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The flight to Bogota was one of the best I’ve ever had. First row on the plane, nobody next to me, window, nice beverage, what else could one ask for. Immigration was quick. My bag was the first off the conveyor. Walked outside and my cab was waiting to take me to my hotel. This is how traveling should be.

I decided to stay at the same hotel as Graham and Sue. They had researched it and found something for pretty cheap in the heart of the city. The room was no larger than a dorm and had no window, but who hangs out in the room anyway.

The next morning we took the train to Montezalit, a cathedral that overlooks the city. From here you had a spectacular view of the entire city.

The cathedral:

Cool flower:

The next day’s mission was to to collect Ruby from the shipping company and get her through customs. Importing and exporting her has always been pretty easy. Too easy if you read some of the reports of travelers that have gone before me. Today was payback with a vengeance. Here is the sequence of events:

1 ) First was a cab ride to Girag the shipping company that had Ruby.
2 ) Girag gave me the paperwork take to customs.
3 ) Took my cab to the customs office.
4 ) At the customs office, I was able to get the necessary paperwork fairly quickly.
5 ) Went to make the photocopies in the building next door.
6 ) Waited in the customs office for 2 hours (told it would be about 15 minutes)
7 ) Learned that I was given the wrong paperwork. Start again.
8 ) New photocopies had to be made.
9 ) Take my cab with a custom’s inspector back to Girag.
10) Inspector checks the VIN
11) We take my cab back to the customs office.
12) Wait another 30 minutes.
13) Make some more photocopies
14) Wait another 20 minutes
15) Make some more photocopies
16) Take cab back to Girag with all the necessary paperwork
17) Put Ruby back together.
18) Finally follow the cab to the house where I will store the bike.

In the end the whole process took about 6 hours. Absolute nightmare.

Through a friend, I have a place to store my bike and a place to stay. Ruby is staying with Felipe, while I’m staying with Aifa, the cousin of my friend Michelle in L.A. This is so much better than a hotel. It is so nice to get to hang with locals. A lot of really good home cooking as well. Really happy to have been setup like this. Hope I can return the favor some day.

H


I arrived in at Panama City in a massive down pour. Very unfortunate because I crossed one of the most beautiful bridges, the Panamanian Centennial Bridge. An amazing bridge. Here’s a Wikipedia link if interested:

Centennial Bridge Link

As is customary for me when entering any city, I got completely lost. I was trying to find my way through to the Tocumen Int’l Airport. Decided to ask a cop on a scooter, and he volunteered to show me the way. What followed was the most insane ride through the inner city. The cop was like Moses. He would honk his horn, and the traffic would part. It was my job just to stay on his ass the whole time. But he was on a tiny scooter and could slip between anything. The big GS on the other hand … well I’m simply amazed at what the big GS could squeeze through. I was constantly thinking I’m going to hit, there’s just no way. But in the end we came through unscathed.

Found a hotel near the airport so I could drop off the bike at Girag first thing. Ran in to the English couple Sue and Graham again. They were staying at the same place. What a surprise.

The next morning I got the bike to Girag. They had me take the windscreen and mirror off, but did not ask about the battery or fuel left in the tank. After jumping through the custom’s office hoops, all was done.

Next I headed out to the Canal. Just made it to see the last one leaving.

They had a museum there of course, and it was a mad house. Imagine a small room packed with people, kids screaming and running amuck, while explosion sounds played over the loud speakers every 5 seconds. It was chaos. They did have this very cool ship simulator though. You could watch the ship go through the canal from the Captains deck.

And so ends my Central American journey. Tomorrow I fly out to Bogota, Colombia. Good times await.

H

Panama

Filed Under The Americas '09


I hit the road early today and made for the Sixaola border crossing. Exiting Costa Rica and entering Panama was painless. Whole process took less than an hour. However, there is a bridge that spans the river dividing the two countries.

Its an old rail road bridge converted for vehicle and foot traffic. Loose planks have been placed on either side of the tracks for cars and people to pass over. If my bike’s front wheel should happen to slip between the boards or the rail it could get really ugly fast.

There was no way I was going to push and my legs are too short to Flintstone across, so it seemed to me the best way was to just go for it at speed and pray. I queued up on the bridge and waited for the longest time for all pedestrian traffic to clear on my side. The last thing I wanted to do was have to stop or slow. I took off and it went pretty well until I came up to a man pushing his bike on my side of the tracks. Had no choice but to stop and negotiate around him. After that, I was all over the place and almost lost it. Here’s the video:

After that the ride was nice. There is little need to ask directions in Panama. If you screw up (as I constantly do), everyone on the side of the road starts to wave at you and point. Made navigation very easy.

Panama is a really beautiful country. A lot like Cost Rica. However, the food so far has been horrible. Their main brew is called Atlas, and is undrinkable. Tried an old standby “Heineken”and it was worse. Not like what we have back home. But at least the place is cheap cheap cheap. My steak dinner was less than 10 bucks (sure it was only worth two, but still)

H


This morning I got a tour of the park. Monkeys, green snakes, sloths, exotic birds and fauna are said to be in abundance. But not today it seemed. We did see termites, ants, and a butterfly. But it was still cool to just wander through the jungle with my very hungover tour guide Bambi.

Termites:

Bambi had me try different fruits that he picked up off the ground or from the trees. “Go ahead try this. The monkeys eat this” I don’t know, looks little odd, are you sure its safe? But it was all good. Some of it was actually really tasty.

After awhile it started raining in buckets again. We decided to call it a day, and while I didn’t really get to see anything, hanging with Bambi was a good time. Back at the hotel, I was so soaked, I decided to spend another day here just to dry out. But tomorrow Ill have to iron ass it to Panama in order to make my flight to Colombia.

H


This morning it rained like mad. It did not stop for 12 hours. Hard solid rain. The kind of rain you can’t be under even for a moment and not get completely soaked. This kept me indoors for most of the day. I wanted to go visit the national park next door, but decided to just hang back and try again in the morning. The town seems to completely shut down in the rain. No body was around and the streets deserted. Not much to really do other than sleep I guess. Fortunately there is always something that needs to be fixed or adjusted while traveling so keeping busy was not a problem.

That night the rain finally cleared, and the same crew from last night were hanging out across the street again. There were some Indians as well. The locals thought it was cool, because they speak Indian and no one understands it. There was a pregnant girl pounding one beer after another. The other Indians in her group were talking with her and kept pointing at her very pregnant belly. I figured they must be trying to talk her out of drinking so much being with child and all. But I was wrong, and another beer was shoved in her hand as the conversation continued.

Cahuita is a small very cool tourist town. Nothing has been done to beautify the place for the tourist, and I think that is one of the reason I like it so much. The people here are incredibly friendly, and you can walk around with ease anywhere and strike up a conversation with anyone. Reminds me a lot of Belize. Pristine white beaches that extended under the jungle canopy, palms trees, clean blue water, and waves! Every beach town I’ve been to along the Caribbean side had no waves at all. It was like being on a lake. The only thing missing here was sun. Cahuita is surprisingly expensive though. You can go through money very quickly. Even the places the locals go to aren’t that cheap.

So tomorrow I try for the Parque Nacional Cahuita. Bambi, my tour guide promises me that Ill see huge amounts of wildlife. Can’t wait.

H

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