An overlander's account of South and Central America by motorbike - the trusty Suzuki DR650. Within are great travel tips and hints (2011).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crossing the Darien - Colombia to Panama (15-19 May 2011)

Loading 'Fritz the Cat' with the 5 motorbikes in Cartagena, Colombia

15 - 18 May 2011 (3 km) – Caribbean Sea (Fritz the Cat)
The next 5 days would see Nessie and I bobbing around the ocean headed from Cartagena, Colombia to Carti, Panama. The captain organised the exiting of yourself and the bike for you in Cartagena. After loading a DR650, 3 KLR650s, a GS1150, 16 tourists and fresh ice we hit the seas! We joined Roly the gentle Austrian giant and captain, and Jose, the champion chef at sea and deckhand! The first 35 hrs or so was powering towards the fantasy islands of the San Blas. We had fairly flat seas which made it nice for the few land animals on board, although a few brief bouts of feeding the fishes were seen (not mafia style either!). The first night a few of us decided to sleep outside in the cool on the nets. It was pleasant until the light night rain started. Arriving at dusk we could see the silhouettes of hundreds of tiny, bleached-white sand, coconut tree covered, reef abound islands. Amazing beauty! The sun started to peel from its starry blanket and light up paradise!

The next few days were spent at anchor in between various, tiny little islands, swimming, snorkelling, spearfishing, sleeping, reading and relaxing in one of the true natural beauties in the world. You could swim to an island and walk around it and talk with locals on the inhabited islands. Anyone that chooses to fly (quicker, more expensive and difficult) over the Darien Gap with their bike is truly missing out! Take 5 days off the bike and relax! The trip cost a total of $876 for the bike and I with Fritz the Cat. Around $450 if you don’t have a bike. But this includes food and accommodation for 5 days, fishing gear and a great time! You can’t miss out on the toothpick sailing game if you go on Fritz. What a competition!!

19 May 2011 (200 km?) – Panama City (Panama Passage)
After a last swim and checkout of the island village of the Kunas, we headed towards port for the end of the trip...

The drive from the port to the main road and Panama City was a breeze as its all tarmac now. After unloading the bikes at the dock and paying the $10 USD port fee you drive down the road to a police checkpoint. After this you have 2 options to get your Temp Import Papers for the bike. One you can go to the airport and get directed to the freighting area at the back of the international airport (we did this and was fairly straightforward, save for the several typos in paperwork). The guy screwed up and had submitted the forms into the network and fixed them once but screwed up mine the second time, so said I have 2 chances (options)...wait for 2 hrs, or chance it and go. By this time it was 1800 and we were all getting ancy to leave. We’d already bid Heinz and Beth adieu as they’d already waited long enough for us.

Finally we reached Panama City and after a bit of getting lost we all managed to find accommodation. I stayed at Panama Passage while the 3 boys went on to another place from the Lonely Planet at an old army base. Panama Passage took the cake though! A great setup with loads of info and other overlanders!

Farewell South America...

Roly showing us how a real man squeezes lemon juice onto food

Flying fish that had flown on board during the night

Nessie gladwrapped and strapped in for the ride

10/10 dive!

The race begins!

Beautiful islands everywhere and amazing sunsets

Fritz with bikes and babes

San Blas Islands

Jose the chef and deckhand!

Kunus would come to the boat in their canoe to trade

A beer run San Blas style...swim to the island, buy the beer (and coconuts) and swim back to the boat

El Porvenir, one of the Kunu village islands

The non-bikers left us by boat

While we docked and unloaded

I asked Roly for a pic so I stood on a cement slab to be as tall as him...

Bienvenidos a Panama!

Police checkpoint with Eduardo in front in the bandanna.  Unfortunately Eduardo passed away in Guatemala in a traffic accident.  The details are at  Rest in peace mate.

The road between the port and the highway was sensational riding!
3 Canadians on KLRs (Colin, Eduardo and Derrick) and Beth and Heinz from Brazil on the BMW

Saying farewell to the fantastic couple Beth and Heinz.