Frank picked us up at the agreed time in his Dodge van that merits a separate description. The car had all necessary features for a globetrotter: bed, fridge powered by solar battery, kitchen, shower, even a self-made window on the roof, but no air conditioning. And so we drove to the port town of Colon with all windows open, the radio playing reggae at full volume, to a meeting with a customs agent who had more information about transportation costs and procedures from Panama to Colombia. The Dodge successfully navigated out of Panama City, but only after Frank had asked for directions a dozen of times, while Garmin navigation software on his laptop kept crashing. An hour later, we reached Colon, a busy port city, and stopped at the intersection on the main street and Calle 8.
The street life was very interesting. Colon’s population is predominantly black and several people that we talked to spoke some English. One guy was washing cars on the street with the water flowing freely from a nearby fire hydrant. Others were sitting on benches or sidewalks and chatting among themselves. We went to a shop across the street for some snacks, while waiting for the customs agent. The customs agents, a young woman and a man, appeared fifteen minutes later and briefly explained the procedure, which involved going to the police station in Panama City, then back to Colon for more paperwork and so on – three days of legwork to get all documents ready. They were less certain about the cost of a 40 feet container; their indicative quote of USD 2,500 seemed high.
We left the meeting somewhat puzzled and decided to visit a couple of shipping agencies to get more info. Unfortunately, it was Saturday and we got stuck in terrible traffic. Once we arrived to the port, all offices were empty and all we got was a couple of phone numbers. We decided to come back to Colon on Monday.
We stopped for a fast food lunch in a shopping mall that looked like a carbon copy of a mall in the US and then continued back to the capital city. Gintaras made a quick phone call to Stahlratte (Steel Rat), a German sailboat that had a scheduled three day sailing from San Blas to Cartagena with a stop on some tropical islands. This could be an interesting way of reaching Colombia.
It was a bad day, as we missed one turn when entering Panama City and got stuck in traffic again. Everybody was getting impatient. We saw one trailer truck lying on its belly on an elevation that divided the road, with all wheels spinning up in the air; the guy apparently tried to make an illegal u-turn. It was late afternoon when we reached our hotel. After resting for a couple of hours in an air-conditioned environment, we went out for dinner to a random restaurant in the Independence Square. The food was bad: Sancocho, traditional Panamanian chicken soup, had been prepared a day or two before; pork ribs were burned black to the bone, and breaded deep fried shrimp did not impress us at all.
We did not want to end the day on a negative note and went to Calle Uruguay to see some nightclubs. We ended up in a karaoke bar, full of young people. It looked like everybody was having a good time: girls singing on stage, people packed like sardines around the bar, smokers lighting up cigarettes outside on a small terrace and few gringos sipping beer. We spent a couple of hours there and then took a cab back to Relic Bar, our predictable and last stop before getting back to the hotel.
Routes taken: None
Miles ridden: None