March 24 – April 10
Panama City (still)
This is the week that our entire trip is hinging on – finding, buying, and outfitting a vehicle. This vehicle must be big enough to be comfy, mechanically sound enough to get us home, and angry enough to conquer the mud and dust and roads we will throw at it. I think we can safely say we have found it; the story continues… in Part II.
It took us much longer than we expected to find something suitable but it wasn’t for lack of trying. We expected to have issues with paperwork, not with even just finding a vehicle. We have discovered that Panama has a culture of inadequate car maintenance. The motto here is, “If it’s broke, don’t fix it”, just slap a shiny paint job on it and sell it.
We wandered all over the used car lots, spending many sweaty, sweaty days talking to used car salesmen trying to sell us cars with the handles falling off and the wires loose (we didn’t even look under their hoods). Brett spent entire days online, picking through the ads, and organizing meet ups with the few that responded. For an entire week or more we had no real success stories, or even the scent of success. This was a sobering experience.
This past week was crunch time. We either sort out which vehicle we want, or we completely change plans and skateboard home. (Brett will tell you I forced him into it, I will say we made the most excellent choice out of our options).
So which one did we choose???
We want to introduce you to “Suetre”(or lucky in Spanish) our little white Asian dream. Although not exactly what we wanted, we are sure she can conquer the roads. The money we saved on it we can reinvest in the things that need fixing like the windshield and transmission. She has a giant back for us to build a bed, she has room for a roof top tent, and although we haven’t ever heard of the brand – we are told she is a good one. Only 300,000km, on a 3 cylinder, 3 speed diesel engine. VROOOM. We are so excited to the experience her. What do you think?
Did you think the story really ended there? Obviously we didn’t buy that hunk of junk!
We bought the most excellent truck, from the most excellent people! We are now the proud owners of Pablo, named for you guessed it Pablo Escobar. He is big, he is bad, he is one tricky son of a bitch and %$*! was he hard to find.
Pablo is a 1999 Toyota 4Runner; 260 000km on 4 cylinder, 5 speed diesel. It was the daily commuter and expedition truck for a wonderful Venezuelan named Antonio (or Toquin as everyone calls him, IG: toquin608). Toquin works with Procars Panama (IG: procars_panama) a Venezuelan business operating out of the city. Toquin put his heart and soul into this truck, and also tons of offroad extras. It was literally the most well maintained vehicle we looked at, but lucky for us also came fully equipped: Bushbar, snorkle, lift, suspension, sexy back bumper, and 16 “tires… the list goes on, and on, and on. Pablo is big and bad.
We added a few things too, in order to spruce it up prior to driving north. We added significant window tinting for the hot and insecure places we are about to drive through (some of which we know we have to peel off due to regulations at the US border), a roof top tent, a hidden safe bolted to the floor, and a custom built bed/storage unit in the back that Brett just happened to throw together. Thanks to Cruiserheads Panama (another Venezuelan company, IG cruiserheads.com_panama) for hooking us up with the goods and letting us take over their shop for 3 days!
We also spent 2 days meticulously peeling off the Procars advertisement that happened to cover over 50% of the truck….
Paperwork is in process; as of today we will have it (Panama is a bureaucratic nightmare). The exportation paperwork will happen over the next week or so. By time Brett returns…. we foresee smooth sailing (with expectations the border will prove annoying no matter what paperwork we have)!
Carlos and Rui applying the requisite Procars decal.
We like the entitle this one the “shotgun sale”
Rui, Jessica, Brett, Toquin, and Pablo our new Venezuelan offroad family. We count ourselves extremely lucky to have found these guys, if anyone else is overlanding through Panama city and need a tune up, or a serious fix these are the people to go to. Contact Procars or Cruiserheads Panama for your 4×4 needs!