Monday, May 23, 2011


The dreaded Darien Gap has finally been crossed.  I have to say, it was TOUGH.  The proper way to view this next post would be from bottom up.  According to our blog we have been in El Salvador kidnapped for the last month. 

This time, with a better dock, we could raise up the bike by the mast and swing them onto the dock.  It was a million times easier but lacked one thing.  The boat was only getting gas and then heading across the bay to the marina on the other side.  We had to ride through Friday rush hour traffic after not doing anything for a week--WITHOUT PAPERS! We had extreme sea legs and were completely illegal.  Suprisingly, our bikes started, then we darted out into some of the craziest traffic I´ve seen yet.  Vehicles were everywhere and cramming into every available space the road could give.  A moto taxi hailed us and led us to the marina, insanely weaving us through the chaos.  Then the worst happened.  We rounded a corner and got stopped by a block of 6 cops.  There we were with no documents or permission for the bikes and even ourselves were not stamped yet into the country.  Incredibly lucky, they laughed and let us go instead of throwing into jail and/or deporting us.  I think the janky hand drawn map in my pocket helped us.  
After so much, we slowly crept up on Cartagena, Colombia -- SOUTH AMERICA
Keeping the lobsters fresh.
We arrived to the San Blas islands at night and were greeted by the natives that started an emourmous fire as a welcome.  The next morning they came out to the boat in dugout canoes to sell us lobsters and artwork.
Mike was the unlucky participant that had to swim to shore and back for something right after we had eaten a huge meal.  I would have drowned.
My first time snorkeling blew me away.  It is like being in space, I would think.
I tried my hand at catching a lobster with no luck.
Homosexuality is not an issue with this tribe of Panamanian (Kuna) natives, nor are female nose rings (how ironically evolved).  Prado came up with beads and molas (beautiful native patchwork designs).

Dugout canoe in the making.
The natives rowed to our boat in dugout canoes and sold us lobsters.  Nicolini owns a restaurant in Italy and is an amazing cook.  We´ve never eaten so much pasta, and it never tasted so good.
Lobster Pasta

With a line hanging off the back, we caught a couple of nice fish.  Dinner!
Meg and Jules, an Australian couple that are bicycling to S.America.  They had their bike on board as well.  They´re fabulous.
For once, the bike gets to ride.
It was huge victory, as well as an extraordinary team building exercise.  After that, I knew it was going to be a good trip.  5 days on a boat can get claustrophobic very quickly, but it never did.
Nicolino the 1st mate/chef, Eduardo the captian, and Tank (the other Tank) the king of sarcastic interlude.
It was some impressive work.  We put the pallets on the dingy and rolled the bikes from the dock to the dingy by a small board.  The dock was the only thing not moving all over the place.  At one point, the distance spread and the board with the front of my bike fell.  Miraculously, Nicolino caught it before it plunged int to the ocean.  The most amazing scene that unfortunately couldn´t be captured was loading Mike´s bike from the dingy to the sailboat.  With everything bobbing up and down and side to side in defferent directions as 7 people try to manage the situation in 2 different languages, Mike was stuck with one leg on the dingy and the other on the boat with the bike on the small board between the two.  Mike began to split and slowly start falling backwards.  Honestly, I´m not sure how he and his steed are not resting at the bottom of Davy Jones Locker.
Classic.  This is the first time the captian has attempted to carry motorbikes.  We´re pumped, and his expression says it all.
This is the rig that got our bikes, one at a time and with all 5 of us, from the dock to the boat.
With incredible luck, we found ourselves on the Buon Vento (far right), under the command of Eduardo, the extremely Italian captian.  Its a 45ft catamaran that is in amazing shape and after the hell of loading the bikes, it turned into the poshest thing that Mike or I have ever experienced.
This building has been here since the 1500´s.  They say that so much gold and silver was stored here that it was falling out the windows.  It was attacked many times.
Finding the boat was about going into Captain Jack´s bar and talking to people of boats, captians, murders, and treasures.  We serendipitously ran into someone (named Tank) that got us on with a captian and boat.  At 10pm we finally hectically met the rushed captian and his first mate for a quick and shadey transfer of passport and money, without seeing the boat (bad idea).   
Leaving Panama Passage, we headed for the pirate town of Portobelo.  It all happened fast unlike all the stories we´ve heard.  We got there, found a boat the same day and left the next morning. 

The sorts of vehicles that come and go through this place is impressive.  Overlanders are a different breed, I like´em.

Shauns bike is really fast!

The Locks of the Panama Canal
Francesco was a great help, the edges are perfect.
Its time to get serious.  We have the torn up S.American map out to tape it up so we can finally use it.
Good luck with the culture shock Vinny.
An immediate yard sale of wet, moldy gear.
VINNY!  Just getting back from 2 years on the South American road. Go get ém Vinny.
Tom and Janet are an amazing couple that had told stories from everywhere, especially Africa, that could rip out your heart and weave inspiration into your everyday life.  They are from South Africa and moved to Canada.  They sold it all and started driving.  (
PANAMA PASSAGE.  We finally found home and the answers to all our long awaited questions of making the jump to Columbia.  Shaun has created a temporary home  and resource center for overland travelers and proved to be a perfect place to rest, sort out the soaked gear, and hang with all the people that are REALLY traveling.  Everyone here has been traveling for a long time, they´re experienced, and have great stories.  They conduct themselves in a nice way that the 2 week party hopping backpackers don´t seem to understand.
This might have been the worst of the entrance to Panamanian confusion.  Lost, we had been through the ´Kidney Bean of Death´ twice now in the rain and had come to a split in the interstate that had 2 lanes of traffic going on either side of us.  We helped a lady push her broken down car into the split and tried to figure out our directions.
Arriving into Panama City was a mess.  Pouring rain, bad directions, overheating motorbikes, toll roads and the ´Kidney Bean of Death´ brought all the excitement we could handle.  At one point, a truck hit a puddle that created a thick wave that flew over the median wall and hit me square in the face and chest.
Crossing the Panama Canal.
Luckily these guys were just across the street.  We decided to just weld the kicker together and slap it back on, sticking out somewhat obnoxiously.  While he worked, he had his wife bring us out some coffee and chocolate. Two welds in one day, a record.  We then rode off into the rainy night (by the way--our lights work)
Yeah, the very same day as reparing my subframe, we rode all through the day in the rain only to kick my kicker clean off.  Laughter quickly pursued. 
Notice anything strange and out of place?
A perfect fit = $12.
The local welding shops are amazingly helpful.  Shops in the States would never touch the problems we present.  These guys don´t even flench.
My turn.  I found out why my bike was making so much noise, the sub frame broke.  The things you notice just before you try to leave.
These 2 are the workers.  We also helped them build a bamboo frame for the plastic roof to cover the rows of crops.  We built a stool with a few other random things as well.
Or first job was to pick out all the diseased tomatos and then bury them.

Una invited us to stay and help out at her small farm out in the hills.  We stayed in the loft of the palapa behind her.  We became enthralled as her story unfolded.  She trades currency, owns vending machines in L.A. and is a harp theropist.  She was a harp soloist in ´small´ groups like the Holland and the London Philharmonic.  She doesn´t like her picture taken too much.  At the top of her career as a harpist, she quit, and caught a truck to Katmandu and hiked up to the base camp of Mt. Everest.  Now she´s bought a small farm and is starting it up by herself.  She´s a hero.   

Did I mention the rain?  Daly´s is a nice hang out for calzones.  We met a nice lady named Una.
Marty came by to meet us and gave us many tips since he has been all over the world by moto.
This section of southern Costa Rica and western Panama has some beautiful riding.  A perfect 2 lane ribbon weaves through green hills and cloud covered mountains.  I have never been to Ireland, but thought of it often as we wound our way to the town of Volcan.  In passing we met some fellas from Florida.  These guys were an astonishing crew.  They were so friendly.  They gave us a place to crash and bought us beer and rum.  With music blasting, they all talked at the same time, many times telling completely different stories simultaneously.  They were fun.
Mike, living the border dream.  This was the most relaxed border crossing of all time (small town north of Paso Cañoas).
The Panamanian Army at the border.
The Central American shower situation is amazing.  This is a good one.

When the rain comes, it comes hard.  My bike was making an amazing noise at this point everytime I hit a bump, we were soaked, and my goggles were fogging up constantly.  After my bike slid off the road a bit in the mud, we decided to hang with the pooch and wait it out a bit. 
In a pasing town, these were the 2 nicest guys we met in all of Costa Rica.

Our humble abode.

His wife is from Thailand and cooked us and amazing Thai dinner.

Randy and the family

Once Randy returned, he gave us some projects which helped out our idle hands.  We built a table and a swingset for his 4yr old daughter on her first day in Costa Rica.

Mikes reserve was clogged for a few days, so we spent some time out of gas.  By now we are one with the side of the road, but its okay...we have reflective vests!

I magically found a wonderfully the moto jacket of dreams along the way in Nicaragua at a roadside stand for $7!!! The only problem is that it looks just like Mikes.  So now we not only ride the same bike, but we dress exactly the same too.  We couldnt stand for that, I had to paint my helmet.


Our day adventure turned into a ride to the falls, a hike, a swim, a ride to the beach for roadstand ceviche, a sunset, and cooking dinner -- a welcome relief to our cabin fever.
Enter Shaadi and Melissa, a doctor and a sports journalist for the LA Times.  I´m not sure why, but they hung out with us for a couple of really nice days. 

Jeffry and his mom are a home away from home, like Randy´s place.

My good friend Jeffry.  I used to live in Costa for a short bit and he was a good friend along the way.

Nauyaca Falls.  We made the best of it though.  At night we were still reading aloud our cowboy westerns as entertainment.

Honestly, at Randys place, we went a bit mad.  We felt monetarily grounded and Randy wasn´t even there for about 3 days, and we had just gotten on a roll, so it was a little hard to sit around.  ¨I guess sometimes you got to go crazy to get by ¨.

Puss Puss
GOING TO THE CLUB!!!  Costa not only is super expensive, but they now fine a brotha $500 if you speed or don´t wear your reflective vest (clubbing gear), after 5pm.  Watch out ladies!

Finally arriving at my friend Randy´s place, we had many roommates.  A couple spiders and a frog in the shower were our main friends.

If I could pick 2 drinks to carry me through...

An interesting bridge crossing.

PussPuss and Ol´Clem

On the way to San Jose, the capital of Costa, we got into the first of many rains to come.  It was heavy.

Mikes water bottle holders are always a problem.  He tried his hand at welding.

Our plan for Costa was to get in, visit a couple friends, and get out.  Semana Santa was going on at this time.  It is the most celebrated event in Central America.  Everyone is off work and floods to the beaches.  We went to the city and it was desolate, a good hideout.  We passed this church on the way.

After 2 weeks sitting completely still in El Salvador, we found out that Red River Bill got his horse stolen in Mexico.  After scheming all sorts of ideas from sidecars to doubling up, we found out he was in Hong Kong partying and the next day would be back home in Australia.  The light turned green and we were off.  Two borders in two days, we blew through El Salvador and then Honduras and its borders that resemble all my preconceived notions of what the gates to Hell must be like.  They gave us 3 days to cross their country.  I dont think they understood the machines we are riding.  Then came Nicaraugua.  It was more fun and less hastle.  It didnt take us long to get to Costa Rica.  Costa is beautiful, but you mine as well take your money and flush it.  Most of the time its more expensive than the States.  We felt grounded due to our quickly diminishing funds.