South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Oct 2, 2012.

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  1. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Yes, that is correct but its only a few more pages, not many. At least it was for me when the company renewed my passport. Most times immigration never stamps our passports, we carry a copy of the Gen Dec instead. Of course the Chinese are another story. The Chinese love the hell out of stamps. They stamp the shit out of everything. Into Shanghai, 3 stamps, out of Shanghai, 2 stamps, then directly into Bejing, 2 more stamps, then 2 more out on the way to Chengdu, then more stamps again. Most likely they are related to the Central American immigration people. :lol3

    Also Juanito, you might want to check out this thread: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=854270

    Seems they now charge a reciprocity fee in Argentina when you enter via overland crossings. Took effect 7 Jan 2013. You must pay online in advance of using a land crossing.
  2. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    What ADV grifter said +

    Any big city in the World can be dangerous. Baltimore has tons more killings than Belize City. I wouldn't want to spend my honeymoon in Baltimore or Los Angeles, but it would be nice on Roatan by the Isles Tres Maria's..I was there in 1976 before it was popular and Man was it NICE!
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    When I left this morning this guy was still working on the wiring harness of his VW van. He and his wife and 2 kids were heading down from the Yucatan. I used to have a white van exactly like this one back in the 80's. He pulled up last night next to the Sherpa and was kind of a night watchman. He worked through the night. Had wild hair and a wild look in his eyes. I suppose I would too if I had two screaming kids and a wife in a camper van going on a vacation from hell to South America.

    [​IMG]

    They are redoing all the streets in Casco Viejo with brick. Many of the buildings are getting major facelifts. This place is really going through a renaissance. Jackhammers echoing through the day. A lot of hustle and bustle:

    [​IMG]

    The police all dress like I do. All black all the time. With my Throttlemeister provided BMW jackboots I fit right in:

    [​IMG]

    A final look at the Panama City skyline as I head out in search of a boat south:

    [​IMG]

    Eventually you see signs to the Darien. The road isn't dirt any more:

    [​IMG]

    A little bit before El Llano is the turnoff to Carti:

    [​IMG]

    I can only imagine what it must have been like to ride out here when the road was red clay. Now it is a fun roller coaster of a road for the 30 miles out over the mountains to the Carribean:

    [​IMG]

    There are some parts missing so it keeps you on your toes:

    [​IMG]

    and really steep downhill runs with hairpins at the bottom. This is what happens when your brakes fade:

    [​IMG]

    And finally you reach the Kuna Yala where the boys want 6 dollars for you and 3 for the bike. Total toll is 9 bucks. Here are the gatekeepers. They signed the tank and took the round rubber Kuna stamp and stamped the gas tank. Can't hurt to have some good Kuna vibes on the bike:

    [​IMG]

    more later....
  4. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Eventually you reach the river that you used to have to ford:

    [​IMG]

    Now there is a bridge:

    [​IMG]

    and then you get down through an army checkpoint to an airstrip that has the main dock:

    [​IMG]

    the Kuna boys told me 4 bikes had come through and gone down this road:

    [​IMG]

    so I headed over to the river and saw if I could hitch a ride on their boat. The Kuna who was helping them called the sailboat. It was the Independence. They were full. The fee was 900 bucks anyway. Too rich for my budget. Anyway they were going to Cartagena. I only need to go to Turbo.

    Then I went over to the small dock and talked to the locals. They were putting up a thatched palapa. I helped them put up the rafters:

    [​IMG]

    they have small fan palm leaves. They tie them individually to sticks:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    different approach than the coconut frond thatching over on the Azuero peninsula. They didn't know of any boats heading out so I headed over to the main dock at the end of the airstrip. You can see the island of Carti off in the distance:

    [​IMG]

    the large boat way out there with the white mast sticking up is the Independence. The people at the large dock told me that there was a supply boat coming in a few days called the Lia Del Mar. The dueño (owner) is Sierra and he is in Colon. So I figured why not track this guy down. He is going all the way to Puerto Obaldia at the Colombian border.

    I also met two nice French guys that were heading to Martinique. But South America it is. I'm trying to stay one pointed.

    Really nice out here in the Kuña Yala. Very peaceful and the Kuña are friendly folks. I stopped back at the toll gate and the one guy was friends with Sierra. He told me I can find him on Piera doce (Pier 12) in Miramar near the plaza centrale.

    So I took off in the late afternoon back over the misty mountains:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    and headed into Panama City. It was dark and rush hour traffic so pretty fun splitting lanes. At one point I thought I was going through water. Turned out to be an oil spill. I wasn't going too fast so not too squirrely. I had to hit the gravel shoulder to clean off the tires. I can't believe you have to ride all the way back to Panama City to hit the road north to Colon. Finally saw a sign for Colon autopiste. $3.50 to go 40 miles. But it was worth it. Smooth sailing right into downtown Colon.

    I stopped at the Sheraton just to see what a room would cost. 123 bucks. I don't think so. Headed down Avenida Centrale and there were hundreds of people hanging out on the park benches. Kind of a seedy town. And I was the only white guy. It is all black Panamanians around here for some reason. So I stopped and asked a black cab driver where to find a hotel and he pointed me to the Washington Hotel. Kind of a faded glory kind of place. Expensive for me at 59.00 but this town is kinda iffy and it's dark out, so I sprang for it.

    Tomorrow I'll see if I can track down the Lia Del Mar and work something out.

    I spent a pile today with passport, hotel, food, Kuña toll and gas it came to
    $161.00.

    Hasta mañana,
    Juan Colon (it's pronounced cologne)
  5. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I still have Aaron's name written down from when I was staying with you. If this Colon thing doesn't work out, I'll figure out how to get ahold of Aaron. Thanks for reminding me.

    Muchas gracias amigo,
    The other John
  6. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Check chief. First things first. I have to get out of Panama somehow.

    I think the flying solution is the best if you have the money and are pressed for time. And that is always an option if I get tired of chasing down boats.

    If UPS has a spare cargo plane you could borrow, I could use a lift bro.

    Siempre,
    Juanito
  7. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    Well Juanito, just so happens that I am going to work tomorrow. :lol3 I'm supposed to take the jet to Hong Kong. I will have more than enough fuel to go to Panama and Colombia instead, but they kind of frown on a last minute change of plan. :lol3 Although I think a 747-400 would be big enough to load up you and your bike. You will have to cook and make coffee though, we dont have a dedicated kitchen bitch. :rofl
  8. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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    I'm glad to see Drew's business is doing well. Those tents with the outdoor showers are the bomb. :freaky

    Was this guy still there?

    [​IMG]

    He was working on some interesting projects when I was there. :lol3

    Good luck in Colon. :thumb

    All caught up. :bubba
  9. jjmalone

    jjmalone Adventurer

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    JD,
    Tried to make a donation on your blog spot. Don’t have pay pal. Tried to enter a visa card and got message stating could not use that type of card. Does this work for pay pal only or are visa donations normally processed.

    Thanks for the great RR, been enjoying it a lot.

    JJ
    :D :clap
  10. griffo1962

    griffo1962 Long timer

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    JD

    Thanks for the entertainment. Small donation made.

    cheers

    g
  11. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi MG,

    I asked about the mad scientist as well. He was making biodiesel and leading ecotours to the Osa Peninsula last time I was here but is back in Colorado now.

    Saludos,
    Juanito
  12. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi JJMalone,

    I am a paypal idiot. Only set up this account in the middle of this ride. There could be a wizard behind a curtain deciding who can donate to this ride and who can't for all I know.

    I see that griffo1962 made a donation that came through from Surfer's Paradise in OZ so it must still be working.

    Kindest regards,
    John Downs
  13. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    I did some google searching since I have decent internet while I'm staying in the lap of luxury at the Hotel Washington here in Colon. It turns out that Jordy and Michelle took the Vya del Mar down to Porto Obaldia a couple years ago. Here is the mythical boat I'm trying to track down:

    [​IMG]

    In the light of a new morning this place I'm staying is pretty nice:

    [​IMG]

    with marble hallways and air conditioning:

    [​IMG]

    I'm staying here until checkout at 2. It is right on the point of the peninsula with ships anchored beyond the seawall. The seaspray is blasting over the seawall off the back terrace:

    [​IMG]

    It's overcast and windy today. I noticed on the ride report with the picture of the Vya del Mar that they contacted him by phone in Colon and met him in Miramar past Portobelo to load the bike. So I think I'll head over to Miramar and see if I can find someone who knows his phone number. It's not far down the coast and Colon is not my kind of town.

    Away from the hotel, Colon looks like post-apocalyptic Eastern European architecture with a dash of rotting inner city rustbelt thrown in. I think I'd rather hang out on a beach somewhere down the way.

    more later……
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hola Greg,

    If I catch a boat there will be plenty of :puke2 going on I imagine after checking out the pounding the seawall was taking this morning in Colon.

    I will post long and picturesque ride reports from a loran satphone at sea just to make sure you don't get too much done at work.
  15. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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    That's a good looking boat. :thumb

    Suerte!
  16. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Stayed at my luxury hotel until checkout at 2 this afternoon and rode back out of lovely downtown Colon:

    [​IMG]

    This place has a kind of East St. Louis feel to it mixed with some inner city Detroit with a tropical flair. Missing manhole covers are always something to ride around if you can:

    [​IMG]

    Took the turnoff at Nuevo Colon for the Carribean coast:

    [​IMG]

    Nice ride along the coastline through misty squalls. And a short time later was riding past the protected cove that has been used by pirates for centuries:

    [​IMG]

    Nice tall masted sailboat as you near historic Portobelo. Here is part of the old Spanish government building:

    [​IMG]

    and the Catholic church:

    [​IMG]

    I was expecting the road to be dirt after Portobelo on the 30 mile ride out to the small port of Miramar. It doesn't even show up on google maps. Imagine my surprise when it was paved. Just like the road yesterday going out to Carti:

    [​IMG]

    Really fun riding along the coast and up into the hills and over to the dock at Miramar:

    [​IMG]

    There was a scow loading up propane tanks named the Kevin. I talked to the Kuna captain and he said he was only going halfway to Porto Obaldia to a town called Ignacio. 50 bucks for me and the bike and I could take a fast launcha to Porto Obaldia in a day. Hmmm. Maybe worth considering. The seas are too rough so he isn't leaving until Monday at the earliest. Here they are loading up the scow. Most look like they were descended from pirates:

    [​IMG]

    That gives me time to track down the Vya del Mar and see about catching a ride with him. My dear sister emailed me this link to a site that spots boats:

    http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=1673875

    According to the guys on the dock in Miramar, the Lya del Mar is stuck in port in Colon and won't be going anywhere until early next week. Miramar is a kind of skeezy town with no internet so I doubled back. The last 10 miles or so to Miramar are pretty beat up and I hit a huge pothole that knocked the topbox off. It bounced down the road with a bang so I heard it come off thank goodness. I can't believe how strong the stock rims are on the Sherpa. Not a ding. And the topbox was unscathed. As was the laptop inside apparently since I'm still typing on it. Might have to put a safety bolt through at some point though just for good measure to keep it from flying off again.

    Went down this dirt road that pointed to Turtle Caye Marina:

    [​IMG]

    Got a taste of what it must have been like riding down these clay roads back before they were paved. Not too bad really. If it were wet, that would be a different story. The road ended after about 5 miles of steep up and down at this man made protected marina out on a peninsula:

    [​IMG]

    Down past the yachts there was a palapa on the beach with a bunch of nice yachties drinking rum and coke and whiling away the days:

    [​IMG]

    They were trapped due to weather. They also said Monday at the earliest was what they heard as far as the seas calming down. According to them there are plenty of people stuck in Porto Obaldia trying to head north. Got the lowdown on which Kuna stopovers have the best food and a couple bakeries. There's even wifi in a couple.

    Here is the protected shoreline coming into Turtle Caye, the breakwater beyond is getting pounded but it doesn't show up in this photo too well:

    [​IMG]

    Headed back out to the paved road since it was getting dark and wheeled back into Portobelo. I remember somebody posting in the Latin America section here that was working at Captain Jacks, so when I saw the sign I headed up the hill where they have dorm beds for 13 bucks and free wifi and good eats. So this seems like a nice headquarters to do more exploring and general goofing off in the Kuna Yala down the way.

    I spent $19.65 today on food, gas and lodging.

    Hasta mañana,
    Juanito
  17. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

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    I was going to tell you earlier to stay away from the bitchy old German lady at the Wuderbar Hostel:puke1

    There's a really nice American expat lady in Puerto Lindo that makes great pizzas out of her house neat the soccer pitch. She might still be around. When the Carti toll road is out due to land slides Miramar is the second best way out from Kuna Yala, as you found not too nice a place and Captain Jacks is much nicer, that used to be the big area for sailboats other than the Rat loading out before all Fritz the Cat sank off Colombia shut the must of the boats carrying bike down.

    Just going to be a waiting game now to find the right boat.
  18. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

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    John, I read you could fly from Panama City to Puerto Obaldia (not sure about moto) then Lancha to Sapzurro, then Capurgana then Turbo

    $300 total without a moto

    Also read that waiting around the docks for Cargo boat is iffy and Dec/Jan are the worse months.

    I guess the weather is awful for boats right now.

    Big jet is 2 hours, just have to weigh the costs.
  19. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

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    If its flying on Air Panama you can't take the moto with you.

    The Caribbean is the protected side and should have easy enough time, this is the rough time of year for making the open run across to Cartagena. He should be able to find a cargo boat, just have to find the right one at the right price.
    At least he's got the time...
  20. JDowns

    JDowns Sounds good, let's go!

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    Hi Tuckers,

    The only people currently flying bikes to Colombia are Girag since Copa and Taca stopped. The price is currently 902.00 cash.
    I met a German backpacker in Panama City who was flying down to Puerto Obaldia. 92 bucks plus around 35 to take the slow launchas to Capurgana and Puerto Obaldia. Cheapest way for a backpacker to get to Colombia.

    I could fly the bike and go that route if the weather doesn't co-operate, but the yachties said the flights are booked from Puerto Obaldia for the month of January which is why a lot of people are stranded down there looking for a boat north. Not sure if the same is true if I wanted to fly south though.

    Yes, waiting around is iffy. But I have time and it's kind of fun to ride down all these back roads looking for boats in all the wrong places. Plus I hope this info is useful to those who come after me. What roads to take, which places look the most promising to catch a boat, who to talk to. That sort of thing. You guys have been paypal-ing dough my way and this is the kind of info you have a hard time finding anywhere. So it is my way of paying you back. I know I am thankful for that ride report that mentioned the Vya del Mar. Not much info out there on these cheaper cargo boat options.

    I am confident I will find a way to South America. It is just slower to go this way. If I had a lot of money I would have flown down the day after I got my passport pages added. In the meantime I will report back what I find out here in the Kuna Yala.

    Saludos,
    Juan Belo
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