We were in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, when we decided to drive home.
Not Gauthier’s home in France : ) But our home– Seattle.
It is not possible to drive through the Americas without shipping your vehicle from Columbia to Panama, so we decided it would be more time and cost effective to fly to Panama and buy a van there.
We looked on craigslist and saw a picture of a camper van, rainbow striped, at the Grand Canyon.
The post revealed that the owners were an Austrian couple who had purchased the van in British Columbia, had made the trip south, and were set to arrive in Panama City about the same time we had hoped to start our trip. They had done the same drive we would do, only in reverse, and they loved the whole experience. It was a perfect match. After a couple exchanged emails, we booked our flight to Panama.
There were so many things that could have gone wrong. None did! We worried that we wouldn’t like the van, that they would have sold it, that the asking price would not be negotiable, along with every other concern that precedes buying a new car. But some things are meant to be : )
We arrived in Panama City and took a cab to Casco Viejo, not having any idea where our craigslist friends were staying nor where we would be. The driver took us to a park in the area and there it was– OUR VAN, as though it sat waiting for us!
The cab driver helped us unload our things and we posted ourselves on a partly shaded bench in the park, facing the Rainbow van of course, to plan our next move.
I sent an email to Chris and Kathy (craigslist) to let them know we had arrived and that we were in the park, and I left a note on the windshield to prove it : ) Bitty and I waited with our bags while Gauthier set off in search of a hostel. Turns out we should have made arrangements, hours of walking resulted in one option, we set off to settle into our next hotel.
Casco Viejo is the beautiful and historical area of Panama City, boasting colonial architecture and an almost European ambiance. Our hotel seemed a relic from another era. Tall ceilings and black and white tiled floors welcomed us. From the rooftop we could see ships passing through the Panama Canal. Three iron-framed beds lay side by side in our room. A ceiling fan provided some relief from the heat, and the shared bathroom down the hall was never occupied. The hotel did not have wifi, however, and so we were soon on our way back to the park to use the free public wifi and the enjoy the lovely view– OUR rainbow van.
We had not heard back from Chris and Kathy, so we decided to do a little stalking. We asked at the hostel closest to the park if they had guests there by those names, and the girl at the front desk confirmed that they did. Next we proceeded to call out to people passing us who looked like they might be a “Chris” or a “Kathy”. We waited near the van for them to show up, with no luck. We did this for two days!
When finally we met up with them, it was the weekend, and we would not be able to visit a notary or complete the Western Union transfer until Monday. That was disappointing. But we were able to go for a drive and see the inside and hear some of their stories. We wanted the van. They originally had asked for $3500, and when we offered $2800, they told us that $3000 is what they were hoping for. Kathy and myself, the women of course, were the ones to discuss money. We stood there together in a parking lot, liking each other, not saying anything. Then Chris and Gauthier laughed, since there was an obvious middle price, and we verbally bought the van for $2900. What a deal!
They gave us most of the bedding, camping supplies, guide books and maps.
We were so anxious to get the van so that we could prepare it for our journey!
The day arrived! We took our van to the hotel and packed it with our things. We bought basic groceries and several gallons of water. Gauthier tied our suitcases to the roof and secured our water container on the back ladder. We were ready to hit the road! We checked out of our hotel and retrieved our clean clothes from the laundry-mat. Our road trip had begun!
The first hour of our trip we spent in heavy rush hour traffic. But our spirits could not be dampened. We were headed North. We were on the road and home at the same time.
It was the start of our Rainbow Van Adventure!!