Shipping Across Darien Gap: Discuss

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by Charles Seguin, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. Charles Seguin

    Charles Seguin Noob4Life

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    Hi there,

    My brother and I are planning an epic South American ride. We will leave the US early this September. I've been put in charge of figuring out the best way to get from Panama to Colombia. We are open to boat or airplane, we would like to minimize cost while avoiding anything truly disastrous. So I'm soliciting YFFs who have experience for your humble opinions on the matter.

    Thanks,

    -Charles
    #1
  2. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    Fastest: Girag (even though they suck)
    Cheapest: Read GatoGato's account.
    Most-funnest: Hard to arrange ahead of time. Go to Panama City, to the hostel on Avenida Argentiana, upstairs from the Subway (by Einstein's big head. You'll know it when you see it and every taxi driver in central Panama City knows it). You'll find the only buletin board in Panama. It has boat info. Boats and sail-dates vary. They usually go from Puerto Bello to Cartegena via the San Blas Islands. Some of the boats have room for one bike, some have room for many bikes. Two guys on KLRs took a catamaran while I was there in March. I almost put my GS on the catamaran, but last-minuted decided not to, and I flew, which worked out ok but was very agravating.

    Why aren't you coming to Colorado in August?
    #2
  3. Charles Seguin

    Charles Seguin Noob4Life

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    I would like to make it to CO. But August will be my last month in the states for half a year and I already have plans to go to Michigan and Wisconsin for a couple weeks.

    Thanks for the info. I'll be sure to look into GatoGato's account.
    #3
  4. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

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    Don't know what sucks about them but I agree they are the fastest

    Frankly I thought that hostel sucked. They had too many people crammed into a 3 bedroom apartment. Our "free breakfast" was moldy bread and brown bananas. When the representative of one of the boats we had called FROM THEIR BULLETIN BOARD showed up to talk to us, the guy at the front desk threw her out of the hostel. When we asked why he said it was a dangerous boat that smuggled drugs ?????

    Try Zuly's. The manager speaks english, they have a bulletin board and know all the captains. Good location and air conditioning. You can call or email to check boat schedules but can't get a reservation until you show up in person.

    http://www.geocities.com/zulys_independent_backpacker/

    Realize that most boats do not stick to any schedule and don't even know if they are going to sail more than a week or so in advance. Flexibility is a must. My suggestion would be to show up in Panama City, ask about boats and check into Girag. Go with the option that fits your schedule and/or budget. Trying to arrange anything more than a couple weeks in advance will be frustrating.

    I sailed on the Stahleratte, a 42 meter boat carrying a total of four bikes. It was a real adventure and am really glad I did it. Make sure to take precautions with your bike as it can be a very salty journey. Somewhere on the web (can't find it now) is a blog in German that you may be able to read to try and divine their schedule.
    #4
  5. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    I didn't mean to suggest that they actually stay at the hostel. Panama City has plenty of good hotels. But as bad as the hostel is, at least they seem to know which boats are not trustworthy.

    Girag has wrecked some bikes, and they just plain old lied to me about why my bike was delayed for almost two days. You have to go with the flow in Latin America, but, as a Panamanian, I had a really hard time with the lies from Girag.
    #5
  6. elgringo-inaz

    elgringo-inaz El Gringo

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    Boyscout,

    How much was the "Stahleratte"? Where did you sail from/to? How long did it take?

    Scott
    #6
  7. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

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    Boat left from Carti, arrived in Cartagena. Carti is 60km from Panama City (if memory serves) about 40km of that is along a muddy jungle road. The road dead ends at a river where we loaded the bikes on dugout canoes and went downriver where the Stahleratte was waiting. Don't plan on taking a road bike and plan on it taking some time. I went with a guy on a heavily loaded VStrom 650 and the mud was too deep for him in sections. The manager at Zuli's (can't remember his name) said it was possible to arrange a truck if the bike or rider wasn't up to the road... but didn't seem all that excited about it :lol3 .

    The cost was $300 for the bike and $300 for the rider, that was supposed to cover everything but beer and soda for 4-5 days. In reality it took 6 days as once we left the protection of the reef we hit a huge windstorm that had us making maybe 3 -3.5 knots all the way there. Most of the people on the boat got sick at some point. It wasn't a huge surprise as we went in January and were told in advance most boats don't run at that time of year due to high winds/swells.

    The Stahleratte was built to survive the North Sea and weathered it well. It never felt unsafe. It has a lounge in back, a kitchen area with table to seat 4-5 and a nice deck on top with a table to seat 10. Overall it was quite roomy. Before we left the reef we spent a day playing in the very beautiful San Blas Islands. Absolutely gorgeous.

    Upon arriving in Cartagena it took a couple days to import the bikes as the handler the boat hired to handle the paperwork was a bit flakey and at the last minute asked for a $20 bribe to provide us with our paperwork. We went ahead and paid it just to get things over with (even though the $300 was supposed to cover everything)
    #7
  8. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

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    That was what was so weird. If they knew the boat wasn't trustworthy, why did they let them advertise on their bulletin board? I went back later to check and the ad was still up (after he warned us away from the boat). The woman from the boat claimed the hostel was run by a family and the sons wanted too big of a cut for arranging passengers. When I asked the guy at the counter (one of the sons?) why they allowed unsafe boats to post on their board, he said it was his mom who managed the board and she didn't know anything about the boats or captains.

    Whatever, the whole situation gave me a bad vibe.

    Sorry to hear that. My only experience with them was when I dropped Jean-Luc off and it seemed to go very smoothly on both ends.

    Maybe as a Gringo I am just used to Panamanians lying to me :lol3
    #8
  9. Charles Seguin

    Charles Seguin Noob4Life

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    after looking into GatoGato's account of his crossing I dont think I'll be following his example :eek1.

    As far as boats go, should I just look into it at the Hostels when I'm down there, are there any other hostels other than the aforementioned that have bulletin boards about sailboats? Any other ways to find a boat? :ear
    #9
  10. TengaiJohn

    TengaiJohn Long timer Supporter

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    I was going to say, don't do anything Dos Gatos did.... :rofl
    #10
  11. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

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    Not that I am aware of. JL and I spent quite awhile looking for boats and it seems that the combination of Latin America + flakey boat schedules + people's flakey travel schedules mean that nothing really get's done till you are in Panama. I can tell you that it is a lot harder between December and April. Other times of the year it should be easier.
    #11
  12. Belfegor

    Belfegor .

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    Check this web site : www.hostelwunderbar.com they have a list of boats doing this trip, also they gave you info on how many motorcycles can go on each trip, good info on that site.
    Also chek this one www.stahlratte.org I guess you already know something about this boat, based on reviews that I found online this is one of the best ones.
    I'm planning to ride from Ohio to Peru in a few weeks and if you have any questions or info for me let me know.

    Suerte
    #12
  13. Belfegor

    Belfegor .

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    also I'm moving permanently to Peru, so, if you need some help or info just contact me. This message is also for any inmate driving trough lima Peru.

    #13
  14. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    Just wait a sec... since I had a fairly nice head injury a couple of years ago sometimes it takes me a while to place things. And people, especially when they use different names on different forums. Were we going to meet in Buenos Aires a couple of months ago? Are you the only person I know of who has ridden Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia in the last year?
    #14
  15. boyscout

    boyscout sittin' down

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    We met somewhere, can't remember where exactly. Might have talked about meeting in Buenos Aires but I decided not to go to BA. Hope I didn't flake on you. I did do Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia this year so .......

    I've used two usernames on this forum. boyscout is the longterm one. I used MotoLard for awhile as a joke when I started gaining
    weight on this trip. Real name is Teryk. Currently in Copacabana, Bolivia. About to cross the border to Peru.
    #15
  16. Charles Seguin

    Charles Seguin Noob4Life

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    Hey, that site looks great; thanks for the info. I'll be sure to look out for your ride report in a few weeks:deal
    #16
  17. TengaiJohn

    TengaiJohn Long timer Supporter

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    #17
  18. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    I stole this from "Los Angeles to Buenos Aires."

    "Motorcycle friendly vessels between Panama and Colombia :
    Guido, vessel "Seeadler", hostel.wunderbar [at] yahoo.com
    Mark, vessel "Melody", freshaircharters [at] yahoo.com
    Ludwig, vessel "Stahlratte", info.Steelrat [at] Les-Raisting.de"
    #18
  19. TengaiJohn

    TengaiJohn Long timer Supporter

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    deja vu!!!

    estamos un poco dormidos hoy, no??? :D
    #19
  20. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    Y a noche tome mas que una cerveza!
    #20