I am doing a huge catch up I am about 2 weeks behind with the blog so my recollection of events are a bit iffy. A hot run into Panama City and when I hit the bridge crossing the canal the heavens opened a huge rain storm and before I knew it I was soaked to the skin but as I was so close to my final destination decided to press on without putting on my waterproofs which was not wise as traffic turned to gridlock and my piece of shit GPS was about as much use as well as much use as nothing. I had drawn a map on a scrap of paper(old fashioned Tech) which had disintegrated in the rain so was stopping every 5 minutes asking for directions to Via Brazil and Avieneda de Espana. I ended up on a toll road holding up the traffic whilst I figured out where the hell I was. I finally found the Panama House Hotel wet and bedraggled I checked in and chilled out. Seemingly it pisses down every day at 10am and again at 2pm in the city so I guess I had been lucky the last couple of days. I went for a huge Calzone Pizza with Paul a guy I had met previously who was also going on the same boat as me and Ryan a Canadian guy who had been there for 3 weeks as he was unable to get on the last boat and was trying to get on the same boat as us to Colombia.
Well todays is Sint Nicholas in the Netherlands so I put my shoe out last night in the hope that there would be some sweeties in them in the morning. Nope no such luck so either I have been a bad boy this year and or he does not cover Panama City. Must be the latter. Well I have reached the bottom of Central America and I have also ran out of steam as another one of my milestones had just been achieved so as I am knackered and I am finding it hard to motivate myself to go and and do the touristy stuff that you should do in Panama City so in short an uneventful couple of days.
On the first day managed to wander round the local bike dealers looking for some oil for my chain oiler. When I hit the first shop the heavens opened up so took shelter there for about an hour chatting to the nice Vietnamese owner of the shop. It finally stopped raining enough to venture out and went to a couple more bike shops and huge super market looking for a specific type of oil.
I finally found some and back to the hostel for some more vegging about. That evening went to the Supermarket and brought some sausages to throw on the Barbie back at the hostel.
The second day I was a bit more determined to do something and you cannot come to Panama City without seeing the infamous Panama Canal. I had managed to load a half decent map onto my GPS, which I got from Paul so in theory I should be able to find the Mira Flores Locks. Well I got lost again and spent a good hour going in ever decreasing circles until I stumbled on to the locks. I spent a pleasant hours or so watching huge container ships going through the locks watching a 3D film about the Panama Canal and visiting the museum. So back to the hostel before the rains start and that is enough touristy stuff for the moment as I did not fancy getting stuck out in the rain because when it rains here the roads turn into rivers and traffic grinds to a halt.
Back to the same Italian Place for my tea chatting to Ryan and Paul who seem determined to shit me out on how difficult the trip is going to be through South America.
Note Monday 17th December. I am miles behind with me blog and I had have the screaming habdabs for the last week or so and it is really got bad since I left Cartagena so I may not come over as my usual cheery self as my arse is on a hair trigger and have not been able to keep much food inside me for days (Oh the joys of travel)
Anyhow back to the blog up early, as we had to be at boat at Carti Airport, which was about 110km away. So we left the Panama House at 7am ish and there was four of us Me Ryan, Paul and Dylan who had arrived yesterday. Its been yonks’ since I had ridden with a group and I guess there is a reason for that as there is so much more you need to concentrate on as well as your normal motorcycling things that you have to worry about when you are on your own. I was at the back, which is always the most difficult place to be, as you have to take additional risk to stay in touch and keep up so thats running reds (it was amber officer), risky overtakes that you would probably not do if your on own, ensuring no one gets between you and the group you get the idea then add in the fact that this is rush hour in an alien environment you can say I was not really having a ball 🙂 (In short you end up having to go so much faster than the bloke up the front and work much harder)
Finally we got out of the city and are making progress when we come across a huge traffic jam we are running late and the usual thing to do in situations like this is try to cut through the traffic and get to the front to see what is causing the blockage. So we weave our way through the still standing traffic that looks like it been there for a while and it seems to go on forever at one stage we get some info along the lines that there may be a bridge out but as we reach the front of the jam it turns out we have just walked into a minor civilian uprising. The locals have blocked the road and are protesting about some large multinational company that has come in to the area but they did not give them any money (or something like that) and they where not going to budge until they got there 5 minutes of fame on the television. Bugger what to do. There are already some other bikers there that are also on our boat and they have been trying to negotiate whether or not we can pass as we have a boat to catch and that we are not part of the issue but no luck so far. The television crew has arrived so they are getting their airtime and we are being interviewed why I do not know. Eventually I think they got bored and had said their piece to the cameras so it looked like we could be moving soon. You can imagine miles of cars either side of the roadblock a single-track bridge it’s going to take ages before this road is clear. Fortunately for us bikers we were allowed to go first even through a few cars made a mad dash for the opening. So we passed through the roadblock to the sounds of one solitary guy shouting that the road blog was staying and they will be there until they got what they wanted fortunately everyone else had had enough and he was a lone voice.
A much larger group now and I was still tailgate charley the turn off for the airport was just up the road and the boys had been sitting around for a while so I guess the testosterone must of kicked in and they where off. As mentioned before I had very little confidence in my GPS even though I had some new maps loaded now but it had not been on route all day and I had no idea where the road went so I had to try and keep up. I am getting far to old for these type of dick wagging scenarios its a gorgeous road and I would just like to enjoy it at my own pace not at some strangers group pace for all I know these guys are all trying to out macho each other and me I do not care I know how good/bad I am and I have no intention in taking any unnecessary risk (still got a long way to go) so I decided to back off and concentrate on the road and enjoying that at my own pace. I finally caught up with the group at the Kuna Indian Checkpoint
and then the final run to the port the pace had dropped considerably or maybe I was not that far of it in the first place and we finally arrived at the quay side at 10am so only an hour late and still only half of us here as the rest had also got caught up in the uprising as well.
(In hindsight I would have preferred to do this run on me own, as it was a nice road with some gorgeous vistas that should have been captured and enjoyed at a more leisurely pace)
So eventually there are 13 bikes hanging around waiting to be loaded on the boat lots are strangers to each other a few know each other sort of and these are my sailing mates so that is a large group of 22 people for the next couple of days.
Deep breath Philly practice that new mantra I like travelling in groups 🙂 (Anyone who knows me know that deep in my heart I am a loner and I struggle in a group environment especially with complete strangers seemingly its in my DNA some thing else I can blame my parents for)
The loading process meant getting a huge boat positioned at the end of a dodgy looking quay and then winching each bike on one after the other like a production line as we where late and the tide was going out we had to be pretty quick. All the luggage was taken off and there was loads as bikers do not travel light not clothes but all sort of other kit such as tyres petrol cans tool of all shape and sizes. (My kit is all clothes!) So as the bike came on board they are parked on the deck until we had all the bikes on and all the kit and all of the new crew members of the Stahlratte for those interested in the boat here is a link http://stahlratte.org
So tonight we will not be staying on the boat but on one of the San Blas Islands belonging to the Kuna Indians who seem to have the own autonomous state within the country of Panama. So quick-change travel bag packed and we are dumped on an island, which was fascinating, take a look at the many photo on SmugMug to get a better idea.
So that is day one Cor Blimey Guv this is supposed to be the relaxing part I spent the evening taking loads of photos and wandering around and getting acquainted with my new shipmates.
Up early the next day like most people lets say the accommodation was basic to say the least so folk wanted to get to the boat for some breakfast or was it perhaps it was the loo!
Second day snorkelling around another island, trying to remember the last time I went swimming its been a while and I do not know why as I actually like swimming and love snorkelling I guess it is the sand and getting the kit dry that is always put me of whilst travelling but had a great time even though the flippers I had on where to large. Unfortunately the coral was dead this was due to the hurricanes or nature not mankind which is a relief but a shame but loads of fish. That evening a barbeque on another island which was gezellig. And the first night on the boat I am in the bow with 3 others yep we are packed in like sardines.
(Group observation there was a load of snorkelling gear different size flippers and suddenly this got less and less and flippers where being discreetly placed out of sight in all sorts of places basically being claimed by individuals , what was that mantra Philly I like travelling in groups :-))
Day 3 same as day one I found some flippers that fit a set of the claimed ones fuck them there mine for the next hour then they are back in the shared box so someone else can use them. This time snorkelling even better at yet another island as there is an old shipwreck in shallow water to explore. Lazy day and then to another island where the Customs for existing Panama is but its closed as its Mothers Day in Panama so we will not be able to get this done till tomorrow (Note to all mothers reading this especially mine no its not mothers days as we know it in Europe but for Mary Jesus’s Mum a religious holiday so that’s me of the hook :-))
On the first night I woke up to singing I thought it was in the morning but pitch dark outside so confused. Very nice singing I should really get up and investigate but it is quite lullaby ish so just roll over and enjoy it not sure if it was a dream or real but it turned out it was real and related to mothers day.
Day 4 running late due to customs not being open due to Mothers day but we clear customs and finally set sail for Cartagena Colombia. This is where the idyllic cruise turns into an epic sea journey and into Huey and Ralph territory. The sea is quite choppy so everyone is trying to get used to the new movement, as this is what it’s going to be like for the next 30 plus hours. Well that was the theory here is the reality the engine died. Oops seemingly we have blown a valve is there a welder on board. Yes there fortunately there is (Paul Stewart please take a bow) but it takes a good couple of hours to fix and we are dead in the water with a waves coming in batches regularly but not regularly enough to get used to it so if you where feeling queasy already this was the killer blow. The fix did not last long so another one was needed so from rough just about manageable to dead in the water again for a couple more hours. Eventually we got going slow going as engine still a bit sick (the boat is 103 years old) the weathers is worse and the original 30 hours estimate a thing of the past. I crawled into my pit at 7pm and I being tossed all over the place in the forecastle and getting my feet doused in water every hour or so as a rogue wave hits the window which is open as its stifling hot but eventually I close it but it still leaks! A very long night and the good news is there is another one to go, as we are not making much speed and have lost loads of time fixing the engine. So you can say the mood on the ship is not a happy one as lots of folk are seasick to various degrees. I am just about holding it together but I am very close to being sick so it’s just a case of suck it up and we get there when we will get there at least we are moving in the right direction.
Another rough day and night you cannot do much or you will spew so just grinding out the seconds and then we are off the Coast of Cartagena Sea is calmer and oh happy days has just come on to my iTunes how uncanny is that.
Finally made it to dry land put a travel bag together and go and find a hostel I am glad to be of the boat we will sort out the bikes tomorrow.
All the bikers are staying at the same place so a small group head into town for a bank and some food and I then head out on my own as I need some Philly time and I need to be alone fuck that mantra I like group traveling
Back to the Hostel I have a shower the first decent one for a while so I am clean again we have to meet with the agent to sort Customs out at 7pm and the reason why I hate traveling in groups is that there is no decisiveness, a following mentality going to the lowest and dumbest common denominator this time it was about whether to walk or get a taxi well I lost it I been a good boy for days but I was walking and did not want to have a debate on the subject just get on and do it and of I went.
Sorted the paperwork for Customs last meal with the group at a Pizza Place and back to a bed that was not determined to kick you out of it every five minutes. I have still had not found my land legs.
This week blog I like group travel starred the following
Stahlratte crew http://stahlratte.org
The Captain Fifi or Fiedle or was it Fieter
Bobo or Boris
Floflo or Floyd
Lili or Lisa
Paul Stewart http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=809883
Alex and Andrea representing Romania http://www.micadu.ro/en/
Tom and Radka representing Czech
Joop and Alfred representing Netherlands
Franki and Tony representing Italy nope actually Hong Kong
Carlos representing Colombia
2 Norwegian Guys
2 German Guys
Forgotten their names 😦
Featuring Thomas and Arthor guest on the Stahlratte
And of course the stars of the show Philly and Daisy 🙂
Problem with doing this so far after the fact you forget many things. My strap broke on my Trax Boxes not surprising really considering how much I am carrying. Andrea was kind enough to fix this so a big thank you to Andrea and her sowing skills 🙂