1/27-30/2012 We were on a mission to figure out a different route to get to Columbia than paying for a sell boat. Clay headed into town to figure out what was going on with his bike, hoping that all he needed to do was replace his sprockets and chain. I walked along the river and made it from old town to banking area which was a nice morning walking around town. We grabbed lunch and a taxi when Clay got back without luck until tomorrow for his bike. We headed to the Sailboat ports to see if we could talk our way onto a boat for cooking, no luck. But it was a nice day of bouncing around the out skirts of town. On our way out of our hostel the Taxi driver told us not to drive into this ghetto looking area then he made a gun with his hand and went bang bang bang bang. Ugh what? Yeah we already drove through this area, that’s where Clay almost stopped because we were lost and I blasted past not about to stop and we made it out fine. Nick a Canadian rider said he was riding through and got hit in the head with a soccer ball form a balcony, haha.
Getting back to the hostel we shot out a couple of emails to a few captains and hostels that help set up sailboats and bikes for Columbia. We went through our Pros and Cons for how to get to Columbia;
My two options.
First one is the usually chosen one, pay $850 get on a boat on Thursday February the 4th and be there on the 8th, riding through Columbia by the 9th, everything included and paper work.
Pro's: Get there quickly, hassle free, they do all of the paperwork, one boat, pretty straight forward, party hostel on the water, get on my way toward the Southern Tip before it snow without having to rush to much.
Con's: Everyone does it, not that much adrenaline, $$$$$$$$$$$, to straight forward
Second head down the East coast catch a Cargo to the border of Panama/ Columbia catch two more small boats until you land in Turbo Columbia.
Pro's: ADRENALINE, adventure, not many do it this way, the unknown, cheap
Con's: Could take up to three weeks thus making me rush through a country so I can get to the South before it snows, could get stuck somewhere, could be a huge headache with my horrible Spanish, have to get allot of paperwork done, can't get it done till Monday so I won't start looking for boat until earliest on Tuesday. Had a few beers and great story telling time with Joel from NZ and Nick from BC, trading stories of our adventures so far. We headed to bed. We were tired of stressing over it and knowing that the small boat way could save money it could take easily over 4-5 times as long. So we finally said without knowing what the other was going to do that we were going to catch this Sailboat through the islands of San Blas leaving on the 4th.Clay woke up early and headed back to the Kawasaki shop, I headed to the clinic in town. No doctor in until Monday so I headed into town and Western Unioned 100 bucks each to the captain to save our spot on the boat. We ran all around picking up a few odds and ends that we needed for the trip. One day we jumped on the bikes and headed out to find the Panama Locks, we got lost and turned around a few times but finally made our way. Not going to lie they were a little smaller than I had expected. They were amazing and we lucked out to catch 12 sailboats four groups of three tied together come through get water dropped down and then pass through the lock and out toward the Pacific side from the Atlantic. For the big cargo boats to get through it cost them over 100,000 bucks... crazy!!! We went through the Museum, so amazing that not too much has changed of the mechanics of how it works pretty brilliantly simply. I promised my brother In-law Kyle that I would go to a Pizza Place in the city for him. He lived here when he was a kid and has come back a few times to visit and swears that the pizza was amazing. I would have to agree hands down the best pizza in Central America. The place is called Napoli and if you come to Panama there are two go to the one in the city (the banking area) fancy but so so delicious. We had one huge pizza there specialty and a small chicken one and each paid 7 bucks and were all full!! We walked across to the Casino I lost to bucks and then we haggled with 7 different Taxi’s until we got a good deal back to our hostel. Clay and I headed back to the Clinic this morning, he was having trouble with his eye and my feet were still messed up. Basically for the past two weeks my shins swelled up then my feet swelled up but it comes and goes and is very itchy at times. But the worst part about it that every time I lay down I get up and it hurts a lot to walk for the first 5 minutes or so like horrible arthritis. We paid 50 cents got checked up and Clay paid an extra 2 bucks for drops and was good to go. She thinks for me it is uric acid levels form eating unhealthy cheap street food, lots of beer, and not a lot of exercise since I sit on a motorcycle most days. I have a blood test tomorrow morning will get the results back Weds morning and make my way to the East coast to get my bike loaded on the boat by Friday. (Wish me luck!!) I had my last dinner at 7 can’t eat or drink anything other than water until the test in the morning.. No beer for me tonight…. Oh well..I really like the city, safe but at the same time places you never want to go (already went there but we won’t talk about that…haha)
Woke up to the sound of crashing waves 5ft from my tent door, such a peaceful way to wake up. Had a cruddy instant coffee, but caffeine still does the trick no matter how it taste. We then walked to town to find internet, not realizing our campground had wifi (slow took ages, but none the less they had it). It is ridiculously hot here; we died all the way into town maybe about a mile haha. Found internet about half mile out of town then walked back to the market and bought lunch. We got back to the campsite had beer and tuna fish sandwich, and then just relaxed for a few hours. I am trying to figure out a ridiculous dentist bill I received so I needed to get back online, and by the time I asked if I could sue wifi was told no turned off for the day. We grabbed our computers in search of wifi, no luck but did buy Beans and Rice for dinner. This was the smallest market you have ever seen, all they had was pasta or rice, they were out of soda and beer the second time we went back. Nothing on the shelves but dust. We saw a scorpion walking near our tent, Clay was not stoked to say the least, then we found out Tarantulas by the bathroom, and crocs in the river hahahaha. We headed over the river to a hostel for beer and met a couple new friends. We ended up at a bonfire on the beach for a few and then headed back to the tent not sure if we were leaving in the morning.
We did not leave, both woke up with them same thought “lets stay one more night pack up early the next day and make it to Panama City and sort out our boat situation. We had a relaxed day of hiking over to a beach café, play soccer (football), swimming, reading, and just plain old fashion relaxing. We had chorizo, rice and beans for dinner. A guy rode up today on a brand new 2012 KLR with 1000 miles. First off the guy was a little looney and reminded me dead on of the guy who wanted his stapler back in “Office Space” Mert I think his name was. Supposedly he had ordered and bought the bike in Panama but now because he has it registered here and doesn’t live here they won’t let him take it out of the country. The reason he bought it here instead of in Canada and ride it down was because he refuses to ride through Mexico more than one….?? So now he is stuck here trying to figure out what he will do.
Had a gnarly night sleep, never sweated so much while trying to fall asleep, this place is HOT!!!! We woke up early and made coffee and started to pack up the bikes. We dropped off the deep sand onto the beach and rode back to the River crossed it and headed back toward the center of Panama near Santiago. From there we headed toward Panama, I have never seen so many cops on the road. They were everywhere with Radar guns just giving tickets out left and right. There were cops cars, bikes, and just people standing on the highway and if they wave you down you are supposed to stop and get a ticket (no thanks). Like out never got pulled over, we rode hard but smart today. Lots of Pan-American Highway today, my back and neck are not stoked.. Too much sitting not enough moving around.
We stopped at a gas station talked to two local gentlemen on bikes and they were from Panama. Every year they do some type of Central American tour, yesterday their other riding partner hit a cow, wrecked his bike, and broke his arm) he is still in the hospital. We got correct directions from them to get to the Kawasaki Dealership and Hostels. We somehow, still don’t know how we did it but ended up at the wrong bridge. Not too big of a deal very tired but we searched around no, no luck too expensive. We then decided to head into the old town, when we asked a local if it was safe he said 50-50, haha oh well lets go for it still day time. We rolled into the most sketchiest place I have been on this whole trip, defiantly the projects where there were tons of apartment buildings stuffed with people falling down in pieces. We made it to this one street where it was taxi graveyard, and Clay was leading, Clay went to stop to figure out where we were when I heard two guys yelling at him. I looked at him as if was crazy for trying to stop here to figure out where we were, I slammed the gas and blasted past him down into the ghetto. He followed after me and I was able to find the fancy neighborhood where the hostels were supposed to be. Today was by far the hottest day I have ever ridden in, the humidity is crazy. My bike was ready to overheat once we made it to the hostel, my body was soaked in sweat, and my mind was exhausted.
The first one was full, the second one was full except it had on dorm bed left and if we wanted to wait to see if a reservation showed up we might score a double private room for the same cost for a dorm bed $11 each. The second one had two DR 650 sitting out front of it we met one of the owners he was from BC, Canada named Nick. We waited till 5:30 asked again and he gave us the room, nobody had shown up to claim the room. We threw all of our stuff in there realized it was a single bed, but did not care we wanted something where we could lay our stuff out and go through it. We went out to dinner with Nick and found out that there is a crew of bikers 18 of them heading to Columbia on the 31st, they are full but I still emailed just in case they have no shows.
We sat in the lobby working on the internet looking for boats or a plan. Met another Dr guy from New Zealand, it was a rad night trading stories with everyone. One guy had taken 7months from Oregon to Panama, another took 5months, I took 3months, and clay had taken 2.5 months. Pretty amazing considering I thought I was taking my time.
We got breakfast, packed up the bikes and got on our way. We flew all day, kept on each other tails changing back and forth ripping through traffic. Down a small highway between Jaco and the Pan American highway. Gas is very expensive right now 5+ bucks for a gallon of regular. It was rad to ride with someone else again, just chasing each other around Costa Rica. We were going down this tiny little coastal road, all of a sudden I realized where I was, what I was doing and all I could do was and stand up and start laughing uncontrollable. It is getting hot and I am not a skinny little guy I sweat constantly no matter if I am cruising at 80mph, walking to the store, or just sleeping; all I do is sweat! Haha.
Nothing to crazy happened; the roads were either amazing or all potholes, I am ready to find some dirt soon though. We were going to head for the coast about 25 km out of the way, then we decided to keep going until the next town Neily where there were places to sleep or we could push it and go into Panama. We made it to Neily around 3:30Panama time and decided it was a bad idea to try and get through the border crossing then have to drive another hour into panama to make it to the town David to sleep. So we found a place with safe parking. We each paid 15bucks but we got fed some as well, very nice family ran hotel. We will cross the border hopefully by 7:30 or so tomorrow morning now I pass out. I had asked Clay if he ever gets lost, he said yup all of the time, he said that he too had only met people that claim they never get lost. Well I said don’t worry I always get lost so we are on the same page.. we just laughed.
MY LAST CENTRAL AMERICAN BORDER CROSSING!!!
We woke up around 6am got all of our stuff together and packed up the bikes. We heard if the border is busy then it takes for every this is the main crossing on the Pan-American Highway into Panama. We flew to the border and right through into Panama….Woooops go back to Costa and get checked out and cancel permit, didn’t even see an office thought it was a bus station. It’s only 7:30 we park our bikes in view and get into a huge line with all Costa Rican volleyball high school team. We finally are up, passports stamped and permits cancelled. We head back to panama border, get into a massively slowly moving line and wait, sweat, wait and sweat. Haha. I stood in line while Clay ran around to find the permit office, he came back and I ran around to find us a snack. Perfect timing he is only 3 away from the window that would of sucked. We get our stamps and head to the correct window, nope wrong one we are pointed in the right direction. We are then told we need insurance first so for 15bucks each we have insurance and go back to the window. But before they can we have to go to another office and get a stamp then go back to the window to get our permits. Hand over all the paperwork and copies with my passport, and then we wait and wait. Were sitting on the bench and a guy starts to talk to us he says we can’t seat and wait we have to be in the window bugging them or else they will take their time, so we go back to the window. Just in time the guy before us gets his permit and leaves I hear my name but can’t get in, oh well I will do it like the locals and ram myself through the crowd/line and get to the front. Sweet it worked and I grab my passport and permit, Clay follows my lead and grabs his too and were done..right? Nope. Now we have to find a guard to check us out and check our bikes, we find the guard without looking at our bikes he signs us out and we grab our bikes and make it 20feet before fumigation. After 3 hours, NOW WERE FREE PANAMA HERE WE COME!!!!
We decided that we wanted to make it to Santa Catalina even though it was way out of the way to Panama City we are only on motorcycles in Panama one time. So we saw on three different maps that there were two different roads getting to the city of Sona and then one to the tip of a peninsula where Santa Catalina is. We really making good time flying with each other into David and grab a quick bite of lunch we know we have enough time to make it there in one shot so time to move. We are blasting down the road and then realized we haven’t seen a turn off at all for Sona, so we pull over and ask, yup we had missed it about 20km back or we can go another 30km forward and take a turn off in Santiago for Sona and then ride back North. No no we decide to turn around hit the small road and make it. Again this small road is on three different maps. We see a sign for Las Palmas not for Sona but Los Palmas is on the same road says the maps. So we rip up this sweet tiny paved road through the jungle all of a sudden it turns into a dirt road and we still keep flying down it. A dog runs out and starts to attack Clay I am positive he is getting bit but for some reason he slams on his breaks and stops instead of gassing it away. I pass him oh crap BRAKES, dead end. We both turn around with darks flipping out on us, somehow neither one of us got bit I was dying laughing though. We head back to the road, swear we saw another nicer dirt road we head back up the road. Clay asks a guy walking nope doesn’t connect but there is one North. We head north, nothing. We decided it had to be the road it is on three MAPS!!! So we try again ripping down the correct dirt road (which is an awesome radtastic road) I see a truck coming wave it down just to make sure we are going the right way….NOPE YOU HAVE TO GO TO SANTIAGO!! At this point we are both just laughing; it is already past 4pm so we’re not going to make it. We finally make it to Santiago see the road we want to Sona but we need gas now almost out. We go into town get gas, find out that sun sets at 6:30 with the time change, now I am 2hours ahead of home. We then ask how long it takes three hours by bus two hours by bike, it’s five o’clock. We look at each other nod and start the bikes and rally toward the road, the road is newly paved and we fly down it making good timing. Made it to Sona and took our turn off for Santa Catalina. The road goes from new pavement to potholed out dirt, I am having a hard time seeing due to my crappy Fly DS helmet shield keeps coming down on top of my Goggles, won’t stay up (this helmet sucks). We take another turn for the beach and the road turns into an amazing roller coaster ride, rolling hills fast quick turns, brand new pavement all with the sun setting in our faces. We roll into town pick out a hostel/ camping area. We miss it and end up at a river crossing, Clay really wants to cross. I tell him that there is one last hostel on the other side; enough said we splash through the fresh water river detour right and rip down the beach as the sun setting!!! So so so rad!! We pull down a sandy road, find $6 camping on the beach, we pull our bikes to the spot zigzagging everywhere spray rooster tails of sand as we go... just can’t stop laughing.
We setup our tents go grab a bite to eat and a few beers and walk along the beach as we drink and talk about the fun long 12hr day. We pass out and Clay got hit by a huge Coconut falling of a tree over his ten which hit him directly in the arm.
Woke up to a nice home cooked breakfast, talked to one of the workers and found out that there was a moto shop into and I may not need to go into San Jose. We walked down to the shop to see if they had any tires that would fit my bike. Yup a set of Pirelli for $150 for the set and 12bucks to slap them on. I walked back to our place and grabbed my bike and dropped it off with brake pads for them to change while they have the tires off. Clay wanted to get rid of his crappy Panniers that kept breaking and exploding all of his gear everywhere every time he hit a bump. I remembered the Wolfman soft bag setup and we went in search of drybags. We asked at the front desk of our place and she had someone drop them off within 30 minutes a little big but only had size large so he took them. We then took our Leatherman’s and cut the boxes off leaving one side as a heat shield. Using bungees and a tie down he now has bomb proof soft, water proof, rugged, panniers. I walked back to the shop to find my bike ready to go with sexy tires, although they did not change my brake pads!?!?! I needed them changed BAD!! With bad Spanish I figured out that they could not get the front pads off and was trying to tell me to by a whole new caliper. I said I would ride like this till Panama and then figure it out with a few down days in Panama City figuring out our boat situation. He just told me Poco brakes poco brakes, use my front brakes very little.. Yeah that makes you comfy.
We load up and headed on our way, yup Clay hope you ready for Fletch’s voodoo because we are lost and missed the turn off somewhere.. hahaha After a little driving back and forth we are on the right road and heading south toward the coast and Panama. It was nice to ride with someone again, we came over a bridge and tons of people had parked and were looking at something. So we parked and headed back up the bridge, there were gators everywhere. It was a nice break to get off the bikes, walk around, and check out gators. We pulled into Jaco and on the weekend it def made me think of Myrtle Beach, everyone was there to party and go to the beach. Every hotel and hostel was full. We finally found one after 30+ minutes of driving around. We made dinner drank a few beers and then we both worked on the internet while getting eaten alive!!! Tons and tons of mosquitoes. Went to sleep around midnight. It is just getting hotter and hotter as we ride south, I may pass out wearing my helmet.. hahaha
Lots of catch up, been slacking at the lodge. We will just say that the power/ internet keeps going out so hard to write..(Not true but sounds like a good excuse.)
I am slowly figuring out surfing, still have a long way but it is becoming a lot more awesome the more and more I go and get better. I got to surf almost twice a day swell permitting, the last few days of my stay the waves were not existing but still nice to get out in the water. My friend Ben had to go to Costa for a little get away slash boat part pickup so I hung out with Becca and JJ every day. We went on late night hikes through the jungle over crazy swing bridges just for a little pizza. You wake up 6-7am everyday and go to sleep by 9-10pm every night. Went on a few nice long beach hikes, the sunsets were incredible and the people were awesome. I am sad to leave but very very anxious and excited to get on the bike and ride until I get to Panama to catch a boat to Columbia. I will be meeting up with Clay who I met randomly, once in Mexico and another in Guatemala, we will meet in San Jose Costa Rica and ride to catch a boat to Columbia from Panama together.
Woke up crack of dawn 5:30am or so and started to pack up my bags and get ready. Walked with JJ to the Surf Lodge for coffee around 6:30am, got some coffee strolled around town and then loaded up the bike. I wanted to say good bye to my friend Becca, although she was at work and supposedly a dog that lives there hate motorcycles and will bite you if you show up on one. So all geared up I walked over to her work, as I walked onto the property all of the dogs start going crazy barking at me and walking around me, they had not done that since I have been here. All of a sudden the dog I was warned about got up from his spot barked at me walked behind me and BIT ME in the back of the knee. Although it was just a warning bite no skin breakage that was the first time I have ever been bit by a dog. I hate that dog it ran away before I could turn around with my steel toe boots.. I said my goodbyes and headed off on a 25km muddy slick road (even more slick when you have no more tread on your rear tire). You know your tire is bad when the locals look at it and tell you to get a new tire... hahaha..
I splashed through the river cross which was a little higher then first time since it had rained heavy the past few days. Made it to the asphalt and flew into Rivas, I was feeling very tired, weird, sick with a cold, and out of it. I got gas and headed to find a bank. I started heading to the border and I truly felt like crap, I almost turned around and went back to Ben’s to go to sleep. I got close to the border and it was a mess, trucks parked everywhere, thus making you drive on the shoulder which was a foot think of mud. Got through to the border, a guy came out trying to help me I said no thanks and went on my way. I made it through the first check point and it started to pour, I still was feeling awful as I turned into the next area where there was 15 people walking my way wanting to help and pay. I was too tired to deal I turned back around and found the first guy who was trying to help me out earlier. He shot me through the process without a hitch and sent me on my way.
It is still pouring rain, I see three other bikers ahead of me at the car spray to wash the bikes before being allowed into Costa Rica. One guy from Canada was on an adventure bikes all set up wearing full gear, dirt bike boots, pants, pressure protections suit, full face touring helmet. The other two guys were on late/ early 80-90’s Honda Shadows, not real gear other than helmets one full face, one chopper style top hat. On guy had jeans and jacket other was wearing a ripped jacket, shorts, and a lot of bandages.. Yup that’s right he wrecked at night in the mountains of Honduras in the rain and tore his skin off. The two on Hondas had shipped their bikes to Belize and were riding to Panama for a three week adventure, the other guy was headed to Brazil to see family and pick u his wife then ride around South America before heading back to Canada. I hung out with them while we ran around and got all of our paper work, insurance, stamps, and permits figured out. Insurance? They supposedly had to get it for Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, whoops this is the first place I have gotten insurance other than Mexico. Oh well lucked out on that one I guess no trouble.. Moving on.. Haha
I rode with those guys for about an hour when they pulled off for lunch I pressed on, even though the border crossing went smooth and fast it still took over 2hrs. I started picking up my pace, but was so tired all morning and day that I finally had to stop for some food and a red bull wake up and get back at it. I started to see a lot of cops, I came up on a parked one he ran toward me pulled out his Radar Gun I slammed brakes and made it by without a problem. Then there were tons of bike cops with radar guns pulling everyone over. I knew I was starting to run a late for my 5pm meeting time with clay at Wal-Mart near the airport outside of San Jose. There was a lot of traffic between Puntarenas to San Jose, so I was bobbin n weaving all the way. Came up on a police check point, they were waving everyone over..(Oh come on I’m not going to make it before dark and miss Clay) wait what just happened yup he waved me through!!! I pull into town get turned around for a sec see Wal-Mart and pull in. Sweet there’s clay lets go to hostel. We rode to the hostel yup full, oh yeah its Friday night probably should have booked that one haha.. So we rode in circles in the dark looking for a hostel with safe parking, screw it there is a hotel with safe parking I’ll take it. We shared a room and did some research on line ate dinner and headed to bed.