gatogato missing in Panama. does anyone have news???

Discussion in 'Americas' started by salcar, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. Brennan

    Brennan @OliveOilandGasoline

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Oddometer:
    879
    Location:
    Europe or on my RTW
    Take a German boat named Stahlratte if it is in port in Portobelo. If I were you I would plan my trip around this 136ft sailing yacht. $550 for you and the bike. Ludwig is the Captain
  2. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    Yeah, and I'd wanna eat some fresh-caught lobster too....:D
  3. Brennan

    Brennan @OliveOilandGasoline

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Oddometer:
    879
    Location:
    Europe or on my RTW
    If you are implying that the chance are slim, then..... I would agree. Although I have seen her with my own two eyes!:eek1 Looked a hell of a lot better than the '41 peice of shit I took AROUND the Darien.:lol3
  4. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    No.
    I was typing about the free time spent while island hopping in the San Blas.
    I was speaking positively...and in hopes that melted buttered could be had. :)
  5. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,886
    I want to apologize for every one of my personal comments.

    I'm pretty sure that I'm the only Panamanian who posted an opinion about Gato's adventures in Panama. I'm sorry if some of you found my opinions to be offensive. And even though I'm apologizing, I would like to try to be clear one more time. This time I'll try to say it different.

    Panamanians can be warm and wonderful people, but we can also be quick to anger. As quick as we are to anger, we can also forgive, and hopefully we can be forgiven.

    The Darien is a tough and unforgiving place. I've only been to the edge, and that was far enough for me. I know people who've gone in and then come back with terrible disease- and I don't want to die that way! I've done a fair bit of traveling, and the only place I've been that comes close to the Darien, in terms of potential danger, is parts of Bosnia and Republika Srpska. (I was in Bosnia a couple of years ago, and as soon as the Carabinieri found out that a Gringo-type was in Pale, they came and found me and made me stay with them until I promised to go back to Sarajevo. And when I went to Visegrad, they did the same thing. But no Panama army will protect a Gringo in the Darien.) I'm not saying the Darien will kill you- but I'm saying that your chances of a catastrophe are much, much greater than most other places.

    I'm living proof that the Trans-Isthmian highway can affect you profoundly for the rest of your life, and I don't mean that in a good way. I don't want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. And the good news is, it's entirely preventable.

    The danger starts around Chilibre. Colon- GatoGato compared Colon to Mogadishu. I wouldn't argue with him. Colon is very, very tough. It's sad that a once great city has fallen so far. But there are a few gems in Colon. The Free Trade Zone is amazing. Cruise ships are docking and tourists are spending money- which is helping the local economy. My favorite restaurant in Colon is in the Yacht Club. It's not exclusive, but it's not cheap. I eat there because it's safe. I used to like to get a Club sandwhich at the old Washington Hotel. I haven't even tried to go there for at least 7 or 8 years. I don't even know if the Washington Hotel is even there. But when I was really small, my mother used to take us on the train from Panama to Colon to visit our cousins.

    GatoGato describes some very real dangers on the slow boat from Colon to Colombia. I'm sure he planned on having a wonderful adventure. He should be proud of himself for having accomplished the transit. Even if I've said some harsh things, I'm also impressed. Seriously. That's an awesome trip. I wouldn't do it without a platoon of marines.

    Usually, if someone is for-real missing somewhere along the Darien, the outcome isn't good.

    But- I don't want to scare anyone away from Panama, Colon, Puerto Bello, or San Blas. Here's my advice: do visit Colon. But be careful on the road, the Trans-Isthmian, starting around Chilibre. Use extra-extra-extra caution. Be brave and get out of the car, or get off your bike. Be vigilant- but also, give the people of Colon a chance. (Disclaimer: my family is originally from Colon. My grandparents were even married there.)

    When you turn East toward Puerto Bello- that's where the fun starts. Be careful for cattle and horses on the road. Campesinos still ride horses for basic transportation. Stop and say Hi to one if you see them. If you're on your bike, they'll probably warm right up. Even if you're in a car, all you'll have to do is smile, and they'll probably smile back. I have even picked up hitch-hikers along the road. Not too close to Colon, though. After you get a few miles past the last slum, I'd say most hitch-hikers are probably ok.

    Puerto Bello. This is an amazing natural port. The ruins are perfect for staging mock-battles. Canons are ready, walls are strong, grass is mowed... and if you don't want to imagine that you're Black Beard or Morgan, you can at least have a picnic. My kids love it.

    And then there's the church with the Black Christ. Legend is that every ship that tried to take it from Colon ended up sunk. So the Black Christ is considered saint-like. When I was a kid during Lent thousands and thousands of people would walk, pilgrimage, from Panama City to Puerto Bello, two steps forward, one step back. Two steps forward, one step back. They would wear black and walk so, so slowly, two steps forward, one step back. People still do it but not as much. Sometimes we walk that way for maybe a block before the church, just to see how hard it would be to do it all the way from Panama City, two steps forward, one step back.

    Puerto Bello also has some of the best diving in Panama. Maybe not the best, but the most famous. There are several dive companies, and they'll take everyone who wants to go. You can take a PADI course, or you can try it on your own. I recomend Panama Divers. They took me on an amazing dive: 100 feet down, then go with an 8-10 knot current! It's incredibly dangerous (8-10 knots at 100 feet is actually really dumb) but it's the closest thing to flying.

    Beyond Puerto Bello, you can go to Isla Grande. Isla Grande used to be popular with US service men stationed in the Canal Zone. I don't think very much maintenance has been done since the servicemen left. Army guys, Navy guys, Air Force guys, and Marines- they'd spend amazing drunken weekends on Isla Grande. Now the island smells... bad. I wouldn't stay there. Brave back-packers stay there, and for Panamanians on a low budget it's fantastic. I like to go there for a day, and leave with time to make the Trans Isthmian Highway before dark.

    Beyond Isla Grande, I've been as far as San Blas. There's more good diving and fishing. In some places you don't even need to dive- snorkelling is plenty because the waters are so shallow. Coral reefs are largely untouched. Sea turtles come ashore, lay their eggs, and push themselves back into the ocean. Unfortunately, lots of campesinos and indians still eat the eggs and turtles. To them the turtles are plentiful, and they don't understand that they shouldn't eat them. The last time I visited my uncle's property, near San Blas, a few of the men working there had just killed and butchered two giant turtles. It was so sad. My children cried.

    If you go, now is the best time. Now is the dry season. The sea can be rough at this time of year, but the roads are more passable, and the rivers aren't too deep, so you can get across. I don't know if motorcycles can make it to Cocolle. Last year my uncle made it in a Honda SUV. My dad usually drives an old Land Rover Defender, with a snorkel and a winch.

    I haven't been to San Blas for a long time, but my sister was there last winter. She had a great time. If you go to San Blas, be prepared to sleep in a hammock and use a latrine over the sea. Not very "ecologically sensitive," but that's how it's done. There are places to stay with real bathrooms, but hey- it's San Blas! Live like the Kuna!

    The rest of Panama is very different from the Atlantic coast. Keep in mind that Panama lies West to East. If you enter at Costa Rica, you're coming into Panama from the West. Panama City is actually East of Costa Rica. It's also straight down from Pittsburgh, not Texas. It's a solid 6 hours of riding or driving from David, near Costa Rica, to Panama City. The roads have improved, but I haven't actually driven it for about five years, because I just don't like it- the buses and semi's seem particularly homicidal. It costs about $60 to fly from David to Panama, and the flight is less than an hour. If you do ride or drive it, you'll see all that Panama offers- banana plantions, sugar cane, pineapple, oranges... forests of teak, wild jungle, small towns and big cities. Panama City, itself, seems to have grown all the way to Coronado. Colombia is actually East of Panama. The Pacific is on the South, and the Atlantic is on the North.

    Coronado is where all the upper middle class Panamanians go to party on the weekends. There's a country club, golf, a decent beach, town houses on the sea, big houses on the sea, a big modern grocerystore (as nice as any in, for example, Park City, Utah). Be careful if you swim though- even though it's a beach community, the surf is rough. If you want to swim, the Atlantic is better.

    I'm going to back up a bit, to Bocas del Toro. It's my favorite part of Panama. The people speak an amazing English dialect. If you ask "Do you speak English," they'll say, "No," but they do. You'll be able to understand, if you really, really listen. I don't think it's actually a patois, although some anthropologists might disagree. Most people also speak Spanish, but even then, it's sometimes... different. I love it. People in Colon, and some people in Panama City's Rio Bajo, still speak a similar language, but Bocas people are unique.

    Between Bocas and David is Boquette and Volcan Baru. If you like coffee. I haven't been to Boquette for a few years, and I'm afraid to go back. Last time I was there I went like a back-packer. I climbed the volcano- all the way to the top! If you do it, take twice as much water and food as you think you'll need. The top is only about 10,000 feet but it's ccccold and windy, it can rain, and the temp can be below freezing, so don't do the climb in tevas and shorts. There are gringos moving into Boquetts like crazy. Last time I was there, it was still like Old Panama, like Pre-US Influence. It still felt like a Spanish colony. It felt like "The Interior."

    When I was a kid we'd go to "El Interior," but now there are McDonalds everywhere, and you can usually get cell service.

    Panama City has over a million people. It's big and modern and loud and dirty and if you're not careful it'll suck you in. That's where my family lives.

    The Canal runs from Panama to Colon. You can go to Mira Flores to look at the locks. Food at the restaurant on top of the museum is expensive, but it's super cool to sit and eat and drink while huge ships go up and down, up and down, up and down.

    The Pan American Highway goes as far as Yavisa. My uncles told me a few weeks ago that the paving, all the way to Yavisa, should be done before the end of the month. I think that's a shame, but that's progress, I guess. I don't like to go into the Darien. It used to be all jungle and trees, right up to the road. Now? Last time I went to the end of pavement, the trees were all gone. The mountains in the distance still had trees, but the rest were gone. Deeper in the Darien there's still jungle (so I've heard) but I've never felt a need to go. In my opionion there's a difference between "jungle" and "rain forest." I like rain forests. I don't like jungles. My dad spends a few weeks every year with a priest from Wisconsin who's been living in the Darien for 30 years. If you want to do a little community service, PM me and I'll set you up with Father Kasubuski.

    If you don't like jungles but you want a taste without having to take anti-malaria pills, The Rain Forest Hotel, on the Chagres where it goes into the Canal, has a tour through the canopy. It's totally cool. You ride on a small gondola with a guide and get a little taste. I recommend it.

    This was my penance. I hope the impression of me and Panama can be good.
  6. Brennan

    Brennan @OliveOilandGasoline

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2005
    Oddometer:
    879
    Location:
    Europe or on my RTW
    Really great stuff man, thanks for the info.:thumb
  7. JohnTM

    JohnTM I suck toes

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2001
    Oddometer:
    29,221
    Location:
    Cornersville, TN
    Yep, but too bad. He is posting the contents of private communications. That is usually a permaban, he got off light.
  8. Johnny Drunkard

    Johnny Drunkard Todo utz Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2004
    Oddometer:
    7,324
    Location:
    Rickover's Navy
    Indeed.

    FWIW, I think this forum could use another mod. Ideally, someone with experience riding outside of CONUS.

    :augie
  9. RedRyder

    RedRyder Jose Adventurista

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2002
    Oddometer:
    764
    Location:
    Bush, Canada


    :thumb :thumb :thumb
  10. Nabucco

    Nabucco Enfant Terrible

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
    568
    Location:
    The Behave State
    Now I really have to go. I'll be sure to check in with you when I get to plan my trip.
  11. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,886
    Regarding lobster-

    I learned this the hard way. A few years ago, snorkeling on the beach at my uncle's house in Cocolle. It was raining and the chitres were making everyone cry. There was a spider bigger than my hand in the bathroom behind the toilet, and it took an entire can of RAID to kill it. So we decided to go snorkelling.

    Right off the beach are pockets of coral. Walls go down maybe 15 or 20 feet, and each wall of coral was like a lobster high-rise. Every little hole had lobsters in it. So I grabbed one. And that little fucker squirted himself backwards so hard and fast that he slices my thumb and fingers with his sharp little shell. Right into the back of the little hole that he called home. So I reached in and tried to grab him, and he found a way to go deeper, and I kept reaching and reaching. Meanwhile I was down about 15 feet and starting to run out of air. And right then, I stuck a black spiny sea urchin right up my fingernail. With my arm shoulder-deep in the hole. Down that far I couldn't shout.

    So I went into the house and wasted a glass of rum by sticking my finger in it. As soon as it stopped stinging like hot lava, I put on a pair of welding gloves and went back after that little fucker. He was in the same hole. There were other lobsters but I wanted that one. For lunch. So I reached in and grabbed him but instead of lobster, with my arm shoulder-deep in that little hole, I grabbed another spiny black sea urchin.

    Later on I learned from the men that you use a stick with a lasso. So I paid one of the men ten bucks and half an hour later he came back with a gunney sack full of lobster.

    Just remember that if you go to San Blas, there aren't any grocery stores. Bring your own butter. Actually, bring everything. You can't buy anything out there.
  12. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    I agree, totally, and have typed similar thoughts.
    Eventually, this will become one of the more important forums on this site.
    It's actually round in shape, not flat...kinda thing.
    The indexing/cataloging of travel information needs help, even at this early stage.
    Big John's mop has too many places to roam for him to be dedicated to this forum.
    Dr Phil is a busy guy. Helpful as you could ever ask any person to be, but time is limited.
    Yes, this forum really does another Mod.
    I'm sure they (the Mods) will choose wisely.
  13. Johnny Drunkard

    Johnny Drunkard Todo utz Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2004
    Oddometer:
    7,324
    Location:
    Rickover's Navy
    :thumb

    Excellent info on Panama.

    You should start a info thread on Panama.

    :deal
  14. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,886
    Not quite.

    Just because I've never taken a bike to Colombia don't mean I don't know how to get a bike OUT of Panama. There's a right way, a few really wrong ways, and some super-secret, most-awesome-est ways that I'm keeping to myself for now.

    Ok, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but there's more. We need a book to sign, like the one on the corner of the Cassier and the AlCan.
  15. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    Such a wealth of info from all the people on this site.
    Amazing...
  16. smokinjoe

    smokinjoe hippie kicker

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,003
    Location:
    B-F MO.
    O.K......I'll take "WTF Are you talking about for $500":ear
  17. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,886
    My grandfather's father was an actual Pirate. He dug all kinds of holes and we're still not sure where all the treasure is. Digging is in my nature. Digging is Panamanian. We have a thing we called "The Big Dig." It's a trench from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. We have a way to lift entire ships- even old aircraft carriers- right up off the top of the ocean and right through the continental divide. We're still digging and when we're done even the biggest ships ("Post PanaMax") will go through.

    If you want to see the canal as it's been since it opened, come now. In a few years the locks are going to change.

    You can take a tour on the Canal. If you're really into it, you can spend a day on a tug. The tug-tour is cooler than the standard tour. "Standard" is on a boat that just passes through. If you go on a tug, it's absolutely amazing. You'll be on a little boat that's all engine, and you'll push huge ships around. HUGE. You'll feel tiny and at the same time, you'll feel... All Powerful.

    One of my cousins is a Tug Captain. He'd wanted to be one his entire life, but he was Panamanian. The Canal Zone didn't hire Panamanians to be Tug Captains. But now things are better, and he's a Tug Captain.

    If any of you though I had attitude... my cousin the Tug Captain is the quietest, nicest, meanest man ever.
  18. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2002
    Oddometer:
    25,130
    Location:
    out and about
    This thread has been saved....:D
  19. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,886
    On the corner of Highway 37 and the AlCan there's a book in the cafe with the gas station. They close early so I didn't get to sign it. But ADVers who pass through sign it all the time. Next year somebody is going to scan it and post it so we can see just how awesome the adv community is.

    I think we need one in Panama and one in Ushuaia.
  20. theturtleshead

    theturtleshead Tits on a fish

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    831
    Location:
    Medellin Colombia ain,t nowhere better
    Good stuff!! right it,s Friday night let,s all go down the pub!!!!:freaky