Well, it definitely has been an epic journey. I will have trouble keeping it short because there is soo much to tell!
We all left Panama City early on Wednesday morning and had great fun riding our bikes out of the city in a large group of 12 big bikes. We definitely caught a lot of attention with people shouting, cheering and giving us the thumbs up!
For the most part we took the Pan America Highway until we had to turn onto a side road that lead us through the jungle to the Kuna territory and to the coast were the bikes were supposed to be hauled onto the Stahlratte. The Kuna Yala people are indigenous and enjoy an independence from Panama, live and own the San Blas Islands and partial coastal areas. We had to stop and each pay an entrance fee to their land.
Unfortunately Mike and Cindy, the couple from Idaho that are on one bike had trouble with their rear shock rendering the bike only to be driven very slowly by Mike standing up and without any weight on the back. Everybody quickly pitched in, unloaded their bike, some took their luggage and Robin our young friend from Switzerland took Cindy on his bike to the pier.
At the pier, we met Ludwig the captain of the Stahlratte and his crew: Ewan from England, Tintin (Jose-Maria) from Catalonia, Spain and Miguel from Austria. All the luggage and panniers had to be taken off the bikes and was transported by small boats to the Stahlratte. Then it was our turn and we had lunch on the upper deck of the ship. Then all the bikes were hauled one after another with a winch onto the ship. Quite a spectacle!! Everyone was holding their breaths when they saw their bikes in the air. Altogether we had 10 BMW, 1 KTM, 1 Yamaha and 1 Kawasaki. The Adventure riders were from England, Australia, Germany, Finnland, Canada, Switzerland, Equador, Bali and USA. And we had a few backpackers on board from the Netherlands as well.
Then we were taken by motorboat to a Hotel on one of the Kuna’s Island, where we spent the first night.
It was very basic, we had a big rainstorm during the night. The roof was leaky so it continuously dripped onto my pillow! Oh well, part of the adventure, I guess.
We were served fresh fish for supper, had lots of rum and coke after, to help putting us to sleep!!
Next day back to the ship we went and the actual journey started. Even though the Stahlratte is a larger sailboat (don’t know if it is even called a schooner) unfortunately there was never really enough wind that the ship could move without extra engine power. So after 3 hours we arrived at several little tropical Islands, we threw the anchor and stayed there for 2 nights. We spent the day with swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, reading and relaxing. It was heaven! First night we had a BBQ on the beach and of course a lot more beer and rum. Second day we did the same, a lot of local people came by in their canoes and little motor boats and offered freshly caught fish or langoustes or big crabs for sale. Several big yachts from Panama also came by and stayed for a while. So needless to say we had langoustes for supper!!
Aaah, it was the ultimate vacation with loads of fun. We all got along great shared many stories and road experiences. On Saturday we left this paradise and sailed 30 hours straight to Cartagena with no stop. Several people, including Heinz were a bit seasick (I fed him lots of Gravol) and spent most of the time below deck.
Sunday early afternoon we arrived in the port of Cartagena, Colombia. Everyone was excited to finally get off the ship. We all had to find accommodation and come back the next day to retrieve our luggage and unload the bikes and get them through customs.
Heinz and I went with Ludwig who has a home in Cartagena with wife and a daughter. He rents out 2 rooms and we took one. Ludwig is a German guy from Bremerhaven with a great sense of humor, lives about 10 Minutes from the harbour.
We all met again on that night for supper in the old part of the city. With great difficulty we finally found a restaurant that could take that many people but they were clearly overwhelmed and could not serve everybody properly, so a bit of a disappointment! Heinz and I had trouble with an ATM machine that only gave us 3 Quarter of the money, we were unable to get the rest. Sadly that dampened our mood a bit!
At 5:00 a. m. we got up next day took a cab with Ludwig back to the ship and not soon after everybody else arrived and accompanied each of their bikes on a moving pontoon back to the pier.
Then the whole group drove to customs and the paperwork was started. It took all morning until everybody was finally done. After a quick lunch we had to buy insurance for each bike because it is mandatory, then back to the pier to get out all the luggage from the ship.
After a final group photo it was time to say good-bye. We all vowed to stay in touch and I’m pretty sure we will see each other again since we all go in the same direction.
This was definitely a high light of our trip getting to know such a great bunch of people. I will remember this for a long time!!