The Darien Gap, part 2: when the motorcycle takes a ride at sea

Day 1: (Dec. 7) We were supposed to meet at 9am at the Carti loading docks, about 1-1/2 hours east of Panama City.  We (met another solo female rider Deb at the hostal) intended to leave at 7am, but my KLR decided to have starting issues (i.e. didn’t have the juice to want to start in the morning).  With the aid of a jogger passing by, we tried to gain enough speed on flat ground to bump start it.  That didn’t work.  Unfortunately, we were in a business district and no one was interested in helping.  So Deb, dug into the plastics around her GS650 to get to the battery.  A jump start worked and off we went an hour late. There was no stopping until we got there, not even for fuel which I would be running really close to empty by the time we got there.

nothing like a jump start in the morning


We hurried on the road, watching for Panamanian police.  We can’t miss the boat!  Passing miles of traffic due to a protest blocking the road, we finally turned off on the twisty asphalt road through jungle terrain to Carti and caught up with 4 other motorcycles.  Relief set in, they were going to leave without all of us.


At the dock we all lined up and waited our turn to have our bikes hoisted aboard:


then loaded our selves for an evening stay with Kuna Yala locals on a nearby island.

houses on the island

kuna yala dock


Day 2: After a not so relaxing night’s sleep sprinkled with singing, snoring and roosters, we all headed to the dock for transport back to the Stahlratte.  The boat took us to another island for a day to swim in the crystal blue waters of the Carribbean.

island hopping

Day 3: Off to yet another island for more swimming and snorkeling and a BBQ on the beach later that evening.

Beach life

Day 4: Breakfast (which has been plentiful and delicious) started off by warning, enjoy what could be your last meal for a while since we are heading to open waters.  In about an hour, we’ll see how many people are sick.  And they were right.

doesn’t even begin to show the sway

Sometime mid-morning, the ship stopped.  Even though the 1903 vessel has sails, it usually motors along at 10 knots per hour when there is no wind. We sat adrift 10ft waves that rocked the boat worse than most of the crew had seen.  There was something wrong in the engine room and with a bag full of tools, the crew asked, is there a welder on the ship?  Luckily, one passenger, Paul, who happens to be one of two guys on board riding around the world, had a custom motorcycle shop for 17 years and could weld anything.  This time it happened to be a boat engine.  Several ship swayed hours later, the boat was back in action at half speed for the remaining 60 miles (about 10 more hours) to Colombia.

the stahlratte

Day 5: We all seemed to stir awake as the sun rose over Cartegena.  The waters calmed as we neared the port and watched the slow sail to the dock.  We loaded the dingy to shore and made our way to customs to import ourselves and find a room for the night.

dingy rides

Day 6: Back to the ship to offload the bikes by dingy and head to customs for our motorcycles which took all day, seeing as how t=the officer decided lunch would be from 10-2.


Then, we were set loose on the colonial city of Cartegena….

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