Flying My Motorcycle to Colombia with Girag

Having done my sightseeing in Panama City, my number one priority became making arrangements for my motorcycle to fly to Colombia with Girag. Of course there was also the small matters of watching Sunday NFL football, getting my motorcycle serviced before heading out of the country, and a bonus, an unexpected visit from a classmate and friend of mine from Royal Roads University!

By the way …. it is still rainy season here 🙁

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Sunday NFL Football

One thing I love to do is get lost in NFL football all day Sunday, and Monday and Thursday nights. I love the buildup, drama, ups and downs, and the excitement when my teams win. It has been somewhat marred this year by people politicizing the game and then there is the head injury issue. Many choose to boycott the NFL because of them. I choose to ignore all of that for now and just enjoy the game. Not that I don’t have opinions on those subjects, but I’m not going to let those issues take away from my enjoyment. I have my own things I boycott ha ha.

It took a while of searching to find a place to watch the games. I figured somewhere around the Hard Rock Hotel there would be a spot and I was right.

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My spot.

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Motorcycle Servicing at Bavarian Motors

My little onboard computer said I needed a servicing in 500 km. Being the dutiful BMW motorcycle owner I am, I set out to Bavarian Motors.

Actually, regular maintenance is really important for me. I have next to no mechanical ability. For that reason, my best line of attack is to really take care of my motorcycle to prevent breakdowns the best I can.

Bavarian Motors was unique from what I have experienced in the past. Unique for a couple reasons. First, it seems to operate like an assembly line. I pulled up into a servicing lane behind a bunch of cars. Being a motorcycle, I was singled out.

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And being an English speaker, I was singled out again to talk to a person who spoke some English. He advised they would do the regular servicing and check everything for me. I was then escorted upstairs to another unique feature of Bavarian Motors. They basically have their own coffee shop that is free to customers!

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They had tables, couches, workstations and great wifi. So there I sat and wandered around until my motorcycle was ready. I was then escorted down to their downstairs lounge ha ha

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Quite the place. The servicing didn’t cost too much and I got a wash out of the deal too. However, as I rode away I remembered that I forgot to tell them about my right front signal light that wasn’t working. Crap! This light has been giving problems ever since I dropped the bike on the Dalton Highway in Alaska. Oh well. Next time.

Meeting a Royal Roads University Friend

One highlight of my stay in Panama City was meeting Christa who I had gone to Royal Roads University with to get a Masters Degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding.

Funny that Christa lives in Edmonton and I live in Abbotsford. Yet we have never met as those places. It has been at school in Victoria, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she was doing a field practice, and now in Panama where by coincidence she was taking a vacation with a friend while I was there.

The hardest thing about being on the road is not having friends to be with. Loneliness can creep in for sure. Even if you are an introvert like me. Soooooo is was very nice to have dinner with a friend. It made my evening for sure!

Girag Air Cargo Inquiry

Now for what I had been dreading …. how to get my motorcycle from Panama City to Colombia. I’m a big fan of Oisin Hughes. He has the best adventure motorcycle video series out there. I’ve watched it many times. When he got to Panama City he used Girag Air Cargo. Others also recommended Girag. So that was going to be my first attempt.

I rode out to the airport where Girag is located.

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To get there I ended up going through these toll booths again. I haven’t figured out how to pay yet, so I just keep riding around the gates. There is no one there and no place that I can see to deposit money. So far the police haven’t stopped me 🙂

Anyways, to get to Girag I also had to pass through a Customs road block at the entrance to the airport cargo facilities. I just said Girag and that I didn’t speak Spanish ha ha. They waved me through.

Once at Girag I spoke to a woman who didn’t speak English and ask if anyone there did. She got me her supervisor who spoke fluent English. YAY! For such an important event I didn’t trust using my Spanish to communicate.

What ended up happening was she took a copy of my passport, vehicle registration, and Panama Temporary Import Permit and told me to bring the motorcycle in on Monday and they would fly it out to Bogota, Colombia on Tuesday. It would cost just over $1000 US cash. Awesome!

Girag Air Cargo to Bogota Columbia

That next Monday I brought my motorcycle back to Girag. It all seemed too simple! I rode my motorcycle into their warehouse where they checked it over.

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Yup, that is another motorcycle flying out with mine. It belongs to Carlos from Brazil who I met at Girag as well. He had packed everything onto his bike. I had just put the bulky and heavy stuff in my panniers and bought a spare suitcase to put the other things in. In retrospect I could have put more on my motorcycle to save paying an overweight fee at the airport when I flew 🙁

Anyways … I paid my $1000 US and that was it!! All the paperwork had been completed already by Girag after I gave them my documents on my previous visit. Now I needed to find a way to get back to my hotel. Here Girag went the extra mile.

The English speaking Girag Supervisor asked one of her staff to drive me out of the complex to find a taxi. We drove out of the complex and attempted to get a taxi. But the drivers in the small town didn’t want to take me all the way into the city. So Girag drove me around until he found a taxi driver that would and negotiated the price for me. So nice.

I would definitely recommend Girag to anyone.

My motorcycle and I were now both flying to Bogota, Colombia, on Tuesday.

My Location from October 9 to 16, 2017

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My Route on October 17, 2017

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Riding to the Infamous Darien Gap

I debated for awhile about whether or not I would ride to the infamous Darien Gap. My hesitation was because it would be a two day easy ride from Panama City, or a one day long ride there and back, along the same road. I hate having to backtrack over the same road. If I have to do that I generally say no to doing it. However, in this case, going to the end of the road at the Darien Gap would be a milestone. I road to the furthest north you can ride, Prudhoe Bay, and this would be the furthest south you can ride on a contiguous road from there. So I had to do it.

Darien Gap

I have been asked before why you can’t ride from Panama to Columbia. The reason is the infamous Darien Gap separates the two countries. There is no road, pavement or dirt through the Darien.

The following is from a BBC article on the Darien:

Stretching from Alaska to the pencil tip of Argentina, the 48,000km-long Pan-American Highway holds the record for the world’s longest motorable road. But there is a gap – an expanse of wild tropical forest – that has defeated travellers for centuries.

Explorers have always been drawn to the Darien Gap, but the results have mostly been disastrous. The Spanish made their first settlement in the mainland Americas right here in 1510, only to have it torched by indigenous tribes 14 years later – and in many ways the area remains as wild today as it was during the days of the conquest.

“If history had followed its usual course, the Darien should be today one of the most populated regions in the Americas, but it isn’t,” says Rick Morales, a Panamian and owner of Jungle Treks, one of a few adventure tour companies operating in the region.

“That’s remarkable if you consider that we live in the 21st Century, in a country that embraces technology and is notorious for connecting oceans, cultures, and world commerce.”

The gap stretches from the north to the south coast of Panama – from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s between 100km and 160km (60-100 miles) long, and there is no way round, except by sea.

After the conquistadors, the Scots also wagered badly here. Having established a coastal trading colony in 1698, most settlers perished from disease and Spanish attacks. The loss would deplete enough Scottish wealth to compromise their independence less than a decade later, when the country opted to sign the Treaty of Union.

It was only in 1960 that anyone managed to cross the Darien Gap by car – in a Land Rover dubbed The Affectionate Cockroach and a Jeep. It took nearly five months, averaging just 200m per hour.

The team included noted Panamanian anthropologist Reina Torres de Arauz and her cartographer husband, Amado Arauz. Hand-chopping a route through the jungle, they forded hundreds of rivers and streams, improvising bridges from palm trunks that didn’t always hold up. Their research later helped establish the Darien National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Twelve years later, the renowned explorer, Col John Blashford-Snell, led a 60-person crew in Range Rovers on the first complete road trip from Alaska to Cape Horn, via the Darien Gap. This short section of the route, he describes as the toughest challenge of his career.

The seasonal rains came early and locked the vehicles in mud. “Something had to go and it was the back axles,” Blashford-Snell recounts. “They exploded like shells with shrapnel coming through the floor.”

Redesigned car parts were parachuted in a month later. Later, custom-built inflatable rafts floated the vehicles across the problem area of the vast Atrato swamp. Eventually, they made it, though half the team had succumbed to trench foot, fevers and other ailments.

The story of the ill-fated Scots colony at Darien survives in the oral history of the Kuna Indians, who are the only people who have ever settled successfully in this inhospitable place.

In 1698, a fleet of five ships sailed from Leith docks near Edinburgh carrying 1,200 settlers to found a colony in Panama. Few of the Scots who went, made it home.

Half a century on, the number of successful motorised crossings can be counted on two hands. These days armed drug runners are as big a hazard as the region’s lethal pit vipers.

Those who wish to enter the interior must register in advance with Senafront (Servicio Nacional de Fronteras), Panama’s border police, who control access with multiple checkpoints along the Pan-American Highway. At these stops, documents are checked and rechecked. At any point a traveller may be turned back.

At the run-down frontier town of Yaviza, the road ends but settlements do not. Rivers are the highways of the interior, with small motor boats and dugout canoes providing expensive and infrequent passage, which must often be timed to coincide with ocean tides. The destination, for those intending to continue south by road, is the town of Turbo in Colombia.

Missionaries have disappeared in the interior, and others, including orchid hunters Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, have been kidnapped. Yet travelling into the interior is still worth the effort for conservationists, for whom the Darien is a key site, with some of the world’s greatest genetic diversity.

With eight other colleagues and students, Dr Ruediger Krahe of McGill University in Canada recently headed to Pena Bijagual, to study weakly electrical fish – fish that use electrical signals for navigation and communication. The village of thatched huts, a 45-minute trip via motor canoe from Yaviza, was the perfect research base. Their Embera hosts offered security and even served them a culinary speciality the researchers had thus far only studied – the macana, a one-metre-long electric fish.

“We felt super safe there,” says Krahe. “It was an amazing place… our very best field site.”

But this year, there was no village to go back to. In March, a group of armed outsiders invaded Pena Bijagual. Senafront then engaged in a shootout which killed one assailant and injured policemen. Five months later, the dispersed villagers have still not returned.

The problem with drug-trafficking has increased as maritime patrols have been stepped up, and the trade has been pushed inland. Commissioner General Frank Abrego, director of Senafront, says the traffickers emerged from the remnants of Colombian drug cartels and demobilised guerrilla groups.

They employ local people, mostly indigenous, as porters or guides – to the distress of Tino Quintana, regional cacique or chief of the Comarca Embera, a semi-autonomous indigenous territory. Part of the issue, he says, is isolation which reduces work opportunities and commerce. “So come the narcotraffickers,” he says. “They offer considerable sums to our youth to work.”

Every so often, the dream of completing the Pan-American Highway is resurrected. The last push came a decade ago from former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, who anticipated a boom in commerce as the conflict between the government and guerrillas waned. It’s bandits who benefit from keeping the Gap a no-go area.

But Panama, along with the US and local indigenous populations, have a range of objections. A road would pose a threat to indigenous cultures, accelerate deforestation and allow the spread of disease – such as foot and mouth cattle disease, which the Gap has so far effectively prevented from spreading to North America.

Rainforest destruction is already evident en route to Yaviza. In April the sale of rosewood or cocobolo was suspended in Panama after it was found that much of it was flowing from illegal sources, and largely from the Darien. The rare hardwood has been valued at $2,000 per cubic metre.

“The worst thing that could happen to the Darien would be the completion of the highway across the Darien Gap,” says Michael J Ryan, a University of Texas biologist who researches the amphibians threatened by chytrid fungus in the Darien National Park.

“The loggers will follow the road, forests will fall, and huge chunks of paradise will be lost forever.”

Ride to the Darien Gap

I decided to do two easy days of riding. My overnight stop would be at the El Hotel y Restaurante Avicar. From my reading it appeared to be a common place to stay for those riding to Yaviza at the end of the road.

Sure enough, when I arrived there were three other bikers from Panama staying there who were also riding to the end of the road.

The next morning I woke up early to ride to Yaviza and the end of the road.

At about 100 km from the Darien Gap I was stopped at a border police road block where I had to register and be sure to check out with them when I left. They were surprised I was riding in alone and asked several times if I was traveling with others.

Up until now the road wasn’t that great. But just past the checkpoint it was newly paved. What an awesome ride through the jungle on a newly paved road! It certainly lifted my spirits.

Yaviza is the town at the end of the road. It reminded me of many small border towns. And I guess it was sort of. I weaved my way through small narrow streets until finally I got to the end of the road and the narrow swinging bridge across the Rio Chucunaque.

My reaction to being there surprised me. I was elated! A big smile crossed my face as I walked along the swinging bridge. I would have walked further across the bridge but I was fearful for my motorcycle.

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Looking back, I should have stayed longer to savour the experience more. But I headed back along the newly paved road through the jungle which I got to enjoy all over again.

I got to the border checkpoint and they recognized me right away and waved me through as the one officer crossed me out in her big book.

I spent another night at El Hotel y Restaurante Avicar before riding back to Panama City.

My Route on October 6, 2017

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My Route on October 7, 2017

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My Route on October 8, 2017

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Touring the Panama Canal and San Blas Islands

For the first two days in Panama City I booked tours to the Panama Canal and San Blas Islands.

Panama Canal History

According to Wikipedia:

The Panama Canal is an artificial 48-mile (77 km) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 85 feet (26 m) above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 110 feet (34 m) wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded canal began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, Post-Panamax ships, capable of handling more cargo.

France began work on the canal in 1881 but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal on August 15, 1914. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan.

Colombia, France, and later the United States controlled the territory surrounding the canal during construction. The U.S. continued to control the canal and surrounding Panama Canal Zone until the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties provided for handover to Panama. After a period of joint American–Panamanian control, in 1999 the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government and is now managed and operated by the government-owned Panama Canal Authority.

Annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in 1914, when the canal opened, to 14,702 vessels in 2008, for a total of 333.7 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons. By 2012, more than 815,000 vessels had passed through the canal. It takes six to eight hours to pass through the Panama Canal. The American Society of Civil Engineers has called the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the world.

One thing that Wikipedia glosses over a bit that my tour guide really emphasized was the taking control of the Panama Canal Zone by Panamanians. Apparently, the US owned by treaty a huge swath of land on either side of the Canal. Panamanians were not allowed in it except through designated travel routes. This really upset a lot of Panamanians that they did not have sovereignty over their own land. Students protested this by climbing the walls. They were shot and killed by American soldiers. This precipitated the Torrijos-Carter Treaties giving control of the land and canal to the Panamanians. The students’ pictures are memorialized on a wall. My tour guide was very proud of this.

Visit to the Panama Canal

We got to the Miraflores portion of the Canal at about 9 am. and stayed to about 11 am when the last of the boats heading to the Atlantic were going through.

From Miraflores you can only really see the old portion of the canal and not the new portion where the massive ships pass through. That was disappointing. Apparently you have to go to Colon and the Gatun visitor sight to see the new canal.

I have to admit I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Canal. I am still glad I went though. It is something you have to see.

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San Blas Islands

The next day I had booked a day tour to San Blas. Ok … I was completely unprepared for this trip. First, I thought I was going to the island of San Blas. I didn’t realized San Blas was a group of over 350 islands!

The tour bus picked me up at 5:30 am from my hostel 🙁 We then headed to a grocery store. No idea why. Later though I found out it was more for those people staying overnight(s) to get snacks.

Off we went. Well, at least until our bus driver decided he needed breakfast at some hole in the wall. We all waited in the bus until he finished breakfast.

As we approached the San Blas Islands we encountered a border patrol roadblock where we were suppose to show our passports. Being totally unprepared, I had forgotten mine 🙁 The driver sweet talked the police officer and none of us had to show our passports. Phew! He said that was unusual as they would normally have sent me back.

As we got closer to the islands we stopped at a view point.

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Finally we made it to the drop off point to take us to the islands. Of course they asked me where I was going. I said San Blas. They laughed and said San Blas has over 350 islands. Luckily the bus driver came to my rescue and said I was going to Diablos Island for the day. I was directed to a boat and off we went.

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After a long boat ride we reached Diablos Island, but just for a few minutes.

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On the island we picked up an Israeli couple who were on their honeymoon. Such nice people. We had a great discussion on Israel and the traditions there. So glad I met them.

First, we went to a shallow part in the water to swim. Being unprepared I forgot a swim suit 🙁

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Then we were off again.

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We stopped at another island for a hour. In that time I walked around it twice ha ha.

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Then it was back to Diablos island for a couple of hours and lunch. The couple from Israel had been there for a couple nights already. The island was small and they lived an a basic shack on the sand. They said there was nothing to do but play cards and go for swims.

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It might have been nice to spend one night there. But then again maybe not. You are really isolated. In the end I was glad to just do a day trip, even if it was a very long day, and ready to head back to Panama City.

My Location from October 3 to 5, 2017

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My Route to San Blas on October 4, 2017

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Riding Into the Big City of Panama.

I really enjoyed Playa Venao, but it was now time to ride to the big city of Panama City. But first I would stop at another beach I circled as a highlight – Playa Blanca.

Leaving Playa Venao

I said goodbye to my bat twitching on the floor of my hostel and started into the country roads of Panama. Country roads are the best to ride on for me. Quiet, pavement, small little towns, all very nice. Once I got to Chitre then it was back onto the highways again until Playa Blanca.

Hostal Acuarela

Once again I booked a hostel. This time Hostal Acuarela at Playa Blanca.

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It was a small hostel owned by a young beautiful Venezuelan women. It just so happened that her father was visiting her from Venezuela. I took advantage of their expertise to see if I could ride into Venezuela. They advised that the border from Colombia was closed to vehicles right now and that it would be very dangerous to be riding through the country. I asked about flying into Caracas. They said that should be OK.

Restuarante Pipas

After settling in, I walked over to the Restaurante Pipas.

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A very cool restaurant and entertainment venue right on the beach. A great place to just sit and enjoy the sun and beach.

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Walking back to my hostel along the sand road, I encountered some kids riding their horses and just fooling around.

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Panama City

The next day I took off for Panama City. Panama City is like nothing I have encountered in Central America. The place was huge with towering thin skyscrapers.

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While most of the building with simply thin towers. There were a couple architectural marvels.

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One of the buildings has now become the iconic building for the city – the F&F Tower.

F&F Tower

It is really hard to take your eyes off of it as you walk around the city. It just captures your attention.

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Here is some info on it I got from the Alluring World website:

The F&F Tower, previously was known as the Revolutionary Tower, is an office building located in the capital city of Panama, Panama City. The initial concept of the tower has been only a theoretical idea based on rotating geometry and a prism.

However, this experiment was undertaken in the studio, and has been observed by the prospective client who wished to appropriate the design for their own office tower. The tower is located on a prominent commercial street in the capital, which is know as the bank district.

One of the major problems for the designers to ensure the iconic status and success for the tower has been the budget of only $50 million, there were also underground wells that have been troubling the designers.

Nevertheless, it got its iconic appearance. It has a concrete structure, where the upper 39 floors rotate around a central axis, representing something like helis, and as it allows each floor to rotate nine degrees from the floor below it creates four small balconies for each office floor. The first 13 floors are actually a parking garages.

The architects are Pinzón Lozano & Asociados, who had an excellent idea how to make something to function in a reality. The official start of the construction began in 2008 and it was completed in 2011. The tower is 243 meters tall (797 feet), with total area space of 60,759 square meters (653,939 square foot), allocated on 52 floors (plus 4 floors underground).

There are many complaints lately that the tower is leaning, it is going to fall down…

I sure hope not!

Hostal Entre 2 Aguas

For the first part of my stay in Panama City I stayed at the Hostal Entre 2 Aguas.

The next two days would be busy taking a tour of the Panama Canal and San Blas islands. Stay tuned.

My Route on October 1, 2017

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My Route on October 2, 2017

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Bat Crazy in Playa Venao Panama

Things got a little bat crazy during my stay in Playa Venao, Panama.

As I enter a country I circle on a map all the places I want to see and visit. From there it is a matter of connecting the dots as I ride. Playa Venao was one of those places I had circled.

As you can see from the map below, it wasn’t far from Las Tablas to Playa Venao. Despite leaving late, I still arrived early. So I had a bit to eat in downtown Playa Venao ha ha

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Hostel Venao Cove

As I have mentioned before, Hostels are so friendly and my preferred place to stay as long as they have a private room for moi. Hostel Venao Cove was no different. As soon as I arrived I was greeted with a big smile and friendly banter. It made me feel at home.

Also when I arrived I ran into a couple from the Netherlands riding a BMW 800. They were in Panama for three weeks riding around.

I was escorted to my room on the top floor of a building just up the hill from the main lounge area.

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My abode was basically a cement room with a bed. No air conditioning, just a big fan on the roof.

After lugging my stuff up the stair to my room, it was time for an after ride beer in the lounge.

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Playa Venao

From the lounge I headed down to the beach for a walk.

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Sooooo nice. So nice in fact I went and got my Helinox chair and just sat out on the beach for a while.

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After awhile it was time to relax on the patio of my place and listen to the Howler Monkeys.

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A truly awesome day! But like all days, it has to come to an end. Time for bed.

Good Night Sleep?

After a good day I settled in to sleep. It was a bit warm so I turned the ceiling fan on higher.

I am not sure what time it was, but at some point during the night I was startled as I heard a bang against the small narrow window in the room. I looked up in the dark and saw something flying around my room. All of a sudden it flew into my ceiling fan and was catapulted against the wall with a thud and dropped to the ground.

I was too groggy to get up, and have been startled many other times during my adventure to really care too much. Back to sleep I went.

Some time lapsed, not sure how much, when I was woken up again by something flying around my room and banging again into my window. What the heck?! Not another one. I was more awake now! As it flew around it hit the ceiling fan, was catapulted across the room, thudded against the wall, and dropped to the floor.

This time I got up. How were these things getting into my room. I didn’t bother turning on the lights, but felt the windows to see if they were open. Nope, they were all closed. No idea how they were getting in. Oh well, back to bed I went.

In the morning I woke up to the bright sunshine. I looked over to the small shelf next to me and saw a whole bunch of turds. I was sure they weren’t there when I went to bed. Uuuummmmm.

Oh yeah …. what were those things flying around my room last night. I got up and looked around the other side of my bed. There on the ground was a bat lying on its back still twitching. I didn’t want to touch it as it was still moving. I didn’t want to get bitten. There was just one though. I am guessing that there was just one all along.

It was definitely time to get riding for the day.

My Route for September 30, 2017

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David to Las Tablas Panama for Some R&R and Dentistry

After crossing the border into Panama I rode to the nearby city of David before riding to Las Tablas where I intended to spend a couple days of R&R and see if there was a dentist to clean my teeth.

David

When crossing a border you just don’t know how long it will take. Although generally I have been taking about two and a half hours to cross them. But just in case I usually book a hotel at a nearby city, yet away from the chaos of the border. For the crossing into Panama I picked David.

The hotel I booked was Hotel Alcala not too far from the center of town. Not a bad place and they had parking under a roof.

After arriving I went for a walk towards the main square called Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Park.

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Across from the park, as is the usual in latin american countries, was a Roman Catholic Church called Parroquia La Sagrada Familia.

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I walked around a bit more but just wasn’t impressed with the city. At least this part of the city.

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Just not much around. And certainly not the one thing I always look for and that is a restaurant or bar or coffee shop with a patio. Everyplace was the hole in the wall mom and pop restaurant, or a scuzzy looking bar. So I bought some snacks and spend the evening after dark in my room.

Las Tablas

I was asked by someone who follows me, “Why Las Tablas?” Great question! ha ha. I was looking for places to stay but soon found out that Panama is VERY expensive. Of course Costa Rica was as well. The cheapest place within a day’s ride away was Las Tablas. I was planning on riding to that little peninsula that juts out in Panama anyways. More specifically, Playa Venao. It looked like Las Tablas was a quiet little town and I had been riding for a few days so it was time for a break. So Las Tablas it was.

The place I booked in Las Tablas was Hostal Mansion Juliana run by an Italian family and with an Italian restaurant out back. I enjoyed some awesome Italian food there. Yup, in Las Tablas Panama.

The town of Las Tablas itself was nothing remarkable. Just the usual. Of course, my senses may be dulled after more than a year of travelling to various towns. You can judge for yourself through the pictures.

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It was very hot during the day!

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Dentist

It had been over a year since I had my teeth cleaned. Back at home I try to get them cleaned every 3 months! So I was long overdue. I had tried to get them cleaned in Costa Rica but it didn’t work out.

I asked at my Hostal where I could get this done. The clerk said she had gone to the dentist down the street. Off I went and made an appointment for the next day.

Now dentist offices have not been my favorite place to go to. Although, I have to admit that over the past few years it has been good. Perhaps it is the new technology available that makes these visits a lot better. Given that, I was concerned about having my teeth cleaned at a small town, Panamanian dentist. Yikes!

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OK, I thought… Dr. Ingrid … a female dentist. She will be gentle on me – I know … stereotyping. I waited in the waiting room for a long time which made me more anxious. Once in awhile I spoke to the receptionist and answered questions on forms which wasn’t easy. My Spanish gets me by for everyday situations but not for technical questions.

Finally I was escorted into the room. I didn’t like what I saw!! The dentist and assistant were dressed head to toe in blue garb. Over their head was a plastic hood and they were wearing masks. What did I get myself into!!!!. I wanted to leave. This wasn’t like the relaxed atmosphere at home. I pressed on and ended up having a bit of a debate with them over leaving my glasses on. Finally they relented. I wanted to see where I was going when I made my escape!

That feeling became even more intense when they brought out the drill! What a drill for teeth cleaning!!! Never had that before. Chips started flying from my teeth as he drilled my lower teeth. If this was going to happen for all my teeth I was going to bolt.

After he stopped a few times I sat up in the chair just to get my bearings together.

Strangely, and luckily I might add, he stopped the drilling after he did the bottom front teeth. After that he flossed all my teeth and polished them I had the fluoride treatment and that was it. Only 30 minutes.

There was no picking away at my other teeth, no water picking and no laser treatment like at home. At this point I wasn’t going to complain. I just wanted out of there. It cost me $40 US for the torture. Well, at least my teeth were cleaner I guess.

Perhaps I should have waited until I hit a major city.

My Route on September 25, 2017

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My Route on September 26, 2017

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My Route on September 27, 2017

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My Location on September 28 and 29, 2017

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Border Run to Panama at Paso Canoas

With my time at Puerto Viejo finished 🙁 it was time to make the border run to Panama at the Paso Canoas border.

San Jose

Of course all roads in Costa Rica lead through San Jose. Since I was just staying a night there, I picked a cheap, but really nice, hotel on the outskirts of San Jose – Hotel Posada Canal Grande.

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The people hear were really nice and they actually had a nice restaurant in the hotel.

Jaco

My next stop on the way to the Panama border was Jaco. I had heard about Jaco, the beaches, and night-life. Unfortunately, it rained or threatened rain most of my time there.

The beaches were a bit disappointing to me. But still not too bad 🙂

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There were a couple people with motorized kites flying about. I am sure there is an official name for them that I’m not aware of.

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I stayed at a cool hostel in Jaco called Hotel Buddha House. Like all hostels it seems, the people there were very friendly and informal.

I ended up with a private room in the corner. So relaxing just sitting outside.

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Coming back from a walk at night. My motorcycle was sleeping 🙂

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Neily

My last stop before hitting the Panama border was the town of Neily.

It was a bit of a long ride to the town but with some nice views.

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At one point I was looking for a coffee place to rest a bit. There was nothing until out of the blue I saw a coffee shop called Sibu. It was strange in that this was a extremely nice coffee place in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t see anything like it on my ride.

Of course I had to stop.

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My hotel in Neily, Hotel Fortuna Verde, was basic for sure. And there was anything around within an easy walking distance. However, the people got some beer for me ha ha ha to add to some snacks I had stached …. and there was a place to park my motorcycle under a shelter. I guess those are the 2 most important things ha ha ha.

Panama Border at Paso Canoas

The day was finally here. Another border crossing. I actually don’t mind them too much, except for the fixers and heat. Otherwise, it is fun for me being able to talk to people and solve the problem of getting through it. It is a stretching exercise for me as I have to push myself through all the steps to finally find the answers and get through them. The Panama Border was no different.

Here is the border and steps that I will explain.

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I had done some studying beforehand. It turned out a lot of what I studied was dated. So I was confused at first as I attempted to exit Costa Rica.

#1 on the map was paying the Costa Rica Exit fee at the bank located across the street from Immigration.

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Next at #2 was going through immigration on the right in the photo.

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The last step to exit Costa Rica was Customs at #3. It is located just past Immigration around the corner and through the glass doors.

The whole process of exiting Costa Rica was really simple and quick! It was now time to ride a short distance to the Panama Border to enter Panama.

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Under the canopy at the Panama border I parked my motorcycle in a line of other vehicles.

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I first went to immigration that you can see just ahead of my motorcycle. There I was approached by an older gentleman wearing an official looking name badge. He told me I had to get insurance first. Oh great … thanks. I thought that would be the end of it … but no. Turned out he was a fixer who now hung onto me. I wasn’t in the mood to fight him so I just let him drag me around through the process.

#4 was getting insurance. The insurance booth on my side of the road was closed so we went to the one on the other side of the complex.

After purchasing one month worth of insurance, it was to immigration.

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This was the usual basic stuff, except that they took fingerprints.

Next was Customs at #5 just down from Immigration.

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There I handed in all my motorcycle documentation while they took their time adding it on a computer and printing out another form.

#6 was the difficult part of the crossing. The Customs agent at the window said to find another Customs agent out there somewhere to inspect my bike and sign the document. So off my fixer and I went to find this guy.

After searching for a while, we found him but he was busy on a bus. To save some time we went to the Fumigation booth and paid for fumigation. Then it was back to finding the Customs Agent again.

We finally corralled the agent and guided him to my motorcycle. The agent made me open my panniers and top case. It touched a few of the contents but that was it. Then signed my temporary import permit for my motorcycle.

It was onto my last stop, #8, to get my motorcycle fumigated.

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After that was done I paid my fixer $10 US. He didn’t look too happy with the amount, but I didn’t care at this stage. I was through the border and now about to explore Panama!

My Route on September 21, 2017

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My Route on September 22, 2017

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My Location on September 23, 2017

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My Route on September 24, 2017

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My Route on September 25, 2017 into Panama

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