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Old 08-05-2013, 10:30 PM   #46
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74

Originally Posted by Two Moto Kiwis View Post

Ouwh and check this out bro
Our stickers are bigger than your stickers! na na na na

Hope to see you two cool cats soon.

Jayne xxxx
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 08-06-2013, 07:07 AM   #47
Two Moto Kiwis
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Originally Posted by UltiJayne View Post
Our stickers are bigger than your stickers! na na na na

Jayne xxxx
... its not the size of your sticker but how you use it
Andi (oveja negra) & Ellen (chica amarilla)...Two Moto Kiwi Grüvers .....riding Maya somewhere ..Una Chimba
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Old 08-06-2013, 01:23 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by UltiJayne View Post
It was one year ago today that my brother Phil and I packed up our motorcycles (Kawasaki KLR 650s) and left Vancouver heading towards the Arctic Circle.

Love deeper, speak sweeter, give forgiveness you've been denying. I hope YOU also get the chance to live like you were dying.
I'm loving your trip, just read through it this afternoon. A lot of the experiences remind me of my own trip through central america which is great.

Love the summary post, the tribulations as well as the sheer joy of making such a trip. All the people, locations, uncertainly, the ridiculous drunken shit.. I feel like i've done more living in my six months on a motorcycle than most people their lives. Glad to see more!
2010 - DC to Gaspé, QC
2008 - DC to Panamá
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Old 08-06-2013, 06:54 PM   #49
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IN for the ride.

great job.

keep it coming.
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Old 08-19-2013, 05:12 PM   #50
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Old 08-22-2013, 01:41 AM   #51
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Without interwebs

Originally Posted by Tsotsie View Post
"And?" indeed!
We've been without any reasonable internet for a couple weeks, but now are hoping to get all caught up right quick!
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Old 08-22-2013, 02:00 AM   #52
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Relaxing in the rain: Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica

Sometimes warning signs say "no" but they really mean "go". Sometimes they really mean "no" though. There's only one way to find out.

Loosely translated: "water and dirt make mud. your balding tire won't do, Phil."

Just remember, it gets worse before it gets worse. I made it 100 meters.

yes, that balding tire

We had heard many great things about Santa Rosa. Sadly the road into the beach was in quite a state from recent rain storms when cricket and Jugs rolled up. Santa Rosa national park has much history and the coast is reportedly beautiful, but was not passable and not worth the 20$ parks fees to go backstroking in the mud. Instead we turned tail and rode back down the highway through Liberia and onwards to Cañas. As typical nowdays, noting we were surrounded by storm clouds the whole way.

Everything is raining to the left, to the left

Among other things (i.e. seeing water falling from the sky) we've learned to watch for the windshield wipers working furriously on cars coming towards us as our cue for when it's time to pull over and put on the rain gear. Too soon and you overheat, sweat and get soaked. Too late and the rain drenches, drips through and you get soaked. It's a razor thin line. Toeing the line until the skies opened, we spent the night in a comparatively-cheap-for-Costa Rica 20$ hotel.
Next up was Neuvo Arenal, a town set in the beautiful lakeside surroundings and not far from the Arenal Volcano.

Even the clouds and power lines were scenic in these parts!

We had barely rolled into town before being invited around to the "German Bakery" for a coffee. Ladies first however, so we started by going to meet our beautiful hosts.

Kim, Aubrey and Taylor: CS hosts extraordinaire

Once we got settled in with our host Kim and her daughters Aubrey and Taylor, we formed a street gang and set off for ze Germans.

We weren't the only bikers there at the German Bakery...

...nor were we the first.

Our time with Kim and the girls was very relaxing. Jayne hadn't been feeling well so took the few days to rest up...

...and get caught up on multiple seasons of Grey's Anatomy.
In the time between drinking healthy oreo smoothies and eating some great meals prepped by the ladies, I took advantage of the relaxed time to work on my buns.

My hot, sugary buns.

I also got a lot of work done on the bike. Have had a bit of hesitating at times recently at idle, so new spark plug and cleaned air filter were in order. Also rear tire change, and a good cleaning. Slight oil leak at the valve cover bolts noted. Will keep an eye on that.

Hate dirt and stones falling into your engine with every spark plug change? No Vacuum/compressed air handy? Empty peanut butter jar and siphon hose to the rescue!

And I thought I was having trouble getting the tire off without Crickets kickstand handy.

While in a gas station parking lot to swap tires, Josue came over from the nearby garage to offer a hand with my tire. The bead was so tight it even took multiple attempts using the hydraulic press! Putting the new TKC 80's on was also significantly easier with his machine I must say. He wouldn't accept a dime. As we've found to be the norm, fantastic folks wanting to lend a hand are simply everywhere.

Muchas gracias un otros vez Josue!

Costa Rica often reminded us in the afternoons that we were indeed experiencing central americas rainy season.

After a spectacular stormy night, we were left to say our goodbyes and head to La Fortuna.

Goodbye jumping shot. watch you head please.

Toad hall: the obligatory stop. If you ride through their smear campaign to get you to stop at their restaurant. As in they smear signs onto every tree they possibly can for miles and miles in all directions. We stopped because the lake had evaporated and decided to refill all at once. Splash! The food was average at best and pricey. But they have a roof that kept us dry, so we'll take it.

Taken looking out from "toad hall". New sign idea for the : 'Our roof is rain resistant! Come take advantage!'

We rode past Arenal Volcano on our way into La Fortuna,which was pretty, but really found La Fortuna to be just another town lined with tour agencies and not much more. We would stay quite happily in a hostel rather than with William, but Perhaps we simply missed what he loved about the place so much. I guess the warning signs were right for this one too. I'll never forget La Fortuna though, because we waited out the morning drizzle watching Andy Murray win Wimbledon. Good on ya son!

Not erupting, no Lava show...again. But they are pretty aren't they?

Final notes:

Jayne's sheep has also died. WE are both now sporting sheep-less seats, and feeling it.

My beard is now succulent enough that I no longer have any use for the chin curtain from my helmet.
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Old 08-23-2013, 11:32 AM   #53
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
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Cool2 Carpe Chepe - Sleeping in a Closet: San Jose, Costa Rica

Latin American countries don't do addresses well. The most effective we've found are the ones that tell you how many blocks from a key landmark your location is. For example the hotel business card that says "2 blocks south and one block east from the church" is enormously more helpful than "345 Avenida Juarez". 9 times out of 10 "Avenida Juarez" has no street signs, no building on it has a number posted, and our GPS has never heard of it.

It might as well be on the moon.

We're told that even the mail is often delivered to addresses based on how many streets away from a main landmark the building is found. Marcos lives 500 meters up the hill from the Taco Bell and then 200 meters to the right.
It was mid June when we finally found his house, Marcos and his housemates moved their cars so we could put our bikes in their garage, and made us delicious sandwiches.

Jugs snuggles up with Marcos' Africa Twin

All we'd eaten previously that day was a Canadian specialty - poutine. We were riding through a small town and were shocked to find a "Canadian Grill".

How to catch a Canadian? Post a giant picture of our national dish.

Enjoying a taste of Canada in Costa Rica

Marcos explained that they normally had a special room for couchsurfers, but right now his friend Christian was in it. We'd have to sleep in the closet.

Phil and I will sleep anywhere. Hammocks on a front porch, camping behind a firestation, on the farm that belongs to the guy who we met on the street, or crushed into a single bed, we thought we'd done it all. Sleeping in a closet was new to us.

When Marcos showed us the closet, it all became clear. This walk-in closet was bigger than many single bedrooms, had a door leading to a bathroom, and one to the main hallway.

We found Marcos by filtering all the couchsurfing hosts in San Jose down to the ones who mentioned motorcycles in their profile. Marcos owns a Honda Africa Twin which he is planning to ride down to Brazil. He's even taking a motorcycle mechanic evening course to prepare himself. We had a lot of tips for him! For the time being he owns the Craic Irish Pub, runs pub crawls and events in a local hostel.

Marcos' Irish pub, before it opened for the day.

Marcos is incredibly passionate about his city. He told us that only visitors call it "San Jose", locals and those in the know call it "Chepe". Walking around the city with Marcos was like having our own personal tour guide. He showed us the beautiful architecture, parks, monuments and museums that make Chepe such a special city, we actually got to see a lot of them twice, as we went on one of his pub crawls with him too.

Phil and Marcos enjoy the city.

The first day we were there we went to the central market where he introduced us to casados (economical full meals that always include salad, rice and beans, with some kind of meat and often a juice as well) and to a homemade ice cream stall that has been there since 1901 and serves a treat with red jello and their one flavour of ice cream (vanilla with other spices in it, including nutmeg, cinnamon and anise). We didn't try their other specialty, which had shaved ice, syrup and powdered milk with the ice cream.

A helpful sign showing the ice cream ingredients and how it's made.

After the market Marcos had to go to his course, so we decided to take the train back to the house. We had found an Ultimate Frisbee team who were playing at 8pm that evening so we needed to go back and get our kit before we could go join them. The urban train line had only recently been repaired and started running, so Marcos wasn't sure of the times, but we'd seen one go by at about 5:30pm so we knew they were running that evening.

Marcos left us to our own devices, so we decided to walk along the single set of tracks until we found the next station. No one we asked along the way seemed to know where the next station was, but we did find one about a 10 minute walk down the line. We sat ourselves on a bench and started to wait. And wait. After about 20 minutes a lady came and sat with us. She told us she often took the train home and that it would be there soon.

So we waited.

A "crowd" gathers waiting for the train

The lady told us about her life and where she lived, we told her about our trip, a story we are becoming quite proficient at telling in Spanish. A man came along trying to sell us bags of random stuff, such as potato chips and pens. We didn't buy anything but he stopped to chat and hear out stories too. It got dark. Occasionally we would hear the whistle of a train, tantalizingly tempting us to wait just a little longer.

At one point a train (well just the locomotive) came by going the wrong way. Surely it was going to the next stop to turn around and pick up the carriages and would be back soon? At 7pm our friend declared she was only going to wait five more minutes before getting a bus. We were in crisis. We'd waited too long to get a bus. The game started at 8pm.

We were out of time.

We'd fallen into that trap so easily - the one where you wait just a few more minutes, because you've already invested so long waiting, that it seems foolish to "waste" all that waiting time by giving up. We were discussing our options when the train showed up. I don't think it was actually powered by steam, but it was pretty close. It came chugging up to us and stopped to pick us up, no apologies for making us wait or anything.

Finally the train arrives!!!

Once aboard the conductor came along, and charged us less than a dollar each. He was also excited to speak to us and find out where we were going. We were the only people in the first carriage. The conductor informed us that the train makes three trips each evening, at 4:30pm, 5:30pm and 7pm. The train wasn't late, there just aren't many trains.

Phil with our new friends

About ten minutes later the train stopped. It seemed to be taking a while to get going again. Then we realised that something was wrong:

There used to be a locomotive out that door...

The engine had disappeared. We could see straight out the front of the train. Oh dear. We really should have taken the bus.

Our new friend gave us some peanuts and candy to make us feel better.

Then the train started going back the way we had come.

Luckily at that moment, before we started to pull out our hair, the conductor came back and explained that everything was normal, this was the way the train turned the corner and allowed other trains to pass, as there was only one set of tracks.

About 20 minutes later we got off the train near Marcos's house.

It was 7:30pm.

We ran back to the house, and were changed and on the bikes in record time. I typed "Heredia" into the GPS and we were off. We would have only been a few minutes late if Heredia was actually where they were playing frisbee.

Remember the particularities of "addresses" in Latin America? We learnt the hard way that there is a town called "Heredia", and about 3 km away there is another town called "Santo Domingo de Heredia". They both have churches.

We were looking for the big church with the football field in front of it. After a lot of frustration, and asking confused locals, we eventually arrived at the field an hour late.

Luckily, as all Ultimate players, they were an awesome group of people and they were still playing.

We finally made it to the game!

We managed to run off our frustration for an hour. The post-game beer was a welcome break after our epic journey to get there.

At the pub after the game, we got talking to Rolando, a friend of Marcos'

The ride back to Marcos' was very quick as there was no traffic, and we slept soundly after our trials.

A couple much more chilled days of yoga, pub crawls and blogging followed.

Just a normal yoga class beside the pool...

Wait, no one told me this was an "Acro Yoga" class!

Only fair if my partner gets a go too. Luckily I didn't drop him!

Three Belgian girls joined us on the pub crawl, which was also a great city tour:

The women in this statue represent the five Central American countries. The man is the evil USA. Or something like that.

Outside the Old Post Office.

The National Museum. Before it was a museum it was attacked during the time just before the Costa Rican's got rid of their army.

An exhibit outside the national museum. They've found a lot of these perfectly formed rock spheres in Costa Rica. Not really sure who made them or why.

This building is made all of metal panels.

Chepe Street Art

Apparently this "urban lung" was white when it was first set up. Distinctly grey now. Oh pollution.

Everyone loves cork trees. So soft and bouncy!

Phil scares all the pub crawl girls.

What happens when you lean against a chalkboard wearing a dark t-shirt. Camouflage!

After a wonderful visit to Chepe, it was time to say goodbye to Marcos and the gang, and go visit Phil's friend Mahaley, to help with dog-sitting at a farm in Southern Costa Rica.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 08-25-2013, 11:28 AM   #54
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Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
The End of Costa Rica: Heredia and Puerto Viejo

Returning to San Jose, or more accurately Heredia, we were fortunate to have yet another couch to stay on. We had met Rolo while playing Ultimate a week earlier, and he had a couple couches for us to stay on. Plus we got to play ulti again. Post-game, we crashed a birthday party and had a great time until Rolo broke the foosball table by snapping a man in half. We have no photos of these events happening. But they did. And they were good times. Rolo suggested a great day ride out to a little hidden lake. The road was apparently part dirt and gravel, so I did this trip solo while Jayne stayed behind to meet Heather for lunch. Heather and Oliver: fellow motorcyclists who were delivering our GoPro battery.

Smooth ride to falling water

Started out with a great narrow twisted road up towards Poas Volcano National Park. I'm not running a GPS at the moment, just running on memory of the google map I looked at before hopping on the bike. So after multiple construction detours I didn't really know if I was going the right way or not, but it was a nice ride and that was the point.

Ominous clouds threaten to dampen my spirits. and my clothes.

Eventually a gas station attendant pointed me in the right direction. I then encountered a phenomenal freshly paved road that I would follow for the rest of the ride. Sadly the rain came soon after this encounter, and I couldn't push as hard as I might have liked. First nice surprise was the waterfall that appeared just around a bend. The clouds really opened up after that, so I abandoned my bike under cover of another gas station and took the opportunity for lunch.

Rainy season is well named

The nice thing about really hard rain is that it doesn't last long, and I was soon able to find the dirt road to the hidden lake. I also found this fallen tree.

Must be 2pm, EVERYthing is taking a siesta.

We had heard that sometimes fallen trees are used as roadblocks to rob cars that have to stop. Fotunatley this was not such a tree. Unfortunately I knew this because it had a massive wasp nest that had smashed open when it landed.

No robbery here, just assaults from stingers

The wasps were now swarming around guarding the thin strip of passable space. I closed my visor, zipped my jacket and blew through as fast as I could. I didn't get stung, but unfortunately that would be my only passable obstacle this trip. Soon the road turned to mud.

I'll take the high road. I won't be in Scotland before you though.

The mud was thick, and passing on the "high" ground off to the side proved not to be any better. I found myself spinning my wheel, and walking up the road proved it wasn't going to get any better. I got a nice view of the lake before it clouded over and started raining again though, so I'll count that as a win.

Rain is landing on that tongue

The only option was to turn around, which proved near impossible since I was now firmly sunk in the mud and a 9-point turn wasn't working on this "high ground" path I had chosen. I escaped after remembering the moto drag racers back in Cozumel. When they returned up the track for their second race, they turned their bikes around by balancing them on their kickstand and spinning the bike 180 in place. Like this. To stop my kickstand sinking, I shoved my handy board of wood under it. Had I not learned that trick, I'd still be stuck on that path.

90 degrees, photo op before I spun it the rest of the way.

Made it back to the waterfall, only now heavier with rain, mud and sweat.

Worse than dim fog? Dim fog with no headlights. In future I'll try just turning them on first, BEFORE pulling over and replacing the fuse...

I rode back, in the rain and fog, to meet up with Jayne, Rolo and Emma for a beer. I'd missed the free art shows for the evening. Jayne had a good time though.

San Jose has lots of cultural events, such as "free museum night".

Pretty sure Jayne wasn't meant to be taking photos of this. Way to sneak one in Jayne!

Nothing goes with mud and art quite like beer. with Emma and Rolo.

From San Jose, we headed to Puerto Viejo. We stayed with David, a US expat musician living in Costa Rica. We were gifted the experience of observing and listening to him make music with his music machine for our whole stay. It was great to watch him create! David had lost his computer, so when he finished composing a new song, he had no way to save it. He could only hang on to his creation until the next power outage. Only for a moment, then the moment's gone.

Where we spent most of our time, listening to David's latest creation.

On our ride into town, a girl shouted at me from the side of the road. This happens so often I wouldn't normally pay attention, but this girl shouted my name! It was Alicia, our friend from back in San Cristobal, Mexico! We met again the next day and, along with her friend Natalie, we all went exploring the Cahuita National Park. Snakes, crabs and sloths, oh my!

Hermit crabs are incredibly fun to play with.

My favorite beach activity: Hermit crab races! Everyone finds their own crab and puts them in the middle. First one out of the ring wins!

My second favorite beach activity: trying to convince hermit crabs that I have found them a bigger, better home and they need to move immediately!

Taking photos of these crabby guys was tough, they keep running away at the last second.

We adopted a park guide to help us hunt for sloths

The excitement in a "Sloth hunt" is really the hunt, the wonder, the unseen treasures of nature you might happen upon. Because once you spot that motionless, lazy ball of fur dangling off a tree limb, you remember "oh right, it's a sloth".

We got to see a little more of the nature of things Costa rica has to offer with David, some coming out of his own yard!

Caution: Exposure to poison dart frogs may make photos appear to be poorly taken and blurry.

Some of the edible wonders that grow wild in David's yard

When we weren't snacking on the treats from Davids yard, we ate at the local hole-in-the-walls for lunches and explored a couple local bars in the evenings. It was a nice relaxed time in Puerto Viejo and it was a great last stop for Costa Rica. As we find with most everywhere, it's the people, not just the place, that makes it memorable.

Good people. Thanks David!

Panama awaits.
Motorcycle Minute:I've noticed a clunking noise from my boxes when going over speedbumps too fast. I also noticed my rear rack now pivots concernedly.

So I took Jugs rear end all apart...

Jugs stripped down. speaking of stripped...

This photo very clearly shows the two sheared off bolts that should be holding down my rear rack and top-box. Can't see it? Too many poison dart frogs for you...

An ant found some candy in my tank bag, told his friends and thousands moved in.
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:37 AM   #55
UltiJayne OP
Sister on a KLR
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cry Welcome to (Rainy) Panama: Costa Rica to Panama Border Crossing

Central American border crossings are known to be difficult. The rules seem to be applied at will and it always takes much longer than it should. No crossing goes exactly as it did for the last motorcyclist you spoke to.

Recently many of our fellow motorcycle adventurers who we've met along the way have had border problems. Alex had to go back to Mexico from Guatemala to renew his CA-4 visa, Oliver had to pay a fine for not having renewed his CA-4 visa, a guy who we haven't yet met called Blake has to wait in Nicaragua for 90 days because Costa Rica won't let him back in until then, Tanya had to rush out of Nicaragua because they didn't recognise the extension to her CA-4 visa that she had acquired in Honduras, and Nicaragua wouldn't let Erik in because he had less that 6 months validity left on his passport.

We've been lucky. We have always tried to give ourselves a whole day to cross each border (we made an exception and went in and out of Honduras in one day, as we were in a hurry.

Therefore it is no surprise that we finally had a difficult crossing. From Costa Rica to Panama was it.

Every crossing involves the same steps. First you have to leave the first country. Get an exit stamp on your passport and cancel the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit for the bikes. Exiting the country is usually time consuming but straight forward, and leaving Costa Rica was no different.

Long line for the exit stamp - grab a form from the front of the line and fill it out while you wait. The guys in the aduana (customs) office were nice, but you had to fill out a form in duplicate for each bike. Guess they haven't heard of carbon paper or photocopiers.

Stand in the line on the left first to get passports stamped, then go through the door on the right to export your bike.

Then we were free to ride across the bridge into Panama. In fact we could have just ridden into Panama and never got our passports stamped or bike papers. There was no one checking anything.

We didn't find the immigration and customs offices right away. They are up at the end of the pedestrian bridge. Once you've crossed the vehicle bridge, just park somewhere and climb up the steps to get there.

Drive to Panama over the new bridge on the left. The one on the right is for pedestrians.

It was pouring with rain when we arrived at about 1pm. (We lost an hour crossing the border, Panama is on EST)

At first we parked our bikes under a small bridge because the was raining so hard, soon a truck wanted to come through so we had to move them.

Getting our passports stamped was pretty straightforward. The immigration guy was giving an American guy in front of me a very hard time though.

Officially you need to be able to prove how you are leaving the country before Panama will let you in. American guy had to go buy a bus ticket out of the country before they would stamp him in. I was all prepared to explain that we were on motorcycles and that was our "ticket" out of the country, but he didn't ask me. He wouldn't stamp Phil's passport until he actually saw Phil, so I had to go get him from where he was guarding the bikes.

The window on the far end is immigration and will stamp your passports, the window I am almost sticking my head in is the less-than-helpful customs office.

This is when the trouble started. I went to the aduana window, a few meters along the same building, and a bored young man was extremely unhelpful in telling me what he needed to import our bikes. In the end he just pointed to a printed paper taped in the window, which talked about what documents they needed to see. I tried to give him those documents (the standard passport, bike title and driver's license) but then he said we needed to buy insurance and casually waved off to the right when I asked where to buy it.

I found Phil in some sort of police room, luckily laughing and joking with them rather than having any sort of trouble. He introduced me as his sister, resulting in one of the guys insisting he wanted to be Phil's "cuñado" - he wanted to become Phil's brother-in-law.

This is a word that has been used more and more frequently as we move further South. I still don't really know if it's at all derogatory, I am choosing to take it as a compliment. My new suitor pointed out a shack a few hundred meters away, but said they were closed for lunch and should be open at 2pm, about 30 minutes later.

There's nothing we could do but wait. We found a small restaurant that didn't have most of what was on their menu, Phil ordered a casado, which didn't look very appetizing, so I went to one of the many shops and bought a chocolate bar and a bag of chips. Healthy lunch 101. There were a lot of shops, even a mall, right there on the border. I can only guess that it is a lot cheaper to buy things in Panama and so many Costa Ricans cross the border to shop.

I also bought a Panamanian SIM card for my phone, so I could call Steve, another motorcyclist who we'd met in Teslin, Yukon almost a year ago. He was riding a KLR650 with Panama plates, and he was on his way down from Prudhoe Bay, while we were on our way up. We'd arranged to meet him in Bocas del Toro, and so I needed to let him know of our delay.

After learning that Panamanian phone companies charge about $3 for 30 seconds of data, I turned the data off on my iPhone and bought another $5 of credit so I could call Steve. He was on the water taxi over to the island and gave us instructions for parking our bikes at the fire hall in Almirante.

It was about 2pm by now so I went over to the insurance hut, but the door was still locked. It was raining - I sat on the step under the awning to wait.

This is the insurance hut. It is closed.

The sign on the door said they were closed for lunch from 12-1pm, but the policeman had warned me I'd have to wait until 2pm. In the end an umbrella carrying insurance lady came tottering up in her high heels at 2:45pm. I was not impressed.

She explained to me that there was "no light" which I soon figured out meant no electricity. In fact there was electricity at that point, and she started inputting my details into her computer, but about halfway through the electricity went out again. She had a generator, which she had to go out and find some guy to come start for her. It worked for about 3 minutes before it ran out of gas. I was about ready to cry. I just wanted insurance so we could get out of there.

It was about this time that Steve called to say the last water taxi left for Bocas at 6pm, and we were about an hour's drive away from the coast. All of a sudden we had a deadline.

I asked the insurance lady if there was any other way to buy insurance without electricity, and she pulled out a pad of paper. She had paper forms we could fill out! Why she didn't pull them out earlier I'll never know.

This is me doing the insurance lady's job for her.

She started filling in the first form and had made about 3 mistakes in the first 5 boxes. She started over, and I really wished my Spanish spelling skills were better. Eventually she let me fill out the form for Phil myself and that went a lot faster. Once again, the forms had to be filled out in duplicate, and she needed a copy of the title of our bikes - but her photocopier wasn't working. Luckily I had copies already.

Fifteen dollars each and more than two hours after customs had sent me to buy insurance, I had two slightly damp insurance papers in my hot little hands.

I ran over to the customs office, sure that I had everything he needed now. Except now there was a line to wait in. Great. Finally got to the front, handed over the documents, with a copy of each, plus the insurance papers. He needed a copy of the insurance papers too. You'll remember the insurance lady's photocopier wouldn't work without electricity...

I went back to my future husband in the police office, and he asked around, and found out that a shop hidden up some stairs across the road had a photocopier. Exasperated, I headed over there, and luckily they had a working generator, and could make my copies.

Back to the customs office for the third time, and finally he accepted my documents and started very slowly typing into his computer. Eventually about 15 minutes later he printed out a document which he stamped about five times. He then stamped my passport and wrote the document number in it. He then handed me the document to check. First thing I noticed?
He had spelt my name wrong.

I checked everything else, and then handed it back to him with my name clearly written properly and asked him to fix it. Did he just amend my name and re-print the document? No. He started all over again.

Another 15 minutes later, I am desperately trying to stay calm and keep smiling. He hands me another document to check, and this time it's correct and I sign it. Except it's got a new document number, so my passport is now wrong. I asked him to fix it, thinking he would put another stamp in with the new number. By the time I realised he was using white-out in my passport, it was too late.

Now it was time for him to start the whole process again for Phil's passport. I watched him slowly type for a while, and when he was nearly finished I went to go get Phil so he could sign his documents. I sent Phil to the window, and took up his position guarding the bikes and fending off a couple of kids begging for money.

Child begging for money

My heart sunk further and further the longer Phil took. If all was going well, he should have only been gone long enough to check and sign the documents. He'd been gone too long.

Apparently when Phil arrived at the customs office, the guy in the window was doing an arts and crafts project with his import document. He had the scissors out and was cutting something out, which he then taped onto Phil's official document. It was the expected export location. We don't know what exactly he'd screwed up, but somehow he thought covering it with paper and tape was an acceptable solution.

It was 4:30pm. We had an hour and a half to get the water taxi in Almirante. As it wasn't key information, Phil just signed the paper.
We left the border with white-out in my passport, and sticky tape on Phil's official import document. This after being warned that our documents must be perfect for when we are shipping our bikes to Colombia. Only time will tell whether we'll get away with this one.

Our troubles were not yet over unfortunately. We were to learn that Panama does not do road signs. Within 2 minutes we didn't know which road to take. The GPS was taking us down a road in a terrible state of repair, so we turned around, Steve had told us the road we needed to take was good. We took what we thought was the only other road. About 10km down the road I suggested we ask some people at a bus stop, because we really didn't know if this was the right road. It wasn't.

The men at the bus stop told us to turn around and follow the bus. The bus was driving VERY slowly. We soon decided to pass and just ask more people as we went along.

Me asking directions for the 7th or 8th time.

We ended up back at the border and eventually figured out the road we needed, one that required a u-turn just after we left the border, and of course was not signed.

Finally on the right road, we made a beeline for Almirante, hoping not to miss the boat.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 09-07-2013, 12:10 PM   #56
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 New Places With Old Friends: Bocas del Toro, Panama

The last boat taxi from Almirante to Bocas Town leaves at 6pm. Due to our slow border crossing and taking the wrong road, we rolled into town at 5:45pm on the 22 of July, 2013.

15 minutes is not enough time to park and secure the bikes, strip off our riding gear and to pack enough belongings for an island adventure, but we had no choice. Almirante is not a very nice town. Rubbish piled along the sides of the roads, shabby houses and industrial buildings. Not a place we would want to stay the night!

The place to park motorbikes in Almirante is the local firehall. They have a spare garage which they charge 2 dollars per day per bike to park in. They may ask for $3 but just say no. We sped into the firehall, undressed and unpacked in record time, and were in a taxi heading to the water taxi at 5:55pm.

In the taxi I realised that in my rush I had left all my money and bank cards in my riding jacket, and that I had not locked my jacket to the bike like I normally would. Oops.

Phil had money, and we didn't have time to turn back, so I just hoped that the firefighters were honest and that my jacket and all its contents would still be there when we returned.

We ran into the taxi terminal and then had to wait our turn to book onto the boat. While we were in line, we saw a familiar face:

Stephen from El Salvador!

We'd met Stephen at the Surfer's Inn in El Sunzal, El Salvador and he'd sped through Costa Rica, meaning he'd made it to Panama the same day as we had!

We quickly paid $4 each for the water taxi, and joined the crowd waiting for the boat.

And we waited.

Frustratingly there had been no need for our huge rush, because the boat left 20 minutes late, true Latino style.

Late and full to capacity

Steve (not to be confused with Stephen) met us when we got off the boat. We hadn't seen him since we met him in a parking lot in Teslin, Yukon, more than a year ago, but the instant motorcyclist's bond was still there.

From Northern Canada to Panama, adventure rider reunion!

Bocas is a bustling little town on a medium sized island, with a party vibe and lots of travellers. We found this guide very useful.

We checked into the Coconut Hostel with Stephen and his two friends, as Steve had managed to get himself a "retiree" discount at a hotel across the road.

When we checked in to the hostel the guy told us breakfast was included. Phil was not impressed to read this sign the next morning:

ONE pancake does not count as "breakfast"

The next day we decided to visit Red Frog beach, about a 15 minute boat ride away. ($7 return + a $3 fee on the island to walk across their private land to access the beach).

Red Frog is a beautiful white sandy beach, but for some reason this is the only photo either of us took of it.

The beach as seen from the deck of the beach bar

Phil and Steve enjoying the beach bar before it rained.

That evening we met up with Alicia again, who we'd last seen in Puerto Viejo. A great evening was had by all:

Dinner aboard a docked boat with Steve and Alicia and Alicia's friend

After dinner we had a hankering for ice cream. Some people walking by pointed us to an ice cream shop but when we got there it was closed. Phil spotted some ladies still inside cleaning up:

Begging on his knees for ice cream

Success! Phil's begging results in frozen treats for all.

Steve had work commitments he had to get back to the city for, so he left early the next morning. We found Stephen passed out on the hostel sofa:

Those sunglasses don't fool us! We know your eyes are closed.

Alicia, Phil and I decided to move to Isla Bastimentos, a smaller, more authentic island. Bastimentos town is full of smiling locals and ramshackle houses.

Enjoying the boat ride to our new island home

It was more chilled out than Bocas and we settled in at the Yemanja hostel, located on the point of the island, right on the waterfront.

Micro-Kelly enjoys the hammock on the deck at the hostel

It was here that Phil and I celebrated spending One Year on the Road, and we became HuffPost Bloggers. (Hi HuffPost readers!)

To celebrate we decided to walk to Wizard beach. Several locals warned us that tourists sometimes were robbed by teenagers with machetes along the very muddy path, so we took only essentials and slipped and slid our way to the beach. Luckily we were not robbed, and met only nice people along the way.

Bare feet were the only option for this path

Brave, muddy feet

The Ultimate Ride has its first birthday & Phil's beard turns 1 year old.

The next day it was pouring rain, and we decided it was time to move on. We packed our bags and found a boat to take us back to Bocas Town, where we could get a water taxi back to the mainland.

Did I mention it was raining?

All was going to plan, until we arrived at the water taxi office and Phil suddenly realised that he had left our Spot Satellite tracker at the hostel back on Isla Bastimentos. We found the phone number and called Leo, the owner. He very kindly found the tracker and then went and waited in the rain for ages until the next boat was leaving. He gave the driver our package, and, and hour and a half later, we were reunited with Spot.

Phil and Spot reunited

I managed to talk our way into the last two seats in the water taxi that was just about to pull out of the dock and we were finally on our way back to our bikes.

Our first week in Panama was obviously meant to teach us patience, and to learn how to wait calmly for things. We're getting better at it.

Our bikes were as we had left them, and we were soon on the road, heading towards our friend Mark's father's house in Capellania, near Aguadulce.

We were behind schedule, but the rain had eased, and Steve had given us detailed instructions (necessary to combat the complete lack of signage in Panama) so we were making good time until this:

No one's getting past this roadblock!

The Panamanians loved it when Phil pulled out his machete and joined them hacking at branches. It was slow going until someone walked up with a chainsaw.

A man with the right tool for the job

After another of Panama's lessons in patience, we were back on the bikes heading for Ray's Pizza House.

It was dark by the time we passed Aguadulce and were looking for a sugar factory, which indicated where we needed to turn. It was too dark to see what kind of buildings we were passing, so I pulled up to a cop with a radar gun to ask the way.

Chatting to our new police friend

He was super nice and put away his radar and escorted us to the road we needed. We have been pleasantly surprised to find the police extremely helpful, and have not yet once been asked for a bribe of any kind. I feel like the Mexican and Central American police get a bad rap.

Of course this officer didn't realise that Phil's tail light was burnt out, as he cleverly dragged his brake when passing him, and we still have a whole continent to ride through, so I reserve my right to change my mind.

Following our police escort

We pulled up at Ray's place at about 7pm, just in time to learn how to make pizzas Ray's special way.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)

UltiJayne screwed with this post 09-07-2013 at 02:51 PM Reason: Wrong date - oops
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Old 09-10-2013, 02:16 PM   #57
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Cool2 The Secrets to Retirement: Capellania, Panama

People are important. They are generous, welcoming, and all have a story to tell. Listen with both ears and an open heart. Have faith in humanity. Learn a new language. Fall in love - with everyone! Be patient. Smile. Meditate. Say "thank you". Everything WILL work out. It's difficult to keep saying goodbye. I have the best brother in the world. I don't need as much money as I thought I did. Seek intimacy. Experiences are infinitely more fulfilling than things. Ask for the things you want. I don't like riding offroad. New friends are everywhere. Laugh. Cry. Dance. Life is amazing. Do it now.
Living life on the road for the past year has taught me many things, but the most fundamental lesson has been the importance of connecting with people.

In October last year we met Mark in San Angelo, Texas. He suggested that we contact his father Ray, who has retired in Panama. We sent Ray an email and have been in touch with him ever since.

Finally, many months later than we had first thought, at the end of July 2013, we arrived at Ray's house to a very warm welcome.

Our man Ray

Ray is 75 years old. He's originally from Montana and he decided to retire in Panama. About a year ago he realised that he was wasting his time watching TV all day, and he decided to start running a pizzeria out of his kitchen.

The Pizza House was born.

The front of Ray's Pizza House.

By opening a pizzeria, Ray has integrated himself with the local community much more than any other expats we have stayed with this trip. In order to open a business in Panama he partnered with his friend Violeta, a wonderful Panamanian lady who used to live near him in Colon.

Violeta and Ray outside the Pizza House

Ray started out just making a couple of pizzas a night, but as the local community got to know him, he's now pretty busy from 7-10pm every night.
Ray taught Phil and I the art of making pizza, the importance of good ingredients and making sure every pizza is the right size.

Countertop pizza sizing guide

An "extra grande" going into the oven

The Thursday evening before we left Bocas, Phil had searched to see if there were any Ultimate Frisbee tournaments taking place in Panama. Turned out there was. That weekend!

Panama's 2013 Mixed Nationals was a five team tournament, and we hopefully sent a last minute email to the tournament organiser to see if they needed more players.

Luck was on our side, and we were each assigned teams to play for. Phil for the Llamas and me for Diablicos Sucios.

My team captain, Felipe, was thrilled to have me play, because they didn't have enough girls for the first two games. This meant I had an intense start to the tournament, playing every point without a rest!

Phil's and my teams after we played each other (my team won!)

Phil breaks in his new shirt

Phil in action

Me and my team on pitch

Despite muddy conditions and a stoppage of play due to lightning hitting a very nearby tower, we had a great time. Especially as my team, the wonderful Diablicos Sucios, won every game, thus the whole tournament.

Number 1 Mixed team in Panama

Phil and I soon got into the swing of living in a Pizza House, helping out every evening. Ray hasn't learnt a lot of Spanish, I took great delight in taking people's orders and translating.

The master and his student

We had regular customers who came every evening and loved talking to Phil and I about our trip and about Canada and London.

Phil hangs out with our new friends

Phil and I with our regulars

As well as our new "career" in the pizza business, Phil and I took the week we stayed in Capallenia to do a little work on the bikes.

I cut down the homemade lip on my windshield, so it flips down more easily, and Phil cleaned his carb and air filter.

Phil's air filter drying on the line with the rest of the laundry

Phil used Violeta as a navigator so he could find his way into town

Phil reached a couple big milestones while staying in Capellania. Jugs hit 90,000km on the odometer:

Phil's bike, Jugs, reaches 90,000km on the odometer

And Phil reached his thirties, happier and hairier than ever!

30th birthday with the card and cake I made for him

Ray taught me a lot more than just how to make a delicious pizza.
Despite not always getting along with his family and being pretty set in his ways (as we all can be), Ray has shown how to retire in a foreign country.

Find a nice place to live, integrate with the locals, keep busy doing something that benefits the local community, live within your means, and value your friends.

That's all it takes. I'm more than 30 years from retirement, but I certainly will be remembering Ray when I get there.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 09-26-2013, 04:24 PM   #58
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Location: Calgary, Alberta
Oddometer: 74
Talking Traffic, Locks and Doors: Panama City

The day we rode across the Panama Canal for the first time was Phil's 30th birthday (1 August 2013). We rode across the Bridge of the Americas and discovered the terrible traffic that was to mark our whole time in Panama City.

Going nowhere fast - typical Panama City traffic

We stopped in the old town to take some pictures of the start of the Panama Canal.

Phil dancing at the entrance to the Panama Canal on his birthday

Phil enjoys the monument with a "cock" on it in Panama City - even at 30 - he will never grow up!

We had arranged to stay with a couchsurfing host called Raul, who also happens to be an Ultimate Frisbee player. He gave us instructions to get to his apartment downtown, and after several wrong turns and a lot of sweltering stuck in traffic, we found it.

Raul owns a beautiful modern apartment. It also benefits from the double holy grail of a good internet connection and hot water on demand. We were very pleased to be welcomed so warmly into his home.

Raul and Phil enjoying birthday ice cream. Note the fancy traffic cone candle.

As it was Phil's birthday, we decided to make a steak dinner, which was delicious, and Phil finished off his special day with a mug of rum.

Pretty fancy birthday dinner

Perfect way to celebrate turning 30

Early the next morning Raul went to work, leaving us a key to the apartment, and a sweet message on the wall.

"Good Morning! Use key to unlock/lock front door. Have a nice day!"

Steve was coming to pick us up to take us shopping for motorcycle bits, so at the allotted time we grabbed all our gear and tried to leave the apartment. I say tried, because Phil put the key into the door to unlock it, and the key got stuck. We both tried everything, but we could not get the key to turn, to unlock the door or remove it from the lock.

Door of Doom VS Jayne

The only way out of the 14th floor apartment is through that door.
Eventually, after phoning Steve to explain why we weren't there to meet him, I took the only other key on the keychain off the ring, and tried it in the top lock on the door. It turned, and unlocked the door!

Door of doom 1 - Davidsons 0

Feeling more than a little foolish, with the other key still stuck in the bottom lock, we escaped the apartment, locked the top lock again, and I slipped the key into my hip pocket.

Steve took us to a couple motorcycle shops. I am in need of a new rear tire, and have decided to go for one that has a more aggressive tread to deal with the dirt roads we are sure to face in South America.

The first place only had one tire the right size, which was less aggressive than my current Avon Gripster, so we went to the BMW dealership. That was where Phil found his Continental TKC in Guatemala city.

Me and Cricket at our favourite BMW dealership

In the modern, clean, expensive luxury of BMW

Going into a BMW dealership is a very pleasant experience. Everything is clean, and modern and shiny. They offered us cappuccinos and bent over backwards to help, despite us being Kawasaki riders.

They didn't have a tire for me in stock, but called around to find one. While they did that, I got online to the many KLR facebook groups I have recently found. By doing that I found out that tires are much less expensive in Colombia, and readily available, so decided to just keep going on my balding one for a little longer.

We returned to Raul's apartment, parked the bikes, and headed up to face the door of doom. I reached into my pocket for the key and came out empty handed.

Door of Doom VS Jayne (again)

I had lost the key.

Door of doom 2 - Davidsons 0

After desperately searching every pocket and possible place it could be, we resignedly called Raul and told him of our further folly.

Luckily it was near the end of the work day and he came home to find us sitting outside his apartment, bathed in shame.

Despite us breaking his lock and losing his key, he still let us in.

Raul couldn't get the key out of the lock either.

Door of Doom VS Raul

Raul's message with my additions

We felt slightly better when the locksmith also couldn't get the stuck key out of the lock.

Door of Doom VS Locksmith

Phil had been reading Raul's coffee table book about the history of the Panama Canal. Phil and I have loved locks since we used to play in them with an inflatable dingy when we were children.

The Panama Canal is an exceptional feat of human engineering. To traverse it boats must go through a series of locks taking them to a new water level six times (three up and three down). 20,000 people died building it (mostly of yellow fever and malaria), and it was completed in 1914 (before the world wars)!

Jugs and Cricket pose at the Panama Canal sign

So we decided to go visit the Miraflores locks. There is an excellent visitor centre, a 3D movie, and stadium seating for visitors to watch boats go through the locks. All for just $8US.

Loving the excitement of a "Panamax" cruise ship going through the locks - also what I would look like with a mustache.

When I run out of money a career as a lock controller awaits!

Before the boats came...

For some reason Phil decided to call the trains that help pull the boats submarines...

Container ship leaves the Miraflores Locks

Steve had told us a lot about his cabin outside the city in Cerro Azul, and we were thrilled when he invited to go stay there for a couple nights for a little R & R and to do some work on the bikes.

When we showed up at Steve's apartment building we all jumped on the bikes, but Steve's bike wouldn't start. Phil tried to help by using a combination of wires to jump start Steve's bike with a bang.

What happens when you attach the jumper cables to the wrong battery terminals

We got Steve's bike bump started despite the failed jump start, and were soon in Cerro Azul.

Three KLRs at the cottage

Working on the bikes on the parking pad

Time for a new spark plug.

Cricket caught with her tank off...

Phil trying to get his sheared bolts out with the not-so-easy easy-out drill bit.

Bathtub with a view. The first bath I've had in a very, very long time. Pure luxury.

Steve preparing our BBQ feast at the cabin

We had a delicious BBQ dinner, complete with nature's fireworks - beautiful lightning over the horizon.

Nature's fireworks

Best patio ever. Like sitting in the jungle, but with a glass of wine and a BBQ in reach.

Panama has beautiful plants

There was a lot of wildlife in the jungle, like this cute red bird. We also saw raccoon-like Gato Solos (not pictured).

After our delightful mountain retreat, it was difficult to leave and return to the big city.

Steve riding into Panama City

We returned to Raul's apartment, which now had brand new locks in the door!

Phil decided to go to the end of the PanAmerican highway, where it stops because the infamous Darien Gap is in the way. While he went on that adventure, I stayed in Panama City and caught up on blogging, laundry and a little shopping for our upcoming trip to the San Blas Islands.

Raul took me to a yoga class, and we had quite a few long conversations about life, careers, travel and priorities.

One morning I woke up to find Raul sitting at the table quite upset. His brother-in-law had unexpectedly passed away that past night in his late 40s.

I never know the best thing to say or do when faced with someone who has recently lost someone important to them. I feel that in these situations, it is the need to support your living loved ones that comes to the forefront.

No matter how well Raul knew his brother-in-law, it is the impact on his sister and her two children that is bound to hit the hardest. Their lives will never be the same again, and that is devastating.

Raul coped with it brilliantly, and it brought some of the themes of our previous conversations into very clear focus.

Live your life now. Follow your dreams. Cherish your loved ones.

Do it now.

It was time for Phil and I to continue living our dreams. The San Blas Islands were calling us.
Arctic Circle to Patagonia - on the road - started July 25, 2012

2007 Yamaha YBR125 with L plates! (UK)
2006 KLR650 (Canada)
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Old 09-29-2013, 12:05 PM   #59
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Location: Back in Canada
Oddometer: 84
Detained at the end of the road: Panama to Yaviza and back

The Pan American Highway stretches from the north of Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina... almost. The road network ends twice, once in Panama at the notorious Darien jungle (aka Darien Gap), then once more at the true end in Ushuaia, Argentina. I really wanted to ride to the "first" end of the road. We had heard the road was rough in places, thus Jayne opted out and I went solo on a trek to Yaviza. I fought my way out of Panama city mid-day traffic, and rode to the end of the road. Like any time Jayne isn't around, I got myself into trouble.

The route

Driving through the rain and traffic to get out of Panama took ages, and just outside of the city's clutches I almost had to go right back in again. A police checkstop asked me for my passport and driver's licence. I had neither. In fact I had no photo ID whatsoever. In our travels Jayne holds onto our passports and bike papers so that in the event we get pulled over, the police talk to a pretty female instead of, well, this:

Sexism works wonders my friends.

Without Jayne around, THAT had to try to explain why he had no photo ID of any kind. All I had was a printout of a scan of a temporary driver's license extension that was written in English. After some hairy sweet talk, the police let me continue my journey instead of forcing me to ride all the way back to get my ID's. Since it was now past noon, that backtrack would not have left me enough time to reach Yaviza in one day. Deep sigh of relief.
Past the checkstop I found myself riding through farmland. As I passed through and passed Chepo and other small towns I realized that this would not be a ride through the jungle that I had imagined. There were some small sections that looked a little jungle-y beside the road, but for the most parts along the road is clear cut ranch land.

A rare jungley section, not what I expected.

I stopped for lunch at a roadside shack and started chatting with Kenny, a Panamanian-American who has picked Panama as his choice of residence. Great chat, love meeting folks in random places on this trip.

I still owe you a coffee, good sir.

An hour later I reached the Darien Province!

The concrete for this archway was swiped from the road repair allocation.

Then I reached the first Darien "Border Police". Panama has no army, but they treat their border police detachment as though they are army, complete with camouflage uniforms and automatic weapons, so it's just semantics.

No temporary driver's license extension printout will get you past these folks!

The not-army border-police didn't like my lack of ID either, but I fortunately realized I had a photocopy of my passport photo page tucked away and they were willing to accept that. They even signed and dated my photocopy to help "ease my passage" at future police checks up the road.
The first police check in Darien also signals the end of nice potholed pavement, and the beginning of nice potholed dirt and gravel.

Good kidney workout

A few hours of hole dodging and I arrived in Yaviza

A bit of fun riding and another not-army border-Police checkstop later, I had arrived in Yaviza, the town at the "end of the road". What does the end of the road look like? I had envisioned a paved road turning to gravel turning to dirt turning to an overgrown path guarded by howler monkeys and guerrillas.

Nope, no monkeys. This is the end, my friend.

This is the end indeed. You can keep riding for about 150 meters, then you have to turn left or you will run into the river. From there carry on and turn left again (sneaky river), and then left once more. Suddenly you are right back where you started: at the end of the road. Except now the entire town knows you are here. Here's me talking about an identical place called "Yakima" (I was tired after the ride I think).

I wandered the town to entertain my evening.

Lanchas run goods from Yaviza up the river to service the many communities out of reach of the road.

The pedestrian bridge across the Chucunaque river. Minimal potential for handlebar clearance. Ample hospital stretcher clearance.

These gangsta kids provided me with a freeze-pop in a plastic bag. It was cold and delicious. Kids shouldn't take candy from strangers, but I think it's ok for strangers to take candy from kids.

This gangsta old man said he was hungry. I said he was drunk. He agreed. Then I took him for dinner.

Post dinner English class with the waitress's grandson. It was great, as I didn't know many of the Spanish translations, so we both taught each other.

It was a great wander and I met lots of kind folks. After angering all the neighborhood dogs and their owners by setting up my tent under cover of darkness, I slept well at the end of the road in the corner of a parking lot.
Before leaving in the morning, I sauntered over the bridge again and talked myself into a tour of the local hospital. My nursing sense was tingling, and it was a nice, small community hospital bustling with mothers and children all over.

...and two old guys sharing a broom.

Micro-Kelly joins the nurse and I on tour.

Jail for babies

The main focus at the hospital is on maternal and child health, start em' young! Their vaccination rate is well over 90%, and that includes all the hard to reach natives who live hidden away in the jungle! Take that stat, Western world. The one downfall of the hospital is that it's on the other side of the river from the "end of the road". If a patient turns for the worse and needs to be transferred, the staff have to wheel the patient on a stretcher down the path, over the suspension bridge and into a truck. From there they drive 5 hours to Panama City over some pretty rough roads. Basically: don't get really sick at the end of the road, or it'll be the end of your road too. Malaria and Dengue aren't the big culprits here like I thought they might be. The main health problems at the end of the pan-Americana highway: Diabetes, Hypertension and STD's... not much different from home.
I left early enough on my ride back from Yaviza to contemplate a boat ride over to "La Palma": the capital of the Darien Region. I walked over to the ticket lady to find out how much the boat to La Palma cost and was intercepted by a couple border police who asked, once again, for my papers. Unconcerned I passed them over. That was the end of my quest to La Palma...

Two hours sitting there, eating my peanut butter and waiting for the chief to call back and say I could go. Nobody really explained exactly WHY I was being detained, though the photocopy and machete were factors, but they did explain that since they had started to detain me I couldn't leave without clearance from the top. For clarity, I love coconuts and picked up a machete in Nicaragua to help eat the impossible-to-open fruits. Also EVERYONE walking around these parts has one hanging off their hip. I was not out the norm in these parts. But I digress... Several officers came into the office at different times, all of them very friendly and interested about my trip, none of them willing to let me leave and continue it. The fact that my photocopy was signed and dated by the other police did not "ease my passage". When the chief did eventually call back, the call was 4 seconds long and the officers sheepishly handed me my machete and papers and said I was free to go.

No photos allowed you say?

Rap sheet just visible with all possible details about me written down, including noting my bike is named "Jugs".

I really would have liked to visit La Palma, but it wasn't to be. A little peeved at my lost opportunity and from sitting in the penalty box for 2 hours, I loaded my bike back up, sheathed my machete and rode back for the highway up the hot dusty road. But luck was turning back my way:

Just up the road kids were hauling down coconuts

The kids had a spare coconut just for me. I put my un-confiscated machete to use right away.

Refreshed with delicious coconut water and with renewed justification for carrying a two-foot-long knife on my bag, I head back over the potholed highway towards Panama city.

...but first to tackle this insanely steep hill, apparently.

Re-entering Panama I was reminded about the atrocious traffic that resides there. Once all the construction is complete and they have a functioning metro system the gridlock will hopefully improve. For now, Panama is left with the worst traffic I have experienced in all of North America. I split lanes for 20kms to get back to Raul's condo. 20 kilometers of, hot, sweaty stopped traffic that I felt fortunate to breeze past.

Traffic is terrible everyday in Panama city. Except on Sundays, when everything is closed.

It somehow felt like a fitting end for a two day trek to the end of the road. If you're down this way, I highly recommend it. Just don't forget to bring your passport.
Top to the bottom with a frisbee:
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Old 09-30-2013, 12:53 PM   #60
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Enjoyed the update! Keep writing! Ride safe!
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