Bridging the Darian Gap

Date: 13/01
City: Panama City, Panama
Kilometres ridden: 127
Cumulative kilometre: 30732

We set the alarm clock so we would be at the meeting point early enough. All went well; we used the toll way and didn’t get into a traffic jam and arrived at the meeting point on time.  And just as we started to worry about it being the right place, five other bikes arrived. I was a real relief since the GPS position pointed to a different location, but the description pointed to the gate where we waited.

So we waited until 8:30 and eventually took off in the direction of Carti airport. Tonja – one of the fellow riders- took some pictures of us while we were riding 😀

We continued along the highway until the described turnoff, and from here it got more interesting. The road was windy and hilly at the same time. After a while we had a short break and the girls went into the bush…. Apparently there was some prickly weed which made your bum itchy (look at the three girls in the picture 😉 )

When we arrived at the meeting point, the crew told us that it was too windy for the ship to come to the jetty, so we had to put the bikes into a canoe and bring them to the ship that way. The first bike tried to get onto the boat with a plank. After he got stuck in the middle on his bashplate, we realised that this wouldn’t work very well.

So we made use of the scrap pallets that were lying on the beach. That looked much better but I wasn’t confident that the bike and I wouldn’t end up in the sea.

Sigrid was determined to ride the bike onto the canoe herself, which was great. In the end we made it into the canoe and not into the sea Another great relief!


Then the guys pushed the canoe into the sea. At this point it started to wobble quite a bit and we were only holding the bike feet on the side walls of the canoe – which seemed to flex a bit as well!

Anyway, we arrived at the Stahlratte and they winched the bikes onto the deck.

I was happy when both of our bikes were on deck. Eventually we got all 13 bikes onto the boat, without any incident :).
Then we settled into our sleeping quarters with all our boxes.  The quarters were a bed with a curtain in front which was nice and cosy.

We had lunch before we got to an island where we stayed overnight. The island was packed with houses which didn’t have much space between them.


Here is a picture from the ground floor of the house that we were staying in, and another from the outside.

Below is the picture from the top floor, behind the curtains – at the left – are the rooms, we had the luxury to get a room for ourselves.

When we looked around we found some signs of German influence. Have a look at the sign on the right picture, Scheisshaus means Shit house 😉

I was even more impressed when I entered the Scheisshaus, it was something special. I particularly liked the view down the toilet – the picture on the right. Note the fish swimming there! I guess that this was just for the tourists, the people on the island just squatted close to the water.


Anyway, we realised that it is not easy to live on an island – try to get freshwater, electricity and take care of the garbage and sewage. For the evening we went to the local restaurant to get some fish or meat and have a couple of drinks.

What an exciting day, we had a couple of challenges but everything worked out well. I’m keen to see what the next days bring.

 

Date: 14/01
City: Stahlratte
Kilometres ridden: 0
Cumulative kilometre: 30605

The next morning we got back to the boat and had a great breakfast.

The crew covered the bikes with some foil to protect them from the sea water.

Around lunch time we lifted the anchor and started sailing. We passed a couple of beautiful islands, they looked like pictures from a postcard; we had to pinch ourselves to believe we were really there.

After a days sailing, we moored at Icodub Island, were we had a swim and a leisurely afternoon before the crew prepared the BBQ for the evening.


Here are Gesa, Matze and Maja (part of our crew) posing for the camera:

Below just a couple of pictures from the evening on the island, no more to say 🙂


 

Ahh, I nearly forgot, there were a couple of Cigars and we got offered one :D.
I enjoyed it so much that Sigrid got curious and asked if she could try it, and here she is!

Hope it doesn’t become a habit 🙂.
As you can see, it was a magnificent evening.

Date: 15/01
City: Stahlratte
Kilometres ridden: 0
Cumulative kilometre: 30605

Today we sailed to another island, close to the reef. We once more passed a lot of smaller islands, it just looked beautiful.


On the way to the island, Nihai – one of the motorcycle riders – caught a big fish. While we were not sure what type of fish, we were none-the-less sure that we could eat it. The crew also bought some Lobster form the locals for dinner, so tonight we’d have a seafood dinner.


Just before sunset, we jumped onto the dingy to get to the island. On the left you can see the Stahlratte, on the right a ship that didn’t make it …and broke on the reef.

On the beach there were big beautiful shells, Sigrid had to listen to one and it did sound like waves in the sea.

And again, some more pictures of the sunset.

And then the experts started to cook the dinner.

And the big feast, the Lobster was quite nice, and the fish was very tender and hardly tasted like fish! Good catch Nihai 😀

 

Date: 16/01
City: Stahlratte
Kilometres ridden: 0
Cumulative kilometre: 30605

Today is the day we’d hit the open sea to get to Cartagena, Columbia. As soon we left the reef, we immediately noticed that this wouldn’t be a fun ride. Some people got sea sick straight away, while others took it a bit longer. We took our sea sickness tablets before, which was good, so we survived without getting seasick. I was sitting on the top deck and looked at the horizon the whole time, which helped as well. After a while the frequency of the waves got lower, but the amplitude stayed and the ship rolled quite a bit. In the end we found out that laying in the bed made it easier for us to survive the travel time. By the evening it was not too bad, we started to get used to the sea. However our sleep was interrupted from time to time by our luggage running away from us to the other side of the boat, when the boat rolled heavily. Then, around 3AM, there was a loud bang. As it turned out, a bracket of a boom broke and the boom fell down. Luckily nobody was hurt …and no bike damaged either.

Date: 17/01
City: Cartagena, Columbia
Kilometres ridden: 0
Cumulative kilometre: 30605

In the morning the sea got a lot smoother and hardly anybody looked pale. We arrived in Cartagena around 2PM.

We waited until 6PM before we got told that our passports won’t be stamped today. The crew suggested booking in a hostel where we could park our bikes tomorrow. So we got off the boat, got some money from an ATM, jumped into a Taxi…. Easy as pie. But the driver was not able to find the hostel. He asked other people and even a police man, but nobody knew the hostel. As we found out later, that was good, as it was not a nice hostel.
Lisa (a woman traveling alone around the world) nearly got robbed when somebody tried to climb into her room and grab her luggage from below the window.
But back in the Taxi, I took out my computer, looked into the lonely planet and found a Hotel Marlin, which had reasonable recommendation and the price seemed to be ok. We checked in, and during the time we were sitting in the lounge (the only place that had internet) some of our fellow travellers saw us when they passed by and came in to say hello. It turned out that the hostel was just around the corner. So we went out for dinner, got into a Pizzeria and met some more fellow riders, two brothers, had some pizza together and went home. It was a noisy night, people partied until 4AM and we had to get up at 5:30, so not much sleep that night. I realised the next day that the hotel charged us three times the price mentioned in Lonely Planet, but I didn’t realise it when we booked in… Bummer!  I’ll have to pay more attention next time 🙂

Date: 18/01
City: Cartagena, Columbia
Kilometres ridden: 0
Cumulative kilometre: 30605

Today is the day, we get our bikes from the boat and clear them through customs. So we arrived at the jetty at 6AM, got a lift to the Stahlratte and watched the sunrise

before we started to unload our bikes.
Below is a video of us moving my bike from the ship into the dingy and from the dingy onto the jetty.

And here the same for Sigrids bike.

From the jetty we rode the bikes directly to customs to get them cleared. At this time we didn’t have a passport nor paper work that we legally imported our bikes, we just trusted the guys from the Stahlratte who said “it doesn’t matter, nobody will stop us and ask for papers”
So we spend the next six hours getting the customs paperwork done, so we can start to travel again. Here is nearly the whole bunch, waiting for the clearance.

Well, we got the customs paperwork done today, but the insurance was another kettle of fish, more on that in the next blog.

 

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3 Responses to Bridging the Darian Gap

  1. Inge says:

    oohh what a journey, I would scare to death. but the pics are really nice and I envy you for the viev on this nice islands. Very interesting accomoudations. Have fun further on, big Hugs, we all miss you soo much.

  2. Garth says:

    Wow that was one strong lady! 2-to-1 pully, and she was barely raising a sweat!

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