Bellingham to Brazil, not coming back

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by PorLaTierra, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    Where does North America end and South America start? That depends who you talk to. In Latin America, Spain, Italy, Greece and a few other countries they divide the world into 6 continents, The Americas being only one continent. In Northern Europe, China, parts of Asia as well as most English speaking countries, The Americas are divided in two. No matter who you talk to though, Central America is a very distinct region. For me it is a bridge between the North and the South of the Americas. Full of contrasts and colorful cultures and people, Central America is well worth a visit.

    In a matter of days you can burn your feet on the dark black sand of the Pacific, explore an Afro-Caribbean village on the Caribbean side and ascend into the central highlands to explore volcanoes and coffee fields.

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    Guest house Torondon, the cheapest place in Comayagua. Right next to the Funeraria, where they sell all things funeral related. My room was not much bigger than a casket but it was clean.
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    Line of trucks going to the Nicaraguan border
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    One of the countless "Auto Hotels" found throughout Mexico and Central America. They are discreet drive in hotels with a curtain that closes behind the car. That way no one can recognize your car when you are cheating on your wife. My favorite one was a huge castle like place called "La Conquista." These "Auto Hotels" are all over the place and they cater specifically to secret romance with your "amante," (mistress).

    As the old Spanish phrase goes "Spoil your mistress, Respect your wife, but love only your mother."

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    Feeling good that morning after the border crossing into Nicaragua, I decided to drive all day. I made it all the way to a lake called Lago de Apoyo near Masaya, Nicaragua. I left my stuff at the hostel and drove into the capitol of Managua the next morning, then to Granada for the afternoon, then back to the lake that night. The nice thing about having a bike is that I can ride wherever I want. Day trips are very easy and I can cover a lot of ground. I spent 2 nights in Nicarauga, both of them at this hostel by the lake, then I drove to Costa Rica the next day.

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    Managua, Nicaragua

    Managua, Nicaragua. Notice the lack of tall buildings. The entire capitol feels like a small town that never ends. Nicaragua is the biggest country in Central America but with the smallest population. In comparison El Salvador, the smallest country, has the largest population.

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    Granada, Nicaragua

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    Cigar factory

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    Yes I bought a cigar and yes I smoked it, while wandering the streets of Granada. I don't really like smoking, but I have to admit it looks cool. All the anti-smoking campaigns in the world can't change that fact.

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    Two volcanoes on the Isla de Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. I want to stress that this is a lake, even though it looks like an ocean. It has sandy beaches, tons of islands and the worlds only fresh water sharks. The lake is enourmous.

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    Bugs on my helmet
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    Costa Rica
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    Plane in the middle of nowhere, not at an airport
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    Mean scary biker gang at the Rio Sereno border with Costa Rica
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  2. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    Into Panama. I ran into some other riders from Kentucky and we hung out a little bit in Boquete, which looks like
    Scotland.

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    In most of Central America I refused to stop at military checkpoints, they like to stop tourists for no reason. Whenever they would wave at me to pull over and stop I would just wave back stupidly and smile, then hit the gas and speed off. What were they going to do? Chase me down on a little 125cc? In Panama the cops ride KTM 990s and its a good idea to respect them because they will catch you. Maybe Crashmaster could get away, but not me. So far they have been disciplined and I have had no problems. Panama has a lot of rules and it seems similar to the US in some ways. The Miami Herald is available at the corner stores and there are lots of big American cars.
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    The Locks
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    The Bahai Temple
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    I hope I dont run into any of these
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    Meeting other travelers is fun, I spent the day with these two
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    I hope this is easy to see on everyones browsers.
    Panama Panorama
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    The Luna's Castle hostel website says they have parking. This is it, right in front of a bar. I prefer not to park in the street but after three nights nothing has happened to it. It gets pooped on by birds during the day, then at night people from the bar sit on it while they smoke cigarettes. The nice thing is the bird poop is gone the next day thanks to the people sitting on it. The joke is on them I guess.

    Getting from Panama to Colombia overland is basically impossible. The only way is to fly or find a boat around the "Darien Gap." Because of high port fees and taxes, boats are expensive. The rainy season has begun and that makes things a little more difficult. There is a brand new ferry that is by far the cheapest option but they have no website for reservations. Upon arriving in Panama City I went straight to their office and found out that they are booked until June. I am searching high and low for the best way to get to Colombia. Most sailboats do not go directly to Colombia, choosing instead to take a 5 day cruise through the San Blas islands. The food is good and the views are supposed to be incredible. I would prefer to just go straight to Colombia and eat rice and beans. I have never eaten lobster in my life but it looks like my options for a cheap crossing are slim. Unfortunately all of the captains want around $450 bucks for me and another $400 for the bike. If I go this route, my bike will be eating lobster too I guess. I am looking for a big sturdy boat that can handle the rough seas of the rainy season.

    The cheap options are beginning to sound less and less like an adventure and more like stupid idea. They would involve a bumpy sea sick ride on a small boat that just might drop my bike into the water. It would involve loading my bike into many different small boats and canoes and then going from one small coastal village to the next until I arrive in Colombia. That option costs around $500 but may not be worth the risk. Also I would have to pay fees to pass through the Kuna Yala territory, an autonomous indegenous group that lives on the islands.

    Or maybe I will do something crazy:
    I found this on an ADVRider forum and if I can figure out which La Palma he is referring to (there are two towns by this name) I will ride there and find this guy.


    "If you can get to La Palma...

    There's an old guy who flys out of La Palma into Colombia. A gray-haired hippie dude named Mad Dog. His DC-3 fuselage is done in paisley, totally hand-painted, with big peace symbols on each side. The tail-dragger is rightfully named Mary Jane.

    Years ago, he tended boat for his dad, Chico, who used to take John Wayne (The Duke) and other Hollyweirds out for giant marlin and sailfish. Quite a history, and he has some great stories. But don't believe everything he tells you.

    His young Scandinavian wife, Sunrise, with long, light-gold flaxen locks, who can't be more than 26 or so now, helps run the flight operations. If she's not making beaded jewelry, or breastfeeding one of their three babies, she might be out on the muddy runway setting or pulling chunks of wood (as chocks) after Mad Dog lands or before he takes off. She also handles the CB radio chatter for that area each morning, with weather forecast and on-air flea market/stuff for sale.

    He does mostly cargo, and some locals refer to his airline business as Yaw Ways, because one of the two props turns a bit faster than the other.
    The hemp and iron wood gangway ramp for the plane is pretty sturdy."

    Who knows if he is still there. Next stop, Colombia!

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  3. CordR

    CordR Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    529
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    Ryan - great job so far.

    There's so much going on in this RR that it will capture the attention of many people.

    You're 13 years younger than me, but you travel and write with a maturity beyond your years. You've got the eye and the skills of a professional photographer (there's more pics on the blog, people - check them out).

    And of course, with your dad seeing you off and sharing the first bit of memories, well......there's just a lot of things here that people can connect with.

    I'm in for a tank of gas and hope it brings you many great miles (and faster connection speeds). :wink:

    Keep on keepin' on.


    Cord
  4. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    Hey thanks, I appreciate it. On my personal website I can better protect my photos, its very difficult to do this day and age. I love ADV though, the information on this site is priceless and its a community as well.

    It was very cool that my dad showed up. I have many more surprises down the road so if you liked that, just wait.

    Cheers,
    Ryan
  5. CordR

    CordR Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    529
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    Looking forward to it.

    I played football on and off in B'ham for several years so we probably have a lot more in common outside of you living my dream!

    Good luck getting to Colombia. That plane ride sounds like a great adventure.

    C
  6. AleXtz

    AleXtz Minimal2 the fulness

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    Volcanos of Mex. City
    i had a blast in Brasil, but cannot even imagine the greatness of the trip on a motorcycle! bless.
  7. Kedgi

    Kedgi Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,388
    Location:
    Shediac NB
    I'm really enjoying your RR. I live in Shediac, NB, Canada but I lived for many years in Vancouver, BC. We had a small travel trailer and used to camp in Blaine and visit Bellingham frequently.

    Your photos are excellent. I thought you might like to see a picture I found on line of the aircraft you saw in the middle of nowhere when it was enjoying better days. It was taken as the aircraft was at Toronto's Pearson Airport YYZ

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    It's cool to think that aircraft used to travel between Canada and Central America in a few short hours and now it is now enjoying retirement in a tropical climate.

    I'm buying you a few tacos.

    Thanks for the great Ride Report
  8. Manneman

    Manneman Polarbear

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    128
    Location:
    SCANIA
    Hey, that´s pretty cool! :eek1
  9. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    So how the hell did it end up on the side of the highway in Costa Rica? Thanks for the pic, thats really cool. And thanks for the taco money, now I just have to find tacos in Panama.
  10. Kedgi

    Kedgi Banned

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Shediac NB
    That's a really good question. Yours is the second ride report I've seen just recently that showed that aircraft.

    I'm a retired Air Traffic Controller and it really caught my attention. I wonder who brought it there and why.

    If you can't find tacos, beer is approved.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write a great report.

    My son and I are headed down there on KLR's in October and are reading all the information we can find.

    Kedgi
  11. SteveTheLocal

    SteveTheLocal Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    151
    Location:
    Island in the Salish Sea
    Hi Ryan: I bought you a tank of gas. I couldn't ride for free any longer. Great photos. It has been cold and wet here in the Gulf Islands of Canuckistan so don't worry about missing anything (other than your girlfriend ;-). Ride safe.
    S.
  12. GypsyWriter

    GypsyWriter Yup, I'm a girl.

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2009
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    2,110
    Location:
    Visalia CA
  13. MountainTopper

    MountainTopper n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    9
    This has the stuff of legendary tales written right into the decisions you made from the beginning. Keep a journal, take photos of everything you do and sell it to Spielberg!

    Best luck and safe travels. Fear nothing!
  14. Blue Icebreaker

    Blue Icebreaker Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2012
    Oddometer:
    130
    Location:
    Croatia
    You got yourself a gas tank refill, mate! I believe that we will get what we want faster if we help others get what they want. I believe that we are all one. Your dream is too good to miss up the chance to give you a little boost. It's all about exchange of energy and for the best of all of us anyway! In the end, we all beautify each other's lives - whether we'll do it or not is a choice we make each and every day. Cheers! :thumb

    Enjoy the voyage, can't wait for further updates!
  15. Rapid Dog

    Rapid Dog bikes, booze, broads...

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2003
    Oddometer:
    10,126
    Location:
    Strangel Living West of Hell, SoCal
    ...emailed ya Ryan, but nevermind it, you got it covered.
  16. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    What a PITA! Not one sailboat will take me. The port captain in Cartagena has suddenly gotten very strict. The ferry is "Full" but if you ask them forcefully in person, at their crappy little office, they will stop BSing and tell you the truth. They are not organized yet, they wont even be leaving until early June.

    I tried to organize a container but when we went to get the police inspection the guy was a dick and wouldnt let me in with just copies of my documents like everyone else. I am always polite and respectful and I put on a fresh shirt and everything (good idea when dealing with officials here). Didnt work this time, he asked to see my original title which I dont have. I have had zero problems with just my registration, actually just a copy in most situations, but it wasnt my day.

    To get onto a container in Panama you have get a police inspection at 10am. Thats the only time they do it. You have to arrive at 9am to let the engine cool off so they can search for the enigne number whatever that is. Then you go to the courthouse at 1:30 and get the bill of landing. I failed at the first step so the container sailed without me, and so did the group of people that I was supposed to share the container with. Happy sailings guys.

    I have been traversing the isthmus of Panama in search of information, I have exhausted all leads and I am getting very sick of this country.

    It was fun for a while, and I even made a bit of money organizing groups for the sailboats. It turns out I am very good at networking and it paid off a little.

    At the moment, I think I know more about the current situation between Panama and Colombia than anyone else.

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    Its interesting that in Panama you can see the Caribbean and the Pacific in the same day. Actually you can ride across the entire country from Panama City to Portobelo (or Colon) in an hour if you ride fast.

    Atleast the views are nice, and the fish in Portobelo at Restaurant Ida is the best I have ever had. The rice is cooked with coconut milk and soy sauce, what a combo! Slightly sweet and full of flavor, perfect with a nice fish.

    The first few pics are of Portobelo.

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    Here is a metaphorical picture of my budget, a plane to Bogota is $400 right now (the hidden taxes pop up at the last minute) the plane ride is an hour and a half. Copa wont fly bikes right now, Girag will, for $900. Damn.

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    On a more positive note, I bought a new voltage regulator and had BMW redo the wiring from the alternator. My F650 is running PERFECTLY now. Maybe I will sell it in Colombia and take the cash, $2000 if you want it, extras included. But not before I race around the country a but and enjoy Colombia, my main destination. Dont worry though, Im not giving up, and Im not going home. And that doesnt mean I wont get another one later. Lots of surprises ahead guys, stay tuned.


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    This is the port of Portobelo, where I almost got on a sailboat to go to Colombia.


    After speaking with Captain Jack at Hostel Portobelo, I learned all the details about why its so difficult right now. I could still take a cargo boat from Miramar, but it could take weeks and I would hate to get stuck in Sapzurro for a week until the boat left again. Plus, I dont know if the port of Turbo is being strict too, I might have to fork over a heavy fine for taking my "cargo" on a boat without the right permits. After a couple of nights in Portobelo I raced back to Panama city on another lead.

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    Captain jack and crew.


    View from Captain Jacks hostel yacht club.

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    More in a second
  17. PorLaTierra

    PorLaTierra Por La Tierra

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    Madrid, the coolest city on the planet.
    Correction, that was supposed to say, "But not before I race around the country a bit and enjoy Colombia

    Heres some photos of the crew that sailed to Cartagena without me. We met in the Albrook mall parking lot and worked out the details, but, like I explained, I had bad luck at the Police station.

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    Matt on a Suzuki 650, Fernando on a Suzuki Marauder and two couples with cars. The couple with the VW bus is traveling the world, 2.5 years so far. They put thier 4 year old daughter in school whenever they can, she comes home after school and teaches them phrases in Hindi, or arabic or whatever language they speak in the country they are in. They spent 6 months in India alone. Fernando has over 2 years on the road as well, I love his choice of bike, totally out of the ordinary.

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    Panama shares a few similarities to the US except you might run into Kuna Yala in the mall, that has never happened to me in Bellingham.

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    Here is the super fancy police headquarters in Panama City, where all the super professional and very cheery pigs work. When the two couples with the VW bus and the Toyota landcruiser went the day before, copies of the documents were accepted without problems. They barely even looked at the cars. I think the prick that was working this day, besides having a stick up his butt, didnt like motorcyclists. Here is where I really started to lose hope of crossing by sea.

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    I had a sailboat lined up to take me, and our container was all ready to go the next day, I failed. Riding a motorcycle through CA has been worth the hassles up until now. I am stuck here until I find a magical solution, or until I fork over the $$$$ (yes 4 digits) to buy a plane ticket for my Beemer and myself.

    The problem with trying to get things done in a third world country is that you have to make people work. There is always someone who has what you want and thats final, maybe their cool or maybe their not, and theres no other option. No one higher up who you can talk to, just someone on a power trip and you have to please them. I would much prefer to learn about and enjoy the subtle aspects of another culture, a privelage you can enjoy while taking an overland trip and one that requires you to take your time. I dont enjoy asking people to work and help me out but I have no choice, so that is the part of the culture I have been experiencing the most, namely bureaucracy. I have been racing around Panama City and the surrounding areas, to Portobelo and Puerto Lindo trying to piece together informtation. Unfortunately what I will remember most from Panama is the bureaucracy, and that delicious fish in Portobelo, but mostly bureaucracy.

    Yesterday I just missed a sailboat lifting anchor. I had organized a large crew from a few hostels and the Captain owed me money. He had 19 spots left on his enourmous sailing yacht until I started organizing and passing along names. With my help he filled up quick. I raced down the coast on my bike, leaning into the wonderful curves, up and down small hills, through the coconut palms and fields, to the next place of anchor along the coast. I hopped a lancha to Isla Grande and headed them off! Actually they were just chilling for the evening and the crew was happy to see me. I got my money and cruised around the islands for a little bit because the lancha driver had some "business" to take care of as well. I never figured out what it was but it was a pleasure to get a little tour of the area around Isla Grande. Then I did what I have been doing for almost a week. I went to the nearest yacht club, I mean, foreign owned beach restaurant with cold beers, and began talking with more sailors.

    At this point I end up doing all the talking. I am always trying to find info, but I think I know more than they do by now. I have gotten to know a handful of sailors though, thats kind of fun. I ask about sailing to Turbo, Colombia, or even all the way to Venezueala, no chance they tell me. They are scared of the port captains fining them, and they are scared of Venezuela in general. All the motorcyclists I talk to recommend Venezuala, saying its a little sketchy but well worth a trip. I guess we have the biggest balls of them all. Or maybe sailors, by nature are more comfortable on the high seas than they are on solid ground, I dont know.

    I will try to upload some photos of Panama city, I dont really like it but I photographed it anyways. Its all business and traffic, but it does not feel alive.

    -Ryan
  18. EJ_92606

    EJ_92606 Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,781
    Hang in there man! Perhaps the Police officials expecting a 'gratuity' for their services?
  19. acejones

    acejones Long timer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2005
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    5,437
    Location:
    MS. Gulf Coast and Puerto Vallarta, MX
    Bill of Lading, dude ! That document describes the cargo. It is a shipping document common to all goods being shipped, by any means: boat, truck, air, rail, bus, etc. They are usually multiple copies for the shipper, shippee, customs, insurance company, etc.
  20. Kedgi

    Kedgi Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,388
    Location:
    Shediac NB
    Try this.


    Yuliana Allen
    Agente de Reservaciones
    Panamerican Ferry
    Tel. 380-0906

    It is a new ferry service from Colon,Panama to Columbia. Don't know much about it but it's worth a try.

    · The sailing dates from Colon 2000 are Monday / Thursday / Saturday.

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    The departure time is 18:00 for both port. You need to be there from 14:00 – 17:00 for check in.

    You will leave from Colon 2000 Port at 18:00 and you will arrive to Cartagena Cruise Port at 6:00am, as the ferry takes around 12 hours to get there.

    Yulianna has been very helpful when I was reseaching the crossing to SA. They are supposed to be able to take a motorcycle for $170 return fare for yourself is about $200 (that's a return rate good for three months)


    Yuliana Allen reservas2@panaferry.com

    Like I say, I don't know much about this, just what I've researched. I'd love to know if this works for you.

    Kedgi