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....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Long Haul - Rob

I'm on a boat, no, not the song, just saying theres not much else to do other than write a couple more thousand words. Before I get to the crunchy stuff, I'll recap the past few days since we've been in Portobelo. I think I posted on the first day we were there, not much action. The subsequent days felt like a video game, yeah a video game, role playing, where you go around town talking to every single character, finding out information about getting out of the town, and what you can do to help. It was all pretty surreal, but we had our motivation and talked to everyone as much as possible. If you're traveling like we are, you want to visit Hostel Portobelo, or Captain Jacks. Dennis the drunk runs the place with Jack and was our main source of connections to getting a boat. The only real thing you can do is wait...and wait. I suggest is the budget fits, get yourself a nice place, because the hostels in town are crappy. No privates, shared everything, no sleep. Unless your into that sorta thing. Me and Nik prefer our solace, so we stayed at the Coco Plum. Woman's a tad hellish, but we snuck our rate from 55 to 35 since we stayed there for 4 nights. And if your timing's off, like ours was, thats about the minimum you're looking at. We traveled back and forth between Colon, where we'd have some internet and decent food (40 minute drive), to Puerto Lindo, where Hostel Wunderbar would try and hook us up as well. Our choices of boats were limited:
  • Captain Jack wasn't coming back until the 10th, leaving on the 14th (he had one of two of the nicest boats available, called the Fantasy, a hell of a yacht and comes highly recommended)
  • Captain John of the Wild Card, the most entertaining boat capable of throwing on 20 people, another massive steel hull boat
  • Captain Umberto, who Dennis said would take us...until he saw the bikes and threw that idea out the window (he also wanted 850 to only go to Zapsurro...big mistake for bikes as no roads and risky Launcher ride across the ocean)
  • A German captain was scheduled to leave on the 6th, which we were sure of taking, but we never could figure out if his final destination was Turbo or Zapsurro.
  • Captain Doug, who Dennis recommended if we weren't picky, but was nowhere to be found...he would go to Turbo.
Days passed, we did lots of riding, the road between Portobelo and Puerto Lindo is now probably my favourite of the trip, the more I mastered it without the panniers, the more fun it became. We never got to go snorkeling or scuba, or park seeing, but we did head around town and check out the sites. We rented a kayak from Pirate's Cove, another hostel not worth mentioning, which brought us over to the big fort + a river with some mangroves...way too far....had to turn back before dark. That was two nights ago now. Other than that, I took a ton of videos of allthe perfect sunsets, the sights, and of course Colon. Dennis informed us one stumbling night of his that the Dominican harbour scenes from Quantum of Solace were actually shot in Colon, because, and his exact words, "They had to find a bigger shithole than Port o Prince, and the only place on the planet was Colon". That will sum up the town pretty well mind you, I took a beautiful video of what looked like post-world war Germany. Back in the day before Panama became a drug run town and prospered, Colon was actually a rich city. But over time, it became run-down and the poorer folks moved there. The buildings started falling apart (again imagine old Havana) and now all these rubbled edifices are still lived in. It's really scary, so scary that when I took the video I really shouldve thought twice. Not that anything happened, definitely could have, going down an alleyway with a thousand dollar camera in my hand on my bike. One slightly fellow tried to hop on the back of my bike for jokes, we obviously didn't think it was so funny. Excitement over, we headed to the Panama Canal. 5.00 entry, pretty well worth it at least once in a lifetime. You get to see massive freighters way up close passing through the canal. We found out for a decent sized sailboat, chartered, it would cost 8 grand to pass through, while an average sized freighter, based on weight of course, cost upwards of 300 grand. Sounds about right. It's a small exhibit, the pictures I took are the only sights to see there, but like I said, worth a quick visit, if you can navigate there without any signs at all. Back to Portobelo, where our new friend Dan was waiting at the hostel for us with news....nope no news. Regardless, hes a solo traveler from Tenessee on his way to Tierro del Fuego. Hes already been on the road for 8 months. This guy's got balls. We've been talking to him now for hmm at least 4 days (hes actually on the boat with us right now). 25 and freedom, sounds pretty cool to me. He's been just about everywhere, places we'd pass through in a day, he'd be there for 3 weeks. Good man, he was looking for a boat with us, sharing his stories and figuring out what to do from there. Also met another couple, Martin and Kirsten, from Aussieland, traveling abound, who we'd also bunk along on the boat ride...or so we thought.

We learned from Dan about some of the adventures we should have had but luckily missed out on. My favourite was....if you remember a while back (circa Guatemala, day 1) where we went through Lago Atitlan. The dirt road we so dangerously navigated and hated ourselves for it is actually one of the top 5 most dangerous roads this side of the Greenwich. Good thing we found out the easy way....supposedly along here, becasue the road is so steep, you cannot stop or turn around. Armed bandits stop you, push you over and take all your things with very little effort you can provide in stopping them. Would have been real nice, especially since me and Nik became separated at one point. Well, safe and sound, I'm thinking of staying more safe now, knowing that shit like this can happen anywhere anytime. Sorry about that parents, loved least Rob and Nik learned the easy way this time....

OK BACK TO PORTOBELO. The morning of the kayak rental, we tried talking to a few captains, with no luck. But we ran into the 3 stooges who out of nowhere met with Doug where he was ready to sail the next day. Bonus! We ran over to meet him, 800.00 going to Turbo, a bit pricey but considering he was the only captain until the 10th (confirmed) doing so, it was our only choice. Big mistake...more on that later...

We went back to town to pick up the rest of the groceries we'd need since he was traveling solo and we'd have to make our own food. No biggie, Dennis said we'd have to rough it a bit. We dropped off the food, went back to our awesome room to enjoy the last bit of A/C, comfort and cable television we'd have for a week.

We were told to meet at 8 am....nope, make that we finally met him at 2pm, because we would only sail at dusk to make it to San Blas in the morning (passing through the reef in the dark is supposedly a pretty tough task...after last night, I wouldn't doubt it).

OK, now for the part that every motorcyclist dreams of, popping their bike off the dock and onto the launcher boat, then onto the sailboat. I won't be able to upload the video until I get back, its a biggie, and I only was able to catch the bike going into the launcher, because it takes every ounce of man power to do this job. It's a goddamn joke, fly your bike if you have the money. 3 hours of pulling ropes, dropping bikes, snapping mirrors + handguards (not mine, sorry Dan), huffing and puffing, the bikes were finally in the boat. The best part is while your doing all this, the launcher driver's pounding back a 2-4 of Balboa. I can't complain, the bikes are on and safe, were we?

Here's the fun part....Doug is a nice guy. He's a bit of a lonely character, and that's what were here for, but I don't think he's all there...that or his skills aren't up to par. Martin and Kirsten smelled it from a mile away, they were the smart ones. Striaght up, if I had to wait until the 6th, it would be my pleasure. The cops pulled up on us as soon as it looked like we were ready to go. Doug wanted to get the exit stamps in Provenir, first sotp in San Blas. They wouldn't let him. They kindly informed us to....can you guess? Take off our bikes and get them checked out in Colon, 40 minutes drive away. No other choice, but of course, theres always another way out. Ronaldo latrer boarded and said he'd help a poor old lonely captain out and just do all the paperwork there in Portobelo. Thank fukin' god.....For Marty and Kirsten, it was already too late. They scrambled at the dis-organization and that was the last we saw of them. Better for us, there's only 4 beds, and now there's four of us. A nice big boat for the three opf us travelers, if only it was nice. The boat's big enough, 40 foot, but its rusting nicely, the ugliest of all the harbours worth of boats. It's old, it smells like the hoof of a horses ass, it's just not appealing. Its leaky, damp, but it does the trick. Hell, we're only going to be on it for 5 days, how bad can it be?

He arrives almost 2 hours later with news of our departure, and we set off. We get out of the bay and we soon realize what sort of hell awaits us. Its January, if you're gonna sail, sail another time. DO NOT sail to Cartegena in January. None of us really get mocean sickness, usually..Anyway, a nice sunset, and as long as its light out, we're all alright. Dusk falls, it begins.

6:00pm, hour 1: dark has fallen, we all stay above the cabin because even looking down there is making us sick...we cannot walk aorund down there.
Hour 2: Everyone's still on the deck, waves are now 5-6 foot swells, not impossible, but when you can't set your eyes on anything, it starts to affect.
Hour 3: Dan takes off downstairs, and I take over the steering while Doug is doing the navigation; its the novice fear of sailing, and concentration of lighthouses and islands that keep me from, know.
Hour 4: "Doug, you need to take over, I have to...." you know the rest. Round 1 goes to Ocean.
Hour 5: Still huking (not pronounced hugh-king, cause that sounds terrible) , Nik went down, I still can't look into the cabin, still up. Ni'ks bike is trying to make a run for it. Waves are getting bigger, up to 7-8 footers.
Hour 6, 7, 8: Bathroom cannot be used, both Nik and I tried and failed miserably. Huking continues, I went down for a bit, as long as my eyes are closed, as with all of us, we seem to be alright...and by alright, I mean twice as bad as food poisoning, oh how I wished I had severe food poisoning instead. Went back on deck and splayed over the floor. Getting cold, lost my shirt.
Hour 9: The only time in my life where I feared for my death, and wished I was dead at the same time. Still huking, we're all huking by this point.
Hour 10: Things settle down, Captain Stink takes full control (and by full control I mean a terrible auto-pilot system that has to be watched so we don't keep doing circles). He must know what he's doing though, he's been doing this for a while, the only hope we can hold on to...We're all downstairs trying to sleep.
Hour 11 and 12: I have no idea how long Dan's been sleeping, but Nik supposedly got 6 hours..bastard. I was lucky to maybe have 2, I can't remember, I've never been so miserable in my life.
Hour 13: Sun's up, San Blas i nthe distance, I go under the read a Panama sail guide which surprinsgly helps ease the pain. A few hours later and we're quietly anchored in a calmer (still lots of current) island. Thank.....god......

All night I was telling myself that if I had another choice I'd turn around and forget South America, for me, it was that bad. If I have to sail another night, I might mutiny myself, I don't seriously think I can do it. The request has gone out to sail only in daylight, to park ass at night in a quiet cove. Anyway, this is adventure, its too bad we got the worst boat you can ask for. So much food, so little stomach.

So again, I do recommend paying the little bit extra to fly, unless you dead set on San Blas. I think you need a good captain here though, who knows the islands well and will show you a good time. Were letting doug sleep right now, not sure whats on the agenda, but I had a couple swims and a snorkeling session, there's fa rtoo much current here to get a good one in, I hope he'll bring us to a bigger island sheltering the currents so we can have a better go at it. I also want to cehck out some villages and see whats up for purchasing, I read the whole history on the Kuna's and things seem pretty interesting.

I suppose thats all the news I have to write about for now, if you don't hear from me again, I threw myself overboard in hopes of finding solid ground. Hats off to those who can sail, but in my books, scratch that shit off the list, it's too much work.

Day 3: More hell on high water.
Even though we're still in San Blas, we're taking on more waves. Can't really avoid them, even with the reef. We stayed between a couple of islands that provided us with shelter from the elements, a nice break for sure. We got to snorkel through some rough currents, seeing some starfish and schools of some silver-looking fish. We checked out the islands, but most of the day was used for recuperation. Today we're heading to another bigger island, we better get there fast or I'm about due for some huking.

Day 3 part 2: Mutiny?
The captain is trying to charge us more some random islands in the eastern Caribbean. Sigh. Kirsten and Martin were right, I told you before they smelled something wrong with this guy (beyond his horrible stench) and they were right on the penny. We anchored off Bandero Cays, a little windy here and the weather is shitty (apologies for lackluster writing before but the waves tossed around the brain a little bit). Anyway, we anchor for an hour, when Doug comes up to me asking for the missing 9 dollars...the ones Nik spent on him for his gingerale and the ice. Great, we pay for groceries. Anyway, beyond that, hes asking out of nowhere for 25 dollars for money he forgot to mention before we got on. Oh, that and we're now having to pay to unload the bikes at Turbo, a price any other captain always includes in the price. Arent we lucky? 30 minutes of debating and how we're being cheated, but no, hes being cheated. Back and forth, remember Rob...always make contracts...always, your in business you fool. Long story short, no agreement yet, but hes in the wrong and now we're paying for it. Let's see what happens. So far, we're not paying the 25.00 for the "food credit" not applied to the bikes. Forget it. There's three of us and one of him...mutiny it will be, I can run the motor, and run the boat aground if I have to. The Stalhratte has just passed by us, and oh how we all long to be on this massively impressive ship. We should've waited for the next boat, now we are paying for it. He's a nice guy, but you can't go changing the price once we're half way there, changing stories and telling us lies. The story continues.....

Part 1 of the videolog explaining the rest of our boat ride

Finally....the last installment of our trip through hell!!!

So yeah, I've put you through hell listening and watching our journey, so heres a whole bunch of pictures to keep you from never coming back to my blog :) And again, sorry this has taken so long to post, but its taken a long time to upload the videos to youtube.

The Panama Canal, Gustan Locks! The boat in this pic cost 8 grand to pass through

Figured I'd be a little educational, just in case you wanted to know how the locks worked

Part Deux

More viewing pleasure, other than this vantage point, not much else to the lock tour

But I'll smile anyway!

Did I say Gustan before....shame...for shame

Rollin' in dough, all the damn time. We're not rich....anymore..Dirty Doug has all our monies

A little sun shower the day of the trip

The tow from the night before

This is the landslide that took out the town, electricity, families...sad stuff:(

Which bike goes in the drink first?

Barely alive and pants full of you know what

Still not happy, heading out into the ocean

I tried to get creative waiting for impending doom

While we unloaded, the drunken pilot did some unloading of his own

Told you he was drunk

Nik was pissed having to get our precious captain his ginger ale and hielo

The first sunset, the calmest ocean I wish we would of had the whole way
We made it...WE MADE IT...AAAAAHHH, this is a puke face

Dan bought us dinner, but then felt bad and threw it back overboard for the fisherman to catch again

A nice sunset viewed by many who anchored with us

Nik's just as happy as I was

Well, I might have taken it overboard...I grew a chinstrap with my skin

I would have much prefered this yacht...seadoo and all

Oh oh wait, THIS is the boat we wanted to really take (Stahlratte)

These birdies came to watch the sunset too

My favourite pic of the trip, this sums up San Blas pretty well

Climb climb climb!

A little dolphin action on the rough seas

A little after-ocean cleanup and tuneup...didn't help too much, bikes were destroyed (following pics)
Exhibit A: No mirror, broken handguard

Exhibit B: Spark Plug replacement, fried electronics

Exhibit C: Still in progress

Rusty brake rotors, clean tire tho!

My clean chain, for once! Finally looks good.

Dan's, not so much
Next post, probably tonight haha

1 comment:

  1. Told you the salt would wreck everything!!!! Hope you enjoyed sailing on the ocean and you can understand our passion for it. The pics are simply amazing, we are a little jealous of you I must say. But the sailboat will get us further then the samurai hahaha. We are thinking of you and we are happy to see you are having fun and are still alive and well.

    Take care, cant wait to see you again and hear about all the good stories.
    Cath & Dan