The most important thing we needed right now was a clean, dry and secure place in which we could work on the car and get it fixed. Without this, we would simply not be able to make any progress in fixing the car’s ailments. In addition, we also needed a place for us to stay as for the last few nights we were staying in a hotel which was seriously depleting the bank account; we needed to find somewhere cheaper to stay like we had done for the previous week. So with this in mind, we split up into various formations and went forth into the city to tackle these two problems.
One option we were offered, and something which we found very exciting and appealing, was the offer from the local naval base (the largest naval base in Colombia actually) to give us facilities to work on the car and to store it. Not only were the facilities likely to be excellent, but the “cool” factor of having access to a secure military base was particularly appealing, with several of the team fantasising about getting a ride on a frigate and playing with the cannons etc. We’re still little boys at heart as you can see! With these exciting thoughts in mind, we went over to the base to talk to the necessary people.
Upon arriving, our contact there, Fabian, asked why we hadn’t brought the car with us. We explained that we needed to check where we could store the car, and if there were any steps, ramps or other obstacles which we’d have to cross. He looked a little confused, “Why do you need to check these things?” he asked. We explained to him that the ground clearance is very low and that if there are ramps or whatever that are very steep, we may have a problem getting the car into the garage.
But Fabian still looked confused. “Can’t you just carry it?” he asked. It was our turn to look confused; there were clearly some crossed wires here! I asked whether or not he had actually seen a picture of the car, to which he said he hadn’t. So I showed him a picture of the car; his expression was priceless! “It’s a real car!” he exclaimed, “It seats 2 people!” By this time we were wondering what compound this guy had been smoking because this wasn’t making any sense to us! But finally the story came out that he had been told that it was a remote control car, and that we just needed a cupboard to store it in!
We had a good laugh about it and Fabian was very embarrassed, but after accepting that we needed an altogether different facility, he began asking around. He said he would give us a call when he’d found something, and so we agreed to meet up later. In order to maximise our time, Andy and I spent the next few hours with Javier viewing several apartments. We did actually find a nice one that would do very well, but unfortunately had no Internet which for us is an absolute necessity rather than a luxury; without it we would have no possibility of coordinating the rest of our trip. And after more apartment/hotel viewing, we had found nothing appropriate for either our needs or our budget.
So we drove back to the naval base to pick up Nik and Toby who were, by this time, viewing a more appropriate facility to keep the car in. But upon seeing their faces we could tell that they had also been unsuccessful. It turned out that while they had an excellent facility there, the navy had a big delivery of new engines coming into that garage on Monday, from which point there would not be enough space for us. This, coupled with the fact that the base security was very high and likely to hinder us on a daily basis, keeping the car here to work on it was just not practical. So far, a very unsuccessful day!
Our last option, but one that hadn’t been suggested yet, was keeping the car in the car park of Javier’s university campus here in the city. Upon going to check the place out, it turned out to be every bit the garage we needed! Secure, dry, cafe and toilets very near by; essentially everything we needed to work our magic on the car and to get it back to its former glory! We confirmed with the boss and security that we could have 2 parking spaces in the garage, and that it would be cordoned off to prevent people interfering with the car while it’s under reconstruction. With this all sorted out, we agreed to meet Javier at the SRZero at 9pm in order to tow the car the short distance to its new home. The late time was to minimise the problems we would have by towing in the heavy traffic that was present at the time. And a little note about the traffic and driving here in Cartagena; it’s really really crazy! We thought Mexico City was bad, but this is worse by far and definitely at the bottom end of the driving skills we have seen on the 9 countries we have passed through!
Anyway, with a few hours to wait until we towed the car, we all reconvened at the hotel to carry on with the admin side of the project; blogs, emails, talking to journalists, photo editing, video diaries, website development etc; there is always something to do and we are never just sitting around and twiddling our thumbs! Good things were happening though; we found an apartment to stay in, and the money from our Capris sponsorship came into our account, and this will help us a lot with the finances.
To top off a rapidly improving day, we met Javier at the SRZero at 9pm, and began towing the car to the university around a mile or so away. With the wild driving styles found in these parts, towing an immobile vehicle is actually very difficult and certainly quite dangerous. But it went absolutely to plan, and within a very short space of time we rolled the car into its new home, ready for a new lease of life!
The mood is very upbeat here. The worst feeling in the world is knowing that something is wrong, but knowing that there’s nothing you can do to fix it. This is what we had when we had no place to store the car other than a wet, desolate and dodgy car park on the seafront. But with us now having a proper place to work and a nice place to stay ourselves, we could now start doing something proactive with the car, and this was a very good feeling indeed!
A massive thanks to Javier for helping us out with every aspect of today’s proceedings…we appreciate it a huge amount!