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Old 01-28-2013, 10:09 PM   #1411
Gentri in GA
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Originally Posted by JDowns View Post
The Kuna cargo boat option is not for everyone. It is far from easy. It seems to be a self selected few who take this path. It is by far the cheapest way to get to Colombia from Panama if you don't smash your front forks. Even with repairs it may prove to be cheaper than the other options. So far I have spent $340.00 to get from Panama to Turbo. I was willing to spend 4 times that amount a couple weeks ago to fly the bike to Bogota.

Crossing the Darien in a Kuna cargo boat reminded me of taking a 16 hour ride on a third class bus in Nepal times 5. Or the overnight third class slow trains in India. It is rough and ready travel at it's finest. One of those arduous travel experiences that will make you smile when you think back in future years. These are the kinds of travel experiences that I relish. When the going gets tough and you keep persisting and find a way through it is quite rewarding in a masochistic sort of way.

If you are forward thinking and goal oriented and like to know where you are going each day and when you'll get there, this option is not for you. It is also better suited for people with third world travel bikes with a few battle scars. I would never recommend this route for someone with a big newish farkled bike. It will suffer as the Sherpa has with seawater washing over it, chickens roosting on the handlebars, sailors sitting on the bike and moving it around as they unload cargo and finally with a smashed front end. This was due to the rough January weather though. I don't think this would be a problem in the June to November calmer seas.

Although I benefited greatly from reading other ride reports, once you get down here you enter a nebulous foggy world where no one knows anything and there are no clear answers. Because of tides and weather and the vagaries of this route, even the sailors don't know where the boat is going next or how long it will take to get there. It is like asking directions in Latin America. They will tell you something to please you. But you soon learn to stop asking. We'll be here for a while could mean half an hour or until tomorrow.

Because the meals are included it is quite economical if they don't wreck your bike too badly. I was on the boat for 3 days waiting for the captain and 5 days at sea. So 24 meals plus shipping the bike and myself from Carti to Puerto Obaldia for 200 works out to 25 dollars a day. Plus the few dollars I spent on sodas and crackers when wandering around the Kuna villages while the boat was unloading goods.

Then it was 40.00 to Capurgana and 100 for me and the bike to Turbo.

The sleeping accommodations are extremely limited. The boat was filled with Kuna sailors in hammocks along with cargo and livestock. The boat docks every night at a Kuna village in a protected cove so the gentle rocking motion is conducive to sleeping on the roof. It rained briefly every night around 3AM, Rather than set up a tent on the roof of the wheelhouse in a stiff breeze every night, I eventually found it easier to sleep out near the dock under an eave or unused palapa wherever we docked for the night.

The diet consists mostly of rice combined with various combinations of fried plantains, beans, scrambled eggs and a piece of chicken. fish or meat. The Kuna villages we stopped at had limited food options if you wanted a snack. Mostly crackers, cookies, soda and spam were on offer. And the few comedors could cook up a cheap meal of the same ingredients as are available on the boat. Some Kuna villages had water piped over from the mainland which I drank unfiltered with no ill effect. The boat would fill up 5 gallon jugs of the same water and it was fine for drinking.

Bathing options consist of a five gallon bucket of water and a bar of soap or splashing yourself from a tap. Toilet options consist of peeing off the dock or over the rail of the boat. There is a regular toilet on board as well which is flushed with a bucket of sea water. The Kuna bathrooms consist of a small outhouse on stilts over the ocean accessed by some rickety planks extended out from the island.

The ideal profile of a Kuna boat traveler would be a hobo. Someone used to living day to day in the moment letting tomorrow take care of itself, sleeping rough in their clothes, eating anything on offer, not bathing for days, stubborn and persistent, tightwad, able to amuse themselves for hours or days waiting around idly, and able to communicate with people who don't speak English.

There are quite a few ADVriders I have met who fit this profile. But let's face it. If you have more money than time I would recommend flying your bike to Bogota from Panama City for 900 plus 420 for yourself. And if you want to experience the Kuna Yala and San Blas islands it is far easier to sail on one of the gringo sailboats who take reservations for 950 for you and the bike.

I am just a guinea pig trying to document ways that poor people can travel with limited funds.

Siepre su amigo de aventura,
Juan Hemmingway
El viejo hombre del mar
JUAN,
This post made me laugh more than any of them... I've enjoyed your adventures! I only made it to CopperCanyon 2 years ago with far less issues. Your trip is astounding and enjoyable to read. Ride safe and keep reporting!
Gentri
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:31 AM   #1412
Sourjon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDowns View Post
The ideal profile of a Kuna boat traveler would be a hobo. Someone used to living day to day in the moment letting tomorrow take care of itself, sleeping rough in their clothes, eating anything on offer, not bathing for days, stubborn and persistent, tightwad, able to amuse themselves for hours or days waiting around idly, and able to communicate with people who don't speak English.

I am just a guinea pig trying to document ways that poor people can travel with limited funds.

Siepre su amigo de aventura,
Juan Hemmingway
El viejo hombre del mar
Awesome post! Sent you some Sherpa Recovery funds.

John
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Old 01-29-2013, 05:34 AM   #1413
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Went over to the dock this morning and the El Pipe was just pulling in to the dock. I jumped on board and used the baling wire and tape I bought yesterday to secure the broken front forks to the axle so the bike would roll. Wheeled it over the side of the boat with the help of the marinos on board and pushed it down the street a few blocks to the Residencia Florida.

Here is a shot of the Sherpa sitting on the street below the balcony I am typing this on:



and a shot of the sign you look for across from the park if you ever find yourself in Turbo in need of an economical place to stay:



I am sweating like a pig. It is 80 and humid and I need to find a truck to get the bike to Medellin. Trespalacios has kindly offered up a place in a parking garage over at his Dad's. I have a map and a phone number which he sent as well. Three cheers for Señor threepalaces.

I look forward to hanging out in a garage in Medellin and hopefully grafting on a new front end and wheel with crowd sourced help. It should be fun.

more later……
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Old 01-29-2013, 05:41 AM   #1414
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sourjon View Post
Awesome post! Sent you some Sherpa Recovery funds.

John
Hi Sourjon,

Thanks so much! It will be interesting to see how this develops. It has been easier than I would have expected. Colombia is aces in my book. I really like this country.

Thanks to folks like you we'll get the Sherpa rolling again. Carnival starts in Baranquilla on Feb.9th. Second biggest in South America. It would be a shame not to go.

I better get busy. I'm not on Kuna time any more.

Saludos,
Juan Turbo
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Old 01-29-2013, 05:44 AM   #1415
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gentri in GA View Post
JUAN,
This post made me laugh more than any of them... I've enjoyed your adventures! I only made it to CopperCanyon 2 years ago with far less issues. Your trip is astounding and enjoyable to read. Ride safe and keep reporting!
Gentri
Hi Gentri,

Glad you are enjoying reading along. You know me. Only a Kuna time warp will slow me down with ride reporting.

I will continue sending postcards from the edge.

Saludos,
Juanito
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Old 01-29-2013, 07:33 AM   #1416
TengaiJohn
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Hey Juan, I'm trying to catch up and read your ride report..... I have a KLR 250 rim with hub if you need it. I can send it to you in Columbia at no charge to you. I also have a set of Tengai and KLR 650 forks but I don't know if they will fit your Sherpa.

Let me know if I can help in any way, buena suerte y buen viaje!!!!!

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Old 01-29-2013, 08:23 AM   #1417
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With the Sherpa off the love boat, the dueño here at Residencias Florida called his friend in Medellin who has a truck. He is coming to Turbo today and can take the bike back to Medellin tomorrow with me and my gear. I did a quick google.maps search and it is 330 kilometers mas o menos. Gas prices here are 8800 pesos per gallon or about $5.00/gal. He is charging me 100,000 pesos for the ride. That comes to around 55 bucks by my calculations. So I think it is paying for his gas back home and that's about all.

He will deliver me to trespalacio's Dad's house and I'll take it from there. Look forward to Medellin. Have heard nothing but good things and there are plenty of places to find parts. Should be interesting.

Before I leave Turbo, here is the DIAN building for doing your bike temporary import:



It is a fair way out of downtown, so I found it easiest to hop on a motorcycle taxi to get there and back. The taxista waited for me while I took care of aduana details and rode me back to the guesthouse. Cost for the mototaxi ride was 10,000 pesos or about $5.50. There was no cost for the temporary import for the bike. They give you three months.

I will get SOAT insurance in Medellin after I get the Sherpa mobile again on trespalacios recommendation. The nice folks at DIAN said it wasn't necessary for a non functioning bike. But it covers medical expenses if you wreck your bike. And who knows if that will come in handy.

So today my only mission is to find a razor to shave, wheel the bike over across the street next to the gas station to Dona Julia's for secure parking for the night and upload photos to finish filling in the holes in this ride report. I am currently sitting on the balcony looking down at the Sherpa:



and the nice central square across the street with a nautical theme:



Excellent vantage point for people watching.

more later…..
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:47 AM   #1418
bESS
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Juan:

you are more patient than me when the "going gets tough", but I am learning to chill out and take it easy thanks to your outlook on traveling. I think most of us here are dreaming of doing this trip in a minimalist way and learning a bit about traveling with limited funds. You are so resourceful . . .

thank you for taking us along, thank for your photos and detailed way in which you report back to us.

I have just added more funds to your Sherpa repair/recovery fund. Hope you get back on the road soon


bob
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:53 AM   #1419
SS in Vzla.
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WOW!

I'm late to this party, but the good thing is I managed to read all about your Darien Gap crossing on the same day as opposed to having to wait for the updates

I'm sure everything will work out with your bike. Colombians are experts at repairing stuff with minimal resources. I'm sure you will find a set of forks that fits your bike without too much hassle once you get to Medellin.

There is some Sherpa-repair-money headed your way, save some for a Tres Cordilleras at Al's Place!
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:01 AM   #1420
JDowns OP
Sounds good, let's go!
 
Joined: Mar 2005
Location: Bassett, NE
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TengaiJohn View Post
Hey Juan, I'm trying to catch up and read your ride report..... I have a KLR 250 rim with hub if you need it. I can send it to you in Columbia at no charge to you. I also have a set of Tengai and KLR 650 forks but I don't know if they will fit your Sherpa.

Let me know if I can help in any way, buena suerte y buen viaje!!!!!
Hola TengaiJohn,

Thanks so much for the kind offer. I really appreciate it.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call from Nuevo York here in Turbo and got a chance to talk to TengaiJohn.

Now that's not something you expect when you're sitting on the balcony in Turbo Colombia watching the world go by.

Muchas gracias amigo. You're the best! I think things will work out with locally sourced parts. I can feel it.

But I thank you so much for thinking of me.

Su hermano de aventura,
Juanito
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:09 AM   #1421
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS in Vzla. View Post
WOW!

I'm late to this party, but the good thing is I managed to read all about your Darien Gap crossing on the same day as opposed to having to wait for the updates

I'm sure everything will work out with your bike. Colombians are experts at repairing stuff with minimal resources. I'm sure you will find a set of forks that fits your bike without too much hassle once you get to Medellin.

There is some Sherpa-repair-money headed your way, save some for a Tres Cordilleras at Al's Place!
Hola Silviu,

Thanks so much!! I hope to see you down the road in Venezuela if you're around. Glad to have you along for the ride. All the more reason to get the Sherpa on the road so I can visit bonita Venezuela. With gas prices like the country currently has, what minimalist ADVrider can resist.

Thanks so much for the Sherpa rehabilitation money. I really appreciate it!!

Saludos,
Juan Turbo
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:08 AM   #1422
JDowns OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bESS View Post
Juan:

you are more patient than me when the "going gets tough", but I am learning to chill out and take it easy thanks to your outlook on traveling. I think most of us here are dreaming of doing this trip in a minimalist way and learning a bit about traveling with limited funds. You are so resourceful . . .

thank you for taking us along, thank for your photos and detailed way in which you report back to us.

I have just added more funds to your Sherpa repair/recovery fund. Hope you get back on the road soon


bob
Hola Roberto,

Thanks so much! Glad to still have you along for this saga of eternal torment. Better than reality TV I think.

It will be interesting to see if I can fix the Sherpa for less than the bright guys who took the sailboat option.

Saludos,
Juan Bey Essa
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:08 PM   #1423
bESS
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Juan:

I am here every day. I read your every word. It's just that I don't comment much

but right now you are my hero and you are making me think that someday I could manage to do a trip like
this. You have a way of making these huge problems seem like little ripples on the road

hoping you get rolling soon

bob
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:20 PM   #1424
Throttlemeister
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What a jump of the Gap

Really too bad the guys duffed the offloading but like others have said Colombia is one of the best places in the World to have bike trouble, they are experts with moto repairs. Also in Medellin is where some of the best manual machine shops that I saw in SA, your in excellent hands. Let me know if you need a good way point for a Medellin machine shop.

Goodluck Juanito.
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:50 PM   #1425
CaptUglyDan
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Sherpa parts

Hi John, I just got back from my ride thru Mexico and Central America, My 03 Sherpa is sitting in the garage now, Its no problem to go out and pull any parts you need, I also have brand new front and rear brake pads, wheel bearings, and sprockets I'd be willing to donate so you can finish the trip. Guess the only hard part would be figuring how to ship them to you from the Seattle area?? Anyway whatever you need just let me know.
Regards, Dan
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