Canada2Argentina - Going outside to play for 6 months!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by marcoue, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Grampy Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    506
    Location:
    Tallahassee. FL. USA
    I crossed the border at La Mesilla 5 days ago. The Mexican authorities asked me if I wanted to cancel my Mexican documents. I told him I would not be returning so they just checked me out but I got the impression I did not have to close out my Mexican papers.
    Marcoue, I am following close behind you. Thank you for all the information. It's possible I might catch up to you. I'm leaving Panajachel, Guatemala tomorrow morning and headed for Salvador.
    marcoue likes this.
  2. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Hello Pete

    Resting on a rainy day in San Jose, Costa Rica. You'll need to work quite hard to catch up!

    If you have the time, and feel like driving a bit in gravel, La Fortuna and Santa Helena are good spots in Costa Rica. I also found 2 great and not too expensive places to stay. Let me know if interested!

    Villas Vista Arenal
    https://goo.gl/maps/uUuwhhmR5oR2

    Monteverde Inn / Valle Escondido (Owned by Jona from Boston, who as a KTM 990
    https://goo.gl/maps/Ntfh9j337Bx

    Will be heading for the beach tomorrow, and then, Panama on Tuesday.

    Safe travels!
    Cmnthead likes this.
  3. triallaw

    triallaw n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Oddometer:
    9
    Location:
    Johns Creek, Ga
    How long in San Jose?


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  4. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    As mentionnent in my previous post, leaving tomorrow the 17th. San Jose is not a very nice place and 2 days is plenty!

    Will be heading to the National Park Manuel Antonio to finish off CR on the beach!

    Tuesday, I'll be crossing to Panama and trying to get to Boquete.

    Thanks!
  5. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Day 31 to 35 – Costa Rica – Pura Vida and… Rain!

    2016-10-12 – Day 31 – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to La Fortuna, CR (Costa Rica) (275 km – 6:00 hrs)
    2016-10-13 – Day 32 – La Fortuna, CR
    2016-10-14 – Day 33 – La Fortuna, CR Monte Verde, CR (118 km – 3:30 hrs)
    2016-10-15 – Day 34 – Monte Verde, CR San Jose, CR (152 km – 2:40 hrs)
    2016-10-16 – Day 35 – San Jose, CR


    After a bit of a short night in a youth hostel, I left early (October 13th) in direction of the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica tying to avoid long line ups, and it worked. I did not have to wait very long at both places and here is a quick overview of the procedure.

    Getting out of Nicaragua: locate the customs office, go in, pay $1 for the municipal tax, go a few steps further, se the immigration officer. Pay $2 for the privilege of getting out of the country.

    Cross to the other side of the building in a large room with a small desk and a lady not very happy to be here that morning, and start the cancellation procedure for the temporary import permit. She hands me 2 forms, but no place to fill them out and no pen available for travellers (I was prepared this time!).

    Then go back to the lady and to be told that the vehicle must be inspected by another officer of the same service that is standing outside.

    Find the agent, hand in the the form, being told to get the motorcycle and park it park in front of him, move the bike, he then signs the form without even looking at the bike (!).

    Return to the smiling lady to be told that now, the bike has to be inspected by the police.

    Back outside to find the policeman. Asked many asking unnecessary questions by the officer who takes himself way too seriously.

    Return to see Ms. smiley, this time she signs the papers and tells me off with an almost visible smile!

    Pass a line of hundreds of trucks stopped and make it to the Costa Rica!

    Entrance to Costa Rica.

    Be welcomed by 2 friendly and smiling officers who examine my passport and point me in the right direction after a series of question regarding my trip and the motorcycle!

    I must begin by immigration, which is located in a large building impossible to miss. No fees.

    I go back outside. In a small hut, a woman begins the import process of the bike giving me a form to fill out and told me to go a kilometre further to make copies and present them to another officer.

    I go to a first booth, filled the papers and the agent directed me to the other booth, located outside, a hundred feet away, for photocopies. I then have to go to contract insurance and submit photocopies ($1). The place is right next to the first office, in front of the photocopy spot. Insured for 3 months, $12.

    For this crossing, I strongly suggest having Costa Rica Colones.

    After 60 minutes, I’m on the bike contemplating the Pura Vida in Costa Rica !!!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    But After a few minutes, the biggest change occurs since I left Canada.

    Rain!

    In fact, after about an hour in this new country, I take a road that leads me to the mountain region of the Arenal Volcano, and then, it doesn’t take long for the hot and sunny weather to become the rainy season!

    What a shock …

    I had not rained steadily for past month. I got a wet nose once or twice, but never for more than a few minutes.

    Here, we’re talking about steady rain, at times heavy rain.

    Being cold on a motorbike is not so bad, because I can put on my hated jacket and gloves.

    Being hot is a little less pleasant, but with the wind, and my BMW jacket that I can soak in water to keep me a little cool, it will still not be that bad.

    But the rain …

    I know, I should embrace all types of weather, but I hate the rain on a motorcycle.

    First, you need a raincoat. In my case, I have solved the problem with the GS Dry suit. Then, the gloves. You either add a waterproof layer or have wet hands. In my case, I wear trekking gloves, completely sealed, that I can wear alone or over my heated gloves if required.

    But the most unsettling for me is the loss of visibility. First, it usually is darker when it rains, then I have to lower the visor of my helmet, which is, even in dry weather, a torment, but it is also full of raindrops, falling by the fact even my ability to distinguish certain route details, it’s downright torture!

    Then there is fogging. Despite all the efforts from the helmets manufacturers, who added mechanisms such as openings for airflow and anti-fog layers, it is almost impossible not to have a bit of fog that forms in front of our eyes, especially when it is 200% humidity!

    Finally, I must mention that the road conditions, that normally deteriorate with rain, does so in Latin America, but it must be multiplied by a factor of 10! It sometimes becomes very slippery when it’s not parts of the road that are partially or completely gone.

    The 3 hour drive to La Fortuna have therefore not been the most pleasant. But I think the lack of practice is part of it and a and I must adapt and practice as this rainy season is in full force in Costa Rica, and also in Panama and Colombia.

    Only one photo before the flood, because my camera is not waterproof!

    [​IMG]

    One last thing I don’t like the rain, but my iPhone like it even less! I have to either store it or protect it with a protective layer, which has two consequences. I am no longer able to charge it, or manipulate, ie, to search on Google Maps!

    When I arrived in La Fortuna, I could not look directly at the iPhone sitting on the bike. So I had to stop and find a dry place.

    Finally, I decided to get out of the village because it, and the hotels that I saw did not inspire me at all.

    I noticed a place with small cabins just outside the city, but also a long sidewalk that ran along the road, so even from there, it would be possible for me to get to the village to go shopping on foot. Since the beginning of the journey, once the bike is parked, I prefer not to use it to go to town.

    William, des l’hotel Villas Vista Arenal warmly welcomes me with many questions about my trip, which is always a good start to the price negotiation process!

    I ended up with a small cabana for 2 nights for a relatively good price. I am happy as a child, despite the rain falling incessantly! What a joy, my little home for a change couple of days.

    Some nights in Central America have not been easy. The rooms were very small and noisy. Not easy when you have to undo your big backpackbag to dry things up. Tonight, I feel like in the most exclusive hotels in my superb almost private (I am the only customer!) mention.

    I walk to the village in the pouring rain, but with a large smile in my face.

    I also met a white fellow just like me. He does not chatter much, but still we made friends.

    [​IMG]

    I decide to shop for food for 2 nights because I’m frankly tired of eating out. It will not be too complex cooking as the cabana is equipped only with a refrigerator, but as I have my burner, I’ll cook myself great pasta! My pasta!

    What joy to spend the afternoon listening to the rain fall, doing nothing else but relaxing and enjoying the moment.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    On Thursday morning, it still rains. I wake up early, but took my time to go eat breakfast and then go for a 11 km race in the mountains, in the pouring rain. As it is quite warm, it’s not bad at all.

    Around noon, to my amazement, the sun becomes visible and I can partially see the Arenal volcano.

    I also went for a walk back to the village and then spend some time at the beautiful and refreshing pool. When the sun comes out, it gets hot fast!

    The rest of the afternoon and the evening is a copy of yesterday and that’s fine as well. I needed a quiet day.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Small note for travelers. Costa Rica costs a fortune! For example, food prices are higher than in Canada. Then when I went jogging on the trail that goes to the Cerro Chato, which has a small lake and offers a beautiful view of the volcano (when the sky is clear), the walk to reach it is 2 hours, but the fee to enter the park is US $12! And if you want to see the falls, which are 300 meters away, you have to pay another fee!

    As I did this hike few years back, I passed my turn this time.

    On the 14th, I left to the region of Monte Verde, which is around the city of Santa Helena. My friend Francis repeatedly suggested me to go there.

    The morning started in bright sunshine, which encourages me to go get going, because much of the route is on gravel. I hate rain on asphalt, imagine on isolated dirt roads!

    Santa Helena is only 28 km in a straight line, but the road to it goes around Lake Arenal, which is still imposing, giving a path filled with curves for over 125 km. Unfortunately I have to redo part of the road I drove a couple of days ago, but the return is more beautiful pleasant under the sun!

    Once in the town of Arenal, the fun begins! The road decreases in size and becomes made of dirt and gravel.

    It’s been a few weeks since I have driven La Gorda in such conditions and it takes me a few minutes to adjust. I take my time, because the road is quite isolated, so not really a good place for a fall, and also because the landscape becomes really bucolic as I gain more altitude.

    Unfortunately, Costa Rica has a mind of its own and decided to welcome me in this beautiful area with … Well yes, rain!

    Some spots are quickly becoming slippery, but I managed to continue my journey by slowing down a bit.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I arrive at Santa Helena an hour later. The village is really not very nice, but I decided to stop anyway because I did not plan b.

    I parked and looked on hotel.com to find a hotel. The prices are relatively high and hotels appear to be mostly outside the city. Unusual for me, but I do consider these options in Costa Rica, because small towns are not very attractive, and because it is nature that is really the purpose of these areas.

    I’ll see a few places without much appeal.

    I decide to go to a place that fits my budget, but that is little more remote.

    I have to drive on a few steep gravel streets and then down (I mean really down!) a long hill leading to a large parking lot.

    My first thought is that the place is too far from the village and it will not be easy to walk back in the evening for dinner.

    While I look at other options on my GPS, a man comes over and introduces himself as the owner of the place and explain the concept. He also mentions that he has a KTM 990! We discuss a bit about my trip and he invites me to come in and see his establishment, which, in fact, is not just a hotel with a building and rooms, it is a huge property with several buildings and also a large natural park where it is possible to hike.

    Jona (I hope his name is written correctly) is from Boston and is obviously a good lad. Sold!

    Since this is the off season, I end up in a great room with a view (for the moment, at the clouds) that supposedly is amazing. Apparently, you can even see the ocean on a clear day. I’m a little hesitant to believe him, but hey, I cross my fingers that the clouds dissipate and make me wrong!

    I am greeted by birds and animals that I cannot even name! Impressive!

    As the place is a bit isolated, I decided to go to the village to purchase sauce, pasta and wine to cook myself dinner again. Note that there is a good restaurant on site. The walk begins with the long slope that was going down a few minutes earlier but now is going up! Quite a challenge.

    There is a table in front of my room and I want to sort my photos, take one or two glasses of wine and have a nice relaxed evening! But just before the sun sets, I noticed that the employees are out of the main building and taking photos.

    I join them and discover that the clouds have dissipated enough that you can see … well yes, the sea!

    What a spectacle. Unfortunately, this photo does not do justice to the scene, I have the chance to admire the sunset while sitting at my little table, preparing my meal.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The next morning I have a simple but satisfying breakfast and talk a little with Jona. Just before leaving, he mentions that I have to walk his trails. I’m a little perplexed, again, but my day will be dedicated to getting to the capital, San José, which is only a 3-hour away, so I decided to put on my boots and go.

    What a good decision!

    The hike is 2.5 km, and the property tour and takes about 60 to 90 minutes. The show starts immediately when you enter this lush forest, completely covered with vegetation and full of life. There are countless birds and other animals (I can not even name them!) that sneak between the branches, with as a result, a solitary Canadian who is jumpy more often than not!

    A little further on, the trail leads to a set of falls from a dizzying height. A platform was built to better observe it. I must say, I do not know if I’m more impressed with the view, or the work made by Jona and his team, to build and maintain these trails and such metal and wood structures, perfectly built, solid, straight and giving you enough confidence to venture on them.

    Several platforms are well located along the trail, and the views they offer are worth the visit, without any hesitation.

    Congratulations to Jona and your whole team of the Monteverde Inn / Valle Escondido .

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I left around 11:00, hoping that would help me make an easy entrance in a big city.

    I briefly visited San Jose 10 years ago. My only memory: it was a horrible town! But I need some action so I am willing to give it another chance.

    The road to get down the mountain is again in gravel and very damaged, but the landscapes are really worth the trouble. Everything is green on one side, and on the other, it is possible to see the ocean and several islands.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, right after getting out of the road from the Monte Verde region, the road becomes a highway and the traffic is very intense and rapidly contrast with the beautiful nature left behind.

    The entrance to San José is chaotic, difficult and unpleasant. People outright drive like idiots and my only objective is to get to my destination in one piece. Good thing I have a little experience in this kind of situation in Montreal. But here, everything is multiplied by 10!

    I go directly to the small hotel I had booked the day before. I am greeted in the language of Molière (the place seems to be run by French people ). I parked, undid my things and went on an urban adventure!

    Whew, this city is downright ugly, dirty, congested, noisy and crowded. It’s as if the streets, the buildings and the parks compete with each other’s to be the ugliest.

    I just love it!

    I am a city boy, and sometimes, I need the confusion to get me back on track!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In this type of situation, I always challenge myself to find a little oasis in this human mess and San Jose did not defeat me!

    Although it took hard work, Calle 33, in Barrio Escalante neighborhood is full of interesting restaurants and bars that allowed me to finish the day well, although I have again exceeded my daily budget by a lot. Did I mention that Costa Rica is expensive? Anyway, one evening in a nice restaurant from time to time, it’s not so bad (but not too often!).

    [​IMG]

    Sunday the 16th is a day of mandatory rest, because it’s raining all afternoon. I still had the opportunity to go for a walk in the morning. The city is completely different, and deserted! A stark contrast to yesterday. This is a perfect time to quietly visit and take some pics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  6. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Day 36 to 43 – Panama – Thinking in the rain and preparation for the Darien Gap Crossing

    2016-10-17 – Day 36 – San Jose, CR to David, Panama (429 km – 7:45 hrs)
    2016-10-18 – Day 37 – David, PA to Las Tablas, PA (306 km – 5:00 hrs)
    2016-10-19 – Day 38 – Las Tablas, PA
    2016-10-20 – Day 39 – Las Tablas, PA
    2016-10-21 – Day 40 – Las Tablas, PA to Anton Valley, PA (188 km – 3:20 hrs)
    2016-10-22 – Day 41 – Anton Valley, PA to Panama City, PA
    2016-10-23 – Day 42 – Panama City, PA
    2016-10-24 – Day 43 – Panama City, PA to Puerto Carti, PA (150 km – 2:30 hrs)


    My trip to Costa Rica was a bit overshadowed by high prices, but mostly by rain.

    I still ended my visit on a high note with a simple but pleasant evening, with Laura and her friend in a small resto-bar next to my hotel. It ended a little late so I left San Jose a bit on the late side the next morning.

    [​IMG]

    My goal was to drive to the National Park of Manuel Antonio area, but the rain was too strong, and I simply decided to get to Panama.

    So I crossed the border in the rain, which does not help with all the usual confusion of those places that are, the more I see them and think about it, such pathetic places! But as they are required, you must attack them head on and this morning was no exception.

    Small note, plan to keep a few hundred colones, because there are several toll stations getting out of San Jose.

    Procedure to exit Costa Rica: Go to pay the $12 (which may be paid in colones) exit fees, go get your passport stamped from immigration, go to customs to cancel the import permit for the motorbike. A pencil is necessary because a form has to be filled in each location. What pleasure that was with wet hands and clothes!

    No costs, no waiting.

    Panama entry: Start by going to get insurance ($12, payable in colones or $) for the bike.

    Going to customs where a form is given. The lady then sends me to immigration to get the right to enter the country. Meanwhile, she proceeds with the paperwork. Then I return to the customs to get the temporary import permit.

    Go to the fumigation for the bike, pay $1.

    Besides insurance, and fumigation, no other charges.

    There is a checkpoint one kilometre away where signed forms need to be shown.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Upon my entry to Panama, what strikes the most is the quality of the road, which becomes a 4 lane highway. Unfortunately, the speed limit is only 80 km/h and is frequently controlled by police doing radars checks.

    You might have guessed it, I got pulled over for speeding for the first time! But the intervention from the police officer, who was on a motorcycle, quickly turned into a series of questions about my bike and my trip!

    No “multa” (fine) for this time!

    I get, in pouring rain, to the city of David, although I was hoping to go to the mountains in the village of Boquete, but it was unnecessary to add 100 km to my already long day (and that of tomorrow) because I am convinced that the rain there would have been quite similar to the one I had before me in David!

    The city centre is downright awful and very busy. I was totally drenched, exhausted and I brought myself to pay US $50 for a hotel, which is not so bad, but far above what I wanted to pay for this type of stop.

    The good news is that the lady at the counter gave me her personal fan and, with the help of the air conditioner in my room, I was able to get my things dry overnight!

    I walked around the city in the rain. The centre is still adapted to the rainy weather because the shelters are present on all the main streets. Here is my only photo of the city!

    [​IMG]

    No interesting restaurants so I also bring myself to have a meal from the hotel restaurant delivered to my room. A first (and last, I hope!)… Fortunately, I had a small reserve of wine hidden in my backpack!

    Side note.

    In addition to writing this blog, I copy it to a forum on a site dedicated to passionate motorcycle and adventure fans.

    ADVRider.com

    Several readers contacted me to join me at some point during the trip or to wish me luck.

    One of them offered me his house on the seaside in Panama! Considering that I have a bit of time on my hands, and to visit the villages in constant rain does not motivate me to stay on the roads, I decided to accept his offer!

    The next day, my mission is to travel to the Las Tablas, where his house is located.

    I managed to find it at the end of the afternoon and it was a somewhat tumultuous arrival because I had problems with the water supply.

    After using my Plumber knowledge (!) and worked to solve all for a few hours, I had to return to the village because I had no provisions for the evening.

    Have I mentioned that I NEVER wanted to drive in the dark?

    I made an exception and this has only reinforced this rule. The supermarket is located about 15 minutes away, but it rains heavily, a portion of the road leading to the house is made of dirt (read: mud) and above all, the road to the village, although very recent, is repaired with large smears of tar that seal holes, but creates sports as slippery as a skating rink. It was downright dangerous and I had to drive no faster than 30 km/h, especially when approaching curves!

    I come back in one piece, happy to have some pasta on hand (and a few beers and a bottle of wine!).

    I must admit that for the first time of the trip, I started wondering what I was doing here.

    What a brilliant idea motivated me to come to be rained on the head for days, make me risk my life on such dangerous roads?

    The last few days have been a bit depressing and I was starting to have second thoughts.

    The following days and nights allowed me to realize that the bad roads, mechanical problems, loneliness or even bad weather are sources of discouragement and questioned, but precisely that it is these difficulties that are, in reality, challenge for which I am here.

    I ate overcooked pasta alone, in a small pot, with a 50-cent sauce, in a kitchen that was not mine, with very cheap bottle of wine, in heavy rain.

    But I ate (and drank a bit!)

    I slept under a roof.

    I’m healthy.

    I have financial security.

    I have a house.

    I have family and friends who appreciate me.

    I had a few bad days, but you know what, even if I have cursed in more than one occasion, I also laughed a lot, in fact probably more than cursed.

    As the water was overflowing on the floor of the house and I was laughing alone like a clown without a crowd.

    Pathetic?

    No, I think it was just the thing to do in front of the situation so out of my control, but at the same time, that only myself could manage and resolve.

    I realized that night that the challenges and difficult situations are so important.

    I’ve been gone for over a month already.

    I had some difficulties.

    I also realize I still have six more months of difficulties, dull days in the rain, of getting cold, or hot, more miserable roads, execrable motels.

    But that’s what challenges are made of.

    And the challenges to expect in the coming weeks are so great that it is difficult to realize their extent.

    There will also superb roads, full of curves, sunny days, with unique and new landscapes, future friends, or just a hotel, a restaurant or a person who will be there to make it a memorable day.

    This is what keeps me positive and motivated to continue.

    But hey, to each his own! The important thing is not so much the nature of the challenge, but always to have one close at hand.

    And this is not my problem now!

    I’ll spend a few days on the beach, take the opportunity to go running, even if it rains, do laundry and prepare myself mentally for a long crossing to Colombia that is very soon!

    The 19 and 20 October were nevertheless beautiful days with very little rain. So I took the opportunity to do my laundry, went jogging, relaxed in the hammock, wrote these lines, cleaned up a mess in one of my bags, because although I have water proofed my things against the outside elements, I was attacked from the inside!

    A bottle of soap supposedly made for this kind of trip has opened and spilled its contents in one of my bags. I had clean and dry everything (and throw some non-recoverable items). Fortunately, the sun was present and was my ally for this task!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I left Friday the 21st to a village in the mountains called El Valle de Anton, located just over 2 hours from Las Tablas.

    The normal way to get to El Valle, also known as Anton Valley, is Highway 71, but from the North, Google Map made me go through a road newly paved, but much more isolated and with the bonus of offering great landscapes and curves.

    I am now a veteran of such roads, mountains, curves, but a new challenge awaited me.

    I had to go up and down, all accompanied by very tight curves, and those were the steepest slopes ever seen in all my travels, including Corsica, Italy and other famous places with sinuous roads. All this accompanied by rain, and heavy oil stains easily visible on the brand new tarmac.

    Do I need to tell you that all this was done between first and second gear, very slowly and carefully.

    Unfortunately no pics, rain, rain, rain…

    I had reserved a room by phone in a modest hotel near the village centre, which I knew, having stayed there a few years ago, but upon arrival, I noticed a large gate leading to a somewhat isolated small piece of property, which aroused my curiosity. The place, which is called Casa Mariposa el Valle, is not yet in Google Map, so I could not check the price and details of the rooms offered.

    Before I got off the motorcycle, a nice lady came towards me and gave me the grand tour. In fact, it was a very small grand tour, because the place is just a house with a second building housing two small rooms, surrounded by beautiful greenery and a river flowing gently between them and the main residence.

    Although a few dollars more expensive, and obviously above my budget, which is rendered normal since Costa Rica, the decision was easy because the other option was, very politely said, basic.

    I get changed and meanwhile, the rain began to fall a little, and then, very strongly. I took my time and after an hour, the intensity reduced a bit and I decided to go out to see the choice of restaurants for dinner.

    Ouch, the rain became very strong once more and after walking 45 minutes alone in the flooded village streets deserted by the local population, because of the presence of this tropical storm (!), I returned completely drenched. Not damp, not simply wet, I was as wet as if I had jumped into a swimming pool.

    My boots, for which I had worked so hard the past few days to wash and dry, were like a little personal baths for the feet.

    Returning to the hotel, face the ironic smile from the owner who kindly gave me all her newspapers of the week to stuff in my boots, I resolved to get dry a little and go back to get roasted chicken from a cheap restaurant on the other side of the street.

    The lady tells me a bit about her story. She’s from Switzerland, where her husband is still working, and started this little project 3 years ago. She wants to keep it all very modest and does it more for the pleasure of meeting people from all over the world than for the money.

    She also tells me about the road by which I came from. It is often used for bike workouts, but some portions must be walked as they are too steep, and this, as much for going up than coming down. I totally believe her!

    I wake up the next morning with a small breakthrough from sun and I take advantage of it to dry my things, for because of the humidity is so high, everything was still wet.

    [​IMG]

    That’s when the lady comes up to me and offered me to come to see her « paresseux ». Paresseux in French means lazy. If I say « come and see my « paresseux » in my language, it’s as if I would be making a joke about someone lazy.

    I simply thought that her husband had returned from Switzerland, but no, it really was a paresseux (lazy) monkey!

    [​IMG]

    It was really impressive to observe these animals from so close!



    On this Saturday, October 22nd, I leave for a short drive to Panama City, where I’ll spend the next two days, which will be the last 2 before crossing to Cartagena in Colombia.

    The city is really huge and although I expected it, because I had visited it a few years back, the perspective of entering it driving a motorcycle is impressive.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Before going to the hotel. I decided to make a detour to the motorcycle parts retailer called Moto Touratech Panama.

    Motorcycles tech – Touratech Panama

    I am greeted by motorcycle and travel enthusiasts. I spent an hour answering questions and taking photos. Finally, they invited me to a party to be held later that afternoon, to mark the first year of the motorcycle club.

    [​IMG]

    I got myself a gift and a bit much needed luxury in Panama City, two nights at the DoubleTree by Hilton! Normally, these are good quality hotels but far from being 5 star locations, but today, it felt like it! What happiness! I know I’m soooo snob … Anyway, the next 5 nights will be in a floating dormitory and I need a good rest before facing this ordeal!

    I get bat to the Touratech shop at 3:00 p.m. and have a good time with friendly people, curious and again, motorcycle enthusiasts. They really full of questions about my journey, my preparation, but most surprising of all, about how I’m going to cross to Columbia with the bike.

    I expected them to tell me about the options I did not know! I happily answered all these questions, practising my Spanish, enjoying good grills (parrillada) and some good cold beers! La Gorda was even treated to a wash!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    I then visited a bit in this huge city driving and on foot. It’s really impressive and I rather regret not having planned a little more time here.

    Sunday the 23rd is devoted to walking the main streets of Panama City, but also Casco Viejo, which is the colonial and historical district of the capital. I’m impressed with all the renovations that have taken place since my last visited. There is much work to do, but there is clear progress.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Tomorrow, Monday the 24th, I head to the great Stahlratte sailboat. As I would not have cell signal for the next 5 days, this article concludes my time in Central America.

    Although less exciting than Mexico, especially because of the many border crossings, wet weather and higher prices, I still had a good time and added good stuff in my souvenir bag, especially related to a superb trek in Antigua, and some surprising and pleasant meetings in places where I least expected it.

    There is a multitude of things and places I have not seen nor, by extension, visited. It is only my fault, but it is not easy to do extensive research for several countries almost simultaneously to locate hidden jewels.

    I consider the 21 days here as an introduction to future adventures, which will focus on specific areas and not on a continent in full on a single trip. You also have to choose the time of year to visit some countries because too much rain is not to my personal taste, nor desired, on a motorcycle or not.

    Coup de coeur: Antigua, Guatemala
    Disappointment: Costa Rica and Panama
    Most welcoming city: Granada, Nicaragua, only because of the Hotel Sonrisas
    Best atmosphere: Antigua
    Where I would have a full month in winter: Antigua (but possibly not a full month!)
    Where I will not return: San José, Costa Rica, and Leon, Nicaragua
    The surprise: Antigua
    The best route: Exiting the village of Santa Helena, Costa Rica
    Ugliest Roads: Around San Jose
    If I had to do it again: slow down and explore a bit more Guatemala before making the jump to Costa Rica because the country costs a fortune and it rains too much (during certain periods of the year)
    Next time: Phew, hard to say. Unfortunately, a little less time in Central America versus Mexico and South America, but possibly one or two more days in Panama City and Antigua
    What I missed the most: Mexico, for its low price and more colonial appearance.

    Number of days: 21
    Distance: 3100 km

    The next post will come to you from South America!
  7. Cmnthead

    Cmnthead Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2012
    Oddometer:
    81
    Location:
    Teeswater Ontario Canada/ Playa Oria Panama
    Thanks for changing the filters. I hope you enjoyed your stay!
  8. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    NOOOOOOOOOO... Thank you sir! It was a privilege to experience your way of life in Panama, even if just for a few days. Which you could have been there to ride our GS's around! I can easily imagine the place a perfect paradise when the rainy season ends!
    HBLQRider and Cmnthead like this.
  9. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 9, 2014
    Oddometer:
    473
    Location:
    Detroit / Toronto
    Congrats on completing first half of the journey! :clap
  10. Shreddie

    Shreddie Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2014
    Oddometer:
    517
    Location:
    Bruce Peninsula, Ontario


    Anybody with a seasonal place knows the challenges of keeping all the systems operational. It's never going to be perfect. A huge thank you to Phil for his ongoing generosity in making his fantastic beachfront paradise available to travellers. He doesn't ask more than a little appreciation so I'm sure that we can all express some of that!
    Cmnthead likes this.
  11. vicmitch

    vicmitch Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    996
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Sorry to hear that your stay at Phil's little piece of free paradise was ot as wonderful an experience as mine was. Admittedly I didn't have rain, but I must say thanks to Phil for myself and all the ADV Riders who were privileged enough to receive that invitation. I also arrived i the dark, having gotten through the border at 3:pM and going straight to Las Tablas.
    panama 005.JPG
    Brooklyn to Argentina on a Salvaged Victory
    Gordon and Cmnthead like this.
  12. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Indeed! Thanks again to Phil for this incredible opportunity!
    HBLQRider and Cmnthead like this.
  13. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    I may have badly expressed myself. The stay was great and it gave me a chance to regroup before crossing to South America!

    I can't thank him enough! His gesture to let a total stranger use a house like this is truly incredible.
    HBLQRider, Gordon and Cmnthead like this.
  14. dwj - Donnie

    dwj - Donnie Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    19,099
    Location:
    North Carrollton, MS - Traveling on the Moto
    Still here and following your great Ride Report!
  15. GAP

    GAP Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    173
    Location:
    Montreal
    Morning Marc.
    Strange that this is the first time I've read this massive post! Well documented preparation. Gotta be a big help to other people who attempt this journey. Hard to believe that all that stuff fit in the boxes. Nice to have the back up stuff. But the beast has been pretty darn reliable apart from day one oddity with the rear end.
    Well you made it to another continent. Well done. On to phase two. And your temporary navigator will arrive soon. Don't worry, I'll make sure your wine doesn't go bad. We'll talk. See ya.
    Cmnthead likes this.
  16. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Great, thanks!
  17. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Thanks GAP!

    I hope to provide as much help as I can because this forum has been an incredible source of information. I could not have done this trip without it.

    It's a difficult decision to add weight to the bike with the tools and a few spares but this is how I am! On the boat, I met a guy how started thinking about this journey, got a bike a couple of weeks after, and left on the same day! No tools, never tested the bike and equipment, just left! So anything and everything is possible. I still believe I needed to do all that I did and quite frankly, it was part of the trip and lots of fun!

    Indeed, the girlfriend will join me tomorrow for 2 weeks in Colombia. I'll probably send a couple of things back home when she leaves but they are very minor (long johns, one of my water filters, a pair of shorts... Maybe the cooling vest, not sure yet). The most heavy and big stuff is the camping equipment, that has been used very little but I'm hoping this will change soon. All in all, I'm comfortable with my gear even If I hope not to use some of it!

    Thanks for all your help with the bike and the house. YOUR ARE THE BEST! Which you could be here with me. You'd love the driving!
  18. marcoue

    marcoue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    526
    Location:
    Montréal, Québec
    Day 43 to 47 – The Stahlratte and the Crossing to Colombia

    2016-10-24 – Day 43 – Puerto Carti, PA to El Porvenir, PA (4:15 hrs – 124 km)
    2016-10-25 – Day 44 – El Porvenir, PA to San Blas Islas, PA (4:30 hrs – 44 km)
    2016-10-26 – Day 45 – San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia
    2016-10-27 – Day 46 – San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia
    2016-10-28 – Day 47 – San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia (32 hrs – 390 km)


    The passage between Panama and Colombia is virtually impossible on 2 wheels. Crossing by plane or by air is mandatory.

    My choice was, after several months of research, to cross on the great sailboat Stahlratte, that makes this route several times per year, and also allows for the transport of the motorcycle.

    This is a German ship built in 1903 in Holland. It measures 60 metres and has a weight of 235 tons (a little bigger than your boat isn’t it Christine D.?).

    On the morning of October 24th, I left early in the morning to get to a hostel where all people driving a motorcycle and taking the same boat gathered together to drive to the port of Carti, which is located on the native reserve of Kuna Yala.

    The group slowly formed in front of the hotel and we left together to get out of Panama City. What a mess, but what an adventure!

    [​IMG]

    It had been awhile since I had not risen with other motorcyclists, and sneaking past the ultra-dense traffic for several long minutes was really difficult, but very exciting.

    Those who came from Europe are quickly taking over, passing between the immobilized or slow cars in traffic jams. I did my best to follow them!

    Then we drove on a very small winding road to the reserve and a motorcycle even a fell, caused by a car that suddenly stopped in a very steep curve.

    The clip doesn’t show how steep it was!



    After a series of curves and slopes, we stopped at the military checkpoint where we had to pay $23 to enter the reserve.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We arrived around 11:30 at the port of Cali, surrounded by children taking small boats to get to school.

    [​IMG]

    We could see in the distance the Stahlratte waiting for us, but we had no idea how our bikes would be taken on board!

    People waved us to drive to the dock and make it completely to the end!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A crew member then came to install ropes on motorcycles and slowly, the vessel approached the dock in order to use its winch to lift the bikes one by one.

    It is clear that this maneuver was made hundreds of times by the captain and his crew, but that would be lying to say I did not have a few butterflies in the stomach to see the bike being lifted, then go over the water to eventually disappear on the deck!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    We then loaded our luggage and sailed out to sea.

    It was planned that the first night be spent on a small island (El Porvenir) and a water taxi picked us up a few hours later to get us there.

    The hotel located on this island is shabby, dirty, crowded with 4 beds per room, no door to the toilet, and accompanied by many friends (read: bugs and creatures of many kinds) all over the walls, the shower and floors.

    Still, we took the time to get to know each other, to go swimming in the ocean and have a good meal together.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The next morning, the taxi boat came back for us and once we reached the Stahlratte in the pouring rain, we set sail to the islands of San Blas.

    We also got quickly accustomed to our new quarters, which, although we all sleep in the same room, seemed luxurious compared to yesterday’s hotel! This is perhaps the reason why the tour is built this way.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Even if rain is present and the sky cloudy, the small islands that surround the place where the ship stops are beautiful and inviting for swimming, what we all did when we arrived.

    The water is clear and warm. The islands are green and inhabited by native fishermen who spend weeks at a time there during he season. A little paradise on earth! A passenger carries with him a drone. Look at these pictures!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After spending 24 hours lounging, eating, drinking, telling stories, one better than the other, we leave in the late evening of October 26th towards Cartagena.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The journey is over 350 km and takes 30 hours. This is done with the help of a big engine rumbling steadily and slowly in the ship’s hold, which produces a small continuous rhythm in our ears.

    The hours are a little long, but the group of people present makes it an exciting voyage. Fellow passengers are all great travelers who have amazing travel stories to tell and so we exchange our experiences, tips, techniques, and past and future destinations for several hours.

    We also stopped a few moments to take a dip in the ocean, with no land in view, and where the depth is over 3,000 metres. This was a first and extremely impressive. The water was completely clear blue. We swam in the waves trying to stay near the ship was still moving gently. Wow! What sight.

    The sea was not very rough, but the boat was pitching heavily up and down, and side to side. Everything was going OK for me up until I tried to write a few pages of my blog on my iPad sitting on the upper deck.

    Mistake! That’s when a slight seasickness settled in for a few hours. I did not feed the fish (very naval expression!), but I had to spend a meal.

    We arrived early in the morning of 28 October in the port of Cartagena. After a good breakfast, inspectors boarded and we started the immigration process and import motorcycles.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Everything was taken care of very quickly and efficiently. We then headed to a wharf to unload the bikes and at noon, once we had said our good byes to the crew and new friends, we were all the way to our respective destinations. What efficiency!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I made a short clip of these couple of days. Thanks Dave for the areal footage!



    Note for my countryman, Canadian citizens must pay $ 60 to enter the country (reciprocity tax) and the only cost for motorcycles is insurance, which I took for 30 days at a cost of $ 50. The rest of the paperwork was done master hand by the ship’s crew.

    Can you believe that I now ride my motorcycle in South America !!! Amazing isn’t it?
  19. Turk34

    Turk34 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    149
    Location:
    Atlanta, USA
    Marc we will follow your steps...Good to hear that you are riding in South America now...
  20. C.J.

    C.J. Sierra Nevada Rider

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2005
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Shingle Springs
    Right on from Nor Cal. Riding with you in your reports. Thanks and God's speed to you.

    Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk