01 March 2003
Sat around today, slept in, etc. But this afternoon we headed to see the Carnival parade. It was short, but pretty cool. Lots of bands, drums, and costumes. One guy was spitting out kerosene and lighting it with a torch.. Unfortunately, I could not get the photo of that. I did get my picture taken with the queen of the parade and her two runners-up though. And there are some new videos as well.
Anyway, we are off tomorrow to Lima, Peru. Flight at 10:30, we should be in Lima by 2 or so..
28 February 2003
Finally! We have our bikes checked out, ready to go!
After spending four hours on Monday with the shipping company and the police, we rode up to the port yesterday (in Colon, about 1.5 hours away) and discovered after a few hours that the folks that needed to sign our paperwork were out on a vacation day, and apparently no one else could do it. We called our shipping agent, and she sent us on a wild goose chase. We have determined that she basically tells us what we want to hear, whether or not there is any truth in the matter. Usually, it's a big fat lie. Anyway, after five hours in Colon we gave up and returned to Panama, thinking we could do the paperwork there (because the agent had told us we could). When we got to her office, she told us that in fact, we could, but it would take a couple of days. So we gave up on that, and called it a day.
Today, we tried again, leaving the hotel before 6am. We arrived in Colon again, and found that the people were actually working today! It took two hours to complete one form and get two signatures. The secretaries doing it were not that bright. They couldn't determine what my nationality was, even though they were looking at my passport. It has USA all over it.
Anyway, after we got that form completed (four originals), we left two there with two full sets of copies of all of our other paperwork. We then went to the next office and they took a copy and stamped a few things and signed a few things. We were them sent to the next office and they filled out another form, stamped and signed others, looked at our bikes, and finally took us to an empty warehouse where we left the bikes.. after 4 hours working on this today. Who knows if they will make it to Chile.
All in all, we spent about 15 hours doing this, and there are, that I know of, at least six copies of all my paperwork somewhere in Panama, and I had to have eight forms filled out. Shmartzen im arshe (that's poorly spelled German for pain in the ass). Once we got back to Panama City on the bus, I had to return to the Peruvian embassy for the fourth time to pick up the letter saying I'm allowed to fly into the country without a flight out.. Of course, I didn't have my bike, so I had to figure out how to get there and back on a bus system. It wasn't too hard, and it only cost 50 cents. Probably less than it costs in gas in my bike to get there and back.
Also, I am starting to really like Panama City. It is fairly cosmopolitan, has everything you need. However, it is a little weird seeing a brand new customized Benz S-Class drive past an apartment building that is literally falling down with people still living there. But the city is nice, parks, waterfront, skyscrapers, residential neighborhoods, and the people have been very nice. There are sections of tree lined streets with cafes and restaurants, there are pedestrian malls, nightclubs, and tons of offices. Lots of money down here, that is for sure. The police are all friendly, and all dressed in immaculate pressed uniforms, very impressive.
We'll see if the friendliness holds true when we trek off to see Carnival parades tomorrow, they are supposed to be hotspots of muggers and pickpockets.. Should be fun though.
26 February 2003
The last couple days have been taken up with logistics.. On Monday Merv, Ruth and myself headed to the shipping office, where we learned that the boat was no longer going to Ecuador or Peru, so our options were limited to Chile or Argentina. So, I decided on Chile as did they. After two hours there doing paperwork and deciding, we headed off to the police station to get the proper permissions to ship out of Panama. That was relatively easy, and we then headed to the Copa airline office to get flights south. As it turns out, the flights to Chile were very expensive and booked, so we are flying into Peru, and bussing 1000 or so miles from Lima to Iquique, where the ship docks. We finally finished in the afternoon at some point.
Yesterday, I did various errands, going to the Peruvian embassy to get a letter from them to allow me to fly into the country without a ticket out, picking up some Panama stickers for the bike, changing some travelers checks, and a few other mundane things.
So today, my last day on the bike for a while, I went out to do some site seeing. Rode up to Miraflores lock, the first of the locks on the Panama Canal. It was very cool, and I watched a big Japanese freighter go through. It was pretty impressive, and I set up a Powerpoint presentation showing the ship rising. Check it out here.
Then I headed off to old Panama, a really neat but sort of run down and kind of dangerous section. The presidential Palace is there, on top of a hill overlooking the new downtown. Tons of old buildings in various stages of decay. I met a German guy living here, and he said that in the last few years things have started to improve there. Some of the buildings are under renovation, and I'm sure in a few years the area will be beautiful.
Tomorrow we head off to the port to try and drop off our bikes. It supposedly takes all day, but we hope to complete it quicker. Then we bus back here to Panama, celebrate the first day or to of Carnival here, then fly to Peru.
23 February 2003
Today was a quick ride into Panama City.. but first I stopped by Noriega's beach house. It's all torn apart, abandoned.. but probably was quite nice. Had bars (as in booze) everywhere, was right on the beach, and had beautiful spiral staircases. Now it's a wreck.
Anyway, tomorrow am we try to get some of the paperwork done for shipping. Apparently we have to go to the police station and have them check out our bikes for some reason. Knowing the bureaucracies, that should probably take all day.
22 February 2003
Yesterday I had a long ride. In Panama, there is not much between Bocas del Toro and a stretch of beaches 300 miles away. So I hunkered down and did it... Problem is, I woke up on an island and had to catch a water taxi to my bike, so I didn't leave on my bike until 11. But I put my head down and blasted along at 60mph or so, made it here in about 6 hours. And, I rolled over 100,000 miles on the GS.
Here is an American style RV park and campground.. where I met Merv and Ruth, the English couple I will be shipping my bike to Peru with. If you remember, I first met them in La Paz, Baja exactly four months ago. I have officially decided to make the jump now, and I wanted to go to Ecuador, but there is some question about the need for a Carnet (which costs the value of my bike) so I'm heading to Peru, then will try to get into Ecuador overland. Also met Sharon and Mike, also English, traveling in a Land Rover, a very cool truck. They shipped their truck to Belize and drove down to Panama, and are now heading back up, stopping in Costa Rica to get married.
We sat around last night after dinner and told stories of the good ole US of A. Car Henge, the Corn Palace, the Potato Museum in Idaho, and of course, the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I summed it all up by complaining that they English are always griping about the American's lack of culture, but we had just spent half an hour telling stories about all the great culture we Americans have...
Anyway, tomorrow I head to Panama City, where on Monday I get to start the paperwork for shipping the bike. It is apparently quite a pain in the ass, but other friends did the same trip with the same company a month ago, so we have decent directions on how and where to do everything. Hopefully that will help.
In another vein, I'd like to take a moment to discuss what in California we would call a Banana Smoothie. In Guatemala it's called a Licuado, as it is in Honduras. In Costa Rica it's called a Smoothie, and in Nicaragua it's sometimes called a Licuado and sometimes a Smoothie. In Panama, as I have found out, it's called a Batido. They always have them, but sometimes it is a bit tough to order them when you don't know what they are called.
Anyway, I have found myself to have something of an addiction.. They are very very good; bananas, ice, milk, and of course, plenty of sugar, all blended up together into a creamy delicious, uh, drink. It's like a banana ice cream shake. And, you can kid yourself that it's good for you, what with the bananas. You can have them for breakfast (cause it's fruit) or for dessert (cause it's sweet) or anytime. Thanks for your patience, I'm done now.
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