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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JDowns, Oct 2, 2012.
Nine days. Gotta be getting close to somewhere. This is gonna be a good tale for sure.
Wondering who wanting to see the internet more, us or Juanito
I've heard of this taking a few weeks time, just a waiting game on these boats, I'm sure his patience will be on the thin side. Looking forward to the tale
Nine days without internet
John must be loving it.
Can hardly wait for the next chapter
He's probably building a 5 story stone temple to the "God of the Internet World" or something similar during his down time.
Perhaps he's building a stone road across the gap for future AdvRiders to take
May take a while what with the swamp and and all :eek1
My hope is he is paving a stone path through the Darien. Therefore no more boats or planes needed !
Just arrived Puerto Obaldia. Everything fine. Have to let others use my laptop on this lame internet connection to connect with their families. I can see Colombia from the dock. Will be back shortly I hope.
I like how you think!
It's (he) is alive!
When I last left off I was heading for Carti Tuesday before last with the idea that maybe I would catch the Vya del Mar cargo boat to Puerto Obaldia. I had no idea exactly how much it would cost for the Sherpa but it was 100 bucks for me.
I rode over the roller coaster Carti road down past the military checkpoint and got to the beach late in the afternoon. All the tourist boats were gone and the workers had mostly left. I parked the bike inside the covered office and pitched my tent for the night.
The next morning by 6AM the office was full of people coming in from the island of Carti who work on the mainland. I packed up my tent and put my dufflebag in a garbage bag along with wrapping my computer in plastic and stashing it in the topbox. I had no idea how I was going to get the Sherpa over to the island of Carti. No one offered up any ideas. I finally got the kid at the office to go over and ask an old man who seemed to be some sort of head man. He said 35 dollars for me and the bike. Yikes! But he wouldn't budge. To him I was just a rico gringo. It had been 3 dollars when I asked two days ago. So these prices seem to fluctuate with the phase of the moon.
Soon I was pointed in the direction of the beach where some boys were backing up a dugout canoe and taking off the rear motor:
With the motor off they built a ramp of crates and a 2x12 and I pushed the bike up and over the gunwale and into the dugout:
They had bent a piece off the motor mount, so I had to get out my leatherman and use the pliers to bend it back so we could bolt the motor back to the rear of the canoe. And with a shove we were off:
I got off the bike for this shot:
but it was kind of choppy, so I got on and braced the sides of the canoe with my feet to keep the bike upright. Passing a traditionally dressed Kuna lady and her toddler in their dugout on the way out:
arrived at the dock and some boys helped lift the Sherpa up onto the dock. I don't think this would be very easy with a bike that weighed more than 280 lbs. A local guy pointed to where I should park it out of the way over by the propane storage shed.
I had a day to kill which isn't very hard when you're a stranger in a strange land. Watched the Kuna world go by. People coming and going in canoes to pick up supplies. The boat I had talked to in Miramar arrived with propane and beer in the early afternoon:
but the Kevin was only going halfway which is why I didn't take it. Quite a stack of Balboa beer on the dock which is the only brand available on the island I think:
a dozen backpackers arrived throughout the day all looking to go to Colombia. One Scottish girl even got the number from me and called the Lya del Mar to see if he could take us all. No problem.
The end of an interesting day of people watching as the sun set and lit up the clouds over the neighboring islands:
Here is the abandoned building that many of the backpackers camped in for the night including me:
There was also a hostel with beds for 8 dollars a night if you wanted a little more privacy. Got up the next morning to another Kuna Yala sunrise:
spent the day wandering around. Liked this house decor. The Balboa beercan infill matched the stained golden bamboo geometric wall decor nicely:
An enterprising Colombian offered to take anyone to the border for 100 bucks on a 9 hour fast launcha ride. 12 of the backpackers took him up on it instead of waiting for the slow boat. The guy wanted 500 for me and the bike. No thanks. The boat looked too small anyway. Here the backpackers are wondering how they are all going to fit:
This French guy was a big hit with the kids:
and here is another with a Kuna tourist mask:
and here is the sardine express getting ready for liftoff:
Which left the slow boat crew remaining. This consisted of me, the Sherpa, and the rasta boys Matt and Carlos:
By the afternoon I was wondering if the Lya del Mar would ever show up. Charlie here assured me it was coming Thursday:
So I spent another day hanging out in Carti but it was still nice to see a cargo boat round the point looking very much like the African Queen:
and as it neared, sure enough it was the Lya del Mar:
The captain wasn't on board as he was in Panama City, but the first mate Jose told me it would be 100 for me and 100 for the bike to Puerto Obaldia. Done. I paid him. The rasta boys were able to talk him down to 160 for the two of them, so you could probably do some negotiating here. I was just glad to have a ride. They were staying for the night and leaving Friday, so we all slept on the boat where they fed us. In the afternoon I had a nice talk with a woodcarver named Davis:
He was carving Kuna religious figures for the tourist trade. Later in the afternoon Artensia, the head of the military outpost dropped by to say hi. Really cool Panameña dude. Here he is with Carlos on the dock. Quite a contrast in lifestyles, He told me where to go in Puerto Obaldia since he had been stationed there earlier. There are only threee guys stationed at Carti and Artensia is the head honcho:
Loaded the bike on board on Friday:
Here is a shot ten feet down into the hold. A lot of cement and water. And the gold cans are cases of 12 cans of Spam. The most spam I've seen in one place:
In the afternoon another boat called the Carribean Star 23 came in for the night:
It was just coming back from Puerto Obaldia on the way to Colon. It was the same size as the Lya del Mar, but look at the difference loaded and unloaded does to the waterline:
On Friday we took off down the coast. Here is a cruise ship having lunch on an island:
San Blas islands drifting by in the distance:
lunch was rice, beans, chicken and plantain:
dropping off plumbing pipe along with cement, rebar, lumber, plywood and propane:
Kuna women on the dock in some island we stopped at:
another batch buying bananas:
and then we turned around and headed back to Carti to spend the night. Here is the local Kuna lumber yard. Every piece of lumber is made from trees cut down over on the mainland. And it is all cut freehand with a chainsaw. I kid you not:
This guy is an artist. I watched him kick off his flip-flops, fire up a 36" Stihl chainsaw and cut four 1x2s out of a 1x8 freehand. Amazing. And here he is making a 16" wide table top 1" thick out of a log:
I walked around and realized that every 1x12 plank and 2x4 stud had chainsaw marks and had been plunge cut freehand. I'm going to try it when I get home to see just how hard it is to come up with an even 1 inch thick 1x12 cut sideways. I'll bet it takes a lot of practice.
Another nice sunset in Kuna Yala:
I got out my computer to type up the last 4 days and upload pictures to my computer. I don't know when I'll reach wifi. Sometime next week I imagine.
It's Saturday. Thought we would leave today, but the captain didn't show up until late afternoon. He brought a few bags of live chickens and 4 pigs:
one of the chickens died in transit and the cook Carlos boiled and plucked him for tonights dinner:
I am totally on Kuna time now. We might leave tomorrow. Then again, we might be in Carti for the rest of my natural life. This is definitely a different form of travel. I think you have to be flexible to the max and have almost the patience of an anthropologist studying a native culture in order to appreciate this slow boat to Colombia.
It helps if you don't have any expectations of making it to Colombia anytime soon and just enjoy being in paradise with the mellow, open, accepting Kuna people. Today was a special day. Someone got married in the Kuna longhouse around noonish. And they made some sort of sugarcane fermented beverage that got some of the old dudes really wasted by time the sunset happened.
Because there were pigs squealing and roosters crowing on the Lya del Mar, the rasta boys Matt and Carlos joined me over by the restaurant. While they were making jewelry out of found stones and copper wire, I was talking to an ancient drunk Kuna who insisted on taking me to his house and giving me the tour.
It is always interesting watching old Kuna dropping like flies as they get wasted and drift off to their hammocks. I have no idea when I'll get to Colombia and I really don't care. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings. I didn't take many pictures today. Just mainly hung out and studied Spanish and watched Kuna get drunk.
I will post this when I get somewhere with wifi. Oh, and I have been eating on the boat morning, noon and night and haven't spent much for the last 4 days. My Chevy truck baseball cap blew into the sea and I got a Real Madrid Soccer black baseall cap for 5 dollars and a few refrecsas and a razor so i don't look like a total loser. So maybe 10 bucks for the last 4 days.
This evening I went into the Kuna lodge and took two pics of the traditional singers and dancing in the Congresso long house before an old Kuna came over and told me it was prohibo (prohibited) to be taking pictures. It was dark inside, so you'll have to use your imagination.
Took off this morning from Carti. Floated by islands in the San Blas archipelago:
Stopped on the island of Nargana to unload cement:
Here are a couple of smaller cargo boats in Nargana. The Kevin was the boat in Miramar who offered to take me half way to Colombia for 50 bucks including the bike:
Kids playing basketball on the island of Corazon de Jesus where we unloaded cement, beds, appliances and beverages:
the Sherpa with chickens tied to it in between the pallet pigpen and appliances:
Had to put my boots on to avoid the chicken doo. One of them actually laid an egg on the tin roofing this afternoon. I took it into the kitchen and put it with the store bought eggs:
Finally arrived at the island of Rio Tigre at sunset. Really beautiful island with mostly traditionally dressed Kuna women and a mellow vibe. Went beachcombing around the island with the rasta boys Matt and Carlos and found some nice coral and shells for their jewelry making. Lots of playful kids on this island coming up and saying hola.
Nice landscaping on some of the thatched houses in Rio Tigre:
Solar panels on many of the houses is the only electricity on the island:
Nice thatched longhouse for meetings and community events:
handmade dugout canoes:
some paddles have carved designs. This one has a Christian theme:
Traditional house going up in Rio Tigre out of poles, bamboo, palm thatching and vines for tying it all together. All locally sourced materials from the mainland that they paddle back over to the island:
There was wifi in Nargana but it wasn't working today when we were there. One of the crew said they have wifi in Puerto Obaldia so I'll post this when I get there in three or four days.
Left Rio Tigre for day two of the voyage on the Kuna cargo boat. The seas were rougher after we left the protection of the San Blas Islands and reefs:
A local Kuna couple got on board this morning as passengers. Here they are chilling out in rough seas as the boat lists back and forth:
Some sets were pretty high. I'm no mariner but they were washing through the boat and soaking the pigs. The crew was busy tying things down and getting things out of the way like grain. There is a pallet floor so the water just mostly rushes under the pallets and out the other side. At one point one chicken got washed out, but a Kuna marino (sailor) pulled him back in from the string and tied his leg to a place more in the middle of the boat:
Only have seen one gringo sailboat out in open water. Most are moored in the calmer seas behind the islands. Here is the one guy:
Of course the Kuna sail in anything. Here is one with a little sail. Mom, Dad, Buddy and Sis off to the left in this picture. They would be in a trough and you could only see the top of the sail and then pop back up. Kids bailing with hollowed out gourds as Mom and Dad paddled away:
Saw a couple of schools of dolphins swimming along for a while. It was too rough to get the camera out. Some of the day we hit calmer water behind islands and got closer to shore. Really beautiful and remote coastline out here:
No lights at night on the mainland. Here is another couple of shots of small islands gliding by:
Stopped and moored next to a Colombian coconut boat and unloaded through their boat to the shore:
The kids got into the act delivering beer:
120 cases of beer to the stack and we unloaded 6 stacks at this island. That's a lot of Balboa. In the calmer waters inside the reefs, the best view from the boat is on top of the wheelhouse:
Saw another sailboat that wasn't sailing. Just motoring straight into a stiff wind. He's heading for big swells in another quarter mile or so:
Coming into another port for deliveries with a sunken Kuna cargo boat from long ago:
We are staying here for the night.
Will post this when I get a chance.
We stayed in Playa Coco last night. It's funny how all the islands are similar but different depending on the communities. Some are mostly traditional. This one was more modern with Christian schools and hospital and had a more dead feel to it.
I stopped taking pictures of the wharves we stop at to unload. It's the same story every day. Motor for an hour or three down the coast, stop at an island pier, unload cement, rebar, lots of beer, household appliances, rice, sugar and any number of miscellaneous boxes of goods.
I have been using the GPS to track our progress. Currently sleeping on top of the boat at:
N 9º 6.990'
W 77º 55.44'
In the port of Ustupu. Local banana boat pulling in next to us to sell to the locals:
local women in traditional Kuna dress gathering around to buy stuff and look at the pigs on board:
Boat being carved out of mahogany in an area that seemed to be a boat repair and construction area. Everything is done by hand:
went around the island here in Ustupu this evening with Matt and Carlos beachcombing for worn glass and shells for their jewelry making. The local dump had an amazing assortment of beach glass and shells. The island kids were helping Matt handing him handfuls of shells and colorful beach glass:
Here are the kids helping Matt:
I don't think we'll get to the border tomorrow. Maybe the next day.
I'm on Kuna time now. I'll get there when I get there.
We left Ustupu this morning at 8 and motored down the coast making a few stops. I didn't take many pictures. Here are some women waiting for spam and chicken:
Another stop with some local women hanging out next to their dugout waiting to load up some goods:
Traditional cayuco being made in the boatyard at one island we stopped at:
met some gringos on one stop and had some coffee. They were sailing in a pirate ship:
Here is the traditional Kuna bathroom built on stillts out over the ocean with a rickety bridge connecting it to the island:
Unloading propane at the third stop today:
Here I am typing up this report with some eager onlookers:
I don't know what day it is because I was giving airplane rides to kids spinning in circles and I think my watch flew off. The gringos on the sailboat we met on an island today said the internet is out at Puerto Obaldia so it may be a while before this makes it your way.
As always, I remain your faithful ride reporter sending postcards from the edge.
Now thats an update ..... nw back to reading it:eek1
I am glad to see that you made it safe through this part, even more so admiring how you kept adhering to a bohemian travel style. As someone once told me "you will never be the same".
Looking at Google maps shows Pan American ends close there 20 maybe 30 miles short of Colombia. But no roads shown there and also from Puerto Obaldia, so it will be interesting to see how you ride from there.
Well open the flood gates! Woo Hoo glad you're back! I've been having withdrawals..