Monday, 7 October 2019

Tiare Taporo

I have been very interested from time to time in news of the steel North Sea trawler which was converted and refitted in Newfoundland and renamed "Tiare Taporo" - taking largely under false pretences the famous name of my family's NZ Kauri built schooner owned by A.B. Donald Ltd. of Auckland NZ  and which traded reliably through the Cook Islands, the Societies, Tuamotus and Marquesas, including a voyage to the US in the late 1940's and many voyages to NZ for many years from 1913 to 1964 - 51 years.
In spite of these sentiments, I did wish the owners of the new (actually #4 TT) well and I hope that they are able to continue their plans for trading around the Cooks.
However, the last news that I am aware of is that the steel trawler "Tiare Taporo" left Avatiu sometime in 2018 for Pago Pago in American Samoa where she has been in dry dock ever since and certainly not fulfilling the owners' obligations to offer a reliable passenger/cargo service around the Cook Islands as they are legally required to do. I hope that there has been more positive news since.
The original "Tiare Taporo"'s most famous skipper was Captain Andy Thomson with whom I at the tender age of 21, was enormously privileged to have sailed on the company's replacement for the original "Tiare Taporo" - the motor ship "Akatere" on a voyage from Auckland to Rarotonga in 1968 - a voyage which took 14 days!!! Andy had retired by then but during the voyage he taught me how to use a sextant in successfully achieving celestial navigation. Captain Archie Pickering (later Harbourmaster at Avatiu) was the skipper on that voyage. Archie and Andy were great friends and valued employees of my family's company.
Sadly our businesses were all sold soon after and it was not until 2011 that I and my new partner sailed our own NZ built 12.5 metre classic timber built Gauntlet double ended yacht ("Tiare Taporo III") to New Caledonia, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand thus fulfilling a long held ambition to sail my own yacht offshore. 
Subsequently and sadly she was sold in Turkey last year as advancing years were taking their toll on us. A difficult decision indeed.
We are now living in final retirement in Medellin, Colombia.
You can read all about our adventures over the last 10 years if you go to our website -
There is obviously much more information that I can give you if you are interested.
I hope you find the foregoing of historical interest - please contact me if I can't help you further and I hope that you can publish this letter for any of your readers who may have further interest in the rich history of the Cook Islands.
With best regards,
Jim Donald

Friday, 16 August 2019

Getting on with life in Medellin.............

Hi to all,
Hope this finds everyone in the pink - as usual.
Since Linda returned to NZ we have been involved in bringing all our worldly financial assets to Colombia, investigating cars to buy and dealing with health issues.
Since the sharemarket collapse at the end of last year, we sold everything and had been sitting in USD cash ever since. Of course we've seen a resurgence in the market since then, but we still feel vindicated in getting out, as you cannot predict these things, and we like to be able to sleep at night. Suffice it to say, in the last few days the market has declined again - largely due to the ramping up of the US-China trade war, which in the circumstances, Trump is entirely justified in escalating as the Chinese only understand the other point of view once they are hit on the head with ever larger pieces of wood!! 
However, we do have to say that Trump's rhetoric needs to be toned down. His announcement that the US would impose 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports to the US caused markets to move down and then only a few days later, the imposition of tariffs was drastically reduced/delayed and the markets rose again. He needs to hold off announcing policy if there is any likelihood of total or partial policy reversal, because the words of a President of the United States are taken seriously and often have an immediate effect on international economic decisions. Of course he was probably just trying to intimidate China into being more cooperative - but whether that will work remains a moot point for now. 
On that note, we also must say again how we feel about the extreme left targeting Trump, who is with the possible exception as above, doing a wonderful job against almost overwhelming odds. The Mueller Report clearly found NO collusion with the Russians and NO obstruction of justice. Nevertheless, leftist judges, most of the so-called leftist media being liars (CNN and the like), and lying politicians are still pursuing their agenda - to destroy a duly elected US President. They have absolutely NOTHING worthwhile to offer by way of policy and to disguise their own woeful lack of meaningful policies, they resort to straight out defamatory verbal attack. And their acolyte, Antifa, physically attacks people and property in the streets a la Adolf Hitler's Brownshirts of Nazi Germany in the 1930's.
The only possible good result from all this verbal and physical  thuggery is that if they continue with this appalling behaviour, next year Donald Trump will be re-elected in a landslide and the Republicans will re-take the Congress. Thus they will be able to jointly deal with this hypocritical political abomination once and for all with the lunatic extreme left Dems - they now call themselves the Justice Democrats. If ever there was a misnomer, that is one!! They are hell-bent on destroying the Democrat Party of old  - the party of JFK, LBJ and - dare we mention them - the Clintons and Obama - and the United States itself. The Justice Dems would be a disaster for the USA and also for the rest of us who value political and economic freedom. In the meantime and in the midst of all this, absolutely nothing is being done by the Democrat controlled Congress to target the massive problems bedeviling the US. Border security, opioid addiction and the extreme lawlessness of Democrat controlled cities, such as Baltimore to name a few. In fact, if anything, the Dems do their utmost destructive best to scuttle any initiative that the Trump Administration tries to advance.
And with the Justice Department's continuing robust investigation into the Dems determined efforts, along with top corrupt officials from the FBI and CIA, to firstly scuttle Donald Trump's election campaign and then secondly to destroy his presidency, at least most Americans will see the Dems for what they are, and hopefully transform their disgust at all these revelations into meaningful change at the ballot box in 2020. 
For those of you in NZ who only get the shameless propaganda lies of the NZ Herald and TVNZ via the Washington Post and other left leaning so-called news organisations, either you can receive Fox News through Sky TV or just watch the Fox News website on the internet. That will broaden your political perceptions!!
We have spent much time in the last 4 weeks or so interviewing banks, merchant banks and other possible investment destinations and discussing various investment options - from orthodox bank deposits to other more unorthodox options, but always doing our due diligence  And we are learning much about Colombian commercial practice - which is often very different from what we were used to in NZ - but no less acceptable for that. We are talking to large Colombian banks who have been operating since well before WW2 and in one instance the 2nd. largest merchant bank in Brazil. Better than the NZ banking system where the majority proportion of the industry is foreign owned.  
One thing here which is also encouraging to us - interest rates and inflation are higher than in NZ - and almost every other so-called western economy. Inflation is currently running around 3.7%, but expected to come back down to the low 3%'s later this year. If a local wishes to borrow on 1st mortgage to buy real estate, they would be looking at a minimum deposit of 30-40% and an interest rate of 10-12%. This may seem draconian with all western central banks currently trying to outdo each other in a race to the bottom with ever more slashing of central bank prime rates. Now Europe is actually in negative territory - below 0%. Where do they go from there - more quantitative easing, which is actually just a vaguely legal excuse for counterfeit money printing? If you or we did that we would probably be in jail for the rest of our naturals, but these unelected bureaucrats can do whatever they like. Talk about a corrupt system - and if you ever get a chance you should read "The Creature from Jekyll Island" by G. Edward Griffin. ISBN no. 0-912986-21-2. This book chronicles the period leading up to and beyond the formation of the US Federal Reserve in 1913 on Jekyll Island - a resort island off the Georgia Coast which was chosen for a very secret meeting between officials of the US Treasury and various New York banksters to cobble together the agreement and associated legislation that allowed the formation of the Fed which became the monster that it is - along with virtually every central bank in the world today - including the Reserve Bank of NZ. Even the hitherto conservative RBNZ has been joining the chorus extolling negative interest rates as being good for an economy. If an economy is not producing enough to sustain a fair interest rate regime, then that economy is fundamentally in bad shape indeed.   
When President Woodrow Wilson signed the empowering legislation for the Fed to be formed in 1913, he is reputed to have said - "my God, what have I done?". Enough said - just read the history.
Anyway, with much higher interest rates in Colombia, it enables savers and investors to obtain a decent return and ensures that the "bubbles" that have plagued "western" economies in recent times do not occur, thus ensuring a much more stable investment and asset climate.
Now we have the absolutely egregious and  scurrilous situation of the so-called "suicide" of the already convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein. The situation is so bizarre and absolutely redolent of extreme criminal behaviour (possibly including murder), that one cannot believe anything. We certainly will not speculate as the USAG, William Barr, will no doubt get to the murky bottom of all this in time. But the high profile ex associates of Epstein, including Andrew, the Duke of York and ex president Bill Clinton will not be resting easy in their beds.
We are still looking for a bookcase (bibliotheca), but still have not found one.We have hopes of spending a day up the hill from here in el Retiro where there are many furniture makers and retailers. About 40 minutes drive from Envigado. We haven't been able to do things like this before due to the lack of mobility with not having a car, but we have dealt with that problem now.
We say that because we have been down a few dead-end trails to date, but on the 10/08 we saw a very nice 2007 B200 turbo Mercedes Benz B Class. It's a private sale and now we have to get it checked out, but we feel sure that it will be OK. We had become very keen on a 2007 C Class (180C) which had a very low mileage, but there was a problem with an airbag warning light and so the insurance company wouldn't insure it until the problem was fixed. A part has been ordered from the US, but could be a while yet. In the meantime we saw the B, which is a quite different vehicle (SUV), but much more practical and will be great for touring. It's done a higher mileage (71,000 kms) but that shouldn't be problem. Very pleasant couple who own it - they want to buy a bigger Mercedes! Now we repeat the process with insurance checks and all the rest of the bureaucracy. It's a little cheaper than the C as well at COP 34 million  - NZD 15,500 approx. Jim especially is keen because he had a loan B Class from Giltrap North Shore back before we left NZ in 2011 while the transmission on the old 1987 420SEC was being re-built. Was very impressed at the time. Only difference is that here in Colombia the steering wheel is on the wrong side!!! Watch this space. This will be number seven Mercedes for Jim since 1978!! This is number one for Jean!
Update - we have bought the B. Still haven't taken possession - that takes place the day after this was written. It is a very well kept and maintained vehicle and we are sure that it will be a major asset in our further explorations.It is now the day after and the vehicle was delivered to us by the previous owner who had lunch with us in our apartment. She is a delightful person with 2 young adult children and she works for the major utility company, EPM, which is owned by the City of Medellin. EPM has a few problems with the construction of a major hydro dam on the Cauca River, but hopefully these will be overcome in a couple of years and then Medellin's power supply will be secured. 
On the health front things are fairly mixed. Jean has had a recurring digestive problem which seems to come and go, but some time ago we made the acquaintance - through a mutual friend - of Dr. Oscar Sanchez who specialises in treating patients by way of IV. Jean has been having regular treatment which has now been extended to treat Jim's blood sugar levels and also to encourage more pancreatic insulin production. We will have to wait to see whether this regime works and in the meantime Jim continues to take Metformin. We really want to get off that because it's been 20+ years now and like many pharmaceutical drugs, it tends to mask the underlying problem of pancreatic sluggishness. We have hopes. 
Visiting Dr. Oscar involves a trip right across town to Laureles. We have alternated between taxi which can cost up to COP 20,000 (NZD 9.09) each way and the metro which involves some walking. It's roughly a 10-15 minute walk from our apartment to the Ayura metro station (estacion). The train then whisks one north via about 6 stops to the Estacion San Antonio where one is obliged to change trains to get to Estacion La Floresta which is very near Oscar's clinic. Cost is only COP 5,200 (NZD 2.40) each way for both of us so is only 26% of the taxi cost - but at some cost in time, inconvenience and sore knees!! The disadvantages of the Metro these days are that it it usually very well patronised so it is rare to get a seat and access to the overhead stations is usually by way of some steep and extensive stairs which can also have detrimental effects on the knees! However, when time isn't an issue, we manage the Metro from which you get some commanding views of the downtown city area as much of it is on an elevated track. The electric trains themselves are spotlessly clean and modern. The main line roughly runs north-south and follows the Medellin River. 
However, now that we have a car........................!!!!!!
The annual Medellin Flower Festival  has been on during the early part of August but this year due to our busy schedule, we have only seen the Classic Car Parade again. Nowhere near as pleasant as in previous years because the route was shifted to the main Autopista (motorway) through Medellin with God knows how much related traffic congestion on other roads. And standing alongside the Autopista in blazing sun and fumes was not very pleasant. Even if Jim had his Colombian sombrero!! Still, good to see the usual collection of 1950's - 1960's Cadillacs, Buicks, Chevrolets and Pontiacs, etc. Even an MGBGT!! And an Austin Healey. And several 1970's - 1980's Mercedes. Nostalgia for Jim!!
And finally a comment about the political scene in Colombia. We won't say much as we are not Colombian - although possibly we are becoming Paisa (!) - and we have only lived here permanently for about 14 months not excluding the 2 months when we were in NZ. However there is continuing disquiet - 
- The current regime is headed by the right wing President Ivan Duque who is becoming more and more unpopular and according to some stories, barely able to even control his own government, Some ministers are even taking orders from the former even more hard right President Alvaro Uribe, who himself is under criminal investigation relating to his nefarious association with paramilitary groups, who for the most part are just murderous thugs.
- The continued persecution and murder of leaders of indigenous peoples. These leaders are trying to undo the land thefts of the past, but of course there are some very powerful vested interests who have no interest in seeing these injustices righted. So far in recent months 158 indigenous leaders have been murdered, which is shocking enough in itself. The amount of stolen land is estimated to be equal in total area to the country of Belgium! 94 of those assassinated. Of these leaders (60%) have lost their lives since the current president came to power 12 months ago.
There is potential for Colombia to degenerate into socialism (a la Venezuela) if they do not get their act together and actively move to right these injustices sooner rather than later. This means reversing the Duque government's opposition and obfuscation as regards the Justice Commission's investigation and ordering restitution as regards these land claims based on outrageous injustice.  
Since the Spanish arrived in 1492 (Columbus) approximately 70% of Colombia's indigenous peoples have been exterminated. Well exceeds the 6 million who died in Europe in the Nazi Holocaust and even maybe comes close to the 70 million who died under Mao tse Tung in China. Of course there are many other examples of totalitarian massacres in history.  
- crime and homicide rates are skyrocketing everywhere in Colombia, but as long as you are not in the drug trade and don't take stupid risks, you are quite safe - even in Medellin! However, even under the watch of the current Mayor of Medellin, Gutierrez, these crime figures have increased dramatically.
- Finally there was a quote in Colombia Reports ( which probably sums up the current situation: "if Colombia's most inexperienced president in history believes he can continue the way he has, both he and Colombia are in for some very hard times".This is a  worry for the future.
Colombia Reports is certainly a left of centre publication, but they do seem to have some good knowledge of just what is going on behind the scenes. But of course one needs to read and hear most "news" with a certain amount of common sense. Including even Fox News!!!
Apart from all the foregoing, which certainly has exercised our minds lately (bibi Alzeimers!!), we have been refining the living in Medellin. We have made the acquaintance of Pricesmart lately. This is a cash and carry business (which you have to join at COP 90,000 - NZD 41)  which has very good bargain prices for all sorts of groceries - many imported - but in wholesale type containers. But nevertheless very good value and over 12 months will well recompense the joining fee.
Apart from all the above, we have continued to be so appreciative of the wonderful people we have encountered on our discovery of life in Colombia. There isn't room to enumerate all of them here but they know who they are.
We hope that all is well in your worlds and that all is as you would hope. We can't ask much more than that.
With lots of love from us in Medellin..........................
Jim and Jean

Monday, 8 July 2019

Overland travel and ongoing life in Medellin

Hi to all,
Hopefully all in the pink, as always......................
We'll start with one observation of the 24/06, which is Corpus Christi Day - one of 18 observed National Holidays here in Colombia in 2019. Makes life awkward at times - just when you think the week is all planned, up comes another holiday! We know what Corpus Christi literally means, but just why a religious date, which no doubt has significance for a sizeable number of Colombian people, should disrupt the life of a nation is beyond us. However, Colombia is a very staunch Catholic country and no doubt these traditions will endure. 
For your interest, here are all the observable holidays for 2019 - 
Jan. 1st. New Year's Day
Jan. 7th. Epiphany
March 25th. St. Joseph's Day
April 18th. Maundy Thursday
April 19th. Good Friday
April 22nd. Easter Monday
May 1st. Labour Day/May Day
June 3rd. Ascension Day
June 24th. Corpus Christi
July 1st. Sacred Heart
July 25th. Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul
August 7th.Independence Day
August 19th. Battle of Boyaca Day
October 14th. Assumption of Mary
November 4th. Columbus Day
November 11th. All Saints Day
December 8th. Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 25th. Christmas Day
Wementioned in the previous blog that we had contacted our local travel guide, Daniel Castano, again with regard to a car trip to see areas reasonably close to Medellin - still in the department of Antioquia, of which Medellin is the capital. We had been trying to get some sort of overview by consulting Google Maps, but it all became just too confusing, so we arranged for Daniel to come to our apartment to make the recommendations. We had discussed all this with Linda before returning to Colombia, and as we had not seen these places ourselves either, it became a priority to arrange. 
This he duly did and arranged a suitable itinerary. Ground travel in Colombia, especially at the moment, is not all as it might seem, as there are major road works in many areas where old one lane country roads are in many cases being transformed into 2 or 3 lane highways. Some of the country is unbelievably steep, but there are major bridges spanning ravines and even tunnels being built to cope with the terrain. In many areas there isn't much left of the original road so that can be rough and slow going. And in many places there is only one lane, so you have to stop and let opposing traffic through before it is free to proceed. Sometimes these enforced stops can be as long as 20 minutes, so much patience and time allowance is needed. Two other issues are that there always seem to be slips - some major which close whole roads and others not so bad. Also there are a number of potholes in what appear to be otherwise well sealed surfaces and often these holes are concealed in a patch of shadow - making them very hard to see. One needs one's wits about one and Daniel was excellent in that regard. Some of these holes are capable of breaking an average suspension.
Day 1 - 04/06. Daniel arrived at Jardines in a near new VW car at 1.30 to pick us up for the 2 hour trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia - the first capital of Antioquia Province. The capital now of course is Medellin. Santa Fe was the 1st. settlement in Antioquia to be settled by the Spanish in the 1500's largely due to the fact that it is on the Cauca River, which in turn flows into the Magdalena which empties out at Baranquilla on the Caribbean Coast. So, a ready-made watery highway.  It was also the site of gold mining, even back then. So, there was a ready made route up these river valleys from the coast. The maltreatment and forced conversion to so-called Christianity of the local Indian tribes, together with the slave labour of these people, by the Spanish is of course well known and, together with venereal and other diseases brought by the Spanish, resulted in a horrific loss of population of much of these original native peoples - who for the most part were peaceful and no match for the Spanish, whose main objective was straight-out plunder and theft.
On that note, there has recently been discovered the wreck of a Spanish treasure galleon which had set sail from Cartagena back in those days. She was sunk by the British Royal Navy, whose objective was to deny the cargo to Spain, which would have enriched the Spanish Crown which desperately needed such loot to fund their European wars. With modern technology, it is now possible to salvage the treasure which consists mainly of gold, emeralds and silver. Unbelievably, the Spanish government is insisting that the treasure belongs to them as it was being carried on a Spanish vessel! Ignoring entirely the fact that it had all been stolen with the aforementioned enforced slave labour of the local Indians. Not sure what the final outcome of that has been, or will be, but hopefully the Colombian government will tell them where they can stick their claims!!
The drive from Medellin through the northern suburbs and on to Santa Fe was characterised by the aforementioned road construction and in a very short distance we descended over 3,000 feet to Santa Fe. This brought home the reality of just how important altitude is in establishing the climate of a region when you are within tropical latitudes such as Medellin at 6 degrees north and just over 5,000 feet in altitude, which consequently gives an equable temperate climate. But Santa Fe at almost the same latitude was definitely tropical. The hotel was comfortable and only about NZD30 per night with a pool, but inexplicably all the lavatory seats had been removed!! Very disconcerting. 
Day 2 - 05/06.In the morning the pool was supposed to be open at 0700, but the cleaner did not finish until about 8 and then we needed breakfast before the departure. Nothing happens on time in Colombia!! We also needed to visit the "gold centre" in town where Jean bought 2 silver sticks for her Colloidal Silver making operation and Linda bought several exquisite silver earrings made from intricately worked silver wire. The whole process was explained to us with Daniel's translation and it was traditional and fascinating to learn about.  
Soon we were off again heading towards the coffee town of Concordia  - roughly in a SW direction from Santa Fe. Another 2 hour drive during which we followed the course of the Cauca River before abruptly ascending to Concordia at over 6,000 feet. A very steep switch-back road and we climbed through the cloud at around 5,000 feet. Fantastic vews of very steep country - mostly cultivated but no animals as they would break their legs on the vertical hillsides! At over 5,000 feet we were finally in coffee country with the coffee bushes also on impossibly steep hillsides. Jim remarked that the coffee pickers would need one leg at least 12 inches shorter than the other. Soon we were booked into the La Porra Hotel at only 135,000 COP (NZD63) per night for 2 rooms. Very comfortable and unlike Santa Fe, hot water was on tap for the shower due to the much lower temperatures!! The hotel was on a steep road almost impossible to walk up or down (especially with the knees!) and we were picked up by the owner of the coffee farm, Santiago, in his VW Amarok. Took us on some very steep farm tracks reminiscent of the "road" we had into Paroa Bay in the Bay of Islands 50 years ago - except MUCH steeper. Some of the views out the window were vertigo inducing!  We saw everything from coffee growing on the bushes to the whole process of sorting and grading for quality to drying and packing their premium product which they exported under their own name. A premium product indeed and not one which you will find in Starbucks!! 
Back into town eventually and we found a pleasant local restaurant where we ate before falling into bed exhausted.
Day 3 - 06/06. Up, up and away for breakfast down the road and then to the main coffee clearance warehouse where we found Santiago again. All explained during our hour long visit. This was where local farmers brought their crops and it was all checked for quality standards by thrusting a long stainless steel implement into each sack several times and then withdrawing it with samples of beans which were then put through stringent quality control checks. The final payout for each farmer was then made on the basis of the quality assessment and using a benchmark base figure based on the current world coffee price. 
It was also explained to us that Colombia's beans were of the Arabica variety and vastly different and superior to Brazilian beans which were another variety altogether and were the inferior type of coffee (caffeine) to be found in so-called energy drinks such as "Red Bull" - which is actually owned in Thailand!! That stuff is poison!!
Then, with some regret it was time to leave Concordia for Jardin - 2 hours south. We had really felt at home in Concordia as we were treated to very detailed and intimate explanations covering the whole coffee producing business and we are now feeling quite like Paisas - people of the country.
We descended once more to the Cauca River - an ear-popping experience. Then along the river which is fast flowing and makes a spectacular sight. Beautiful rolling farm country in the less steep bits and many Brahma cattle - all in superb condition. Then another climb, but not as high as Concordia to Jardin (pronounced hardeen). The name means "garden" and to some extent it lived up to its name, but not to the degree that we had been expecting. However, Daniel had arranged for us to stay at a Finca-type property (Hosteria el Paraiso) just on the outskirts of Jardin and it was beautiful with traditionally decorated buildings and even its own chapel all set in spectacular gardens. Even a restaurant on-site, but it was closed at night (!), so we went into town for dinner. However, breakfast the next day was available and quite good - although we cannot get used to the traditional Colombian breakfasts with Arepas (a type of corn based pancake) and eggs. We'd have given anything for some bacon with pork bangers!!!  
Day 4 - 07/06 0n to Jerico (pronounced herico). On the way we stopped at a trout farm, of which there are many in Colombia. Trucha is a national delicacy, but the farmed variety is fairly insipid in taste. Still, it was good to see an actual farm which consisted of many concrete pools cascading down a slope. Water was constantly pumped to the top which meant that there was constant running water simulating the effect of being in a fast flowing river.  
Jerico is supposed to have more churches than any comparable municipality in these parts, but the main church in the village square was a total disappointment. The original burnt down some years ago. Normally these churches are pleasing to look at but this one - all severe brick - was an absolute eyesore. Whoever designed it should have been taken outside and shot!!! It dominates the town square in a very unpleasant and dominating way - not at all attractive. Still, apart from that it was a pleasant town and we stayed in a near new Hotel Saval which was very comfortable. And we have a photo of Jean cuddling a donkey in the main square!! That night we found a restaurant in a very old house completely open to the sky with the central part completely unroofed. It seemed to be a part of another church just across a narrow road. We found a tiled Parques board on a table. This is a game that had been brought to the Caribbean by Indian indentured workers/slaves working in British sugar plantations. Somehow it found its way to Colombia where it is played exclusively - not in any other Latin American country. It is related to Ludo and can be configured for 4,6, or 8 players. It's based on dice, but also contains many sophisticated rules and strategic decisions - unlike Ludo!. So, it's a game of chance tempered with a great deal of skill. Daniel schooled all of us, so there was him, Linda, Jean and yours truly. Needless to say Jim won!! But only with much schooling from Daniel. A great night during which we drank mulled wine which was delicious. We must get a board so that we can play in our apartment!
Day 5 - 08/06. Bit of a slow start this morning due to the effects of the mulled wine last night! Jean and Linda had decided to go on to the hot pools at Termales and then Salento and Armenia from where they were to fly back to Medellin. Yours truly had opted to travel by bus from La Pintada back to Medellin. So Daniel drove to La Pintada from where Jim caught a mini bus which was a good trip climbing to 8,000 feet before descending into Medellin through La Estrella and Sabaneta. Very pleasant one and a half hour trip, even though the road was windy most of the way. Daniel meanwhile drove Linda and Jean to Termales where they enjoyed the pools but the hotel left much to be desired. It was expensive and the "service" apparently was shocking. Daniel gave the hotel a rocket which was well deserved by all accounts!  
Daniel dropped Jean and Linda near Salento and they continued into town by local bus. Salento is a "coffee town", but very touristified - unlike Concordia. Nevertheless, it is very picturesque and they enjoyed their time there. Good for shopping and not expensive. Saturday market in the town square. They stayed in a typical Colombian hotel just off the square for a typical Colombia experience. The next day they travelled to the city of Armenia and spent the night of the 10th. before taking an early morning fight back to Medellin.
Good to all be back home and quite tired after an intensive few days, but well worth it. It was great for Linda to have had the experience just before returning to NZ and for us also as we will be re-visiting at least some of these places. We are starting to look seriously at newish used cars so that we will be more independent and capable of "poking about" under our own steam. Price limit is COP 35,000,000 (NZD 16,500)  - cars are quite a bit dearer than in NZ. Hopefully we won't need to pay as much as that. There is a 2011 Mercedes B-class (done 69,000 kms) at that price level which we are waiting to see.
Sadly Linda left for Auckland on the 15th. after 5 weeks with us and her departure has left a void. She has unfortunately not been well since about a week after arriving back in NZ. But she has had a great and varied experience here in Colombian with meeting our friends and going to places not normally visited by tourists. Along with the living in Medellin - shopping, taxis, supermarkets and IV vitamin treatments!!
We have been spending our time hunting for an antique bookcase and chest of drawers. We have been frequenting 2nd hand and antique shops all over Medellin. Clara kindly took us to the Junin area in downtown Medellin where there are a number of antique shops. Fascinating eclectic area which we want to re-visit, but in the end non productive as the following illustrates. We had a slightly hilarious time with an antique chest of drawers which looked moderately ok in the shop, albeit that every drawer was packed with junk. We couldn't even find a space to deposit said junk until the owner belatedly provided several plastic bags to contain the items. Then it was a mission to get the chest out onto the street where Clara was to meet us to uplift in her car the chest and another item she had bought. However, after all that, and with the opportunity to inspect the chest in daylight, we discovered that it was junk also. Drawers didn't fit and the top looked as though it had been made for something else. But in the meantime we had paid for the chest on our Bancolombia card and they couldn't reverse the charge, so we finished up getting the cash back - COP 300,000 (NZD 142). Then Clara very kindly decided to drive us to Itagui in the south of the city through heavy commuter traffic. This is where there are many furniture stores and after visiting 3 or 4 we found a chest that looked good and would do what was needed - but at 3 times the price!! Still, we were happy and once more eternally grateful to Clara. Still looking for a bookcase!!
We have also been searching for suitable plant containers - and plants - for our balcony. So, after much fruitless searching (a la furniture saga) we finally found 2 terracota pots and a yellow/orange flowered Bougainvillea. It should look good once it has climbed up a trellis of light marine cordage (bought at All Marine, Whangarei!). These are much less vigorous and thorny than the common purple variety. We also had an orchid and a Bromeliad from before, neither of which seem very healthy, but we are persevering.
We have also finally and with much angst, solved all the issues surrounding our Sura medical insurance and have even enrolled with the best ambulance service (EMI) which of course we hope we never need, but that's how it works in Colombia - not like St. John which just comes on demand. The total cost for all this including full medical which also includes elective surgery at almost no extra cost, is NZD89 (COP 189,000)  per month for both of us. Not bad for two 72 year olds and the medical treatment here is world class. We were fortunate in being referred to Angie by friends, who after our "broker" was a breath of fresh air. She was able to answer all our questions, enabled the premium payments on-line and was instrumental in joining us up to the ambulance service. Fantastic and a load off our minds as the whole saga had been going on since December last year with no resolution in sight!
Finally, we are transferring our investment funds to Colombia after much careful thought and examination of alternatives. The Colombian real estate market is showing steady constant growth, mainly due to the fact that Colombian banks follow very conservative lending practices - unlike banks in NZ, or most "western" countries for that matter. So, the likelihood of booms and busts, both historically and in the future is much reduced. However, we haven't yet decided whether to buy another apartment to let, or to pursue other forms of investment which also appear attractive. One thing we do need to keep in mind is that we will in all probability be renewing our visas in 2 year's time and we need to follow investments which will qualify us on an investment basis. And because of these conservative Colombian lending practices, it is possible in some instances to see returns over 10% p.a. quite safely. And with the continuing exodus of North American baby boomers from the US and Canada, demand for property remains at a healthy level. These people are like us - might own or have owned debt-free property in their home countries but not enough income to live in these increasingly high cost societies. Countries like Colombia (and also possibly Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, and Ecuador) with cost of living approximately one third of NZ's and other attributes such as climate, offer real alternatives.
Finally, the usual political comments. Trump continues to go from strength to strength, while the Dems seem to repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. Long may it continue!! More disgraceful Dem behaviour - 
Kamala Harris, a Dem presidential hopeful, virtually accused Trump of being a paedophile the other day. Some defamation suits need to be issued, notwithstanding that libel and defamation laws in the US are notoriously weak.
Twitter apparently has said that they will no longer allow Trump tweets which are critical of his opponents -  only those non critical. Whatever happened to free speech? This is clearly an escalation of the media's hate for Trump and their determination to do whatever it takes to prevent his re-election. They are in bed with the Deep State and their vitriolic behaviour is reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Just look at Antifa. Let's hope that the current investigations surrounding events leading up to and following Trump's election in 2016 will uncover the already exposed treasonous and straight-out dirty dealings on the part of the Clinton campaign, the FBI, the CIA and the Dept. of Justice at the highest levels. They should all be in jail and it gives fresh impetus to the slogan "lock her up"!!! If you can, we urge you to watch Fox News which is the only reasonably truthful news organisation in the US. Their correspondents - Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are particularly worth watching for their insight and professional investigative journalism. In NZ you need Sky to watch it but you can get these interviews on also.   
And dear old Britain and Brexit - thankfully it looks as though Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party Leader - and thus PM for now. However, we mustn't count our chickens. Boris should take them out of the clutches of Europe on October 31st. as has been promised, tell the EU to stick their 39 billion pound "divorce" payment and just get on with life. It does exist after Brexit.
Well, that's it for another blog. We'll look forward to your news as always....................
Much love from Medellin...............
Jim and Jean   


Fwd: The Cruel Dishonesty of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2019 at 11:46
Subject: The Cruel Dishonesty of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
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Gingrich 360

The Cruel Dishonesty of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The Cruel Dishonesty of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It took Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's visit to the border – and her dishonest comments afterwards – to help me understand how profoundly vicious, cruel, and dishonest she is.

When you look at the larger picture, it is clear that Ocasio-Cortez is eager and determined to undermine and destroy America as we have known it. When your goals are that radical, lying is simply part of the game. When you despise American values and find the American people "deplorable" and contemptible, lying is perfectly natural.

The tragedy of Ocasio-Cortez's type of vicious, deliberately dishonest politics is it sets the stage for innocent people to die. The poignant, heart-wrenching picture of the father and his daughter who died trying to get into the United States illegally should serve as a moral condemnation of every Democrat trying to use the border as a political weapon against Trump.

Let me be clear: The American border is a disaster. The American immigration system is profoundly broken.

Despite these tremendous problems, Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow left-wing activists continue to send signals to desperate and ambitious people around the world that they can (and should) enter the United States illegally. These signals are simply increasing the pressure on the border and overwhelming the Americans who are working to protect and control our national boundaries. We have immigration laws to protect Americans from people who may be criminals, carrying infectious disease, or are committed to changing America rather than becoming American.

It is important to remember that during the late 19th century, when we had enormous immigration, it was still tightly controlled. Immigrants sailed past the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island and were processed in an orderly way. If they had infectious diseases, criminal records, were anarchists – or even showed signs of low morals – they were denied entry and sent back to their home countries.

The modern left-wing idea of opening the borders as wide as possible would have been thoroughly rejected in any previous era.

The people who are coming to our borders determined to begin their lives in America by breaking the law are being encouraged by Ocasio-Cortez and her hard-left allies.

The Democrats have refused to control the border. They have refused to amend the amnesty provision in our immigration law (which is the loophole used by most sophisticated people seeking illegal entry). They have also refused to provide legislative solutions for various left-wing judicial decisions that have crippled our enforcement capabilities. So, the word is out that it is a good time to sneak into the United States.

Now the Democrats are going a step further and talking about providing free health care for people who come here illegally. When word spreads that sick people can sneak into America and get free medical treatment from American doctors and nurses, the flood of sick immigrants will double and triple from the current numbers.

Meanwhile, the current team of hardworking, patriotic government officials working to enforce and administer our laws are being overwhelmed by the size of the invasion. Instead of helping these officials with their difficult jobs, the Democrats attack them, try to shame them, lie about them, and hold them up to ridicule.

This is not a cost-free political game.

The Ocasio-Cortez wing is blocking the help, undermining the existing work force, maximizing the number of new people coming into the United States illegally, and then blaming the hard-working immigration and border agents for trying to do their jobs.

We owe it to the father and daughter who died in the Rio Grande to make clear who has moral responsibility for the system which lured them into the river and left them to die.

That system is the one upheld by the Democratic Party's political ideology in the House and Senate – and now in the presidential nominating process.

Every day that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Ocasio-Cortez radicals block reforming the immigration system, the House Republicans should take special orders and show the pictures of those who died the day before in a system the Democrats helped ruin – and refuse to reform.

Furthermore, Ocasio-Cortez should be called out for the viciousness, destructiveness, and dishonesty of her words and actions. It is time for decent people to stand up to her and ask, "have you no shame?"

Your Friend,

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Sunday, 2 June 2019

Return to Colombia and nonsensical Colombian bureaucracy

Hi to all,
As always we hope this finds you all well.
This blog will depart from previous norms as we are starting with the present and working back. 
Firstly, we had for 24 hours been trying to book 3 return seats on a local airline which flies from the regional airport (Olaya Herrera) to Armenia - about a 40 minute flight on a small turbo prop. Our interest was in visiting the so-called "coffee triangle", which is centered on the very picturesque town of Salento which is about an hour's drive from Armenia. Actually the cities which comprise the shape of the triangle are Armenia, Pereira and Manizales. We navigated our way through the Spanish website and all looked good until - the website rejected all 3 of our credit cards. Then, whenever we went back into the site, the price increased! Finally we made an attempt to use our Bancolombia debit card but the amount (roughly NZD600) apparently exceeded an arbitrary transaction limit which we were hitherto unaware of. So, it looked as though we would have to actually go to the airport to book the flights. What a performance in this electronic age!! Then later we even went to the local airport to attempt to break the impasse but all they did was reiterate the ludicrous charges - the equivalent of NZD230 per person return for a 40 minute flight.
However, our plans changed after we had a meeting with a local tour operator, Daniel Castano, who has given us some good advice as he was brought up in that area and knows it well.
In fact, as it turned out, Daniel's wife works for Avianca in a fairly senior role and actually managed to cause the Avianca website to accept our credit card at the originally offered price, albeit with changes, so all is well. Jim in the meantime had opted out of the Armenia/Salento visit and we are all doing a land tour north of Medellin with Daniel. Linda and Jean are leaving the tour in Jerico and travelling by bus to Armenia, from where they can visit Salento and then fly back to Medellin one way. Linda will have seen quite a bit of Antioquia Province  - of which Medellin is the capital.
After our meeting with Daniel we decided to take a 4 day circular tour by car north and west of Medellin starting in a few days' time. We should be visiting Santa Fe de Antioquia, Concordia, Jardin and Jerico. That will be the subject of another blog. That is the tour that Jean and Linda are leaving the final stages of to go to Armenia/Salento. This all seems quite convoluted, but the difficulties of trying to do anything on your own certainly made it so. One does need to enlist local help.
Then and all at the same time, we received advice from our Auckland freight forwarder that our possessions had actually arrived - on the 18th. - a Saturday. No-one even contacted us on the following Monday. It was only that yours truly followed up the advice from our Auckland freight forwarder to American Airlines that we received any confirmation at all of arrival. What would have happened if we hadn't had the Auckland advice, God alone knows.
Anyway, the consignment is supposed to be door to door, but that does not apply in Colombia! It is being held at the international airport and has incurred storage fees in spite of us being unaware of its arrival. Our forwarder in Auckland is going to follow all this up with IATA to hopefully recover some charges. Then we were told that we had to pay a "liberation fee" of COP 259,631 (NZD 119). But it cannot be paid in cash. We had to transfer it from our local bank account to the import agent account. But in Colombia you cannot just go into your bank website and pay a one-off account - as you can in NZ. First you have to register the payee on your bank's website - and all in Spanish. We did this and were told that it would take 1 hour for registration to be confirmed whereupon we could proceed with payment. BUT almost 24 hours later the registration was still "pending", so this morning (22/05) our wonderful friend Clara said she would personally go to a branch of their bank and pay the requisite amount and we would reimburse her. She has also said she would take Jim to the airport once all the bureaucracy was put to bed, so a friend in need indeed.
So yesterday Clara took Jim to the airport. You won't believe what happened next. We thought we had all the required documents and we had paid the necessary fees, but we were blindsided by a request from Dian (Customs) for the Customs form that we filled in when we arrived on LATAM from NZ/Chile on May 11th. Just what that form had to do with a completely separate consignment, which was sent per American Airlines through Los Angeles and which had its own declarations, completely escapes us - but it's just another example of Colombian illogic. It would do your head in if you allowed it. Anyway, needless to say we did not have the form as we had presented it at Bogota on arrival and there was no expectation or advice that we needed to keep it!!! It was left with Immigration/Customs at Bogota Airport which is entirely normal. So Customs at Medellin are contacting Customs Bogota to retrieve the form!! Which in reality is entirely irrelevant. But it could take another 15 days and then they'll all be happy with their little bits of paper  - God knows what will happen if they cannot find it.
They then took us into the warehouse where the items were stored and opened each box. All looked perfect, so that was something, but frustrating to hell that we couldn't take delivery because of all the mindless bureaucratic nonsense. And it's all just personal effects - nothing of real value - except to us.
However, as a footnote Clara later received advice that the Customs form had been found and that we could now collect our possessions. So today (29/05) Clara took Jim to the airport again and after another round of form filling we finally loaded Jean's massage table plus 4 x 23 kg boxes of personal papers, books etc into Clara's Chevrolet Captiva and finally they are back here in our storage unit pending unpacking and sorting. WOT A RELIEF!!!! 
But then on one of the return trips to town, Clara and Jim took the scenic route with Clara continually pointing out items of interest including the prospect of  what are known as "Senior Apartments" which have the ability to become serviced apartments to whichever degree one might need as the years take their toll. Could be a good idea to buy one and then rent it until we might need it. There is a new complex being built as we speak. There was also a nature reserve which we drove through and which was very extensive and apparently contains native Pumas and small Colombian Tigers. Plus a heap of other biodiversity. Colombia has one of the highest biodiversity of any country on the world. Including very venomous snakes!! And all this is only a few kilometres from the centre of Medellin.
On a happier note, we all arrived at Medellin by LATAM from Santiago, Chile via Bogota at around midnight on May 11th. - 12th. Between us we had 5 x 23kg suitcases plus our carry on bags. However, in spite of us having ordered a vehicle capable of carrying all this paraphernalia plus us 3, it didn't materialise and so we were forced to arrange a 2nd vehicle, which at that hour of the day was all we needed. In addition one of our suitcases failed to arrive so we had that to deal with as well. The tempers were deteriorating by this time!! Incidentally the lost bag did turn up but had been opened (probably by Customs) and a few of the contents were damaged, although not too badly. We were very pleased to finally arrive at Jardines de la Maria and it was also great to see Jimenez - our friend who is one of the 24 hour security. He was obviously doing night shift then. Jean and Jimenez had an uproarious reunion. Not to also mention the beautiful chocolates which had been left for us by our friends and neighbours, Clara and Memo. So kind of them to do that for us.
Now back to the beginning........................................................
Back in Auckland ahead of our imminent departure we spent our time juggling weights in the aforementioned suitcases and seeing family and friends - as well as distributing the remnants of items we might have liked to take to Colombia, but sadly cannot.......
On Anzac Day (25/04) Jim flew to Christchurch to be with Charlotte, Jon, Lucia and Elsie. So good to see them after all this time. Of course the girls have grown and Charlotte and Jon live busy lives with Jon's freight forwarding and Charlotte as an analyst for Dairy NZ. The famous sterling silver tea set which bears Charlotte's previous initials (CD) from 5 generations ago had been badly neglected, so yours truly spent 4 hours polishing it and its tray till it looked a million dollars once more. Very stern strictures to Charlotte about the importance of polishing every 2 months or so and then it's not a big job, but not sure how much sunk in. Anyway, they are moving house so once it was all polished and looking magnificent, once again yours truly wrapped it in real estate agents' magazine pages - a fitting use! - and so it will remain untarnished until it can be unwrapped in the new house.
On Anzac Day just after arriving in Christchurch Charlotte took Jim to a remembrance service at the RNZAF museum at Wigram - moving and very thought provoking. On the Saturday Jon, Charlotte and Jim all went out to dinner in the Oxford St. Precinct on the banks of the Avon which had been badly damaged in the earthquakes 7 years ago, but now largely rebuilt and a great asset to the city. Unfortunately the old cathedral is still in its damaged state but apparently money is now available for the rebuild so hopefully that will happen soon. On that Saturday Elsie and Lucia had gone with Charlotte's sister-in-law, Vanessa (or Ness for short) to the Cragieburn Skifield for a working bee weekend to get ready for the ski season. Jon's father, Max was also there and the day before Max and his partner, Phillipa had come to dinner so it was great to see them again and give them all the news about living in Colombia, but one could sense their doubt about the sanity of the raconteur!! And they have no real knowledge about Colombia; they just have their own died in the wool opinions. But there are many people with those attitudes - and not just in NZ.   All too soon it was time to leave - all the more poignant because this time it could be some time before a return can be organised and at our time of life 12-15 hour flights are becoming harder to handle - both physicaly and financially.
Back in Auckland on 30/04 and then a round of visits with Jim's brother, Alec and his wife, Linda (lunch at the Cornwall Park Kiosk and a previous visit to their house in Mt. Eden), and also a visit to Jim's antique dealer cousin, John Mains and Gary at their apartment. Once more the chance to sample John's famous and exquisite sandwiches  - we will always miss those. Gave John a ship's chronometer which is WW2 vintage and which had been given by his father to Jim's father many years ago. A fitting return. John's father, Neil, had been in the RNZN during WW2 and possibly "acquired" the said chronometer during that time.
Visits to Amanda (Jim's eldest daughter) and Dave and dinner out at an Italian restaurant at Greenwoods Corner and depositing of further family memorabilia which we could not take and which were appropriate to leave with the relevant family members. 
We knew that this was make or break as far as our possessions went, and after 10 years of living minimally on the yacht, it was somewhat easier to make the break, although lots of anguish about what we kept or not.
We also had lunch with Lorraine and Alan at the Palmers Garden Centre in Shore Rd., Remuera. Lorraine is the mother of Perry's partner, Tracie. Good to see them again. They are soon going to Miami to be with the family y los nietos.
One interesting thing - Jim had an Albin Martin oil painting. Martin painted this particular one in Italy in the latter part of the 1800's and then came to NZ where he painted a few more. Sadly could not take it to Colombia so it went into the monthly antique auction at Cordys, where 2 descendants of Martin were present. Both quite badly wanted the painting and so the price rose accordingly. Sad for the old lady who missed out. The other bidder drove all the way from Wellington with John Mains' encouragement and in the end was the successful bidder. So, after all these years it's back in the family of Martin's descendants - a fitting end after an estimated 130 years of Owen family ownership.
During our time in Whangarei we made 3 return trips to Auckland with stuff for auction, stuff to give away and stuff ultimately to take to Colombia - in spite of Colombian Customs!! 
We enjoyed our time at Sara and Hamish's property where we had had all our things stored - we cannot thank them enough for putting up with all the paraphernalia over the last 3 years or so. And we thoroughly enjoyed looking after Molly, Winnie, Mozart and Blackie. Can't say the same for the 2 Dexter steers, especially after one of them got aggressive with Jim when we were filling their water trough and he lowered his head and moved forward in a threatening manner! Jim made a hasty exit through the nearest gate.
And we must again make mention of Perry and Tracie's car - a Suzuki Grand Vitara which not only made us mobile, but also meant that we had the ability to carry all the stuff necessary. But it's all finished now - thank goodness. And staying at Linda's was also a godsend. It gave us a base in Auckland and also the ability to do final distributions from there and of course was all the more pleasant enjoying Linda's hospitality.
NZ was starting to get quite cold towards the end of our stay, which we were not used to after our years in the tropics in Asia and also Medellin's moderate temperatures. Just to make all you Kiwis feel really good, yours truly is sitting here at our dining room table in shirtsleeves at 10 at night with the balcony doors wide open and a balmy 23 degrees C!! It is technically summer here now at 6 degrees North, but in reality there is very little temperature difference from one month to another.   
We have been showing Linda around the city with a visit to the Museo de Antioquia where there are comprehensive exhibitions of the sculptures and painting of the well-known and renowned Colombian artist, Fernando Botero. Also educating her in the dark arts of supermarket shopping a la Medellin!! Visits to the Mercado Campesino at Parque la Presidenta on Sunday mornings also. We had lunch with Astrid, our lawyer at Mondongo's in el Poblado and then a light dinner back at Astrid's apartment. We have been to the Otraparte Museo restaurant just along the road from us where we met Dave from NZ and who works here in Medellin. Didn't come to blows over Trump but always close!! We went to Parque Arvi which involved a metro ride and then a metrocable ride up a very steep hill to Arvi.  Spectacular views of the city from up there. Jean and Linda have been to Dr. Oscar for IV infusions of vitamins and other ingredients designed for individual patients' needs based on their medical histories. Jim will get around to it eventually!! They swear by it. Dr. Oscar was introduced to us by our friend, Monica. Have also been to various shopping malls - Viva, Santa Fe, Oviedo. 
A couple of days ago we all did a tour with Daniel Castano to el Carmen de Viboral - which is known for its handmade and handpainted ceramics. Had a great time watching the painting which is fascinating for its skills and colours. Bought some small souvenirs and then travelled on to Guatape which is a town on the edge of Lake Guatape - a hydro lake. Still the same and very picturesque with colourful motifs on all the buildings, but they are constructing a beach on the lakefront in front of the town and bringing the sand from the Pacific coast- which is a marathon and extremely costly business. There is now severe pollution of the lake water from agricultural run-off (a familiar story from NZ - where ameliorating measures are well advanced) and so we have severe concerns as to the viability of the whole project. The white sand could easily go green. Already people have been poisoned by the lake water, so unless something is done VERY soon, we fear the whole project will be in severe jeopardy. There will certainly be NO swimming. On the way back to Medellin we learnt of 2 FM frequencies - 88.9 and 90.5 so we are now armed with Colombian music in our apartment. 
Speaking of swimming, we have been enthusiastic users of the apartment swimming pool, so exercise is being slowly addressed.
That more or less covers our time in Medellin from when we arrived on May 11th. till now. We had had a good flight to Santiago in Chile with LATAM and had the usual bulkhead seats. Very tiring though as we crossed many longitude lines and all the wrong way - against the sun. We left our large suitcases at the airport and headed into town to the Personal Aparts Bella Artes on Manjitas 744. After what seemed to be an interminable time we were finally installed in our apartment which was small but clean and it had everything we needed - apart from a corkscrew - a major omission!! Small supermarket across the street so everything on hand. 
We decided to take a day tour to Valparaiso which is the port city for Saniago. Roughly a 2 hour drive through very arid country, although things became more lush as we got closer to the coast. On the way we stopped at a winery where we could buy Chilean wine at inflated prices and all sorts of Chilean souvenirs and traditional clothing - all made in China. You would think they would get their act together.
Linda had been to Valparaiso before on a cruise so it wasn't new to her, but she enjoyed the return visit under very different circumstances!
Valparaiso is a lovely OLD city with many pastel colours and the HQ of the Navy (Armada) was beautiful and very well maintained. We visited a maritime museum which was fascinating with accounts of the Chile/Peru War in the late 1800's. Many paintings of ponderous sailing ship actions and canon fire!!  The port is largely artificial being protected inside a massive breakwater in what is otherwise just a big wide bay. We went up a high hill for a view of the whole waterfront - spectacular - and then had lunch at a waterfront venue a little way north along the coast. Great view with Pacific rollers on the rocks right in front of us. The old sailor's instinct came to the fore and Jim was thinking he'd be many miles offshore!!
The place where we were staying was in the old city centre and it was but a short walk to see probably the best of Santiago with a cathedral and many other old buildings - all carefully preserved. However, it was COLD as Santiago is on the same latitude as Auckland, but with the added chill factor of cold winds coming down off the Andes which there are very close.
However, although we were glad that we had seen something of Santiago/Valparaiso, we were looking forward to getting back to the equable climate of Medellin. The 6 hour flight to Bogota was ok and uneventful, then we cleared Customs and Immigration there. Then a short 1 hour flight to Medellin. The landings at Bogota and Medellin were both accomplished in torrential rain and much reverse thrust was used rather than the brakes.    
Well, this brings us full circle - in a quite circuitous manner, but we hope you have enjoyed the blog.
Couple more things to say - 
We apologise once more for not including photos, but yours truly is just a complete dinosaur as despite trying to figure it out, cannot see how to transfer photos from our so-called smart phones to the computer. If anyone feels so inclined, any tips on how to transfer photos from either Android or Apple phones would be most gratefully accepted.
And - cannot let the opportunity go by without some political comments:
As regards American politics, all we can say is we really hope that the socialist Dems do bring impeachment proceedings against Trump. Not only will these fail spectacularly, but they will absolutely ensure Trump's re-election at the end of 2020, after the Mueller Report cleared Trump and his campaign of "collusion" and/or obstruction of justice. And the Republicans would regain their majority in the House. This would be the best outcome possible and finally Trump could succeed in stopping the illegals and the drugs coming across the southern border.
And Brexit - it goes from bad to worse. The Conservatives and Labour were punished severely in the European Parliamentary elections - no wonder May wanted out before those elections! Now she is all but gone and we hope either Nigel Farrage or Boris Johnson becomes the next PM. The spectre of a no deal Brexit has been put about just to frighten people and it would be the best thing for Britain. So that once again Britain would be free of European shackles and able to pursue its own FTA's. One with the US would be priority and Trump is certainly keen for that to happen. And NZ could resume its old trading relationship, but without the slabs of butter and mutton carcasses! Fingers crossed that all of the above happens. 
Well, you will be relieved to read that at last there is an end to this treatise. We hope you enjoy.
With all best wishes and lotsaluv from us in Medellin...........................
Jim and Jean

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

In Godzone - for the duration!!

Hi to all, and hoping you are all "in the pink" as usual,
We won't be commenting any further on the massacre that occurred in Christchurch, except to say that the latest lunatic suggestion is to change the Crusaders Rugby team name - because of the association of the name with the Christian Crusades to the Middle East which occurred centuries ago. It is considered by some misguided people that the name will offend and be offensive to Muslims. This reaction, plus all the other apologetic grovelling is dividing NZ more and more - just the opposite of the presumed expectations of those promoting such harebrained ideas. Just another example of New Zealand's cultural cringe, which we had erroneously thought to be a relic of the past. NZ has always been divided along racial lines to a greater or lesser extent and sadly this overdone apologetic attitude is just exacerbating the situation even more. 
Our time in Whangarei has mostly been head down and other end up sorting through our last possessions in NZ. At first it did not look too daunting, but as we began delving, the scale of the task became starkly obvious. Jim had held fond hopes of sending to Colombia the last of 2 family paintings which came from his mother's family, the Owens of Owens Rd., Epsom, and a ship model referred to in the previous blog, but the cost and risk involved are just too high. So, sadly on one of our trips to Auckland we delivered said items to Cordys (antique auction house) where they will be sold at their monthly auction on the 30th. This is an emotional wrench for Jim - not as bad as leaving the yacht in Turkey - but these emotional decisions have to a greater or lesser extent been a facet our time here. But the really time-consuming part has been going through 50 years of correspondence and other papers, most of which is going to Colombia and will be properly catalogued after we have returned.
Still, we have to remember that we have made a new life for ourselves in Colombia now, so all these relics of the past need to remain there. Doesn't necessarily make it any easier though.
So far we have also had a second trip to Auckland with what turned out to be 92.5 kgs of books, papers, photos and other memorabilia. All packed in 4 cartons and which will be airfreighted to hopefully more or less coincide with our arrival back in Medellin. Other items have been left with Linda at Hauraki Corner pending final delivery to either Amanda or Jim's brother, Alec!! We're sure they'll be delighted!
One very disappointing aspect of all this is the loss in value that has occurred over the last 20 years or so of items which did at one time have reasonable value. Fine china which, unless it's dishwasher safe, has relatively little value - and the list goes on. It seems that people would rather pay $1200 for a piece of junk furniture made of some sort of veneered chip board rather than a lovely solid English oak table and chairs. But that's what we have become - a society obsessed by having the latest plastic rubbish and disdainful of anything worthwhile which will last.
Then there is Jean's camphor-wood box which was made in Singapore in the early 1970's while she and her then husband and Perry were up there as part of NZ's deployment of an Air Force Skyhawk squadron. It is exceedingly well-made and heavy, so, once again a non-starter for Colombia. But it seems that Jiveen and Jenny are keen and, if they return to Glasgow, the box will have a new life in Scotland. These things only have a maximum value here of perhaps $250, but it could take months to sell.  
We have been looking after the finca at 97A Old Parua Bay Rd., where there are 2 Dexter steers, 2 dogs and 2 elderly cats. The dogs are Molly, a young Whippet cross and Winnie, a terrier type crossed with something else! The cats are Blackie ( a very fussy eater who drives us mad with his continual whingeing) and Mozart (Mo) who is very old and took a while to get used to us, but now seems quite at home. 
The weather has been variable with periods of rain but that hasn't really worried us as all our work is in Hamish's big shed and we can drive the vehicle inside for loading. We must again make mention of Linda's hospitality in Auckland and that of Hamish and Sara, in addition to the use of Perry's and Tracie's Vitara without which our job over quite a few years would have been much more expensive and difficult to accomplish.
Whangarei seems quite quiet after the vibrant places we have spent time in and also where we are living now. The streets, even during the week seem almost deserted and there are many retail vacancies. That's in spite of an increase in population with cashed up baby boomers leaving Auckland buying much more cheaply up there. A repeat of a common pattern happening in many countries, including N Americans coming to Colombia, these days. And all the good eateries in Whangarei we used to know from before we sailed are now usually owned by orientals who just buy them to get residency and really have little or no interest in maintaining standards. Almost without exception the few that we have been into are appallingly bad. Soda in Kamo is a stand-out in that regard. We used to go there after doctors visits in Kamo and undo all the good advice we had been given (!), but now would never go back. So sad. We well remember going to the vibrant farmers' market in Whangarei all that time ago in 2008/09 and then on a cold winter's morning going to Caffeine (now Salt) and having beautiful mushrooms on toast with all the windows covered in condensation. Great memories, but unfortunately these cannot be re-created because they simply do not exist now. 
On our most recent trip to Auckland, we went to a BBQ at the home of one of Jim's ex-work colleagues and had the most wonderful evening. John Bassili is Lebanese and is married to Maureen - a retired anaesthetist and they prepared wonderful food. Another ex work colleague, Graham Pearce and his wife, Carol were also there so there was much to talk about. We had also arranged to bring Linda with us and she thoroughly enjoyed the company as well. All in all great food and company and the conversation just kept flowing until around 1 in the morning!
Then back up to Whangarei again to see Hamish and Sara after their recent South Island sojourn and to collect the remnants of our bits and pieces. Great to spend time with them before we finally left for Auckland on the 14th. Very sad to say goodbye as at our time of life we may never come back, but they will come to Colombia in the not too distant future.
We've also seen a bit of Andrew and Caroline Corsbie - Andrew is a cousin of Jean's. They have 3 delightful children and we had dinner with them one night. Then there was Elizabeth (married to Colin) who is another of Jean's cousins. They live very near Waipu Cove with  a great view of the Hen and Chickens Islands. Unfortunately Colin wasn't home when we called, but Elizabeth was and we had a wide-ranging chat, including about her time in Chile at the time of the CIA backed overthrow of the Allende government in the 1970's. As she is fluent in Spanish, she was subsequently employed by the NZ Dairy Board and interacted with clients from S America - including trips back there. She was reading a Spanish language book she'd got from the local library when we called. Way better than our so far feeble attempts at speaking Spanish!!
On the way back to Auckland we spent a night in Wellsford with Jean's brother, Keith, in his little house which is on skids to avoid the pesky resource consent costs and associated nonsense. Had beautiful fresh fish which had only been caught the day before. Keith, who is 75, probably has the near perfect retirement with working part time as a farm consultant and fishing whenever the mood takes hold.
Now back at Linda's at Hauraki Corner and organising our last days in NZ. People to see and things to do. Great to be here and remote from the on-going frustrations up north!! But we have to say again that staying at Hamish and Sara's was very pleasant and enabled us to complete the sorting of "things" in a reasonably leisurely fashion. Looking forward to returning to Medellin with Linda who is spending some weeks with us there. We are hoping to explore the areas near to Medellin - most of which we haven't seen ourselves yet. And seeing other of our friends and family who may wish to explore the delights of Colombia. 
Cheers and lotsaluv from us...............................
Jim and Jean