Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Medellin one week on

Hi to all,
Well, we have been settling in - sort of - to the apartment and Medellin living. As the days have gone on we have identified over 30 deficiencies with the apartment. Some quite significant and others by themselves fairly trivial but together they add up to the fact that the apartment was not ready to be let as it was held up to be back in April. We have been having some testy discussions, particularly as they now inform us that they want more money from us which would amount to 109% in excess of the amount estimated to us for refurbishment last year when we bought the apartment. We may compromise a little but will not be paying the bulk of their claim, and if they won't accept that then there will be all sorts of shenanigans! Most of the increase comprises their fees so they can do the other thing with them!! Reminds Jim of a hilarious conversation he had with our agent in Suva when we were exporting onions and potatoes up there in the 1970's. There was a 3rd. party who had been upset at our activities and our agent who was an Indian told him to write him a letter and he would write a letter and then they could all do what they liked with it!! And all in a delightful Indian accent as well.
Added to that Jim has contracted a severe case of Gout (la Gota) in his left foot which means he cannot put on any footwear and walking is extremely painful. Plus a bad cold - no doubt from the Air Asia flight from Langkawi to KL!! However, we have an appointment this morning at the top Medellin hospital, Clinica las Vegas at 1030 so the effort has to be made to get there. It is a little better this morning so should be more or less bearable. The last time this happened was at Waiheke in Waiheke Wines and Spirits 13 years ago. We'll advise progress.
The weather has been hot with some rain but this is the hottest month. We have fans in the apartment which are adequate and at night we sleep with just a sheet as it gets cooler at night. Officially the temperature ranges between 16C early in the morning to the high 20'sC in the evening but it seems to have been higher just recently. Jean has swum in the pool but it is cold in the morning after the lower night time temperatures. Once Jim's Gout lets up he'll be in there too!
The apartment lies well - we get morning sun all across the front, on the balcony and in all 3 bedrooms. It is a very sunny and bright and airy apartment. In view of our balcony is a most attractive Catholic church and it is always well patronized. Sometimes we hear singing and often the bells in the morning. There was a wedding there on the weekend and the bride looked beautiful with a very long train.
There are 2 supermercados within easy walking distance from the apartment - Carulla and Euro. Both very well stocked and the fruit and veges are to die for. All the S American fruit, some of which we have in NZ, but many more here including the ubiquitous Cape Gooseberry. Jim's favourite! It is actually native to S America - we had thought it was S African, although it grows right through those latitudes, including here of course. The difference is that here it is grown commercially and sold in punnets minus the outer shells. Only possible with a low cost labour force no doubt.
Well, we're back from the hospital now armed with some pharmaceutical firepower to deal with the Uric Acid. Great experience at the hospital - first time in any Colombian medical facility. We had made an appointment by email yesterday with Maria in the International office and so off we went (Jim with a bare left foot) straight to the doctor's office on the 2nd. floor (piso dos). Doctora Bibiana Lucia Serna did all the admission formalities herself which took a while, Her English wasn't great but passable - certainly better than our Spanish!! Then she examined Jim and blood pressure was fine. As were all other vital signs. She prescribed medication for 3 months which was way over the top and also wanted to prescribe 2 injections which we politely declined. We paid COP145,000 (NZD65) to her male secretary who sat in her outer office. Then downstairs to find Maria in the International Office. She is Colombian but had been married to an American and they lived in Minnesota. So, her English was excellent and she was most helpful. She took Jean to the dispensary while Jim drew some money from the ATM. We have to go back tomorrow for some blood tests.
Now back in the apartment and just had some delicious Quinoa crackers with cheese and avocado. Some contractors arriving from FARM to start the remedial work this afternoon so maybe things are looking up.
More to come as always...................
Jim and Jean

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Istanbul and finally on our way to Colombia

This blog, or at least part of it comes to you from Istanbul, Turkey. We arrived here just after 5 am local time this morning (15/07) after a 10 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. Turkish Airlines was excellent as always. We had bulkhead seats on the 777 and had bought neck cushions at KLIA just before boarding so were able to sleep for reasonably long periods which had the effect of keeping us fairly spry - at least until we arrived at our hotel for the next 16 hours.
However, to digress - the momentous breaking news is that we have finally taken the plunge and after much hand wringing and discussions with other like minded yacht owners, we have committed to shipping our old girl from Phuket to Genoa, Italy in March 2018. We signed the contract and paid the 10% initial deposit. We have obtained a very keen discounted and all inclusive price from Sevenstar Yacht Transport and so we are going!! Our rationale, if indeed you can apply that word to anything to do with yachting, is that there has been almost zero interest from buyers in SE Asia and we received an opinion from a well respected classic yacht broker in the U.K. to the effect that in his opinion we have zero chance of selling a classic wooden yacht like ours in SE Asia. So, as we'd already been in Malaysia/Thailand for just over 3 years, we thought the time had come to be a bit more pro-active and get her to an area where there is far more likelihood of effecting a sale. And at the same time, a series of new adventures for us. The thought of sailing those historic waters is intoxicating and we've already identified very economical marinas for over wintering - either in Licata, Sicily or Bizerte, Tunisia. And no doubt there are other places as well in areas we haven't as yet had a chance to research in depth. In fact, the costs in Bizerte and/or Licata are lower than those at the Royal Langkawi!
After the usual few days cleaning and otherwise preparing the boat for her lonely 3 month stint alone, we flew from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur an hour late. The departure lounge at Langkawi International was packed to the gills with passengers departing to myriad destinations and the numbers travelling these days always amazes us. Our flight to KL was full and the flight from KL to Istanbul was full also. Just as well we'd allowed 6 hours in KL before the departure for Istanbul at 2330. We are always early for flights because we have discovered that these days, with all the travelling (walking) within gigantic airports and extra security formalities, it always takes much longer than you think. We are way too old to face the additional pressure of shortage of time between flights. For instance, at KL Air Asia lands at its own airport and it is then necessary to take a train to the international airport proper. Trouble is, being Malaysia things are far from efficient and the signage is confusing, if not entirely bereft. Check-in with Turkish was no problem and our previously booked seats were allocated. Just prior to check-in we'd thought we would have a cup of coffee and a snack at a nearby cafĂ©. We received the usual Malaysian response to the request for a menu item of "don't have" and the coffee was more or less awful. Back in Langkawi on the morning of the day we left we walked the short distance down the road for breakfast at Starbucks. We had no food on the boat. We could have eaten at Charlies at the marina but the food is truly totally awful there and grossly overpriced so Jim had "Mac n' Cheese" and Jean had a lamb pocket at Starbucks. Not very nutritious but the best choice of a bad bunch. We will be glad to be away from the indifferent food of Malaysia for a while. 
We followed the usual route over India, Iran (close to the Iraqi border), over the southern Caspian Sea and south coast of the Black Sea and landed at Istanbul just as a spectacular sunrise was occurring. Immigration and Customs formalities were very quick and easy and as we always travel light, we had no baggage to collect. Found a reasonably priced Mercedes taxi van and we arranged for them to take us back to the airport later as well. Within 15 minutes we had arrived at the Steigenberger Hotel where we had a reservation and checked in - very friendly and easy. After a shower we felt more alive and went down to one of the best breakfasts we have ever had anywhere. Salamis, cheeses, fresh fruit and salad vegetables, breads, olives, etc. etc. - it was fantastic. As always the taste explosion of Turkish food is a delight made all the more poignant after the mediocre food of Malaysia. The hotel is brand new and so reasonable in cost - less than NZD100 per night - compare that to Auckland!! After breakfast we had a much needed sleep - then decided to try the indoor pool. We went down to the pool and there was a young Indonesian woman overseeing the pool, gym and saunas. After talking to her we discovered that she was a widow - her husband had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Indonesia 6 years ago and she had 2 sons. They were being cared for her by her mother while she worked far away from home to earn USD600 per month. She could only earn USD200 in Indonesia. For that she had to work 12 hour days 6 days a week. Stories like that are by no means uncommon in Asia and always make us thankful for what we have.
We didn't have a swim because the water was freezing as it was indoors in an airconditioned environment.
Then we had dinner before finally repacking for the long haul to Bogota in Colombia. At the airport we met another delightful young woman - Fanni from Switzerland. We didn't have bulkhead seats this time as they were unavailable but Turkish has fairly generous legroom anyway so we were fairly comfortable - although after 13 hours nothing is really comfortable. We took off around midnight and flew the length of the Mediterranean before heading out across the Atlantic just north of Porto on the Douro River in Portugal. Slept fitfully before landing at 0700 on Sunday the 16th. Finally back in Colombia.
However, our first hours in Colombia were to prove much more of a trial than we expected. We had allowed 8 hours between our ETA on Turkish and the ETD on Viva Colombia for Medellin just in case Turkish was late, but in fact we landed early!! After just sitting, relaxing and having a meal we decided the time had come to check in with VC. Had what would have been a hilarious time checking in as being a low cost airline, they do not allow much in the cabin so we had to check our 2 small cases. Took a while with our non existent Spanish. And being extremely tired by this time, we found the whole thing fairly painful. Anyway, it was finally done and then we settled in to wait for the flight at 1530.
As the time for leaving was getting close and nothing was happening we asked what the holdup was. We were fed a cock and bull story about adverse weather at Medellin but this was untrue. It transpired later that there had been an aeronautical display at Medellin and they had closed the airport for a few hours that afternoon! We waited and waited and waited and then we were transferred to another gate. This entailed a long walk with all our hand luggage which included 6 bottles of duty free Scotch. Jim found the walk difficult as his knees were not good after all the time awake and travelling and Bogota's altitude (8,000') caused some labored breathing. Never struck that before but it was not a comfortable feeling.
We had no phone as the only outlet at the airport had run out of SIM cards! So, we had to email the people who were picking us up at Medellin to tell them of the delay. Luckily we had their email and were able to use the airport Wifi which was patchy at best. Also luckily they were monitoring their email and so we at least had made that contact. 
Then the fun really began. There was a young and vociferous group of Colombians who greeted every loudspeaker announcement with loud boos and abusive language. Colombians are very outgoing!! We probably would have joined in too if we hadn't been so tired. In the meantime Jean (as she does) had met an American woman in a wheel chair and her Colombian husband who is a 2nd. hand car dealer in Medellin. He has promised to assist us with an automotive purchase when we finally settle here permanently. She had badly pulled a hip muscle doing the Salsa - hence the wheel chair! Then around 2200 the aircraft finally arrived and we had to board buses to get out to it. The aircraft was an old and battered Airbus 320 and certainly did not inspire confidence. In our physical state we were far from happy. However, we had bulkhead seats which were a Godsend at that stage. The American lady and Jean chatted all the way to Medellin while Jim went to sleep with fingers crossed that we missed all the mountains around here. However, Medellin is 3,000' lower than Bogota so it was all downhill. Probably could have glided if we'd had to.
We landed safely after all that and our driver was there with a sign. Then we had to wait for our 2 bags. Everything came off the plane but not our bags. However, it appeared eventually that they had been taken to a carousel at the other end of the building and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth we were finally re-united with them. The drive into town was uneventful except that it was very slow with queues of cars on the narrow one lane road.
We arrived at the apartment - Jardines de la Maria, Carrera 44 22 Sur-51, Envigado. Just before that we had stopped at a supermarket to get fruit and eggs and bacon, etc. to eat the next morning as there would be no food in the apartment. By then it was well after midnight but the key had been left with the armed security on the gate. Our driver helped us up to the 8th. floor (in a lift thank goodness) with all our bags and then we were on our own finally in our own apartment. A heady moment even after all our previous tribulations.
So, we broached one of the duty free bottles (a 10 year old Glenmorangie malt) and sat on our balcony. Couldn't believe we were finally HERE!!! Then more fun and games. Before we had decided to go to bed the power went off. Blackness in a strange apartment. Fookin' 'ell. Checked the breakers but all looked OK. Nothing for it but to retire. In the morning we awoke bleary eyed from sheer exhaustion and a modicum too much Glenmorangie but couldn't even boil water because the electric ignition on our gas hob top wouldn't work. And we couldn't find a phone to even ring someone. Anyway, we eventually staggered downstairs in our jetlagged state and spoke to a woman who appeared to be the building manager. She spoke some English and she then organized security to investigate. It turned out that a breaker in the basement had tripped for some reason and power was restored. But the cause remains a mystery.
We were not happy with aspects of the apartment as it had not been adequately prepared for letting. Ok as it was us, but if a tenant had arrived in the middle of the night it wouldn't have been good. So off we went in a diminutive Hyundai taxi and 8,000 pesos (NZD4) later we arrived at First American Realty's office in Poblado. We met Bruna Lima who is a Brazilian and she heads FARM's rental division. We discussed the deficiencies and later followed up with a detailed email. Then another taxi up the hill to the El Tresoro shopping mall which has a commanding view over all of Medellin. We had a meal up there and also finally got a local SIM card' Jim bought a pair of swimming togs (Quicksilver!). Our cell phone no. is +57 4 312 630 8785. We also have a land line - +57 4 2709871.   
Today (Tuesday) we have been relaxing and we had the maintenance manager from FARM here to go through our deficiency list. Most is now sorted - he spoke excellent English - and we have hot water at last! This powered by natural gas which is reticulated all over the city.
So, that's it for now folks - as usual hope everyone's in the pink. Our pink had become almost purple but now looking much brighter again!
Lotsaluv from us..............
Jim and Jean
Appt. 804
Jardines de la Maria
Carrera 44 22 Sur-51