When planning to drive the „Panamericana“ you will come across a specific problem soon … actually the Panamericana or the Panamericana „Highway“ ist not one single road from north to south or vice versa. It is more of a road system on one hand and it is not continuous … there is a gap in the connection between Central and South America – the so-called Darien Gap . The Darien being a large and impenetrable jungle and nationalpark.
So at that stage shipping is the only alternative for cars, motorhomes and other vehicles while (motors) bikes can sail or fly. I read about one guy who had the idea of crossing the gap by a self built floating device using his motorcycle as an engine … he finally made it but almost died trying.
In my case it seemed the best to put Theo and the trailer into a container thus being save from theft or damage. Organizing this is not as easy as it sounds. Although several agents are named in the „Panamerican Travelers Association“ facebook group it is not as easy as the shipping from Germany to the US was. After having found an agent and agreed on the cost and timing there is a two days paperwork involved in Panama City and Colon before loading the container . After the loading process you are „free“ but without your vehicle and what was your home for the past several months … so you are somewhat homeless !
Next question to work on is how to cross the gap yourself. It would be nice to go on the same vessel with your car but that is obviously not an option in this case. Most people will fly – it is relatively cheap an takes only 1 hour or so. But somehow it just doesn’t seem right !
So I decide to do the sailing trip taking me to San Blas Islands and finally to Cartagena de Indias in Colombia. as I was waiting for the timing of the container everything was very shot note. I found an agency on the internet and finally there was one spot left on the „Big fish 1“ which I reserved.
After 2 interesting days in Panama City I was picked up by a bus with the group of people ready to sail on 2 different boats. We drove to Puerto Lindo where the boats were waiting for us to set sail that night. It turned out to be a group of mostly Europeans , the group and crew were very nice , I was the oldest person on that boat !
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made on that trip ! After having survived the first night with a lot of motion and seasickness for almost everyone (glad I took tons of the anti sickness pills ! Worked great) we sailed to several islands of the San Blas Islands and anchored in lovely spots … Imagine .. just a small island in the blue sea, lots of palm trees on it, white sand, lots of huge sea shells ashore … coconuts everywhere ! What more could you probably want ?
The coconuts though are not yours to take ! The islands are indeed inhabited by the Kuna people who also own the coconuts. But you can buy coconuts from them and they will open them right there for you to drink … put some rum in it … „coco loco“ … you will love it ! Paradise can’t be any better !
They also sell lobster and fish to the several sailors around their islands. What a feast ! One Lobster fresh from the grill for everyone that first night on the boat ! But it can still get better as we sail on to the Holandes Cays. We land on Akuadagana Island to have a BBQ that night. during the day it’s swimming, snorkeling, relaxing on either the boat or the beach. While I write this I try to get information about this Island I could walk around in 30 Minutes – there is NOTHING on google … believe it or not !
So after sunset we start an amazing BBQ with beef, chicken, pork … very good , salad and baked potatoes as well as coconut bread and rice prepared by the Kuna living on that island. Later that evening we sit there and have a couple (or more) beers with the Kuna and a lively chat (as far as my Spanish is concerned it´s more of a listening) .. but what a chance to. Get in touch with these people . I am very impressed who happy they seem to be living the free but really very simple life on these remote Islands with no running water or electricity (some may have solar panels to charge batteries, some not) . What an unforgettable evening. That is only possible due to our great crew who have good connections the the people here and let us participate – tank you !
After that we met the Kuna on another island where they were selling crafts. They are well known for their embroidery. This is also part of their traditional dresses. Interestingly I had recently read in a book on the travels of Alexander von Humboldt in South America some 200 years ago that some peoples there would raise the 5th boy child in an row like a girl/woman as to take care of the household and take over „typically female“ jobs , a tradition that was stopped by christianisation. It seems still tradition here on the islands as one of the „women“ selling their crafts was just such a person. Very interesting and impressive encounter.
After another day in paradise just relaxing we set sail to Cartagena for 30 hours of blue water sailing !
An outstanding experience – thanks to Francia, Harry and Luis – our crew !
PS the shipping of the vehicle turns out to be not as smooth and excellent as this trip … as of now the container is still in Panama waiting to be loaded to the vessel that had some technical issues on its way from Cuba. Tomorrow is the prospective loading day and hopefully arrival will be on Saturday for a retrieval on Monday (of course customs officer do not work weekends nowhere in this world) – Keeping fingers crossed !