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Archive for the ‘Panama’ Category

Day 57 – Three Crackers and Can of Coke (Caribbean Sea, Panama / Colombia)

29 Nov

Stahlratte left San Blas Archipelago early morning and headed out to the open seas towards Cartagena.  Waves and wind became much stronger and the ship started rocking much harder; we could not move around without holding onto railings or ropes.

Our stomachs did not like the new experience at all; about half of the people on the ship got seasick.  What a miserable experience!  Your head is spinning, your stomach is upset, you can’t eat or drink anything, can’t even find a comfortable place to rest.  Fixing your eyes onto horizon does not help, lying down is not much better, and after a couple of hours “feeding fish”, you feel totally exhausted and shaky.  Luckily, one of the passengers had few anti sea sickness patches and the captain was dispensing pills left and right.

The medication kicked in an hour later and people were able to lie down.  We skipped breakfast and lunch; all we ate were salty crackers and few cans of coke.

We started feeling somewhat better late afternoon.  Vadim even dared to climb the ropes.  Otherwise, the rest of the day was uneventful.  We went down to the sleeping quarters praying for calmer seas and quick arrival to Cartagena.

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Vadim Searching for Land

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 
 

Day 56 – John the Survivor (San Blas Archipelago, Panama)

28 Nov

It was rainy and stormy night.  The ship was rocking hard and we had trouble sleeping.  The captain had to move the ship further from the island in the middle of the night.  In the morning, the crew spread out a water-proof cover over our heads for the breakfast.  By noon, the rain has stopped.

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Sleeping Quarters on Stahlratte

One more biker, John from Oklahoma, arrived with his motorbike and two Indians on a small wooden boat.  It took him three hours to get to Stahlratte from the coast in a terrible weather.  He looked very happy and cheerful; we later learned that John had several tire punctures on the way from Panama City and missed Stahlratte’s departure from Carti.

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John’s Arrival to Stahlratte

Ludwig, the captain, prepared a vegetarian, vegetable and couscous, dish for lunch.  Few other Indians appeared on board out of nowhere.  Two Kuna women spread out their molas for sale.

The rest of the day was very lazy.  People slept on the deck, swam to and back from a nearby island, chatted, and read books.  It was our last day in San Blas Archipelago and Panama.  We will be heading to Cartagena the first thing tomorrow.

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Good Bye San Blas!

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 
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Day 55 – Coco Banderas (San Blas Archipelago, Panama)

27 Nov

It was sunny and lazy morning.  The crew and few other people worked in the galley preparing breakfast.  The smell of bread, salami, cheese and fresh tropical fruits was hanging in the air.

Stahlratte started moving forward soon after the breakfast.  We slowly passed several islands inhabited by Kuna Indians and saw a number of houses on poles with kids running around, women taking care of their babies and men working on their boats.

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Kuna Village in San Blas Archipelago

The ship chugged northeast for a couple of hours and then dropped the anchor next to Coco Banderas – a small but beautiful uninhabited island covered with coconut palms.  There were few smaller islands, a shipwreck on the reef and a couple of small private boats nearby.  People on Stahlratte were relaxing: swimming, snorkeling, rope swinging, climbing up the crow nest, drinking beers, lying on beach chairs, reading, chatting, taking pictures and some of them smoking weed.

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View from the Top Deck on Stahlratte

A couple of Kuna Indians arrived on the ship by boat to sell freshly picked coconuts.  One of them worked masterfully with his machete and soon we had a gallon of coconut juice and a large bowl of coconut meat.

The day went by very fast, but the captain had one more little surprise for all of us – a barbecue dinner on the island.  It took several trips on inflatable rubber boat to get everyone onshore.  We sat down around the fire, while Roli was flipping big chunks of meat on an improvised grill.  The food was good, but we had to leave soon after the dinner was over, since it started raining.  It is the end of the rainy reason in Central America, but it still rains every day.

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Dinner on an Island (San Blas Archipelago)

Back on the ship, some people continued partying, while the others went back to their beds.

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 
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Day 54 – In the Sea (San Blas Archipelago, Panama)

26 Nov

The waiting is finally over and we are shipping our bikes to Colombia by sea on Stahlrattte (Steel Rat), a 100 year old German sailing ship!  Sounds like a great adventure!  But first things first…

We had plenty of time to get ready in the morning – pack the luggage, catch a cab to a souvenir shop, buy a Panama hat for Vadim’s dad, stop at a bank – before continuing to the BMW dealership to pick our motorbikes.  The dealer charged us 70 USD each for the engine oil change, but did not bother with any extras (the bikes did not get washed and the tire pressure was low).  It was a workmanlike customer service effort, but at least, we had enjoyed free and safe parking for a week and the bikes were ready to go.  The bike-to-bike communication system dried out and started working again, which was a pleasant surprise.

Our destination – Carti village on the Carribean coast – was a three hour ride from Panama City, down the Pan-American Highway and then on some local roads through the jungle.  The highway was very good, despite some irritating rain.  We stopped to refuel and saw few other bikers on smaller BMW motorcycles pass by; they were almost certainly heading to the same destination as us.  We quickly caught up with them and then followed the group to El Llano, where the road turned north, off the highway, and became much narrower, wetter, curvy, and at some points very steep.  We hit several stretches of road construction / repair, but fortunately, they were all passable.

The local Kuna Indians stopped us twice: first, to check our passports and collect tolls, and then at the entrance to the pier.  Kunas have extensive autonomy and manage coastal lands around Carti, as well as more than 300 islands in the Archipelago of San Blas.

It took us almost an hour to get to the coast, where Stahlratte has been waiting for us at the pier.  Half a dozen people (including an American – Israeli couple whom we met at the Panama – Nicaragua border) were taking off luggage and lining up motorbikes on the concrete pier, while the ship’s crew was loading them one by one onto the upper deck with an electric winch.  A very tall guy (200 cm or 6 ft 7 inch tall Roli from Austria) was running around with ropes and pushing heavy bikes around, as if they were little toys.

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At the Pier in Carti

After the bikes were loaded and secured with ropes on the upper deck, we helped dump the luggage into one big pile on the lower deck – the sleeping quarters with a dozen or so bunk beds.  It took few hours to get everyone on board and sort things out.  The passenger group was very diverse, representing fourteen different countries, but almost everyone was heading down to Argentina, at their own pace, of course.

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View of the Coast in Carti

It was getting dark, when Ludwig, a forty-something year old captain from Germany, turned on a fifty-something year old engine and the ship started pulling off the coast.  We all gathered on the top deck, around a huge wooden table and tried to get to know each other.  Very soon the ship stopped and we were unloaded to a nearby island with Kuna village on it.

We stumbled through the dark past a number of reed huts to the restaurant, which was a wooden structure without walls, under thatched roof, with wooden floors and a couple of  large tables and benches, and a barbecue on the side.  Few local women and kids were running around, while a Caucasian-looking guy was grilling the chicken.

While we were waiting for the meal, a group of local youngsters performed Kuna dances, the men accompanying with flutes and women with rattles.  Kuna women wore traditional molas, but all men were in jeans and long sleeve shirts.

After the dinner, we returned back to the ship and went straight to our bunk beds.  It was rather warm in the sleeping quarters, despite few air fans spinning all night long.  It took us some time to fall asleep.

Routes taken: Corredor Sur (Pan-American Highway); local road from El Llano to Carti

Miles ridden: 69 miles (111 km)

 
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Day 53 – Multiplaza (Panama, Panama)

25 Nov

We took a cab to the new part of Panama City in the morning.  The business district looked clean and modern, with many skyscrapers – banks, hotels, and apartment buildings.  We spent walking around for about an hour and then continued to the oldest part of the city – Panama Viejo.  The historic site was not impressive at all, just a couple of minor ruins next to a number of souvenir shops.  It looked like Captain Morgan did a thorough job when he sacked the city in the XVII century.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch and had some sancocho (Panamanian chicken soup) and seafood.  In the afternoon, Vadim took another stab at conjugating irregular Spanish verbs with the help of his teacher.

It was our last night in Panama City and we decided to reward ourselves with a movie in the VIP section at Cinepolis Multiplaza Pacifico.  It took us more than half an hour to catch a cab in the street with two other passengers in the car, but we made it just in time for the movie – a silly comedy “Todo un Parto” (Due Date).  The VIP section had very comfortable fully-reclining leather seats, and we were served a rather mediocre sushi during the movie, but the overall experience was very nice.  We filled our stomachs with Italian fast food in the food court after the movie and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the tomorrow’s trip to the German sailing ship Stahlratte (Steel Rat).

Routes taken: None

Miles ridden: None

 
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