Friday finally arrived and the excitement to leave Panama and set foot in South America was high. We woke up early, loaded up the bikes and rode to the port to meet the captain at the docks. During our week long layover in Peurtobello we had the pleasure of hearing all the sailor gossip at the various bars and panadarias, but no one had anything good to say about our captain. We got to the docks with low expectations and after waiting for an hour she finally showed up once the port captain got ahold of her on the radio. Upon her arrival she simply said to leave the motorcycles on the dock and head to Colon to export the bikes. This was new to us and we did not understand how we could export our bikes without having them on hand for aduana to inspect the vin numbers like in every other country. She assured us that it would be fine and gave us the option of taking her friends taxi for $50 or the bus for $5. We took the bus.
The only information she provided us with was to take the bus into the city then tell a taxi driver to go to aduana; what she did not tell us was that there are 3 aduana offices in Colon and all of them several kilometers apart. Colon is a nasty port city you do not want to be wandering around in, and after visiting the wrong two offices and spending $20 on cab rides we were finaly at the right aduana, but apparently missing a critical piece of paper. According to the office we had to take the bikes to Panama City to have the vins inspected by the police station before they could be stamped out. Well it's 4pm on Friday and the bikes are already loaded on the boat 2 hours away... not going to happen. We tried everything and even went downtown to the police station to try our luck. No dice, the bikes could not get exported without going to Panama City. We were pretty bummed by now and took a cab back to Peurtobello. We told the captain what happened and she was pissed at us for not taking her friends taxi. Apparently he is familly with the aduana office and is able to get the necessary stamp done under the table. That information would have been nice to know in the morning, and we would have happily paid the $50 rather than wasting a whole day in the city. Now we would be stuck till Monday when we would return to Colon with her friend.
That night we got to meet the rest of the passengers who did not think too highly of us by now. No one wanted to be stuck in the port for the weekend with nothing to do. Monday morning rolled around and we took the taxi to Colon. The taxi driver paid the same lady that denied us two days earlier $20 and we got our stamps. The bikes where now officially illigally exported from Panama.
We pulled anchor that evening and set sail for the San Blas Islands. The first leg of the trip was short, but rough enough for Jordan and I to realize that the sea would own us in the open water. We spent the night trying not to puke or think of how the bikes were doing as we crashed through the waves. The next morning we woke up anchored in the beautiful San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama to perfect white sand beaches and crystal clear water.
That morning the captain made an amazing breakfast and everyone jumped overboard. Soon all the stress of getting the bikes aboard was melted away in the warm water. We spent our days hopping from island to island, snorkeling ship wrecks and eating amazing fresh sea food.
We took every opportunity to sleep on the islands when possible, setting hammocks up in the palm trees and falling asleep to the sound of waves. Being on the islands was an increadible experience, many are uninhabited, allowing for days of exploration.
All good things must come to an end. After dinner on the third day in the islands we set out for open water; a two day crossing that we were dreading. January is regarded as the roughest time in the Carribean. Within 30 minutes I was permanetly seated at the back of the boat pucking my brains out with only 30 more hours to go.
Unfortunately it was forbiden for us to stay on deck at night, so we reluctantly built up the courage to make a dash for our cabins bellow deck, grabbing a handfull of puke bags as we ran for our beds, brasing ourselves between waves. Upon craming myself into my cabin the eruption of puke came in full vengence, completely filling my puke bag and spilling all over my pillow. I layed down defeated in my own pile of barf wishing that I was anywhere other than in this miserable boat getting pitched in the swell. We did not eat or drink for the rest of the crossing in fear of having to get up and go to the bathroom. Jordan did a little better than me but was equally miserable. After two nights of torture we woke up in Cartegena. I pulled my puke incrusted face off my pillow and went up on deck for sunrise. The first thing that entered my body was a celebretory shot of vodka with the crew. We made it and to my surprise somehow our motorcycles that were ratchet strapped to the shitty railing on the back of the boat made it too, salt incrusted but still there.
Setting foot on solid ground had never felt better. We both agreed that sailboats were someting that never had to be part of our lives in any way, ever. We wandered the streets of Cartegena looking for a hostel and instanly fell in love with the beautifull city and its contageous energy. We had finally made it to South America.