In March 2014, I took my small motorbike from Panama to Colombia. Avoiding the jungle I had to transport it through the sea. The first part of the story says a little about the road through the Darien Gap and the reasons why it doesn’t exist.
No surprises here, as usual I had plenty of luck and going through Darien Gap took me only a week. I didn’t get stuck on any island and I saw little bit of fascinating, hidden world. None of my electronics didn’t get wet, motorbike didn’t fall into the water, only the passport got a shower and my US visa looks little bit funny right now. That might make the return trip complicated, but let’s not worry about that too much right now.
To make to the final Columbian stop I had to take three different speedboats (one dry and two wet) and a cargo ship, which was my home for almost six days. The route I covered is as follows (sea sections are marked bold).
Panama City -> Coast of Panama -> Carti Island (Panama) -> Puerto Obaldia (coast of Panama) -> Capurgana (coast of Colombia) -> San Juan De Urabá, close to Arboletes (coast of Colombia) -> Cartagena (Colombia)
Somewhere on the coast of Panama, just a minute before loading the bike on the speadboat to Carti island. Sea trail over the Darien Gap leads through San Blas islands, autonomous region of Panama, occupied by indigenous Kuna people. Carti island is one of them. The say: today Coca Cola and McDonalds are everywhere. So I went to San Blas and right now I can say that mobile phones reached the end of the world as well.
Carribean Star, the ship that took me and my motorbike from Carti to Puerto Obaldia. Few hours before I saw it I met a cook that was going to work there. Looking for easy money he tried to negotiate the price with me, starting from $300 but in the end said that it is not going to be possible for less than $200. Finally I spoke with the captain and agreed on $150. But still I think I overpaid.
The food was better than on Iris from Rio Mammore.
Indigenous people of San Blas islands, Kuna, speak Spanish and their own language called Dulegaya. They don’t look like Latinos at all and live on packed little islands, that are meter or two above the sea level. In forty years, when big ice mountains from the far north and south will melt and the sea level will raise enough to cover the last island, Kuna will move to the cities, taking of their traditional clothes, forgetting their own language and eventually mixing with Latinos. So go there now to see them… or maybe it’s better to leave them alone?
The day before we arrived to Puerto Obaldia, our captain instead of taking off ordered to paint the ship. Looking at crew’s work speed I could only guess that they are really bored with being on the sea and everybody just waits to have some fun in Puerto Obaldia. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was just the secret plan of the captain, to motivate seamen to finish their job fast.
The last day we went to Puerto Obaldia, where I hired a speedboat to Capurgana (Colombia).
Eventually, the final port. Or should I say, some random village by the sea. The original plan was to get to Turbo on a cargo ship. But I accidentally found a speedboat going somewhere between Turbo and Cartagena, for one third of original price to Turbo. I ended up travelling on a boat jumping on the waves for three and a half hours, the trip I’ll never forget (it’s enough time to think about… everything). Finally I landed on some forgotten beach, so tired that I could easily imagine myself landing on the beach in Normandia. I could only suspect that my appearance gave everybody there a reason to talk for a week. If it’s not enough, I realised that you cannot just land somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Colombia. Duty office in Monteria (the closest big city) sent me 300 kilometres further to Cartagena, the only reasonable place I could register my motorbike. And during that trip I couldn’t be stopped by a police, which thankfully didn’t bother me, mainly because with my motorbike I look like a local. Besides, I suppose they are mainly looking for cocaine trucks… Ah, adventure.