Tag Archives: Over Land

America Sur – we are on the way! Shipping the bikes

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!!!


Central America – A country rush

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama

Our focused date now is 28th October. That’s the day we have to be in Panama City as we need to show up 29th at 7am for the motorcycle inspection. When we left Lake Atitlan we counted exactly 3 weeks left to cross all countries in Central America: 5 border crossings, 6x temporary export and 5 x temporary import of the motorcycles. One border crossing can last anything between 1.5 and 4 hours… We felt a little bit screwed by the schedule but decided to make the best out of it.
We had one more stop in Guatemala, Antigua. The little town is located in the central highlands and famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture as well as a number of ruins of colonial churches. It is enclosed by three large volcanoes the Volcán de Agua, the Acatenango and the Volcán de Fuego, the most active one– during our stay they mostly were covered in clouds and it was pretty rainy. Anyhow these were the days they had flooding everywhere in Central America and we decided to use 2 days for route and border crossing planning.

The decision was good; when we head towards El Salvador, Santa Ana we only had a little shower and most of the roads were dried. And this time we were lucky and the track to hike up the Santa Ana Volcano or Ilamatepec, a large stratovolcano at 2,381 meters, was just opened again after the rain. We spent a beautiful day hiking up to the crater lake and afterwards relaxing at the Lago de Coatepeque. We were following a beautiful winding road down south and along the pacific coast and stopped at El Cuco beach. They asked for crazy prices down there; and that not even for nice places. Mostly muggy and pretty abandoned as it is off-season. Finally we found a room for 18 Dollar with shared bath – but as we were the only ones we actually had a private one ;) The first beach since a pretty long time and we really enjoyed swimming, watching the pelicans and the turtle release.

Honduras we wanted to cross in the very south in one day if possible; so in total about 230km from El Cuco. That does not sound much but includes two border crossings: from El Salvador to Honduras and from Honduras to Nicaragua. Also Honduras and Nicaragua are the two countries with the most riots during the last month. We gave it a go and did it as planned within one day. The border crossing were OK, it took time but no issues at all. The road through Honduras was one of the best we drove during this trip. The people looked friendly and were smiling at us all the time and the landscape was stunning. It is a shame that we did not have more time to explore this country. We reached Somotillo in Nicaragua just with the last daylight and found a nice room before heavy rain started again. In the close neighborhood we found a little shop where we bought the famous Nicaraguan ron “Flor de Caña” a cold coke and the friendly woman supplied us with cups and fresh limes. Just on the opposite was a little “Cocina” (kitchen) and we had delicious fresh grilled meat with fried bananas and tortillas – yummy, what a great day!

At that point I should mention that we will not talk much about each single borderXing and their specifics as it would be too much here – this we will do probably in a separate blog. But we know that other overland travelers are maybe interested in these information and processes. If anybody needs information feel free to contact us any time. But be aware this things, some call it regularities changes constantly…

Nicaragua seems to be a beautiful country with lovely people welcoming us and waving. We were driving south along the coast and stopped in San Jorge, Rivas at Lago at Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicagaragua) the largest lake in Central America. On arrival we had a beautiful view on Ometepe; an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of it. Unfortunately the next two days it was raining cats and dogs without a break so we skipped the plan to explore the island. But we met another couple riding 2up from Chile up north (since 2 years) – the only other tourists we saw in Nicaragua. It is sad to see which problems this country is facing at the moment and we are sure it is worth to see more of it one day. Talking to the people you could feel the fear and uncertainty of their future…

Leaving Nicaragua was much easier than we thought and the little road we chose was nice. For a stretch of about 20 km it turned into bad gravel and we were wondering if we missed a turn at a junction. But no, the road was pretty and the direction right. We stopped in La Fortuna at a hostel with a view on Volcano Arenal; having just enough time for doing some shopping before it turned dark. We are getting closer and closer to the equator and it turns dark sooner and sooner and particularly quicker!

We have both never been in the Caribbean! So we drove towards Limon and the last 100km were horrible – trucks trucks trucks and road construction everywhere… Not Nice! But as soon as we passed Limon it turned into a beautiful windy road along the Caribbean Coast. In Cahuita we settled for a few days and relished the tropical beach live… , Reggae music, swimming, eating fish, drinking some cocktails and tracking in the jungle. It was really fun watching all the animals in the Cahuita National Park. We saw pacas, cheeky raccoons, agoutis, howler monkeys, very nosy white-headed capuchins and even two sloths – only there butt while hanging in the tree and sleeping  (which they do apparently 90% of the day/ their life), but we saw them. Very interesting to watch was as well the busy Atta cephalotes, a leafcutter ant. The snorkel-tour was just a boat trip in the end as the water was too murky after the rain; but it didn’t cost us anything as they refunded the money completely so we purely enjoyed it.
The last border crossing driving the bikes in Central America was from Costa Rica into Panama and we thought that will be easy-going… The best proof you can never be sure how it will be – it took us more than 3 hours due to several reasons. But the most annoying were the checkpoints after the crossing. They asked us to open everything while we were cooking and sweating in the sun. The road heading south on itself was really beautiful and up in the mountains we adored the fresh breeze. You cross De Fortuna Forest Reserve and wonder that there is no possibility to stay. We heard it is a very poor region and populated only by indigenous people. We saw some place which seemed to be a hostel, hotel in the past but everything was collapsed and abandoned. What a pity!

While driving down the mountains we first were caught in the fog and then it started to rain. At the moment we reached the PanAm monsoon started and the highway was nearly flooded. We heard of a place called Noni House run by a couple (Suisse and British) where we wanted to stay. But when we arrived completely soaked Astrid, the owner, told us they just closed to catch a flight to Columbia for diving. Ooh shit! She recommended a place to us directly at the beach in Las Lajas just 12km south. So we waved good bye (maybe we meet them again in Columbia?) and moved in Mat´s beautiful “Johnny Fiesta” (https://www.facebook.com/Johnnyfiestaslaslajas/). The place is great directly at beachfront and the 14 km long beach we do have nearly for our-self.  The only other gust was Daniel, who traveled already more than two years on his bicycle. Nice waves, fresh breeze, pineapples, pipas and coconuts, here and there a beer or a Cuba-Libre. That´s how we can just stand doing our office job ;) and so we stay 3 days.
We all know `the world is small´! Yesterday two French people (Francois and Adeline) walked by and saw our bikes. They are actually one of the couples we do share our container from Panama to Columbia with! How funny!!! So they just moved in with their camper and we are sure we will have great time together… Tomorrow we will drive about 200km south and having one more night before we have to go to Panama City on Sunday…Wish us luck everything is working out well with the motorcycle shipping!