The flight Barranquilla (Colombia) - Panama City took one hour. In the
Panama City Airport the tourist information gave me exellent information
of the accommodations of the city, and how to get there. First to go
35 kms to the city.
Airport taxis would have ripped 25 USD, but using two ordinary buses
became much, much cheaper: with one change... 35 U.S. cents (35 kms)!! :)
The hostel was ok and reasonable price, 11 Balboas (= 11 USD) per night.
Quite international atmosphere: lots of tourists from United States,
Israel, Switzerland, etc.
6.2. Sat (577) Panama City
One good question was, when the bike might arrive. I had sent it by
cargo flight from Colombia. The freight agents had told the flight would
be in the night... In Colombia I forgot to make sure, which night...
Every detail about the freight had to be found out separately.
I took a ride by bus to the airport cargo area. Quite easy to go and
very economical transportation. Traffic was a mess, but by bus no
problem. One direction (35 kms) took two hours.
Then in the freight office they informed me, "the bike hasn't arrived
yet". "Next flight would be on Sunday."
The hostel was near to good bus connections. The hostel personnel was
helpful and friendly. And in the 11 Balboas/USD price was included
breakfast and free internet-access. Good!
7.2. Sun (578) Panama City
was a few kilometres from the city. Panama Canal: is 80 kms long
connection between two oceans: Atlantic and Pacific. The Spanish
conquistadores were the first ones who dreamed of building the canal,
but the Americans made it come true in 1913.
Some those cargo ships going through it, are specially designed by
the width of the canal. There weren't much space on the sides...
There was a studio, where was shown a short movie about the history
of the canal.
9.2. Tue (580) Panama City
Visiting again the airport cargo terminal. I didn't know anything about
the bike freight, what was going on. There was no certainty, when it
would come. And in what condition. Then the airport cargo personnel
contacted the Bogota airport, by HF radio and asked the details of the
freight. Next day, they said. Okay...
In the hostel there were some Israelians too. Israelians travel a lot
too, mostly in South America. One of them had served in the
anti-terrorist forces in South Lebanon some time ago. He told us
about their methods in fighting against the Hezbollah and Amal forces.
That was nothing new to me, as I've served in UNIFIL in South Lebanon.
He was 22 years of age - and had killed 14 people - in South Lebanon.
He didn't like United Nations, as "they are molesting our work".
(Was happy to hear that :)
10.2. Wed (581) Panama City
At 8 am to the airport cargo terminal. My bike had arrived!
Everything was ok and all the luggage was as where I had loaded it.
I spent four hours in the importation & customs paperwork.
I had never seen my bike as stainy as it was now. Maybe the closeness
of two oceans and hot climate did that. Air was salty.
Among the dangerous traffic I rode to the hostel, 28 kms from the
airport. A maintenance on the yard of the youth hostel: crash bars off,
magneto cover off and adjusting balancer chain tension. I had to make
a new gasket (for the first time)... hups, a cutting error. Original
gaskets were not available, as DR800 is for European markets only.
I had bought the gasket material from Colombia from a car parts shop.
After the maintenance, running sound was like in new one.
11.2. Thu (582) Panama City
View on the way to West
After the capital city the traffic became less intense and safer.
In a parking place of a restaurant one Guatemalan guy donated me his
map of Guatemala. Great. Maps were always a problem in thirld world
countries. For example in Panama City it was practically impossible to
find any kind of a map.
Only some 40 kms to the Costa Rican border. That's good way to do the
crossing: to ride close enought the border and next morning cross it
early. But: due to the incredible bureaucracy, it took three hours!
Just a few counters...
I'll tell here, just as an example:
1) passport control
2) vechicle control
3) buying a traffic insurance
4) before buying an insurance, money exchange at 'bank'
5) to vechicle control counter with the paid insurance receipt
6) to 'bank' (next to the vechicle check counter) to pay some other
7) back to vechicle control to ask someone to check the bike.
And queueing to every place... So that all makes three (3) hours!!
A few hours on a tar road (Pan American highway) then arrived to a
small town. It seemed ok and nice. Climate was tropical and hot.
13.2. Sat (584) San Isidro
The heading for the road was difficult, I was really exhausted. Making
international calls was a bit difficult, as telephone cards were not
easily available. One well equipped pharmacy had phone cards.
Also sending postcards was a problem. Finding a post office was
difficult. I could send cards from Costa Rica that I had written in
Rode the Pan American hi-way (road 2) to the capital
San Jose. The capital city
didn't seem anything spectacular. I decided to search an accommodation
from a small coastal town, Puntarenas. That happened to be some kind of
touristic attraction: small town, but full built of four and five stars
hotels! And all of them were full. One foom available in town, which
cost 99 USD. No thanks! What the (American) tourists saw in that town?
Just a small poor town and a tiny beach. After two hours searching I
found a room from a yacht club.
14.2. Sun (585) Puntarenas, Costa Rica
After two hours riding I got to the border. On the way there was a
bridge, which was nearly falling to the river, 30 metres below!! Big
holes in it!
Another example of another border: At 11:50 I was in the immigration.
Paid a small fee at another counter. Then to the vehicle control... Well,
it was 5 minutes past noon, and the 'vehicle inspector' had left at
noon for two hours siesta. The other officer in the same office didn't
want to help me. So... I just tried my luck and went to the gate to cross
the border. The guard standing there complained only about my passport.
Reason was that the first page (plastic) was broken. Yes, the Finnish
European Union passports were not designed for heavy use.
Passport that is valid for 10 years lasted only 10 months in one piece...
I had exited Costa Rica. Next thing was entering Nicaragua. A Guatemalan
traveller, that I had met earlier, had said this is the worst border
in Central America. I could learn it now, how bad...
There were absolutely no problems with security, but difficulties were
with the bureaucracy. Maybe half-a-dozen of
offices or counters, but
visiting all of them 3-4 times and queueing for them and searcing of
vehicle inspectors, etc,
I spent four hours 25 minutes
(4:25) going from counter
to counter! Two hours of it was to search a paper to which I needed one
stamp to pass the last gate.
Blaah. "I want out of here!" :)
When I got on the road as late as at half past five, it meant riding in
the night. Thing that I usually try to avoid, because it's just an
unnecessary risk. The capital city, Managua seemed to be very poor town.
Only hotels that existed in town, were hour-hotels and one Inter
Continental. I chose an hour hotel. 8 USD per night. The receptionists
did other 'business' too...
As obvious, in Central America there are lots of tiny countries :)
The tar road, Autopista Pan Americana, went
through beautiful sceneries.
Beautiful nature, but the country wasn't touristic at all. I arrived to
the border almost accidentally. The country was that small.
There were no other border crossers, so exiting Nicaragua was over in
5 minutes. To entry formalities in Honduras. Some formalities...
a routine drug & gun check, and about one hour in a few counters.
30 USD to a vehicle tax. The forst impressions of Honduras were that the
country looks good, but the roads were in
dangerous condition. I had
planned to go to and visit the capital, Tegucicalpa, but decided to give
a bridge was washed away.
As evening was coming, I had to find a motel. In the nearest town,
Choluteca, there was a reasonable one. 4 USD per night, no piped
water. Floods on the highway.
Another road in good condition went only a half kilometre away.
I had had an oil leak in the clutch since Ecuador. Now I had got enough
of it, as the leaking oil made the engine side and also luggage dirty.
Finding O-rings for oil sealing wasn't that easy. There were some
I decided to find the O-rings elsewhere. Later the owner searched the
them for me, we had to visit maybe five shops! Very friendly.
On the way some people had warned me not to use the road La Union -
San Miguel, although it was in better condition. There were less
villages along it and therefore less traffic, so the possibility
getting robbed was bigger. I rode the
to San Miguel. The town didn't seem much of interest (for a tourist).
All the shops and places closed at 8 pm.
17.2. Wed (588) San Miguel
Although El Salvador is a tiny country, I didn't even dream of crossing
the border this day. 200 kms to the border and the capital was delaying
more. In San Salvador at the worst possible time: at afternoon
rush-hour! The car drivers didn't care about other road-users at all.
The traffic in San Salvador was dangerous!
Police saw one rude situation, when a car driver used "stronger's right", but the police didn't do anything.
Santa Ana was very different from San Miguel. In Santa Ana the atmosphere
was touristic: lots of cafes, restaurants and bars.