Posts tagged “Panama

South America: We are coming!

Since 90 km of road are missing between Panama and Columbia, the so-called Darien Gap, one has to find other ways to cross the gap to South America. We chose the ‘Stahlratte’, a more than 100 year old, german sail ship which is crossing the gap regularly and also ships motorbikes.

The preparations for our crossing of the Darien Gap started on October, 31st. We drove with 12 other bikers from Panama City to the bay of San Blas. From there the bikes should be loaded onto the Stahlratte. The ride was breathtaking. The road was going up and down like a roller coaster and sometimes the tarmac was completely missing and we had to drive on mud and rocks. Unfortunately Carmen’s rear brake broke on this very day. Therefore she had to drive the sharp curves very slowly. ( Nevertheless Michael had some problems to catch up with her on the straight parts 😉 ). Later we found out that the rear fender was broken and parts of it got into the break.

Ludwig, the captain of the Stahlratte was already waiting for us at the pier. We took all our luggage from our bikes which then was loaded onto the Stahlratte’s dingy and brought to the ship. The bikes themselves were loaded onto the Stahlratte via a crane.

We all spent the evening in a small indian village and slept in little bamboo huts right in the middle of the huts of the indians. Unfortunately our hut was not 100% water proof and a little bit of water dripped down when it was raining.

On the next day our sailing adventure started. First we were sailing to a couple of small caribbean islands. Although there were also some other boats, we still had some private islands for ourselves. During the day Carmen celebrated Halloween together with Aron and Serafina (the Hungry Riders) and in the evening we had a nice barbecue with all the other bikes on a little island until late at night.

We stayed the next day in the middle of these marvelous islands as well and spent some time with snorkeling, swimming or just relaxing. While Carmen really enjoyed snorkeling, Michael once more realized that water simply is not his favorite element. Later we went to a very tiny island, which consisted of nothing but sand, two palm trees and a beautiful riff – a real paradise for snorkeling. The highlight of the evening was a dinner with fish and lobster.

At 6am on the next morning the captain started the engine and we were heading to Cartagena. Although the sea was pretty calm, the ship was moving heavily. Some took pills against seasickness and for others even that did not help anymore.

26 hours later we arrived in Cartagena and were brought to the shore. The bikes had to stay on board, since we arrived on a Sunday. Unfortunately the Monday was a public holiday and therefore we had to wait until Tuesday to import our motorcycles. We spent the time with sightseeing and nice chats with the other riders.

Finally on Tuesday we could bring our bikes back to the land. However this time the Stahlratte had to stay far from the shore and therefore each bike had to be loaded into the dingy and from there the crew lifted it onto the pier with nothing but their muscles. Fortunately everything went pretty well. Just the right mirror of Roy’s BMW, a rider from Norway, broke during the procedure.

The actual importing of the bikes was not supposed to take longer than a few hours, but due to a kind of mini-strike and some computer issues at the insurance company, it took the whole day to import the bikes. Therefore we had to postpone the continuation of our voyage and stay one more day in Cartagena.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Shots in Panama City

The owner of the hostel in Boquete recommended to take a small, unpaved road to Santa Catalina, a quiet place at the pacific coast of Panama. Actually the road was better than we thought. Most parts were paved and only a few parts were gravel roads.

Santa Catalina was even more quiet than we expected. Since there is low season right now, the hostels were almost empty and we had free choice. We chose a hostel directly in Santa Catalina near the beach. When we were looking for restaurants and bars, we again were reminded of the low season. Most of the restaurants were closed and the one and only beach bar did only open on Saturday. Nevertheless they offered a lot of watersport activities here, like diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. All of these activities however exceed our budget and so we spent time with reading and jumped into the waves once in a while.

Our boat to Columbia starts in four days. Many motorcycle travelers, who also cross the Darien gap with the Stahlratte, are currently staying at hostel ‘Carmen’ in Panama City. Therefore we decided to join the Hungry Riders riding to Panama City. Most of the time we were driving on the Panamericana, which is dead straight and therefore kind of tiring. After some hours of riding we arrived in Panama City and we were greeted wih two gun shots in one of the streets nearby. According to Aren it was just fireworks, but to us it really sounded like gun shots.

There were six other motorcycles in the hostel already and we were pretty happy, that there is still enough place inside the hostel for us and our four bikes. We saw some familiar faces again, like Harry on his veggie bike and Jesper, whom we met already in Boquete. Altogether we are ten motorcycle travelers here, including three female drivers, who all ride their own motorcycle. In the evening we all went to a nice italian restaurant and exchanged some experiences and adventures.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Sitting out hurricane ‘Sandy’

Boquete is the right place to relax for a few days. Due to the altitude the climate is mild and the city has got several restaurants, cafes, and bars. We found a very nice hostel in which also some other motorbike travelers were staying. So we extended our stay day by day. Then we heart that the hurricane ‘Sandy’ makes trouble in the caribbean. Fortunately the storm just caused a few more rainy days in our area. Since we had enough to read and besides they wanted to do a barbecue party in the hostel, we did not mind to extend our stay yet another time.

The barbecue party was scheduled for Wednesday. The owner of the hostel offered meat and some drinks for free, while the guests brought other stuff, like salads, dessert, or wine. Almost half of the guets came from Germany, so they even offered a kind of Bratwurst. The party was quite fun. After the tasty dinner we talked a lot and later some people were playing guitar and singing.

On Friday we started to get tired of Boquete. Fortunately the hurricane left the area and we teamed up with the ‘Hungry Riders’ to ride to Santa Catalina at the pacific coast.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

On top of Panama

There were already two other motorcycles on the parking ground of the Hostel ‘Refugio del Rio’ when we arrived at the hostel. Later we found out that they belong to the two travelers Aren and Serafina. The two US – Americans ride the Panamericana for a couple of months like we do and also plan to cross the Darien gap from Panama to Columbia via the sail ship ‘Stahlratte’. Another Panamericana traveler arrived at the Hostel a day later. The Dane Jesper is also riding North- and South America with his motorcycle and decided to go with the Stahlratte as well.

One of the highlights in Boquete is the hike to the summit of Volcano Baru, the tallest mountain of Panama. In order to see the sunrise on the summit of the mountain, we booked the night hike. We started hiking at 11:30pm and tried to get some hours of sleep before we start. After we spent some hours in our beds in vain, we went to the lounge of the hostel to meet our guide. There Aren was waiting, who had decided to join our hike.

We drove to the starting point of the hike at 1840m. It was pitch-dark when we started hiking with our flashlights. The first part of the hike was very steep and unfortunately it even began to rain after a short time and it did not stop before we crossed the clouds after some hours. Although it was dry now, it was not really comfortable, because it was getting colder when we got higher. Around 5am we arrived the ranger station near the summit. Two policemen are always on guard in the station to watch the nearby radio and satellite antennas. The policemen take turns every two weeks and spend the whole day in a little room equipped only with beds, tv and a toilet. However after the long hike, we were quite glad that the policemen let us in and offered us a cup of hot coffee.

Just before sunrise we climbed the last meters up to the summit and watched the Sun rising at the red horizon. When the sky is clear, one can see both, the pacific and the atlantic ocean from the top of the summit. Although we are in the rainy season now and the sight was hidden by thick clouds, we could still see the pacific ocean in the west.

After having breakfast on the summit we started to go down. We were a little bit faster on our way back and it was less exhausting as well, but our knees and feet were aching. After 27km of hiking, we hobbled into the jeep which brought us back to Boquete. We arrived at the hostel at about noon and went straight to our beds. Since we are really starting to like Boquete, we decided to spent another couple of days here.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road

Breakfast on island Colon

Puerto Viejo is a little caribbean island in the south east of Costa Rica. The beautiful beach, the numerous little restaurants, and bars attract many hippies, rastas and dropouts. The smell of pot is in the air and we were offered to buy marijuana several times. We did not like the atmosphere and the kind of shabby ambiance however and so we left the next morning to continue our way heading south.

We have only been in Costa Rica for a few days and are quite impressed by the beautiful landscape here. Costa Rica for sure has much more to offer, especially exotic wildlife. But they also call it the Switzerland of central america, because it’s almost as expensive as in Europe. Although that is no real issue for a three week vacation, it would still cause quite a problem for our budget. So we decided to leave Costa Rica and ride into the cheaper Panama.

We chose the small and quiet border city Sixaola to cross the border to Panama. This time it was Carmen’s turn to do the paperwork. We passed the border without any issues and after about 2 hours we had all the necessary papers.

Our original plan was to go to Bocas del Toro on the island Colon via ferry with our motorcycles. However we found out that the ferry to Bocas del Toro departs only once a day at 8am. Since we arrived in the afternoon, we checked into a hotel in the nearby city Almirante. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get up on time on the next morning and so we missed the ferry. Since we did not want to stay yet another night in the kind of run-down city of Almirante, we took the water taxi to Bocas del Toro. So we could at least take a look at the City and get some breakfast there.

We really liked Bocas del Toro. Besides several little restaurants and bars, they offer a wide variety of water sports activities, like snoring and kayaking. After our tasty breakfast we drove back to Almirante with a speedboat and got ready to ride to Boquete. The 2-3 hours ride to Boquete was great due to it’s winding mountain roads and beautiful landscape. We checked into the hotel Refugio del Rio, in which we should get to know some other motorbike travelers.

Posted by: michasifi and carmen.on.the.road