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.