Diary/Photo Journal

Week of
February 15, 2004

 We flew into Guayaquil and immediately taxied our way over to Trinity's (the shipping company) office.  Now, seeing as we just flew in from the Galapagos Islands and seeing as it is rather warm and tropical, Gerson and I were dressed in shorts and a skirt, respectively.  Unfortunately for Gerson, shorts were "unacceptable" and "inappropriate" clothing in which to enter the shipping office building and he had to make a quick change into jeans (which he fortunately had one pair in his luggage).  This is the second time (the first time was in Panama City) that shorts were not allowed in a business building...so the traveler beware!

We received our papers in about 30 minutes (after paying $65 for Cindy's removal from the ship) and we were off to meet with a shipping agent.  The shipping agent was "not necessary" but if you want to get your vehicle out from the custom's clutches, it certainly helps to have someone on your side who knows the system.  So, for another $150, we hired Shirley (similar to Walter in Panama City) to go to the various custom's offices and to negotiate the storage fee. 

Ahhh, the "storage fee".  We keep repeating to ourselves "We are not in the United States anymore, we are not in the United States anymore".  Why?  Because this is how Ecuador (and Latin America as a whole) works.  Cindy arrived on a Friday and was set onto the port grounds on Saturday.  She was then moved to a "private" storage facility in the port that charges storage for each day Cindy is there (we have absolutely no choice as to where Cindy goes).  We were to be charged up to $70/day for storage but the catch is this...
- It takes at least two days to complete the paperwork for customs and to release the vehicle. 
- This paperwork cannot start until the vehicle arrives and it is confirmed that it has been set in port. 
- Keep in  mind, customs was not open Friday - Sunday so the paperwork cannot even be started until Monday
  and the earliest we could get Cindy out of captivity is on Wednesday. 
Now, lets add that up...Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday = 5 days at $70/day - the storage just made a whopping $350 for storage of Cindy when we could not even think to budge her until the earliest of days on Wednesday.  Do you smell a rat?  "We are not in the United States anymore, we are not in..."

Shirley did negotiate a lower rate based upon the gross vehicle weight and we paid a still outrageous $183.  We also had to pay an additional $25 because we had to be chaperoned to the border by a customs agent (and the fee was to pay his bus ride back).  Now, if it wasn't so ludicrous and laughable, we might have took offense.  Instead, we decided to adopt the man and have fun with it. 

Our chaperone
Agent Moreyra
very nice and
very helpful
Guayaquil's Independence statue
(that's about all that is worth
seeing in the city)

Cindy was released from her hostage status in the late afternoon on Wednesday; however, due to a few "loose ends", we did not leave until the next morning (as we had 24 hours in which to get our unwanted selves over the border).  Now, when I say "loose ends", please insert a sarcastic glare because when we were finally able to look upon and inspect our little girl, what we found was nauseatingly horrifying.

YEP!  You guessed it.  Cindy was bruised, battered and raped while on the ship. 

Let's start with the exterior, shall we?  Inspecting Cindy from behind, you will not suspect anything is amiss, but as soon as you round her rotund hip, you will find a long piece of metal trim partially ripped off her bottom edge.  You will also find the upper roof gutters crushed in various places and the waterproof rubber roof gouged as well.  Going back around the other corner, you will find where the strap bent the entire lower side wall and the same bruises to the roof.

Now, walking to the front of Cindy, you will see nothing wrong with her face or her ears.  With a sigh of relief, you will look up to thank the heavens and Wham! you will be stunned in disbelief at the gaping hole in the upper bunk window.  Looking closely at the 2" hole, you will see that some projectile or rod-like object was carelessly rammed into the window and that will be all - no other evidence will exist that anyone did anything to protect or care for Cindy's extraordinary wound.

Shaking your head in frustration, you will tightly close your eyes and grit your teeth and try to recall if there was any rain in the past ten days and then your head is going to drop to your chest when you remember the wet streets you saw when you came into Guayaquil.

Dreading what you know you will see (and smell) when you inspect the interior of  the warm and well-sealed Cindy, you will take a deep, calming breath as you open the cab door.  Peering inside, you are to be pleasantly reminded of how clean and clutter-free you left the cab area and while you are mentally patting yourself on the back, you will comprehend that it is a little too clean and a little too clutter-free.  Within a couple purposeful blinks, you will notice a new shelf where your stereo/cd player once was and you will see that where you used to stuff that stupid calculator, those little compasses, that little you-can-never-find-it-when-you-need-it-in-the-dark flashlight and your utility knife, is completely empty and ready for more stuff.

Looking at your spouse and feeling your eyes roll upward as your shoulders sag, you will brace yourself for unlocking the side door and the inspection to come.  Since you had cabled, locked and secured the bunk ladder and the curtain across the back of the seats, you will not be able to go through the cab to get into the "house" (gee, dummy you for thinking that!).

So, turning the key on the side door, you are to be pleasantly surprised that the lock opens easily and exhibits no evidence of malice.  The soft breeze will gently carry the door open and thinking that you need to adjust your eyes to the different light inside of Cindy, you will blink and blink and blink but those shadows of objects will not go away - they will just become more clear and more distinct. 

And suddenly, you will hear a voice that sounds suspiciously like yours exclaim "OH SHIT!" and you will wish you could step further inside to look around the corner, but alas you cannot, for there will be so much of everything strewn across your once clear path.  

Through a dumb fog, dawn will finally come to your mind and you will realize Cindy has been violated in the worst way.  She will have been completely and violently rummaged, pillaged, ransacked and raped from top to bottom.  Carefully nudging what was once your clean, nice clothes and your edible foodstuffs and, and, and...out of the entrance, you will subconsciously close your eyes as you inch your head around the corner.  You will not want to see but you know you have to look and then your eyes, through the pain of holding your breath and fighting your tears, will slowly rise to meet the bloody battlefield before you.

Your enlarged pupils will fixatedly stare into the abyss filled with seemingly everything that you could not secure with a cable and/or a lock as they will be tossed like confetti in celebration of the vandal's freedom.  Clothes will have been ripped from their cozy cabinets and drawers and thrown onto every surface, creating a vision of color and texture like a Picasso painting.  Food (that was not eaten by the trespasser(s)) will have been tossed within the layers of clothes, towels, videos, maps, documents, books, games, utensils, tools, bags, tupperware, cleansers, sponges, sheets, and even your bar-b-que.  

In a nauseated stumble, you will fall out of Cindy and clumsily land on the ground while being held in the gaze of 20 or so port and/or storage facility employees that are wondering why you appear to be drunk.  You will look at your spouse and be reassured that they know how you are feeling and you will ask "WHY!" and follow that profound statement up with "WHERE DO WE START?".

You will then be told that you must leave the port storage area and that your chaperoning customs' agent wants to head for the border at that very moment.  Firmly planting your feet and swiftly throwing your fists onto your hips, you will calmly, but with venom state, "NO WAY, WE ARE NOT LEAVING UNTIL WE TAKE CARE OF CINDY".  You will watch the customs' agent shrink from that fabulously furious look on your face and he will meekly tell you that you can park behind the customs' office for the night and that your departure will be the next morning.

Under the cover of what is now nightfall, you will walk around Cindy countless times, becoming dizzy with the shaking of your head in disbelief.  With a deep breath, you get to plunge into the melee and you just start...start to remember how you spent hours securing everything together so well that you could not crawl from the cab to the back, how you locked and braced everything to each other so that nothing could be dislodged, how you stuffed the safe to the brim with the most expensive smaller items and the very important items, how you thought never in a thousand years would anyone steal your clothes or shoes or soap or knives or bug repellent or gum or cookies or cheap sunglasses or the can opener or paper towels or matches or card games or ear plugs or especially that cheesy (but sentimental) souvenir of the medicine god that you bought for your Pediatrician sister or socks or UNDERWEAR or...

As you lovingly start to return the items to their resting places, you will detect strange marks on many of the objects.  These marks will eventually remind you of shoe prints and you will ascertain that the trespasser danced on top of your carefully chosen and happily used items.  Looking closely at your clothes, you will come to the realization that you have just been scheduled for many hours of laundry as a result of the new greasy, grimy designs on the fabrics. 

Hours later, you are to be stopped short because a thought will smack you in the face that you did not put many men's clothing in the laundry bag.  You will think, "Naw, I must be imagining things" because you will be frighteningly fatigued from the distress this violation of your home and to your friend has caused.  But then, you will say "wait a minute" and you will pour out the laundry and notice that there are only three socks, two shorts, one jeans, two T-shirts and no other men's clothing.  It is then you will surmise that the thief is either a rather large man or the thief will have a difficult time selling the clothes to a much smaller stature Ecuadorian male population (and this will make you grin).

You will begin the process of filling the laundry bag and then you are to be hit with yet another thought (by now, you head is really hurting) and you grasp that you did not see any women's underwear in the rubble.  Again, you will empty out the partially filled laundry bag and sort through all the far flung clothes and you are to be stunned to find that there is not one pair of women's underwear to be found.  Immediately, your hands will find the upper air space and your feet will propel you back through the door and your lungs will grope for air that has not been polluted by this foul and nasty vandal-creature.

Unfortunately, you cannot leave Cindy in this state so you will force yourself back into the greatly reduced mess and find the strength (and the warm caffeine spiked soda) to finish your task.  You now sit down at the cleared table and you start to make your list, page by page by page by page.  You will start laughing, quietly at first and then with a slightly berserk tone, so that your spouse, who all this time was reattaching the spare tires and the now bent and flat-tired bicycle to the back of Cindy and who repaired the bottom edge trims that were dangling off of Cindy like cheap hippie earrings, pokes their head around the corner and will ask "Why are you laughing?". 

You will catch your breath and tell your spouse that it is obvious that the vandal/thief (or possibly vandals/thieves) must have been so angry at not being able to get to the objects underneath the locked items that they ransacked Cindy in their frustration.  Evidence will prove to be jammed latches (by which the vandal is to be obviously challenged), broken drawers (which the vandal will not be able to figure how to close) and by the total tornado-like tossing of your things.  You will take your vengeance-filled, hysterical glee where you can find it.

Now that you have sorted through and organized your abused property, you will notice a distinct and bothersome odor permeating the air.  You will reluctantly and begrudgingly follow your nose to the source of the odoriferous assault and alas, you will finally notice the new water cascade design embedded in your sheets.  You will have to ignore the visual affront for now because the smell is forewarning you of what is to come once you remove the rain-drenched sheets. 

Whilst removing the soggy sheets, you will find a blood droplet stain where it will appear the culprit cut himself on the very glass that the ship's crew broke.  Ironic, isn't it?  So, not only will you have to contend with ridding yourself of the water stains on the sheets, but you will have to remedy the blood stain as well.

You will pull back the sheets and discover stationary ripples on the cover that surrounds your foam (and very absorbent) mattress.  Proceeding to unzip this sturdy cover, you will find the mattress now resembles your nose as it will be rather freckled with an unwelcome intrusive organism that was not there prior to Cindy's titanic voyage (seeing as you had washed the cover just two days before relinquishing Cindy to the shipping company and no mold freckles or other stains existed at that time).

You will have to strip the mattress of its skin and hope you can clean it and dry it in the sun.  Seeing as this mattress is extremely comfortable and will be immensely difficult to replace, you will do whatever you can to salvage your future night's sleep.  Unfortunately, with this discovery, you grasp that for the next few nights, you will not be able to sleep with your spouse on that mattress.  You will have to divide the clean and dry "dining room" seat pads and the shorter of the two will have to sleep down below while the taller will have to sleep in the bunk, surrounded by that telltale musty smell of wet wood.

With this insight, you will resign yourself to sleep the three hours before you have to arise and be escorted to the border by the customs' agent.  With a fluttering pulse, weary heart, tired eyes, achy body and just plain pissed-off state of mind, you attempt to collect snatches of sleep in between abrupt awakenings of anxiety and nausea.

So, here we are in A Tumbes, Peru, after a very tense and quiet ride through Ecuador and a very long wait to get out of that country.  We are again disassembling and reassembling Cindy and there has not been an hour that we do not notice something else that was broken, maimed or stolen. 

We are fortunate that the miscreant did not severely damage the doors, walls, windows, refrigerator, oven, bathroom (this door was effectively blocked by the spare tire, but lo, did he try based upon the black tire marks and scratches on the door), table, pads, curtains or floors.  Just about everything else was opened, tossed, moved, emptied, damaged or stolen, but for the items we had locked in the safe (which included quite a bit of pocket change - heh heh, got him there!) or were buried underneath the cabled and locked tires, bicycle, surfboard, etc.  Unfortunately, the offender's dancing habit caused the bicycle to shift and lay on top of the surfboard, and with the vandal's weight, punctured the surfboard in several places as well as bent the metal racks on the bicycle.

Within 24 hours, we submitted our claim to Walter at Euro-Line and he quickly forwarded our eight page letter, three page loss assessment and five page photo portfolio (with before and after pictures) to the appropriate persons at Pancanal (IE: Trinity Shipping representatives, we think).  Now, we will just have to wait and see if they try to wriggle free of their fault and force us to pursue the matter or if they are human, recognize what trauma their employee's negligence and violence have caused us, and treat us with fairness, sympathy and dignity.

To see our before and after pictures, click here Cindy's boo boos.

One significant fact in our favor that dispels the argument that this damage could have occurred in Colon, Panama whilst Cindy was waiting to be driven onto a platform and hoisted on the containers, is that the inspector in Colon checked off on his report that we had a stereo/cd player.  When Cindy was placed on the ground in Guayaquil, a similar inspection was completed and that inspector stated "no" stereo/cd player.  Kind of narrows it down where the theft occurred.

Also, whoever caused this damage had hours, if not multiple entries, and totally unobstructed access to Cindy.  Seeing as we gave one key to the inspector in Colon and in turn, that key was to be given directly to the Captain of the ship, either the Captain is the culprit or he did not properly and reasonably secure the key.  Or, the shipping company did not lock Cindy after driving her onto her platform.  Any scenario clearly exemplifies negligence, if not willful and gross negligence. 

At this time, our losses are nudging upward to $4,000, between the vehicle damage, the personal property damage and the theft damage.  We are still in a bit of shock but alas, we had a good day in A Tumbes and we are finding the Peruvian people to be delightfully warm and jovial.  It's amazing what being nice to a tourist/stranger can do for their devastated spirits...

View from our hotel.
Look at the cool
motorcycle taxis

Beautiful facade at the main plaza square
Daniel, mgr of the parking area and he
adopted Gerson - took him home to meet
the family
Dog guarding the roof from being stolen
$3 ceviche - fish, octopus, calamari, shrimp

We just walked the town, replacing some of the things that were stolen and tried to shake off the weary feeling that was pressingly depressing us.  Even a magnificent plate of ceviche could not raise my spirits (nor initiate my hunger as I could only stomach a few bites) so we wandered a bit aimlessly.  We decided to stay in a hotel so we could dry out Cindy and also because almost everything was being washed.  It was a good decision for that cold shower was a welcome reprieve. 

Gerson and Daniel, the parking lot manager, got along so well that Daniel took Gerson home to meet his parents and have dinner with the family.  I passed on the invitation because I just wanted to get some sleep and I am glad I did, seeing as a certain person wandered back into the hotel after 1:30 a.m.  But, he had a great time, from what he can remember :-).

We are off to the beaches of Peru and if Gerson can get his surfboard repaired, maybe I will resume my negotiations with the dastardly thing. 


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