Oso Blanco rides Panama to Canada

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Camel ADV, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    When we left Calgary Oct 17th, the plan was to ride to TDF and back. It was very obvious very quickly there was no way that we'd be able to pull that off in the 6months I had to work with. The plan quickly evolved to be Canada to TDF then back up the east coast of South America where we would fly home and ship the bikes. That plan too wasn't going to work with the time available.

    I made the decision to leave the group in Panama. They were headed South and I was headed back North. The original RR is located here: TerraNova

    It seems that this isn't really just the return leg of the journey but a completely different adventure, one that deserves it's own RR.

    I'm currently relaxing in Luna's Castle Hostel in Panama City. 2 Days ago an Aussie girl and I headed to the Caribbean side to Portobelo. It rained almost the entire way. I had stored my drybag at the hostel before we left so there'd be room for Jan's bag. Unfortunately my jacket was in my bag so I got instantly soaked. Good thing it's been 30C the whole time I've been here.

    Panama City:
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    Jan ready for the ride:
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    The rainy season this year has lasted almost 3 months longer than average. We came across over 20 slides between Colon and Miramar. This one happen early Dec. It destroyed 12 homes in Portobelo and killed 8 people. Dozens of others have been told they can't go back to their homes yet.
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    18th Century "Bateria Santiago" had just received funding for a major restoration project before one of the slides filled it with mud. As a make work project, the town officials decided to hire locals to dig the fort out with shovels and wheel barrels instead of using heavy equipment.
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    Undamaged Fort wall:
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    It started to rain again so we grabbed beds at the local hostel. The signs leading up to it says Capt. Jack's Hostel but the wall is different so I'm not sure what it is really called.
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    In the morning we decided to follow the road to Miramar and grab a boat to one of the San Blas Islands for the night. Even though the road doesn't show up on the GPS or Google, it's paved and in great condition.

    Once we arrived in Miramar we were told that we could get to San Blas today but there was no way to know what day we could return. The seas in this area are quite rough this time of year and most of the smaller boats simply don't sail because of it.

    We decided to pass and continued exploring the small towns and beaches we had driven by

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    Garbage covered beach next to the restaurant:
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    Beach on the other side:
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    We headed down the road a bit farther before taking a fork that lead us just past Puerto Lindo.
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    #1
  2. Lost Roadie

    Lost Roadie Rider

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    Wonderful.
    I'm in here too.

    Hope to cross paths with you here in the upcoming weeks.
    Have an awesome, safe, completely selfish ride North Cory.

    :lurk
    #2
  3. AZ_ADV_RIDER

    AZ_ADV_RIDER Demons In My Helmet

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    I'm in!
    #3
  4. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

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    Anything that starts with "me and an Aussie girl..." has got to be a good thing:clap:clap:clap

    Have a good time man!
    #4
  5. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    wow, she┬┤s hot. :evil
    #5
  6. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    Chi- will definitely try to meet up somewhere north. Hopefully your GS is out of the shop (and not back in with something else). Would love to go for a ride.

    Fred- I'm choked we didn't get to meet up with you in South America but as I've learn on these trips, you always seem to bump into the same people over and over. I'm sure we'll cross paths sometime soon.

    This will be a different trip entirely on the way back. I expect the highs will be higher and the lows will be lower. I'll learn a lot about myself I'm sure.

    Throttlemeister- Yeah, she's a cool girl. She was figuring out how to get to Carti to catch a boat and noticed I had my maps out (thanks again for the maps Darren). She was asking if I knew where she'd need to get a 4x4 taxi for the Carti road. I couldn't spit the words "I can give you a ride on my bike", fast enough! As it turns out the Carti road is closed due to flooding so her plans changed and we decided to kill a couple days in near Portobelo.

    She managed to get a gig as a cook on a boat from Portobelo to Colombia. So as usual, things worked out in the end.

    Vinny- Thanks for the support in the PMs. It's always great to get first hand info and I can't think of anyone that would have more useful or more current tips for riding solo in Latin America than you. You help was/is always appreciated.


    I'm headed to the end of the line today at Yaviza. Darien should be amazing.

    Cheers!
    #6
  7. desmodab

    desmodab Oversized Canuck

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    Looks like you're having fun Cory - thanks for starting/continuing the RR!

    db
    #7
  8. toddbrule

    toddbrule Adventurer

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    Great RR :clap

    I have really enjoyed following you and the gang on your ride south and I'm looking forward to reading about your ride north!!

    You will enjoy going it solo as much if not more then riding with friends...

    Todd
    #8
  9. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    I wanted to ride as far as I could before the road ends. According to my map that is at the town of Yaviza which is a bit over 300km from Panama City.

    I'm not sure what I was expecting but the road is surprisingly boring. When I saw the sign for Carti, I decided to ride as far as I could before I came to the flooded/closed section. I got turned around sooner than I expected when a guy in a truck waved me down to say I needed a permit to travel beyond the point I was at. Based on the amount of heavy equipment and mud on the road I wouldn't have made it much further anyway.

    Just off the main road there were dozens of trails leading into the jungle. They were so inviting but it was my first day truly riding alone and my nerves got to me and I stuck to the main road.

    The road remained pretty uneventful all day. I called it quits about 5pm in Meteti (about 50km from Yaviza). Earlier in the day I was told by a local in a village of 5 houses that "Anything you want, you will find in Meteti" so I had big expectations as I rolled in. I was disappointed. There were a few restaurants, a gas station, a few "Mini-Supers" and one hotel. I guess when getting info from a guy that lives in a town of 7 people, you need to lower your expectations.

    The hotel was clean and newish. It was $17, had AC and running water....well supposed to have water. As I soon found out, the water portion of the program was a bit lacking. With the tap on full, it would have taken 10mins to fill the sink. There wasn't even enough pressure to get the water high enough to dribble out of the shower head which was very unfortunate as I REALLY needed a shower. I went to the office to ask about the water but the reply amounted to, "There is some water so what's the problem?!"

    I ended up filling the sink then standing in the shower with a coffee mug scooping water from the sink on to me, soaping then attempting to rinse with the coffee mug of cold water. The sink was 5ft from the shower so in order for this operation to work I needed step out of the shower for every mug of water. Needless to say, I ended up with more water of the floor than in the shower. Half swearing, half laughing my "shower" took almost 30mins to complete.

    I sat down and starting downloading pics and video from the days ride. Watching the video back, every time I saw one of the trails leading off the road, I got annoyed the I hadn't explore it. I promised myself that on the way back I would grow a pair and check these roads out.

    Dinner consisted of carne asada, rice and Coke...$3.00. After I had eaten, I realized that I had basically done all there was to do and seen all there was to see in Meteti.

    I was in bed by 8pm. It was still 32C and very humid, I was sweating buckets. I cranked the AC to the Ice Age setting. I woke up at 5:50am nearly frozen solid. The AC had finally caught up and it was now 12C. I had to bust out my sleeping bag and hoodie. By 7am I had warmed up enough to get out of bed.

    The road for Meteti to Yaviza is a bit more interesting. Kuna villages line the highway. It's pretty cool to see standard brick and mortar building next to grass hut with thatch roofs. Several of the huts were sporting satellite internet receivers. It reminded me of Mongolia and it's GER tents in the middle of nowhere with solar panels to run the and satellite TV dishes.

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    As I got close Yaviza I started to see dozens of large white tents along the highway. They all had red crosses on them. It looked like a refugee camp in a war zone. I stopped to ask a local what the tents were for. What I got from the conversation was that these tents were for the people displaced due the flooding. Honestly, with my level of Spanish, the guy could have said aliens had crash landed and they were doing autopsies on them. I really need to get back into Spanish classes.

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    The town of Yaviza is in the elbow of the river and is literally the end of the road. There is a small suspension bridge that crosses the river. I turned down the narrow path toward the bridge to take some pics when a soldier started yelling. I stopped. He ran up and said
    "The bridge is for peoples, NOT motos!" I hadn't considered crossing the bridge on my big fat bike but now that he had brought it up it intrigued me.

    This is where I was stopped. The bridge begins at the white arch directly behind my bike.
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    After a 15min conversation about where I came from, what I was doing in Darien, how long I was planning on staying and where I was going after, he decided I was no threat and not a drug smuggler. I was free to go.

    As I was putting on my helmet, the soldier asked if I was alone. I said I was. With a quizzical expression, he pointed at the spare helmet on my bike. Hmm, how do I explain that one with limited Spanish...

    I said, "Chicas love my bike, I love the chicas...:evil"

    It took a second to sink in then the light went on in his head. With a big smile he said "I love chicas too!" Then we were best friends :freaky

    Yaviza is small place with not much to see. I wasn't there long before hitting the highway again.

    With in 40 mins I was back in Meteti. There is road that heads South towards La Palma. I decided to check it out. The road runs about 25km before ending at a dock where boats ferry people to La Palma and other areas down the river.

    With signs like this all along the way, how could this not be an adventure!
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    View from the ferry dock to La Palma:
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    Most wanted poster at the military hut on the dock. $300,000 reward for any them.
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    After another short interrogation about my reasons for being the area, I was free to go. I suppose it is a bit odd for a tourist to be in these areas since they dead-end roads and there's really not much to see but I was stopped and questioned 8 times from PC to Darien and back.

    Having explored the main roads, I decided to head back to PC. This time when the trails started appearing on the road side, I began exploring. Some were too over grown, some too muddy. Others were perfect and I followed them for miles until the dead ended or I decided I was a bit deeper than I was comfortable with.

    A few had tied log bridges. I found them to be a bit un-nerving.
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    The last one I rode took me to a huge lake, it was perfect. If I had had more water and some food with me I would have camped there. Amazing place. Dozens of islands, Kuna canoes floating by, birds everywhere, Howler Monkeys, er, howling?! I think I have a new favourite place.

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    Random photos:
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    #9
  10. olyflyer

    olyflyer Long timer

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    If you're passing through Puerto Escondido in the next few week drop in for a beer
    #10
  11. whyknotboats

    whyknotboats CRANK IT UP!

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    Just a quick question. Is that the touretech fuel tank set up on your bike? Thanks again:deal
    #11
  12. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    My Google search says there are several Puerto Escondidos so I'm not sure if I'll be through yours or not! I'm assuming Mexico?

    Yup, that's the TT tank. It's been awesome. Expensive but as far as I'm concerned worth every penny on a trip like this. No more panic attacks at 250km when I can't find a fuel station.
    #12
  13. jonboy29

    jonboy29 Adventurer

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    Oly's 'spot' shows Mexico,Puerto Escondido near Oaxaca.

    It's one thing hooking up with an Aussie girl, now an Aussie guy? :eek1
    #13
  14. olyflyer

    olyflyer Long timer

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    there's a few kiwis chicks in town, so all good
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  15. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Them are steeeeep hills! :lol2

    Thanks for bringing us back with you :thumb

    :lurk
    #15
  16. DCruiser

    DCruiser Adventurer

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    I'm in
    #16
  17. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    I left PC early, hoping to meet up with a friend on the island of Bocos del Toro which is about 600km from PC.

    The road from Chiriqui to Puerto Amirante (where you catch the ferry to Bocos) starts off slow but you quickly climb to the peak of a mountain pass at about 1300m. The landscape looks a lot like any pass in the Rockies with evergreens, deep valleys and for some reason the building resemble ski chalets complete with steep pitched roofs. Since it's unlikely it would ever snow here I haven't a clue why they need this style of building.

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    I climbed higher into the clouds and into the mist. Visibility at times was less than 10ft which is a bit terrifying as there are few road signs and at times, no guard rails despite the huge cliffs. The road twists and winds it's way over the top of the mountain range and over a hydro electric dam. When the mist cleared, the terrain had changed and was more what you would expect for this part of the world.

    It was at this point that I realized all the batteries for my helmet cams were dead. The steady rain made it impossible to run the cam off a power cord as it requires leaving the back hatch open which means it's no longer water proof. :waysad

    I was trying to get as many pics as I could with my P&S but the rain and lack of places to pull over made it tough. It's really too bad as it's an amazing place.

    Lush jungle plants, steep rocky cliffs and vines tower over the road. Though I never saw any, snake crossing signs are common on the road. Water falls become more common as you begin to descend. The road is new(ish) and the tight turns were bliss on a bike.

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    As you get closer to sea level the landscape again changes. Grass huts with thatch roofs are everywhere. Wide muddy rivers carve up the grassy savanna. The scene looks like the set of film about the Vietnam war, without all the death and destruction.

    I had spent too much time sight seeing and it was getting late, almost dark in fact. I planned on stopping at the first hotel I found. Stopping several times to ask locals where the closest one was sent me farther and farther down the road. I was going the direction of Bocos which was good but it was pitch black and rain had my visor fogged over. Luckily for me (but not the oncoming drivers) the designers at Auto-Loc had managed to manufacture their HIDs kits with enough power that my lights now rival the sun.

    The night drive lasted 75km before I ended up in Puerto Amirante which or course was my destination to begin with. I checked into "Hotel La Preferred" (yeah, really). It was $24 a night which was a bit steep but at this point in the day, I would have paid $100.

    Once I got to my room I realized there was cable TV, AC and internet. I went to jump in the shower and noticed there were 2 taps :huh Most showers here only have one tap, cold. Could it be? Could there actually be hot water here? Sometimes the knobs are there but the hot isn't connected to anything. I hadn't had a hot shower in, well, honestly I can't remember. I stared at the knobs for amost a few minute, pondering, wondering. Giddy with anticipation I twisted the knob and water came out, it was cool. Hmmm, maybe it needs to run for a bit to get the hot water up to the 2nd floor. I let it run for a minute or so. I was then greeted with a beautiful sight, steam! There was hot water, really hot water!!!

    I hadn't had a hot shower in weeks and weeks. After a 9hr day on the bike, in the rain, the shower was the perfect end to a near perfect day.

    This road is definitely one of the most scenic I've ridden. If you are ever down here, I'd say it's a must ride.

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    #17
  18. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    A few more:
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    #18
  19. Camel ADV

    Camel ADV Long timer

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    How long are you around for? I'm not really sure how long I'll be anywhere at this point. I need to be back home for April 1 so about 10 weeks between here and there. I expect to be into Mexico the last week of Feb or first week of March. If you're going to be around then, let me know.

    Cory
    #19
  20. beechum1

    beechum1 Dandole Gas al Burro

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    in :lurk
    #20