Ran out of luck in Panama City and our van broke down. Ironically it happened on the way to the DIJ inspection after leaving the NYK – Norton Lilly office in hurry, to get our exit permit for the van, shipping was due in two days. First moments were spent in disbelief, then it was time to call a towing through our insurance company. Now, about using phones for phone calls in Panama: they are outrageously expensive. By the time we managed to call a towing truck we went through $ 30.00 worth of prepaid phone cards, which averaged about $ 1.00 a minute. Finally few hours later the towing truck arrives and pulls the Sprinter up on the platform, basically with the end of Big White overhanging, the back wheels barely on the platform. Gulp. Yes, we rode the whole way inside the van, which basically would be illegal in any civilized country. The ride was fantastic, riding up at about 5 meters height, lots and lots of heartbeats skipped, especially in curves, when it felt like that’s it, we’re flipping over. I think I held my breath all the way while we crossed the Las Americas bridge. When not fearing the flip low hanging wires were dangerously close to our roof. For whatever reason we didn’t flip after all and no wires were ripped off; arrived at AutoStar Mercedes trucks shop after few hours of adrenaline rush. The guys at the service were pretty cool about things, there was no problem camping in the front of the building, which went on for a total of 10 days by the time we were done. Next morning they pulled apart the rear differential and axle shafts, it turned out that the left axle shaft end stripped off, needed a new axle and bearing house, which of course was not available in Panama. The weekend was upon us , the shop closed at noon on Saturday so we needed to wait until Monday for further advancement in finding the part. Monday came and buy the end of the day the cuoe was on paper: $ 3,950.00 USD, from which the parts only were $ 2,000.00. What is the chance to find one in Philly on eBay, paying for it and getting it shipped by the end of Tuesday? In the first few hours seemed that the chance is slim. My eBay account was hacked and all transactions on hold with the message”call us”. Did I mention the phone call prices in Panama? Turned out that 1-800 numbers are free to call on Skype. I don’t know how but I managed to explain things to eBay C/S and with the account in working order managed to contact the seller. Enter Dmitry from Philly, who shipped the same day the parts as I paid for it. First it was like, ship, where to? Panama has no building addresses as let’s say Canada. An address is like “behind the mall, on this and that street” or “at the intersection of this and that street”, no building number. Right, go and tell that to USPS. At the end somehow we received the parcel on the sixth day after shipping at the local post office, it was like a miracle. The parts were the right ones, another miracle; installed in few hours without any parts left over and all worked great! I have nothing but nice words about this service. As a thank you ordered few boxes of pizza for the shop guys, after all they were the ones who pulled off the repair. Final cost: $ 500.00 for labour and oils and $ 598.00 for parts including shipping from USA. The Mercedes quote was $ 2,000.00 for parts. I must say we were unlucky but in the same time very lucky with the shipping of the parts, the service guys and the fact that we broke down in Panama City, not in the middle of nowhere. On other end this shipping was gone on the drain, next shipping in 30 days through NYK.

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