Buying “El Chigüiro”

Ok, so it’s kind of ridiculous that we bought another car. Andrés and I are the first to admit it. But, we argue, it would have been MORE ridiculous to do the road trip with El Torito. So really, when you think about it, we made a sensible decision.

As I mentioned in the last post, we found the van on Drive the Americas, which is a pretty great resource. We communicated with a German couple, Manuel and Julia, a few months ago about their van, but had originally decided to buy a car in Colombia. When that didn’t work out and we saw that they were still trying to sell their van, it seemed kind of like fate. We emailed them asking if they would come to Sogamoso and, thankfully, they agreed.

We met them at the mall in Sogamoso. We checked out the van and it was just as great as we had hoped. It was decked out with everything and more. On top of that, Manuel and Julia were really friendly and fun. They did let us know that on their way to Sogamoso, the car started to make a strange noise while the car accelerated. Andrés and I braced ourselves because we had already had our fair share of car problems. Luckily, we had an appointment with a mechanic first thing in the morning so we hoped all would get resolved then.

We showed up at the repair shop at 8:00am and had to wait around for a little bit for the mechanic to get back from his morning coffee. We told him about the issue the car had and also asked him to do a general revision of the car so we would know it was in good working order. He said he’d get to it that day so we set off to take care of the paperwork.

Since we were buying a car that was from Canada instead of Colombia, the process was going to be a little different. If we were going to legally buy the car, we would need to go to British Colombia to submit all the proper paperwork. Apparently everything could be done immediately, but we didn’t have the time or the money to fly up to Vancouver. Instead, we did a “poder” which is a notarized letter that gives me permission to use the car. We typed up a document based off the one that Manuel and Julia had for the car, went to a notary, and got extra copies made in less than 30 minutes. The Germans told us they met lots of people on their trip who had the same paperwork and didn’t have any trouble crossing borders. We also had the option of flying to Vancouver when we had a chance to do the formal paperwork. Manuel and Julia also suggested making a photoshopped copy of the ownership paperwork just in case we had any problems with the poder.

After taking care of the paperwork, we stopped by the mechanic to see how things were coming along. To our dismay, they hadn’t even started working on the van. They said they were just finishing up another car and they would start on ours next. We weren’t completely satisfied, but we figured we’d give them the benefit of the doubt. We went to a nearby town to check out the crafts and checked the phone every five minutes to see if the mechanic had called. Three hours later we had heard nothing so we stopped by again to see what was going on. At least this time they had started to disassemble the rear axle. They determined the problem was with the transmission and after taking it apart their suspicions were confirmed. From what the mechanic could tell, the transmission had been tightened too much and was beginning to grind on itself. We were glad they had identified the issue, but were nervous about the cost and amount of time it would take to fix. The mechanic got on the phone and called several contacts trying to find a replacement part. The best he could do was a part in Bogota that would hopefully arrive the next day. We quickly went to the bank to wire the money for the piece with the hope that they would be able to sent it that night so they could start working on it the next morning.

They next day we checked in with the mechanic to see what progress had been made. It turns out they had sent the part with the wrong delivery service so it would take another day for it to arrive. We were frustrated, but what could we do? We urged him to at least do the revision of the car so we could waste as little time as possible. The following day we called again but were told that the part they sent was wrong and he didn’t know where he could get the right one. His best suggestion was going to a local car parts shop to see if he could find it through his network. I don’t know why, but the mechanic needed us to pick up the part and take it to the shop, which was no more than 8 blocks away from the mechanic’s business, to show it to the guy. We went down there but since it was late in the day, the guy’s contact wouldn’t be able to check his inventory until the morning.

We called in the morning to see if any progress had been made. Luckily they were able to find the part, but it would cost 1,700,000 pesos (about $550) which was more than twice the estimated 700,000. We figured the guy was taking advantage of us, knowing we weren’t locals and we were eager to get on our way. At this point, Andrés decided he would go to Bogotá himself to find the part so we could avoid getting charged “the gringo price.” After first checking out other parts shops in Sogamoso and Duitama (where we weren’t able to find anything), Andrés and his stepdad got up REALLY early to drive to Bogotá. Manuel, Julia and I stayed back to keep Leia company. At about noon I got a call from Andrés saying he found the part. It actually was the whole transmission (they wouldn’t sell just the part we needed) and it was used, but it only cost 900,000 pesos. We decided this was a win. They bought the part, hightailed it back to Sogamosa, and dropped it off at the mechanic.

During this whole ordeal, the Germans were with us, trying to make the best out of a stressful situation. Every time it seemed like we had made progress, another thing went wrong. Andrés and I had grown accustom to this and were jaded by most car related interactions, but Manuel and Julia handled it well. Once we got the part and handed it over to the mechanic, they felt it was fine to leave the car and continue on their trip. We were so happy to have bought the car from them because we made great new friends and had a really great time with them, even though there was a rollercoaster of car stress going on at that time.

So Monday morning the mechanic actually had the van fixed and ready to go before we even got there. Crazy, I know. We took the van for a spin and were very pleased. It drove like a dream and we knew we had made the right choice. We drove up to the house and scrambled to get all our stuff in order so we could take off as soon as possible. It took a couple days to mount the solar panel on the roof, get a few things for the car, and hit the road.

Here’s a bunch of stuff that the car comes with:

Thule Box Frontier ES

ARB-Awning: 2,5mx2,5m

Second battery + Inverter (Cigarette plug, USB-port, US-standard socket)

new Spare Tire

lots of Tools




Fire Extinguisher

Jumper Cable

Steering wheel lock – aka The Club

10l & 25l Diesel Containers


2 Camping chairs


2 Burner electric stove (110V), 2 Burner gas stove

Electric cooler

Set of dishes

Pan and Pots

Italian Coffee Machine


Portable Potty


Boxes to store stuff

17l Pipe for showering or as a water source

extension cables

2x Fishing poles + Fishing gear

2 Warning triangles + 2 High Visibility Vests

Mattress+Pillows+Wool Blanket+Bedding

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