The Darien Gap: a learning curve

When I was first entertaining the idea of riding my motorcycle all the way down to the tip, I was asked, “What are you going to do about the Darien Gap?”  (It’s funny to think of how little I knew when I set out to take on this adventure.)  The Darien Gap is the only missing link of the Pan-American Highway… that means there is no constructed road, between Panama and Columbia, only jungle.  I had no idea what it was let alone how to get across.

This is where my learning curve begins.

Option 1: Air-freight the moto and fly. (cha-ching)

Option 2: Take a boat. (also cha-ching, but way more fun)

So I opted for the boat.  There are many boats that take passengers, but there are only two that will passage motorcycles as well:  (there were three, but Fritz the Cat sank this summer – moms and dads – please don’t worry.)   a new boat Independence and the tried and true Stahlratte.   It is a three-day journey from San Blas, Panama to Cartegena, Colombia including a brief tour of the islands and its surrounding crystal blue waters.  I have heard wonderful things about Stahlratte and decided to ask for passage with them.

There should be a sign warning tight curves ahead…

I had this idea in my head to spend Christmas in Colombia.  It had a nice ring to it.  I figured two months was plenty of time to ride through Mexico and Central America, about 4,000 miles.  (Perspective check: I did twice the miles in the same amount of time last summer to AK and back.)

Upon further research, the Stahlratte’s last voyage of 2012 departs Panama on Dec. 8th and does not resume service until Jan 14th giving the crew time off to celebrate the holidays. And when I called about it, there was one spot left. I contacted the other boat, but still have not heard back from them.

Here is where my learning curve took a sharp turn and I had to figure it out how to lean into it quickly.

With my original departure date in mind, that would now give me 5 weeks to ride, well, 4 really because of a week in Antigua to learn Spanish (see next post.)  So I had a minor freak out that morning wondering how I was going to manage it since I don’t have a month to spare in Panama if I realistically need to make it down to the tip (about 13,000 miles) by April 2013 because temperatures start dropping by then.

My dilemma… can I leave earlier than Nov. 3? Can I accelerate my preparation with the idea of being ready to leave after the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Cambria, CA on Oct. 21st ? (yes, only two weeks away!)

By default of limited options, it seems like the most logical progression to accept what is laid out before me…  I reserved the last passage on the Stahlratte.

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