Follow the published narration and story of two friends traveling South, through 15 countries and two continents. From Ottawa Canada to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rob and Nik are set to embark on a journey meant to take a year, to be completed in a mere 2 months.

January - March 2011 : A year in the making..

We promise this blog will not only be awesome to read, but PACKED with info on how to plan your own trip........

the RIGHT way.

With only two months to complete the trip, we'll be cramming in tons of VIDEOS, PICS and useful and hopefully funny info.

Stay tuned for the Extended Video Log on my YouTube Channel after the trip; this blog is only the beginning....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The End of the Road...Part 1

Yeah, can you believe it?? One day we're hitting the waves with a broken bike in Costa Rica and the next we're at the very tip of Panama waiting for a boat. Sorry Chris!! We sorta rushed through what was for me the most excellent part of the trip so far but with reason: we made the final decision to make sure we can get a boat across the Gap. It's the only part of the trip that doesn't have a plan, and its probably the most important. You can get lost a hundred times, but if you have to wait 2 weeks to get a boat, thats a lot of time we can't afford to make up. We really enjoyed the last few dyas, and I promise it's not the last Costa Rica will see of me.

I've been trying to save some money, so for breakfast I've been eating fruits and various groceries we've shopped for at the grocery stores. We find here that the best places to buy food are not local markets, roadside vendors, but supermarkets, walmarts, the big-name corps. Look, we're not hagglers, we try sometimes, but we're two young, 6 and a half feet guys who look like they obviously have some money, so when the price is least we know what we're paying. So we took off from Dominical after a beautiful....haha.....pshhh NOT, rest. Remember the kids in the last post, I don't know how they do it. Bed at 3 am, up at 7 am. Wish I could do it too, I'd get a lot more travel done that way. Anyway, I snacked on bananos while Nik ate breakfast at the pricier restaurant beside the hotel. It was time to roadtest our clutch cable invention. 20km, 40km, 100km, it was doing the trick. I picked up another cable just in case this one went, so we'd have a backup. But it helps when the Costa Rican roads are pretty well maintained. We traveled along the southern route, the CA-2 I believe, which, with intent on going to the volcano, was most definitely the longer route since the other border post north of us would have been MUCH less busy and it pops out 40 km from the Baru Volcano. Regardless, we were still making good time, when BAM! Tractor trailer in the ditch, whole way across the road. I decide to get to the front of the 200 car lineup to see whats going on, and a bunch of guys block the road with their cars so we can't get by to try and sneak past. I turn off the bike and get ready for a nice long nap when it seems some people are getting restless. One guy on a 150cc bike sneaks under the tow trucks towing cables. Yeah, easy for him, his moto is no heavier than a pedal bike. Our turn....we start getting the usual "haha gringos doing silly things" look and with a hell of a lot of strength we get first my bike, then Nik's almost horizontal under the cables. I'd say fully packed, the bikes are 400lbs + 100 packed? Anyway, we got through and saved a good couple hours waiting around, we pranced on past the cars on the other side prancing and weaving across the road like we were champions. Good news!!! We'll be at the Volcano by early afternoon!!! Unless...a certain...borderpost delays us for nearly 4 hours. Yeah, they can never be easy. The exit procedure built our confidence in an easy passage as it took no more than 10 minutes. If you have read the "Central American Wisdom" guide the part about Costa Rica – Panama border crossing is bullshit. It's not a piece of cake, it was in my opinion both the lengthiest and complicated thus far. Luckily however, they are a lot of english speaking locals and travelers who definitely help out to fast-forward the process. Everyone seemed to be there to help each other, but all we're frustrated at the time it took in line. Just in case your crossing into Panama in the next few hours:
  • Get a stamp for your passport, 1.00US from a guy walking around.
  • Also get a paper form to fill out, else you have to get back in line if you don't get one filled out beforehand.
  • Hand papers over to Migracion, let them do their thing.
  • Get insurance, $15.00US from across the road
  • Get insurance stamped in upstairs office
  • Wait in Aduana line and they will eventually check everything and enter it into the computer; make sure nothing is wrong, or have to start paperwork over again (us)
  • Get another customers officer walking around to check your bike, another stamp.
Actually, writing it makes it seem a lot easier, its just when there's hundreds of people all trying to do the same thing it gets hectic, but we were able to do everything before it was due.

OK!! Now we're in Panama, back to American dollars, American food and hot hot weather. The first region you drive through in Panama is Chiriqui, a nice introduction to the developing country. The infrastructure here in EXCELLENT. It was a nice two lane paved road right into David, an hours drive. We drove through what seemed like a flash flood, but was soooo refreshing to be soaked in the heat, definitely cannot complain about that, we've only had one traveling day of rain so far. David is the third biggest city in Panama (there aren't many cities in this country) and our attention was immediately drawn to a Mcdonald's billboard. Supper MOST DEFINITELY:
For 12.99, you receive the Big Box meal (why can't developed countries offer such gold)
  • two milkshakes
  • three hamburgers of your choice
  • two pieces of kfc-style chicken(but better)
  • four medium french fries
Until now I have pondered why I have chosen to ride this I know why. Every Mcdonald's in Panama offer's this deal...I may never leave.

Enough about dinner :O We needed to get to Boquette before dark, if only we could find the road. There were no signs, no directions, no big enough roads going up into the hills (I bet it was right beside the Mcdonald's billboard), so once again the Volcanoes of Central America have eluded us. So it with great defeat that we could not witness, climb or experience any volcanoes here. Disappointingly we rode on into the darkess. For me, I don't mind riding at night. As a cardinal rule that shouldn't be broken, I've never had any trouble so far and would recommend it if necessary. Mind you, I wouldn't stop unless I really had to, but riding at night offers its own solitude. You avoid the heat of the sun, distances seem to accumulate much faster, and I like following the contours of a decently paved road at night to hone up on riding skills. Remember, Panama has some awesome roads.

As we rode, we decided to stop at the first hotel we could find. Amazingly enough, the Paradise Inn in Lajas snuck up on us. 4Km off the main road and 5 minutes from the ocean, this place is number one in my books for accomodation. It loses points for not being on the ocean, so it's hard to compare with Verde Mar in Manual Antonio, but this place was rockin'. Quiet, full of people from Canada, and one room left. All the plam trees were lit up with red and green spotlights, christmas lights, very cool villa-style rooms. We had A/C, fans, hot water, two full sized beds across 300-400 square feet, a hammock, and a FRIDGGEEEEE. Ohh yeah, cold beers. And for the first time, we were able to negotiate from 50 down to 40. We are beginning to understand how this game works.

The pool was nearly olympic sized and all to myself, so while Nik checked up on his facebook page, I had myself a pool + camera frenzy. I could have stayed there for days.....BUT ALAS, we have to find a boat.....

So this morning we rode onwards, we needed to cover over 500 kilometres, so we jumped up to a 7:45am start. Food in Panama is cheappppppp, breakfast: awesome scrambled eggs served with Beavertails sans butter, $2.85. Even lunch, a massive plate of combination chinese rice, the size of two stomachs, $4.00.

The roads continued beautifully until we transversed into the next region. It confused me why the roads suddenly turned to much worse shape, until I realized the obvious difference sin regional governments. The budgets can't be matched, much like you'd see an infrastructure difference between Ottawa and Montreal (anyone who's driven Montreal knows they leave the city 2 inches lower on their suspension). But by the time I thought things fully through, the road widened to two lanes once more as we approached major towns. From there...perfection, two lanes the entire way here. We have not experienced that yet, but are really glad as we needed to cover so much distance today.
I'll have to take a pic of my hands and arms, the sun was out in full force today and I had my sleeves up a bit. Looks like I dipped my hands in grape juice. Panama is impressively trying to match Costa Rica now in tourism, a lot of properties are going up along the coast, along with all-inclusive resorts sprinkled here and there. And the sheer size of Panama city itself was pretty breathtaking. We haven't really seen highrises since Galveston, TX, but we weren't going to stick around to get lost in the big city. A couple tolls later and on our reserve tanks, we found ourselves entering Colon – the port to get our boats. Where the hell do we begin though? After riding around a bit (Colon is a bit of an unfriendly tourist town, but very reminisicent of a run-down Havana), we got to the port entrance and immediately talked to the guard to see if there were options available (yeah, Nik's idea, no fooling around I guess, I just wanted more hotels). Anyway, our best bet we were told was to head to Portobello, a town 30km down the coastline. Off we went in search of boats, I knew at this point, there'd be no way of getting on a cargo boat, as this town was much smaller in size.

Now that we're here, I think I might be falling in love with it. Its quaint, small, but it reminds me of the town thats sacked in Pirates of the Caribbean. Hilly, historic, and lots of friendlies. In fact, this town was sacked by Captain Morgan himself (see how to barrel stance). There is supposedly a lot of treasure buried around, but I don't think we're in for the long haul.

The hostel we were recommended to was run by a fellow named Dennis, called Captain Jack's. This is the place to go to catch a boat: all the captains mosy on up and talk to travelers, get a beer, or just hang out. Dennis can also set you up with a boat. We talked to a few fellows and had a few beers here, but unfortunately, unless we were to sleep on the couch (which was delightfully offered), there were no rooms available, so we said we'd be back in the morning to discuss the few options we were given tonight:
  • Luc on his 55 foot Catamaran, no timeframe yet, sounds costly.
  • Canadian Doug with his sailboat, might leave if enough people, bit cheaper methinks
  • Captain John of the Wild Card, huge 60 foot steel hull, probably costly, might not leave for awhile.
Those are our options here in Portobello for now. Looks like we play the waiting game to see exactly when we can get on a boat. We might take a drive up to Puerto Lindo tomorrow, but we're not sure if there are main roads from here. It's less than 10km, but the map shows no roads. Weird enough, this is where Hostel Wunderbar is located, and the contact I've been talking to to get us a boat from there. We'll see tomorrow, as there might be more options up there.

Right now I again have no internet, so as I post this I will know more, but tonight we are staying at a fine little hotel where our bargaining skills honed even more!! Another 55 for 40 deal. We're happy, it's oceanfront (nice and calm) with a beach, hammocks, massive dock; we have 400 channels (YAY FINALLY TV AGAIN no more crappy Two and a Half Men downloaded on the laptop), A/C, three beds, awesomely decorated. Cold water, but after today, it's all I wanted.

Alright, next post should be shortly, updating on what's going on, Captain Jack's hostel has internet so I should be able to post from there when we get a room. For now, I'm going to rest my hands, I feel I can create flames from my palms....I really should wear gloves when I ride.

OK UPDATE:: YOU GET NO PICS!!! There's scarce internet here, a landslide wiped out 8 people and the internet.....the internet NOT being the important part of that equation. Anyway, the internet we're getting for 2.00 an hour from the emergency line at the police station is too slow to upload a lot of pics. I might be back later to upload the rest to you, in which case, you all owe me 2.00 for your viewing pleasure! So we're still looking for boats, and I'll post again soon.

YOU try fitting your bike under that wire.....without losing a breath

Our bikes getting a nice wash in Portobello


  1. hey rob, it's steve... glad to see your still doing well. Be safe and keep posting...

  2. Glad to see you're doing well! Spent the night with your mama and papa, they miss you! Steph too!!
    Can't wait to give you a hug upon your return!!! xoxoxox

  3. Roberto, it's Khan..

    I am happy everything worked out with your bike. Keep the post coming. Be safe big guy. I am glad to see Nik is taking of you. Talk to you soon.