ADVrider

Go Back   ADVrider > Riding > Ride reports
User Name
Password
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 04-30-2013, 05:35 PM   #16
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Costa Rica into Panama - making it to David

I left on Saturday morning heading south towards the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. That morning around 5am I heard some shuffling in the house as Carolina, Carlos and the two girls were preparing themselves for the Church Retreat and little before 6 they were out the door. I had said my goodbyes the night before.

Set Waze and started out of the city. Today's ride was down to the Costanera. One of my colleagues from Faryvet said the road was in great condition and goes all along the coast. This was going to be an epic ride - and it didn't disappoint.



The road eased in and out of the curvatures the sea had cut into the rock. In some spots you were driving through hills in the tropical jungle and in others right along the beach. I stopped a few times on the shoulder just to take it in. Simply spectacular views with the cooling breeze from the surf a light taste of salt.



 







All fabulousness stopped suddenly after lunch when the downpour started. This would continue for the next four hours. I must have been having too much of a good time, so the rain gods decided to lay in hard and follow along my route. By 5:30 pm when I was nearing the border between Costa Rica and Panama, the rain killed off what little daylight that was left. To cross I had to waddle through pools of rainwater, getting insurance and then processing the bike into the country.



 



An hour later when I finished the last of the stamps on the last of the paperwork, the rain had subsided and I entered what could have easily been the United States.

From small two lane non-painted roads without shoulders in Costa Rica, I was welcomed into Panama with a huge four lane highway with lights… all the way to David. I made it there within an hour and drove towards the center. It was time to find a place to put my head for the night. I followed a taxi and at a stoplight I pulled up to him and asked if he knew of an inexpensive hotel and said I would follow him. He pulled out when the light turned green and we started weaving through traffic, zig zagging from block to block for about 15 minutes until we pulled up to a nice little hotel with parking out back. Perfect! I gave the taxi driver $2 and headed in the check-in. Dropped the grear in the room , put on some shorts, and headed for a bite to eat. It had been a long day.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2013, 05:38 PM   #17
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
On the road in Panama … stopped by the Police

About an hour and a half outside of Panama City, a sleepy little village surrounded by some of the largest resorts in Panama, San Carlos is I headed after David where my friend Victoria has a vacation home where I would be staying for the next few days to catch my breath before the cross to the San Blas Islands and Cartagena.

On my way to San Carlos I had an interesting experience with the police. For those who have not traveled to Panama, this country has so much of the US, it is into until you speak to the people you are not in state like Florida. The roads construction, infrastructure, buildings, restaurants, and so forth are all very much like in the US. In the rest of Central America road construction seems to be much more rudimentary and you simply don't see the massive use of concrete in the overpasses, exit ramps, and so on that you see in the US. The police is similar too. They are well equipped, and they actually use radar guns, setup speed traps and ticket you if you speed.

Waze calls out police sightings as you are driving along, reported by other drivers, but here, in Panama, come on?

I was in shock when I herd the British lady inside my iphone perk up and say “Police reported ahead” - “What????” I slowed down, and sure enough, under the shade of a bridge sat a lady on a motorcycle pointing a long back tube in my direction. I cruised by her at 83kms/hr… slightly above the speed limit in that section of the road.

About 20 minutes later, the speed limit had increased to 100kms/hr and as I crested a hill I see ahead a police car pull out. I quickly catch up to him, but had to apply the breaks as he was cruising now at around 70kms/hr. I followed behind for the next few minutes when on a long strait-away with solid double lines he makes the first move, going over the white line on the right and staying there for a few seconds, then eases back to the middle of his lane. He does this a second time, now slowing to about 65kms.

“I think this guy is telling me to pass” I say to myself, so I put on my turn signal, ease out and overtake him and speed up to the posted 100kms/hr. I continue to ride and after about 30 seconds I see the police car pulling up behind me, but I hear no siren nor his lights come on. I keep riding, now going through some cool twisties up a hill, then as I go into a strait-away, he pulls up beside me, beeps his horn and signals me to pull-over, which I promptly do. Turn of my ignition and pull off my helmet.

The copper walks up and says “Did you not see me flashing my lights at you”

“No Officer, I was watching the road ahead of me, I noticed you pull up behind me, but after that I didn't look at my rear-view mirrors, when I heard your horn and you pointing me to pull over, I did”

“You passed me on a double solid line”

“Ahhhh Man,” I said to myself… “baited and reeled in, hook, line, and sinker”

“I know, you were going well below the speed limit and eased over the white line, not once, but twice … "so I assumed you wanted me to pass you… all that was left was for you to put your hand out the window and wave me passed you”

“Well, you still passed me on a double solid line … let me see your driver's license”

As I unzipped my tank back and started and shuffled through my things seemingly looking for my wallet, I followed with… “Look, you were going well below the speed limit, you did ease out not once, over to the shoulder over the white line, what is one to think? I would have to be crazy to want to blatantly pass a police officer on a double solid line… Three guys on Harley's flew by me not five minutes before I caught up with you and if they were going at least 130… I'm traveling your beautiful country and I am in no hurry.”

He gave me a long strong stare… I looked at him steady… he cracked a bit of a smile and said … “Ok, go on”

“Thank you Officer” - put my helmet back on, cranked up the bike, eased out back onto the road and only then did I let myself have a grin from ear to ear. That was the very first ticket I ever tried to get out of, and happy I did.

A few miles later I hit another milestone, so I stopped to take the snapshot.



Then it started to rain.



As the real downpour started, I took cover and got a bite to eat.*You can see my tankbag cover is fully drenched. I always love being the center of attention when walking into a place with my riding gear, you get a completely different look when you walk in, your boots squishing, and leaving a nice long trail of drip as you walk up to the counter to place your order. I was then followed to my table by a lady with a mop.



About an hour later I made my way up to San Carlos.

__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2013, 05:39 PM   #18
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
San Carlos, a little piece of heaven

I met Victoria back in 2004 while doing a development project with the Ministry of Labor in Guatemala. She was the Development Officer responsible for the labor sector for USAID in Central America and was my main counterpart. We hit it off immediately, as she was very enthusiastic of the work we had been doing. Beginning in 2002, we modernized and transformed the institution by integrating technology across many of the key functions, including the Ministry's first connection to the Internet - mind you this was in 2002. This first project that began in Guatemala would, under her tutelage, be replicated across the region in another five other countries as part of a development program that was part of the CAFTA free trade agreements. What started then as a collegial relationship grew into a great friendship that has lasted until today.

Throughout the years Victoria had always invited me and my wife to stay at her house in San Carlos, but we really never had the opportunity and as a sure as day, when she read I was going on this crazy trip, she sent me a note and let me know that her house was at my disposal. No need to mention it twice. This was just what I needed after a few long days of riding in the rain.



I would get a chance to dry out, do a full laundry run in real actual washing machines and give my riding gear a much needed wash.



I spent two days in San Carlos just relaxing, recharging and getting ready for the next leg. This is the perfect place for this.





 



I also used the time to catch up a bit on my writing and I actually attended our Monday morning staff meeting - Skype is AWESOME!

The region has in recent years undergone some serious development as it is about an hour and half from Panama City and many people use this as a weekend getaway region. Many of the main hotel chains have opened up resorts nearby, but the little town of San Carlos seems untouched by time.

Ok, time to play tourist and onto Panama City
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2013, 06:14 PM   #19
jmcg
Turpinated..
 
jmcg's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2011
Location: The Dandenong Ranges, Vic
Oddometer: 440
Enjoying reading about your travels.

Thanks!

JM.
jmcg is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-30-2013, 07:09 PM   #20
myorangecrayon
Adventurer
 
Joined: Mar 2013
Location: Dallas, TX
Oddometer: 55
This trip looks awesome... I'm from Colombia and would love to have an epic ride down to my hometown of Cali. Can you give a bit more detail on why you picked the Triumph as opposed to a BMW R1200GS or a Multistrada? Keep going strong, be safe!
myorangecrayon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-01-2013, 10:24 AM   #21
NitroRoo
Gnarly Adventurer
 
NitroRoo's Avatar
 
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Charlotte, NC
Oddometer: 358
Good job talking your way out of the ticket

Not sure if I should feel sorry for you for having to work so much from the road or if I should think it's really cool that you can
__________________
-Reuben
ZRX 1100
NitroRoo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-01-2013, 07:53 PM   #22
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmcg View Post
Enjoying reading about your travels.

Thanks!

JM.
Glad you are enjoying the ride JM. Your feedback and knowing there are others out there reading is really motivating to keep up the report. It's tough after a day of riding and exploring to sit down and write your thoughts down. I'm a little behind, but there are some epic chapters coming up, so stay tuned.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-01-2013, 07:57 PM   #23
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by NitroRoo View Post
Good job talking your way out of the ticket

Not sure if I should feel sorry for you for having to work so much from the road or if I should think it's really cool that you can
NitroRoo, well, as soon as the cop pulled up beside me, I knew he had reeled me in, so I figured I had nothing to lose by talking it out a bit with him... worked out in the end.

Regarding work, I have my own business which is really the only reason I am able to do this trip. Then again, I have a business, so I also have to run it, so some days are work days, but it is sooooo worth it. Good to have you along for the ride.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-01-2013, 08:12 PM   #24
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by myorangecrayon View Post
This trip looks awesome... I'm from Colombia and would love to have an epic ride down to my hometown of Cali. Can you give a bit more detail on why you picked the Triumph as opposed to a BMW R1200GS or a Multistrada? Keep going strong, be safe!
Glad you are enjoying the trip. I LOVE Colombia. I've been coming here for work for many years, but always to the main cities. This time I want to see a different side of things and I know it won't disappoint. I can't wait to go down to Cali. It's a part of the country I've always wanted to see.

I had meant to go into greater detail of why the Triumph up top, but the Ride Report got ahead of me and I never had a chance to go back and explain, so thanks for asking the question. I chose the Triumph for a couple of reasons instead of a BMW or the Ducati. Both those bikes are fantastic machines and I have nothing against them. BWM is the standard of excellence and all RTW trips, from the rudimentary to the extreme, have been done on a BMW. That in part is what made me look at alternatives. There is also a certain stigma that surrounds BWM and BMW riders. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Triumph, in my mind's eye, is the comeback kid. It is a brand and a concept that is among the oldest in the world in terms of motorcycles, but had an turn in fortune a few decades ago. The new company that is rebuilding the brand has worked tirelessly in doing so and found some fantastic engineers, taken the best from the adventure, and applied their own "spark" and taken their machines to the next level.

Why the Tiger 800XC specifically, and why 800 versus the 1200? Well, I had owned V-twin bikes in the past and for long trips those small vibrations this specific design of engine creates starts to wear on your. I remember it getting so bad sometimes that my hands would get numb and it would take me a few minutes to get the feeling back. The three cylinder engine, it also obviously vibrates, but it's smoother and thus far I haven't gotten that feeling, even on days I've riden 10+ hours. Also, the power is quite smooth and even, 2 gear is super tall, so it's great off road, and for the roads in Latin America, you just don't need 1200cc, this 800 is plenty of power, even with a fully loaded bike.

Hope that answers your questions. If you have any tips of things to see around Cali and the Eje Cafetero, please let me know.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle

Cousteau screwed with this post 05-01-2013 at 09:33 PM
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-03-2013, 05:17 PM   #25
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Panama, an amazing city

Today I arrived in Panama City. I had already been impressed and seen the immediate contrast between the type and quality of the infrastructure in buildings and highways versus what you see in the other Central American countries. This was even more evident when you roll into Panama City and cross the Bridge of the Americas and get my first view of the Canal. I so wanted to stop and take a picture, but I simply took in the amazing view.

After this you just weave in and out on an amazing motorway and then, as the Waze lady tells me to take my next exit, I roll toward the center of the city where I see at least three major roadway construction projects underway. I later learned that the current president has some 18 projects running simultaneously in order to complete them before the end of his tenure next year. That is in addition to completing the new phase of the Panama Canal, but I'll fill you in on this in a bit.

After I arrived and settled in, I was off to play tourist so I walked around the center of the city for a few minutes and spotted some cool restore/maintained old government buildings.





Then I hoped in a cab and headed the Panama Miraflores Lock.



The first thing that hit me was what an amazing feat of engineering this was. More incredible still, is that if it is 2013 and I'm in amazement, what would a person being in my same spot 100 years ago thought when it was first*inaugurated. Likely the single most impressive use of human ingenuity of its time. Aside from the simple scale of the thing, what you learn as you hear the guide explain how the locks function almost entirely without power. More than one million liters of water are moved between the locks in a matter of minutes and gravity is used to achieve this. Two motors of 25 horse power each is all it takes to move those massive gates open once the water levels match.





 





Watching those massive boats cross is nothing short of extraordinary, and next year once the new stage of the canals open up next year will allow container ships with upwards of 12,000 containers to go through the Canal. As the lady doing the explaining mentioned to me "Do you have any idea how many flat panel TVs that is?" That kind of puts things into perspective.



I was fortunate to hit the Canal on school day, so I had a bunch of munchkins all around me for about an hour.





Fortunately, I was able to escape the heat and the nonstop chatter into the cool airconditioned of the theater to view a short film on the history of the Canal.


Just a quick history for all those not wanting to go into Wikipedia. There were actually several attempts at building the canal as far back as when the Spaniards first arrived in Panama. Probably the best effort in accomplishing this was at the end of the 19th Century when the French worked on building the canal for twenty years, but finally gave up because of the difficulty of the task of the time, not least were the climate and the constant sickness that at that time, often led to death.

In what would be a masterful*maneuver*in global politics at the time, in 1903 the US blocked Colombian troops' arrival into Panama by sea with a blockade, just as rebels were rising up in Panama to claim independence from Colombia. The US immediately recognized the independence of Panama to be followed by the signing a couple of days later of the**Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty*giving the US control over the Panama Canal region. This *would later be reinterpreted several times over the years. It then took the US 10 years to complete the project, but this time not building a sea level route, but rather a canal that uses a system of locks to raise and lower ships across the mountainous region of the isthmus.

After playing tourist for the afternoon, my friend Lila swung by to pick me up at the locks and took me on a quick driving tour of downtown Panama City.



This is where you really can tell that "you are not in Kansas anymore Toto." Panama is definitely a step above any of the other countries in the region. I was really reminded of Miami in some ways.









I met my brother-in-law for a beer as he was in the City for training. It was a good coincidence to meet up with him and catch up a bit.



One thing that I was surprised to hear Lila mention - she and her husband have been living in Panama the last four years - is that the quality of service in Panama tends to be poor. It is the country with one of the lowest rates of unemployment and continuously needs to bring skilled labor from abroad. Because it is so easy to find a job, people don't really care to give a high quality service (obvious gross generalization here) because they can go out and in a few days, they land their next job.

I got to see this first hand as that evening when I went out with Juan Manuel, Lila and their two daughters out to dinner, it took nearly 20 minutes to get the bill. The food was excellent however.



Overall impression of Panama City - It is a major metropolis of Latinamerica, heavily influenced by the US, but with a bit of latin flare.

__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2013, 10:19 AM   #26
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
In Medellin today. Going to one of the largest motorcycle fairs in Latinamerica called "Dos Ruedas". Should be incredible!

Will be posting about the crossing into Colombia later today. It was definitely one of the key moments of the trip thus far.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-06-2013, 08:04 AM   #27
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Carti, the Kuna Yala, and The Independence

This was going to be a big day. Today I needed to arrive in Carti and load the bike on the boat. Majo from the Independence had sent instructions on how to get out to the port of Carti to load the bikes, there were more that just me, by 3pm. Before heading out of the city, I needed to go pick up my Heidenau tires that I had shipped from Guatemala.

Heidenau is one of the sponsors I was able to contact and were great about getting me some tires for the trip. These will be a great once I start riding in some of the National Parks and the dirt roads of Peru and Bolivia. I had gotten the call from Copa Cargo the day before as I was driving into the City. As the call came in on my Sena headset, I pulled off to the shoulder to take the call. The lady said the tires would be at their airport cargo terminal, exactly where I went.

For those who have not been to Panama, let me warn you that as of January of this year, the toll roads can no longer be paid for with cash, only with their prepaid card. So, much to my chagrin, I got up to the toll where it clearly had posted $1.50 for motorcycle. I hand the lady a $10 and she hands me back a this card.

"And my change??"

"No, but you have $3.50 left on your card"

"What???, I only want to pay the $1.50 toll, please give me my change back"

"You need the card"

"I don't want the damn card" - I'm beginning to fume and now have a long line behind me.

The lady at the toll booth could of cared less. You could tell I was amusing as this smirk came to her face. I was obviously not the first frustrated tourist, clearly being used to this reaction. The plume raised and she waived me through. I bolted out of there with a huff.

So, you have been warned. Be wary that YOU WILL GET JACKED at the toll booth in Panama.

And of to the airport I went, took the exit ramp and then headed to the left where the cargo terminal arrow pointed. The road was under construction and it was a very long way around the entire property of the airport. I made my way through the traffic only to run into a blockade on the backside of the airport as there was a national nurses strike, so no getting through. A police officer gave me scant directions to hear around back to basically circumvent the nurses. I ended up getting lost, going into this shanty town of little winding roads that weaved up and down hills and little rain run-off channels mixed in with odor au sewer. Finally, I caught up with a taxi and asked him how I got back out towards the Cargo Terminal. He was headed that way so he had me follow him. I don't think I would have ever made it out of that maze with a little help, so thank you Mr. Taxi Man.

Back onto the main road and away from the threat of the disgruntled nurses, I made my way to the Copa Cargo terminal. Got up to the right office, gave them my code and voila... "Sorry Sir, your tires are not here, they were sent to the Oeste Business Park" - and you guessed it, that was back in the city. *"CRAP" - ok, so off I go. Finally, after about another 40 minutes I have my tires, strap them up to the top of my topbox and start programming Waze to show me the way to Carti. But wait, Waze has no idea where this place is. So I ask Google Maps, nope, nada. Ask Apple Maps, nada again. Ok, I know its towards Darien, so I punch that in and off I go.

Towards the edge of the suburbs I stopped to fill my tank and asked about Carti. The station attendent had no idea what I was talking about, but a Taxi Driver across the pumps overheard the conversation and chimed in, letting me know that about 20 minutes after passing Chepo, the next major town after Panama City, I would see the turn to the left marked for Carti. With those vague instructions, I was off.

Just as the taxi driver mentioned, sure enough, shortly after the turnoff for Chepo, there was the turnoff for Carti, but just to be sure, under the shade of a tall tree where a couple of soilders hiding from the heat, so I stopped to verify directions. "Its the only road, just go strait and you'll get there."

This has to be the single funnest road I have ever been on. The road has been built on top of the terrain as is, laying asphalt on what must have been a horse trail at one point.



There were some incredibly steep runs going down into a revean and the up to the hill top, then back again. In some spots, the bottoms had been washed out, so the black stuff quickly turned into gravel, sand, large rocks, so you had to be careful to slow before you hit the bottom, as you didn't want to be breaking going one of those dubious sections.



Now, an important side note about the Kuna Yala region and the Kuna people. This is likely the largest*indigenous*population in Panama and they have a significant amount of autonomy over their land and how it's governed.



It was therefore surprising to be stopped at one point during the roller coaster ride by the "Kuna Authorities" and asked to pay a "right of passage" for myself and the bike. "No pay, no pass." I think all said it was about $8 for the bike and me. Paid it and was on my way.



A few miles ahead, I was stopped again at a military checkpoint and asked for my papers and passport. First time in Panama. A few minutes later I rolled into the port of Carti, I say this quite*facetiously, as all there was is a small shack, a fence, and a single dock. I did however see a couple of bikes under the overhang roof. SWEET!



As I got off the bike and walked I would meet for the first time the three others who would be my cabin-mates and fellow bikers for the next few days. Erik, Zack, and Erin.

Erik was the first to introduce himself. He's traveling alone on a 400cc off-road Suzuki with nobbies. He's a terrific guy, very practical, super helpful, and an avid outdoorsman. Not only has that been the industry he's worked in for most of his career, but he loves being outdoors and doing all manner of long distance hiking,*mountaineering, camping etc. Having left from Tennessee, he's barely seen any asphalt until he got into Panama. He's got a huge gas tank on his bike, which allows him to simply go out into the wilderness and just get lost for a week at a time.

The other two, Erin and Zach, were traveling down from California on Kawas KLRs. They were both laid back, easy going, and just good people. They've been traveling for about a six months, heading south to Argentina. They I found putting away a couple good size plates of chicken and rice just as I arrived. After the roller coaster ride I wasn't really all that hungry, so I just sucked on my camelback and worked on keeping hydrated.

While they were finishing up eating, I walked around and started asking about how we got our bikes out to the Independence. You could see out near the island off the coast, maybe about two kms away. A young man at the counter of the shack said he would make the arrangements. About 15 minutes later we were told we were ready to go and we were instructed to head to the dock. From what I had seen in my research, they usually load bikes off the dock into mid-size boats (lanchas) that are often used to transport goods out to the islands and boats.



As I pulled up towards the dock and start to point my wheels in the direction of the dock - mind you this is the only one there - I am waved off and told to move ahead down this dirt path further up the beach. I then see at the edge of the water a small dug-out, with two Kuna dudes pulling it up on shore. They then pull the motor off the back and lay it out on the beach. This basically looks like a bike canoe.



"So how do they pretend to get the bikes into the lancha?," I ask myself. At least my bike is quite heavy and it would take quite a few folks to awkwardly carry it through the muck on the edge of the water to get it into the boat. Then as if out of the blue, they start finding old wood pallets and piling them up, making a makeshift ramp, up into the boat.



 



"That might work" I think to myself, but those pallets don't look like they can carry much weight and that's a pretty steep drop into the boat. They find a few more pallets and put them into the boat.

Erick, having the lightest bike decides to be the ginny pig and simply starts up his bike and rides right into the boat. But as he goes up, you could see the pallets seriously bend, and his bike weights about half of what mine weighs. I start by pulling all my gear off the bike, including all the*panniers*and top case to make it as light as possible. Then we evaluate and we basically have two choices, ride it up, like Erick did, or walk it up. I decided that it's better to just walk it up and Zack volunteers to push from the back to get some speed and stead the bike. I'll walk it on its side and handle the break once we get it into the boat.

 



Once on the boat, I actually put down the kickstand and went to grab my gear and load it into the back of the boat while the Kuna Lancha Captain reattached the motor to the backend of the boat.





 



It was then time to get back on the bike and ride the waves out to the Independence. The ride out on this little dug-out boat together with Erick was a bit otherworldly.



 



I really never saw myself on my bike riding in a lancha out to sea, holding her now steadfast, straddling the bike and balancing through the waves with my feet propt on each edge of the boat. The cool salty spray coming up was cooling and after a few minutes it was simply a delight after a hot day of riding.









At the boat, were were*greeted by the Captain Michel who quickly asked what we were doing on that little boat. Apparently, we had all four taken a wrong turn somewhere and there was a larger boat waiting for us, also, at half the price. This little ride cost us each $30. I think we had just been taken by a little Kuna ride.

We quickly started to tie up ropes to the bike's frame as the hook from the wench was lowered. Erick's bike was upfront, so it went first. Mine followed.





There really isn't a way to describe this particular experience, as you see your bike lifted high above your head hoping the winch and ropes hold and that your bike doesn't take a spill into the drink. We were in some deep water and that would likely be the last you'd see of it if it went in.



After our bikes were loaded, the lancha headed back to pick Zach and Erin. They arrived about 30 minutes later. We then dropped our gear in the galley, grabbed a few essentials and we were off with Germain to the Kuna Island, to spend the night at Germains Hostel.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2013, 08:33 PM   #28
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Islas San Blas...

 

 

So we left off getting the bikes to the boat. That evening Captain Michel had already made arrangements for us to stay at the only hostel, and I dare say the only*accommodations, no the tiny island of Cartí. If you can't find it on a map, don't worry, I couldn't either, but trust me, it's there. This is one of the major Kuna communities of the San Blas Islandas and it is densely populated. There is one main path down the center of the island and then small alleys that run perpendicular to the main drag.

 

By the time Germain, our host, came out in his shinny new dingy with his son, it was late in the afternoon and the light was waning, so we all just grabbed the bare essentials from our load of gear and got into the dingy.



You could tell that space was at a premium as soon as you got onto the island as the toilets were right next to the dock... literally flying toilets above the water - I guess these would be more of sea latrine.



We then walked back about 100 feet from the water through some small paths and into one of the few two story buildings on the island. The hostel was upstairs while Germain and his extended family stayed downstairs in a large assortment of hammocks. The island has power in the evenings provided by a communal diesel generator and it's lights out at 11pm. So it was interesting to hear TV's blaring everywhere until the witch hour arrived.

Erin, Zach, Erik and I then went out*scavenging*for food. There weren't a lot of choices, basically the one restaurant off of one of the paths from "Main Street." We walked and we all had the fish - figuring it would have to be the freshest dish available. It came out quickly accompanied by rice,*lentils, and cabbage salad. This was my first meal of the day as I had been running from early morning on adrenaline trying to get out to the boat, so it was a fantastic meal.

We then all went to buy a big jug of bottled water and headed back to the hostel. Then slowly, we all started retreating to our quarters to sleep - mind you that these are only cubicle-like divisions made from thin bamboo poles intertwined, so really, it was basically a big dormitory. Erick crashed in one of the hammocks in the main entry.



It was a bit early, but we were all pretty much whipped from a long day. I conked out at about 9:30, but right before lights out, I need to go test out the facilities. I grabbed the flashlight as instructed and made my way down the spiral staircase. As I hit the landing, several of the family members that were sprawled out on the hammocks just pointed to the doorway. That's when I made my way towards the "Sheizehouse" to relieve some of the pressure in my bladder. Nothing quite like a late night pee through a bolted down toilet seat into the drink.



The next morning was market day as a large cruise ship was anchored near the island. All the ladies were out in the full regalia with all their needlework on display. We went for a quick walk in daylight to capture a few pictures and then we were once again off to the Independence.











We were just waiting on some folks to arrive from Panama City, 16 in all, and then we would be off to the first set of islands.

For the next three days would be spent island hoping, going from one piece of paradise to the next. I have pictures here of course, but they really don't do the place justice. If you picture in your mind the single most amazing tropical paradise - every detail... the palm trees, the color of the water, the breeze coming off of the surf, the reefs. Picture it. Hold on to that image. Have it crystal clear in your mind's eye. Ok, now double it and you have an approximation of what the San Blas Islands are like.







I really have *very hard time understanding how Panama does not promote turism more. Sure, Panama City is amazing and the Canal is nothing short of amazing, but the San Blas Islands are just out of this world.

We spent the next few days swimming, snorkeling, going out to the islands, laying out in the sun, and eating some amazing meals. We had a really terrific group onboard with people from all walks of life. That made the trip all the more special, because everyone got along.



I'll leave you with some of the pictures and the fun we had while sailing through the islands.















 



 



 



 







 









The Happy Crew!



 

 

 
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2013, 08:40 PM   #29
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
The Crossing...

After breakfast, before everyone started to go out snorkeling the Captain called us all up on deck to tell us our schedule for the day.

We would all have to be back onboard by 5pm as the boat would then go to the bay and the crew would prepare the vessel for the crossing. An early dinner was served while the crew took down the blue tarps that had provided much of the shade on the deck. The motorcycles were then rechecked, the tie-downs adjusted, and carefully covered with tarps to protect them from the splash of salt water spray.

In the earlier meeting the Captain had warned us that the open waters can be rough and that the crossing would be between 22 to 30 hours, depending on the weather and sea conditions. Many started with their Dramamine regimen while others gnawed on raw ginger.

I've always considered myself of a pretty strong constitution and as we eased out of the bay, thirty minutes later the Captain declared we were in open waters. It was definitely choppier than we had experienced the last few days. We had a strong headwind of 25 knots going against the current, so it was looking like a longer cross. The waves were short and rhythmical, with some of the swells splashing spray up on deck. Several of the passengers had made their way to the front upper deck where they had spent several of the previous nights sleeping. I hung out right behind them on at the main deck enjoying the cool breeze.

Interestingly, no one wanted to go below deck as they feared the movement combined with the lack of fresh air would do them in. Looking out towards the horizon did help a bit.

It was three hours after our departure when I started to get an uneasy feeling in the upper part of my stomach. I took a few deep breaths, which temporarily helped. I knew there was nothing to be ashamed of if I lost my cookies as the Captain had given special instructions on where and how to vomit - particularly to avoid throwing up against the wind as it would simply throw it right up back in your face. Nothing like that visual to motivate you to try and keep it down. I was also worried that if I threw up and got everything out, I would have another 27 hours of dry heaves to look forward to.

I then started counting the intervals between the waves, thinking that there may be some kind of a pattern and in knowing this, that would somehow calm the growing uneasy feeling.

Then Daz, the Aussie on the boat, came out and said what I think most of us were thinking “I'd rather get this over sooner rather than later.”

With that, I got up from my chair and steadied myself through the upper deck and onto the steep ladder to the galley. The Captain had said they would leave the door open to the exterior corridor, but as I turned left, it was clamped shut. By sheer instinct now, I headed down past the galley, then the kitchen and down the narrow steps to the lower level where our cabin was. I was not alone as people were quickly disappearing into their respective cabins and toilets. Ours, because it was the bikers cabin and had a lot of gear, had a padlock on it, so I reached up to a shelf for the key in a panic and on a first sweep my hand didn't feel it. I went further back and reached up again, this time finding the edge of the small plastic keychain.

The swaying of the boat in the lower levels only intensified the urge to upchuck. A burp filled with stomach acid came up and I knew I only had a few seconds left. I quickly fumbled with the key and lock to get it opened.

Finally through the door, the sliding door to my right to the toilet was stuck. I pulled at it with one hard yank and with the same single motion reached to open the lid as the first projectile flew out of my mouth.

As the final of the three expulsions of half digested pasta went down with the flush, I wondered how I was going to make it through the next near 30 hours. The seas were supposed to get rougher still.

After rinsing out my mouth and looking at a pale specter in the mirror, I eased my way up to the upper deck. There I found one of the bed rolls left out for us. I untied it, laid it out, and tossed it near the rear tire of my bike. I plopped myself down and heard the Captain lean back from his chair and say “you picked a good spot, David” to which I remember mumbling something back. I then laid down. After a few minutes the cool salty spray coming over the edge relaxed me and washed the seasickness away. I would lay there for the next 9 hours.

The next day would be one of laying still, sleeping, and just waiting for time to pass. I was no longer seasick, but the boat kept on rocking as we were still facing headwinds and short waves. Thankfully the Captain decided to head towards a chain of islands near Cartagena, cutting down the time in open seas although it added another four hours before we set anchor at port. I didn't feel like eating either breakfast or lunch, but by dinner, I was ready for some food. They served a very tasty and appropriate*lentil*soup. I ate gingerly and thankfully everything stayed down.

We arrived somewhere around 10pm to Cartagena and went back to my cabin to sleep. We would be getting up the next morning shortly after 6am to start unloading the bikes before the port got busy. Tomorrow it will be time to import bikes and find a place to stay. Looking forward to being on firm ground, although I would not trade this experience.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-11-2013, 10:53 PM   #30
Cousteau OP
...seeking adventure
 
Cousteau's Avatar
 
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Guatemala City / Washington, DC
Oddometer: 61
Cartagena and Ballenato

We started to unload the bikes shortly after 6am.





We needed to start early as the small taxi boats that transfer people across the bay do not seem to care about a no wake zones and if they see you loading something off of your boat, they gun the motor and get as close as they can to get the largest wave possible. This little game was not at all amusing when you're loading your bike.



This time,instead of using a dugout boat, we used the dingy with a large bouey to lean the bike at about a 45 degree angle. Lowering the bikes and watching them across the water was starting to seem like second nature. Once all four were on the shore, we then had to move all our gear on a couple of trips back and forth - the dingy was certainly near capacity, though Captain Michel assured us that this was nothing out of the ordinary.





We then all left together and headed to the DIAN where we were to meet our "fixer", quick technical stop at a local grocery store for water, a gatorade, and to hit the ATM. The DIAN is the Colombian customs and tax agency where we needed to register our bikes. Supposedly our "fixer" had been waiting for us and had all the paperwork done, so he just greeted us, handed us some photocopies of our registrations and passports and was off to see more important clients. We then ended up waiting around for almost three hours while the *DIAN agent, Juan Carlos, was "away from his desk" - doing what, we had no idea. It got to the point that Zach actually went to sit at his desk to be sure he didn't get away in case he showed his face. Finally, around 1pm he showed and we walked over to the bikes, checked the VIN numbers, signed some papers and we were off to the hostel.

As I've been traveling, I've been staying mainly at various gracious hosts homes or in cheap hotels along the way. I had really not stayed in a hostel in many years, ever since I backpacked around Europe. Man, was this an eye opener. Drinking games started around 4:30 in the afternoon and went on into the week hours. Fortunately this also meant that the same folks were not up until mid-to late morning by which time I was out and about.

The next day I thought to play tourist so I set off with Zach to check out the town and see the sights. Erick tagged along as far as the fortress, but then headed back to the hostel.



Cartagena has always been the key port for Colombia and many of the countries in South America, starting with getting gold and products from South America back to Spain during the colonial era and it continues to be Colombia's most important port. To ensure trade, during the colonial era, Cartagena was massively fortified with an*impenetrable*fortress - Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas - and also a walled city that protected it from both pirate and naval*attacks. From the time the fort was built in was able to sustain many attacks including some by the English and French navies. Touring the castle fortress and some of the walled city along with seeing up close some of the massive cannons still conserved, one could easily picture a large flotilla off the shore tacking into position to pummel the city.









Fortunately today, the city is well conserved, with many ongoing restoration projects, at least inside the walled city, that provides a fantastic glimpse into centuries past. The building architecture, old plazas and parks paved with warned cobblestones just absorbs and takes you in. The other great thing about Cartagena is the easy and laid back feeling.



This translates into every aspect of life and business as nothing needs to be done fast, maybe because of the intense heat. Case in point our friend Juan Carlos at the DIAN offices mentioned above.



As you turn many corners in the city, you can hear the*rhythmical*sounds of the ballenato accentuated with the lively*accordion*and lyrics that reflect the chillaxed life of these hot tropical climates. That easy going feeling permeates into every aspect of the city and its people.













That evening, as I was checking my emails, I noticed I received a message back from Fritz "Pork and Corn" and ADVRider. I'd been following his travels for quite some time, including his preparations for the trip. He too was traveling on a Triumph Tiger 800XC, but coming from Santiago Chile upwards towards Cartagena. He was wrapping up a 5 month that started in early January and he had just rolled into Cartagena. I was planning on heading out the next morning, so I decided to go for a quick walk to find him at the hostel he where he was staying within the walled city.



Sure enough, the walk paid off and I found him sitting in front of his room, typing away at his blog. We chatted for about a half hour about his journey. You could tell that he was worn out from traveling and was happy to be wrapping up his trip. The most difficult thing he found during his adventure was the isolated feeling he had during much of the journey. It wasn't until the latter part of the trip where he had started staying a hostels and forcing himself to meet people and have more interactions.

Travel can certainly have its isolating effect. I've been very fortunate to have friends throughout the region and even have people go way out of their way to help me meet others as I've traveled. I have had periods where I've been alone, but I can't say that I've ever felt lonely. This may happen down the line, and certainly as I continue further south, the further I get, the fewer folks I know. Then again, that's all part of the adventure and what I was after to experience in the first place. I think getting out of ones shell, and we all have one, can seem impossible, but if you force yourself and open up even a little bit, you can really meet some fantastic people - and in the end, it is those interactions that will form the greatest memories that you will have always.
__________________
__________________________________________________ _________________
Adventure Bound
http://2wheelchronicle.com
Facebook
Twitter: @2wheelchronicle
Cousteau is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Share

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

.
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


Times are GMT -7.   It's 07:28 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2014