While i'm getting my life back together, please look at a fine selection of my photos:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Panama - Part II

Punta Linda - Hostel Wunderbar

As said hostal Wunderbar is quite known as a hub for backpackers who want to go to the San Blas islands and/or Cartagena by boat. It's run by a german couple, Guido and Silvia, who traveled by boat for many years. They also have their own ship. Guido is one of those guys who can fix everything and has a workshop and all sorts of tools, so if you are i need of a welder to fix your luggage rack, go here. 

Guido and Silvia transformed a piece of land from jungle to what it is today in 2 years: A nice hostal.  Amazing what determination  can do. Respect.

If you go here, please be warned that there's NO shops around here, just a few small tiendas for the very VERY basics, and one restaurant. The closest by ATM and big supermarked is about an hour by bus.

The $11,- dormitory includes continental breakfast, which as experienced travellers know is bread, butter and jam and coffee/thee. One day we had an egg, another day some fruit or cheese.  And we weren't allowed to eat to much. Good enough if you stay one day and leave on a boat the next. After a couple of days i noticed that having a baby around takes a lot of energy which made them quite edgy at times. Their administration is chaotic which caused a discussion about money at several occasions. I hope this is temporary. I wish them all the best in their venture.

You know what?!? I'm probably the world's slowest motorcycle traveller!! Can you believe this: Chilling out in a hammock, waiting for the ship to sail. First, a guy on a bicycle shows up. German. I didn't recognize him, because of the beard, but i met this guy in Zipolite, Mexico! And i gets better! Next day, Graham shows up. Also on his bicycle. I met this bloke in Alaska, somewhere between Fairbanks and Prudhoe bay!  Insane coincedence. They did a straigt line where i zigzaged a lot, but still.

Daytrip to nearby Isla Grande.

Isla Grande is an island, and local tourist area with some good beaches and a pleasant vibe. Not much to do, except for a 1 hour hike to a lighthouse and back.

Shipping the bike.
It took a few strong men to get my bike in the Lancha. Here i'm not entirely sure about a happy ending. I sat like this all the way to the ship.

Hoisting the bike aboard the ship.

All went perfect and without damage. I sprayed WD-40 on all metal parts, engine included,  except my brakes to prevent corrosion by salty water. The crew packed the bike thoroughly in plastic. 

The ships mate, Louis, was a great guy. He used to train tigers in a circus. Saw his pictures, amazing animals.

The ship "MetaComet" a beautiful old wooden fishing boat with quite a history. Modified to ship people, but at this point far from ready. The owners bought it, worked three months and it just started with shipping passengers.

Despite the masts it's NOT a sailboat.

I wrote a whole list of annoyances, problems and shortcomings. Deleted it I just to say that both ship and crew are not ready to ship 12 passengers. The money doesn't justify the service delivered. And $385,- is a lot of money. And i cannot say otherwise than to me it appears that the owners are only in it for the money.

So my advice : If you want to take this route, skip this boat. If you're interested i can send you the detailed list by email.

Georgeous: San Blas Islands!

The islands are
protected from the waves by a reef, so there's hardly any waves to
flush the islands away. As a result, there are lots of small islands, sometimes with only one
coconut tree.

We played beachvolleybal on one of them and if you hit the ball to hard,
it ended up in the water at the other side of the island. Funny.

I've been told that expectations are that the majority of the islands will be gone 30 years from now. If waterlevel rises due to melting icecaps etc. it's probably true. The most islands are just above current sealevel.

The bigger islands are inhabited by the Kuna, an indigenous tribe who lived here since god know when. They have an atonomous status. They sell fish and clothing to tourists and doing pretty good.

We spend one and a half day swimming and chilling out and eating lobster on one of the islands. Nice!!

There's a lot of sailingboats here. Catamarans seem quite popular.

Usually owned by retirees who sail the world. I met a few of them on an island and the lifestyle sure is appealing.  The self declared good weather sailors told me that if you time it right it's quite easy to go around the world.

Interesting: in Puerto Lindo i met a dutch guy who bought a 35 ft. sailboat, prepared for sailing the world from a couple who wanted to do this with kids. Only Eur.9500,-! Something to think about when i'm tired of motorcycling.

After 1,5 day on San Blas we went on to Cartgena. It took us 34 hours for the 200 mile trip. Which could have been a bit faster if the engine was on 100%. In this direction, you face the waves and the ship was rolling like crazy whitch caused a few people to be seasick. Not me fortunately. There's nothing interesting about this part on a motorboat to be honest, Although a group of small dolphins playing in front of the ship was an absolute highlight. And there's quit a lot of flying fish around. I think their blind cause some of them ended up on deck...

Cartagena! Made it! This is the first view on the old fort.

After entering the bay you get a much less iddilyc picture. We were urged to get off the MetaComet asap and went to a hostel. Technically this is illegal, since your passport is still with the captain, who should get stamps via an agent. Apparantly all ships to it like this.  We could pick the passports up up the next day at 5 pm.

After some discussion me and a german couple with motorcycle, got a copy of our passport with stamp earlier so we could do the paperwork for the bikes at the DIAN office. Took us a day with going to several offices. mainly a lot of waiting. We got send to the wrong office aswell, which didn't help. They're definetly not used to this procedure. It would've been nice to have a bit more info. For instance, the reason to get the passports the next day, which was that an immegration officer needed a visual check. Besides that, there's a lot to do about being in mexico because of the swineflue. They didn't took a good look at my passport apparantly.

Yes, flying the bike is definetly easier. So far this was the most 'interesting' bordercrossing. As was expected, in ports the paperwork takes effort than a bordercrossing by road. Wait, be friendly, and wait a bit more. Importing the bike was free of charge though.

Unloading the bike in an even smaller Lancha! Very instable. And bad organisation, i had to help lifting the bike on shore because the captain forgot to bring enough manpower. Another annoyance. And no photo's. No damage luckily.

So there I am. After almost one year i made it to South America!! In good health and spirit. A restaurant near the hostal i stayed in Cartagena has a huge map of the globe on the wall. Explaining my route to Andy an Maya, a brittish/dutch couple on a triumph scrambler with sidecar, i  got a bit emotional realizing the huge distance i covered and with that all places i've been to ,the wonderful people i met and at times the mental effort it took to continue southbound.

All Panama pictures can be seen here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Panama - Part I

From some people i met i heard that there's not a lot to see in Panama. For me it was different (luckily). I encountered some very nice and beautiful places and people.

I crossed the border at Rio Sereno, a small crossing in the middle of the country. To find the crossing, go to

The crossing took a few hours, besides the totally unmotivated personell - Clipping nailes appeard to be more prudent than my paperwork - and that for a guy. And he suffered from a slow internet connection, illustrated by the official in charge with a lot of totally unnecessary mouse pointer movement and dito bashing.

Right after the border the road turns to great tarmac. There's no signs and it took me a while to find the road to David, which would connect me to the panamericana.

This road turned out to be brand new and winding through lush hills.

After this joyful ride i stopped for lunch at a village called El Vólcan.

Returning from lunch and ready to go i heard a voice behind me: "You're a long way from home arent you?" (In Dutch). I met a retires Dutch couple, Erikk and Fenna, and, in proper dutch tradition, they invited me for coffee. I stayed the night.

My luck, home made kroketten!

Erik likes to cook for a hobby and he made his own real dutch Kroketten.


...and there was real dutch "snert" too!!

A typical dutch soup, usually only made in winter.


Really the least of all things i expected.

Erik, Fenna, thanks again for your hospitality!

From another bike traveler i learned that Playa Las Lajas is worth seeing. And it is. This beach supposed to be the longest beach in Central America. This fact is a great selling point, and it therefore supprised me that tourism is not very developt (yet...). I stumbled upon a german couple  who just started this restaurant-and-soon-to-be hostel. Great place, Great food!

They bought a piece of land with a worn down restaurant and build this huge palapa. From what i'd see, this place has potential.

As usually, i hang out a day or so. Determined to finish a great book i was reading. An anticlimax, unfortunately.

It ended with the hero's falling off the edge of the world and a message that the story continues in the next part of the saga. Bummer, slim change i can find this book in this part of the world. Forgot the name of book and author though.

There's basically one road crossing Panama, the panam highway. Although i try to stay away from the panam, in Panama you don't have much choice.

Some parts are really boring: Panam at it's worst.

El Valle. I was told El Valle is a beautiful spot. So there i went. To get to El Valley you have to cross a fantastic and good winding road for abour 35km. The village El Valle is a hideout for rich Panamenians and Gringo's.
The panamenian harley club was out for a ride. they didn't wave, and one SOB pulled over in from of me to get to the fuelstation on my side of the road, resulting in a close encounter. Good to know my brakes still work OK. For a moment i wanted to get off my bike to tell the person involved that he should see a opticien. Decided not to, considered 40+ other HD riders in the group.

I asked around for a cheap hostel and Myrna from Finland pointed me to campsite called "Camping Yoga Swabi".

A very kind and generous person. This campsite attracted interesting travellers and artisanos.

I spend two days finding a place called 'the sleeping indian'. Local indigenous people in the mountains could not explain clearly what it was, or where.

Myrna and i try to find it, and it lead us through the jungle and mountains surrounding the Valley. Beautifull.
First day we took the wrong way. But we found it the following. The sleeping indian, with some (lots) imagination is in the shape of mountainridges.

In this picture we are on top of one of them.

Panama City. Casco Viejo. Panama city has not much i'm attracted too, big city, lots of construction, crowded. Instead i went to the oldest part of the city, Casco Viejo.

Beautiful french colonial architecture. Sad thing is that the majority of the buildings are in bad shape and inhabits poor people. Recently project developers started renovatinig. Which resulted in nice restored colonial buildings belonging to rich people. Of course, as always, the poor people who live here for generations are 'relocated'.

There's already a lot of restoring done and restaurants, hotels and apartments are neighboring worn down buildings with poor people. This gives a weird vibe to this environment.

Only the richer part is considered to be save. Illustrated by the police guided tour i got to a hotel to meet a friend.

Rainy season. Every day it rained Cats and Dogs for a while. I only encountered bad weather from Panama city down to Porto Lindo.

Interesting. Makes the heaviest rain in Holland a joke.

Panama City skyline as seen from Casco Viejo.

Impression of the bad neighberhood separating the new City Center and Casco Viejo. 

For the first time in my trip riding and walking through this part of town give me an unsafe feeling. Awkward.

I'm not sure if it's really unsafe, it's more the attitude towards tourists i guess. usually, at the caribean cost i encounter more indifferent toward unfriendlyness people than in central or pacific side of Central America.


Panama canal locks at Miraflores. A recommended visit, if you fancy big engineering stuff. A great accomplishment considered the tools and techniques they had back in the days they build it. The museum is quite interesting. At this moment work is started to make the canal bigger and build new locks.

The decision to do this was made by issueing a referendum. Very democratic. Too bad for the surrounding ecological systems though. Since the panama canal is the most important financial source of income, i guess it's of the best interest of the country.

Read all about the canal here.

A good thing to know: The ships get through in two batches a day, luckily i was in time to see the last ship of the morning batch. Nothing happens till the afternoon batch.

I couln't be bothered with riding to the end of the Panamerica to see if the road really stops in front of the Darien gap. I wanted to go to Colombia. One of the countries high on my list. Ships leave to Cartagena from Puerto Lindo, so there's where i went, to Hostel Wunderbar, known for it's info on boats and schedules.

Next post: about shipping the bike and San Blas Islands.


All pictures of Panama can be found here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cartagena, Colombia!

Just to let you all know...
I'm here! Yes!! South America! Another milestone in this trip.
Although not entirely without little adventures and (mainly) a lot of annoyances regarding the organization. Of which i will elaborate more in the next  post, as usual with some nice pictures.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To Colombia by boat....

Hi all,

I'm in Porto Lindo now, at the Caribbean coast of Panama. I will not be reachable in the next 5 or 6 days for i ill be on a boat. An old fishing boat converted for shipping travelers and bikes, apparently.

Will enter Colombia at Cartagena via San Blas Islands, supposed to be very pretty. Bike will be brought aboard a ship via manpower and a small boat.

Wish me luck!