Monday, 23 July 2012

Panama to Colombia part 1

How to get from Panama to Colombia?  There are basically 3 choices.  One is by boat, second is by air freight and third is to be a superhuman and ride through the jungle with literally no roads and drug lords.  I considered the air for a bit, but at the end of the day, it was the adventure of putting the motorcycle on a sailboat that intrigued me.

From Panama City on the Pacific side we need to ride ALL THE WAY OVER to the east side of the country to catch our boat in Portobelo, Panama.  A really big day for us, a whopping 95 km or 60 miles to the other side.. Easy peasey!

First, Kevin has a box of things he wants to send home.  Not so Easy Peasey!  He spent over 2 hours inside the dodgey building..  He stood in lines for packaging, for paperwork, back for packaging, having to stand at the end of the line each time. He kept coming out to check on me and his face was steaming mad. He obviously hasn't had the experience mailing stuff home as I have. I warned him!! It's pretty much the same painful process as a border crossing.. always time consuming and expensive! 


The good news is that he came out of the building for a final time and said, "All that and it only costs $20!"  That is really really good for as big as his box is.  I was impressed, I have never got off that easy myself.  So he's happy again and we're on our way.


I'm a bit worried about my oil, and wanted to top it up before leaving.  The fun part about going through Kevin's photos is to see what he aimed at.  I'm thinking... why the heck are you taking photos of me while I'm parked under the shade of a car wash in Panama?  


So we can finally leave town and head toward Portobelo.. No hurry of course!

We missed our turn off and instead of heading back down the highway, we sort of make our own rules.. Hey!!!  We're foreigners!!! ;-)))


When Kevin came through I was waving at him to stop, because I was worried about the high curve taking out the lower part of his bike.  He has very low clearance.  Now that I think of it, if I asked him to speed up he could have cleared it by jumping.  He just rode in the grass until the curb finished on down the track a bit.




We arrive the hostel in Portobelo where all the passengers will be staying the night for tomorrow mornings departure.. And who do we find up the stairs?  Patrick!!!  Yay!  We've been in contact so we knew he'd be on our boat.  Also at the table is a 3rd Canadian (I'm feeling a little outnumbered here!)  Guillaume from Montreal. He freaked me out before I even sat down.  As soon as he saw the "Road of Bones" patch on my jacket he knew who I was from reading Walter's posts on advrider.  Weird but fun.. mucho gusto Gui!  ;-)


So good to be with friends and we won't be riding the bikes for a few days, so the beers starting flowing. Especially with Patrick, we had a lot of catching up to do.. I haven't seen him since Mexico!

Eventually all the bikers were here and we need to start loading the boat for the voyage.   None of us knew what to expect, but the captain came to tell us to pack up and head down to the dock.

First bikes on board were Patrick and Dan, and I was the third.  Even though I've helped with the drill, it's still nerve-wracking. This is as dodgey of an operation as they come.  More or less, we, as the riders, figured out the safest way to do this and pack our bikes on board, while the Captain was on another planet.











Ayyy chijuajua, I don't like this...


After we get my bike tied down to Patrick and Dan's bike, we go back for more.. All in all we loaded 12 motorcycles this day and didn't finish until dark.

The photo below is bringing Kevin's bike with Patrick and Gui.  I can see a serious look on Kevin's face. In comparison to Patrick, it's easier to smile for the camera when it's not your bike at stake of falling into the drink.


I felt bad for the bikes that had to be loaded in the dark.  It made the situation just a bit more scarey, but at the same time, we had loaded enough bikes that we were faster and more confident at the same time.  The captain told us he has a lot of experience doing this with many years and voyages to Colombia with motorcycles.  If that is the case, we wondered why he just purchased tie down straps today!  Another worry about this guy is that we are figuring out how to load the bikes, not the captain!

Kevin and Patrick





Once the job was complete, we wanted to hit the shops to stock up on the snacks and alcohol we would be consuming over the next 4 days.  We bought beer, wine, pringles and chocolate cookies.  The boat fed us 3 meals a day, we just needed the supplements.. ;-))))

Old American school buses have been very decorated since Guatemala down to Panama.  This one was a classic and unexpected in the tiny village of Portobelo.




There were some young Australians on our boat that stocked up with 4 cases of beer for the three of them. We actually had to stop and think for a minute, are WE bringing enough? ;-)) So we knew we were in for a very wild and entertaining trip!

Tomorrow morning, we sail! ;-)))
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