On the way to Panama City we had a stop in Playa Farallon at Trixi´s little cozy Taca Tucan Hostel just next to the beach. The bikes were just fitting in her front garden and we jumped into the ocean directly after parking. We spend a nice evening together with her, her friends and with Adeline and Francoise (our container-buddies who parked at the beach) in her garden drinking beer and eating Pizza. The Pan-American Highway is not really nice at this point, so where possible we made a little detour through the hills along the coast.
Now the serious part started. We rode to Panama City where we booked a room just behind the Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas) together with all our container buddies: Adeline and Francoise (France) and Lars and Carin (Swiss). We explored a bit the bridge and the area, cooked and sorted our paper work.
The next morning we all needed to go to get the inspection of our vehicles done. We were told to be there at 7 AM and we agreed to be there already at 6:30 AM. When we arrived there was already a long cue but hey, at 10 past 9 AM we all had our inspection done. Now we had to wait until 2 PM to get the papers. We drove back to the hostel having breakfast and another shower and to pack our things together. The plan was to leave after the inspection directly to Colón where we had the loading appointment at 7:30 next morning. At 2 PM at the office they told us to sit down and wait a few minutes…we were watching the scenery… clerks carrying coffee cups, clerks carrying empty boxes, waiting, clerks carrying some papers, waiting a little bit longer and after two hours they handed out the inspection papers. The traffic in the city was mad! And Adeline, Francois and us we decided to stay one more night in the hostel in Panama City and drive very early morning to Colón. Adeline made incredible delicious crepes and we had a relaxed evening.At 5:30 with the first glimpse of daylight we left. The air was still cool and we drove north along the Panama Canal, through the rain forest and on the highway to Colón. It was a real good decision we realized because we heard the road was blocked the last evening and they had a hell of traffic yam. Now we drove only 80 minutes. The last meters it started to rain and we just parked under the roof at the meeting point and heavy rain started. We do not want having everything wet in the container and we were praying that it will stop soon.
Boris was our agent on the Panama side. His dad, “Papa Boris”, arrived at the meeting point and the rain stopped when we were driving over to the port area. We found our way in a convoy (two more cars were sharing another container) on this gravel area full of rain filled potholes trucks and trash. Finally we were all parking around the two containers. Papa Boris told us that we probably need to take off all four panniers to make it fit. Hmmm not nice but well… There was no dry or clean area to put anything and we always have to unpack the pannier to take it off. So it was a bit off a challenge to sort everything. Of course meanwhile the sun was out, it became immediately hot and we were sweated in a second. Our container buddies allowed us to store all our `loose´ things in their cars – THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR THAT AGAIN!!! As a precaution we organized some big rubbish bags where we `sealed in´ all our sweated gears and boots not to `contaminating´ the cars of our buddies ;) So far so good! On arrival we identified with the pre-bill of lading the correct container together with Papa Boris and an hour later they started to load the wrong car (one of the other group with the second container) into our container while we were sorting our things. Luckily Sascha saw it and so they had to unload it again… puhhh! Additional Papa Boris is suddenly mentioning that our two motorcycles might not fit in the container as they are really big… ????!!!!???? WHAT??? We gave all our measurements upfront to them from the beginning – even the width with the panniers on. So we told him there is no question about putting maybe one bike in the other container. They HAVE to fit!
The loading was a sweaty act. Kerstin’s bike they dropped once with the front wheel in the space between the loading truck and the container. It plunged hard on the fork – uffff. We had to fit the bikes in on the main-stand. Sascha did not like that idea at all but there was no other way and finally we fit them and strapped everything as best as possible – DONE. Let´s hope they will arrive in one piece and still standing…
The next step was the customs. Boris was waiting for us outside at the port entrance and the paperwork was done pretty quickly. Good part! When we paid Boris he was wondering about the amount and said $300 USD is missing because of the two bikes. Hmmm??? The last invoice was nothing mentioning like that and as well in the e-mails he never said the price will rise. We discussed a while and in the end we agreed he takes over 100 and us we share the 200 between us as we did not want to risk delayed shipping. It was a shame somehow – everything went well and now that – it left a bad taste in our mouth. So be aware! Ask for the final invoice because it may not be up-dated by them!
We had to find our way back to Panama City where we booked a hotel with a roof-top pool. We had to stay 5 nights before our flight to Cartagena Colombia is going. We do not like to stay in cities that much but we wanted to make the best out of it. We explored the area we lived, the old town (Casco Viejo), the fish market and the viewpoints. We went to the shopping center to get some supplies and of course we went to the Panama Canal. With the bus you can go for 0,25 cents to Miraflores, Panama Canal locks. It is worth a visit. You can watch the boats driving through the locks and in the museum you learn everything about the construction, the boats, the fauna and flora. In the little cinema they show a kind of short summary – if you don´t see it you do not really miss anything. The entrance fee is $20 but the ticket is valid the whole day. We went early morning and when we left at 1pm we sold the tickets for $10 USD.
Of course we spent time as well at the pool and enjoying the views from the roof top… and getting prepared for the process to take the vehicles out at the Colombian side. The flight is going on Sunday the 4th November and on Monday we need to start the process which will take probably 1 and a half to two days… A new chapter: South America (America del Sur)!!! We are really curious, excited and looking forward to explore this new continent!!!