘I take you because of your bowls or by my bowls’, like director of Pescanova in Southern Africa said and embarked us in one of the fishing vessels of the fleet in an endless trip between Cape Town and Bahia Blanca, south of Buenos Aires province. The Plan B resulted in 23 days of pure ocean, too much water.

This time Benny said

–      What? Nine years on the road? I’ll take you to Panama on my ship. I’m going to help you. And you don’t have to pay anything.

Plan B is the alternative way of doing things. Today, crisis era by the excess of consumerism, dawn of internet shopping, is easy to accomplish your wishes when you are ready to pay they ask for. The hard part is to get the same thing in good faith, good vibe. For complicity. Porque sí. Why not?

It is in these occasions, always prompted, when you believe again in the capacity of each one of us, glad of being sinners, of working unforgettable miracles. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Animist, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, practicing Atheist, relaxed Buddhist or Colombian Muslim like Benny, our miracle producer between South and Central America.

Despite Benny’s good intentions  it wasn’t easy to board in the Intrepide, a Colombian ship with Bolivian flag.

(Every time I imagine the overseas fleet of the great country of the heights, my legs shake. Either we had travelled thru time to before the Pacific War in 1870, when Bolivia lost his sea access, or we were again in Titicaca Lake. There weren’t many options).

The departure from Puerto Nuevo was delayed week after week during a month and a half. The initial good luck was fading day by day, the ship had suffered various damages and stomach aches that were preventing the trip. It was a matter of time, will, patience and persistence. It was to believe in Plan B.

Believe, like when we’ve been a month travelling along Ecuador coast line looking for a ship to go to Galapagos Islands. (See Galapagos Islands in a cargo ship) Believe, everything can be possible. But believe in ourselves. The Old Man has already too many miracles to attend there.

When the big day arrived, yes, we are leaving, shit, we are leaving, no one knew exactly which papers we had to fill. Puerto Nuevo had never been used to bring a vehicle to Panama. Everything looked difficult, complicated. Any suddenly unexpected issue could had happened and we could have stayed on land.

For instance, there was no ramp to drive the van into the ship, only a crane, and was never used to lift something as heavy as a vehicle. The user’s manual of the last century said it should resist/endure.

For instance, three hours before leaving we still hadn’t a permit from the port to ship the van. For instance, the Captain of the ship, Alberto, didn’t know he would have two new crew members.

Now, a month later and with the miracle achieved, I understand why we were intercepted by a North American patrol in the Caribbean  international waters: it wasn’t normal that a ship like the Intrepide carried a van secured in the deck; two, we were leaving Colombia in a Bolivian ship, the two biggest exporters of white dust in the world.

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Pablo Rey (Buenos Aires) and Anna Callau (Barcelona) also known as #viajeros4x4x4, have been overlanding the world non stop since 2000 on a 4WD Delica van. They mastered the art of solving problems (breakdowns and police harassment, between them) in far away places, while enjoying their nomadic lifestyle.

They’ve been 3 years driving through Middle East and Africa, between Cairo and Cape Town; 7 years all around South America, and 7 years going to every corner of Central and North America. They crossed the Southern Atlantic Ocean in a fishing vessel, descended an Amazon river in a 6 log wooden raft, and walked with a swiss knife between elephants in wild Africa. On the last two years they started to travel by foot (Pyrenees mountains coast to coast, two months) and motorbike (Asia), with the smallest lugagge possible.

Pablo has written three books in Spanish (one translated in English), many articles to magazines like Overland Journal and Lonely Planet and both are in the short list of the most respected latino overlanders.

¿When will the journey end? It doesn’t end, the journey is life itself.

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