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The main purpose of this blog is as a permanent record of my adventures throughout the Americas by motorcycle. Feel free to comment or ask me any questions - I'm an open book.

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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Riding in Central America An Overview


Having ridden in Central America for several weeks, I had become accustomed to the crazy, chaotic world that exists on the roads in this part of the world. More than hostels, the road had become a home away from home. And so I present the following introduction to riding in Central America.

Fuelling Up

I've only pumped my own fuel on a few occasions, when I've been too impatient to wait for the attendant. Otherwise, I just pull up to the bowser with the high quality fuel (normally indicated by other bikes or an attendant pointing), open the gas tank and let him fill 'er up. The attendant takes the cash and makes change. If I need a break, I'll wheel Izzy off to the side, but mostly I'll just set off. It's really efficient - usually only takes a matter of a minute in total. Prices vary wildly country to country, but are pretty identical between stations (sometimes as mandated by regulation - Costa Rica doesn't have price signs - the gas price is identical and dictated by government). It gets confusing as some countries use imperial and metric measurements at the same time - a gas station will be 2kms away, sell oil by the litre, but petrol by the gallon!


Firstly, It has to be said that the police and military in Latin America are some of the nicest I've ever met. Most who pull me over want to talk about my trip (the further south I get, the further their jaws drop when I say I've come from Canada) - It feels less like an interrogation, and more like friendly curiosity. Military checkpoints are designed to catch criminals or guerrillas - in other words, locals. Most encounters go something like this: The officer in the middle of the road motions for me to pull over onto the shoulder, or into a carpark (It should be mentioned that I simply pass through about 90% of the time, as they can't stop everyone). I then kill the engine, and take off my helmet. I am covered from head to tail, so this is usually the first indicator that I'm an extranjeno, or foreigner. First question - "Where are you going?" followed "Where did you come from?". That's where Canada slips into the conversation, and stops the officer in their tracks. Then it's time to tell my story, quite often to a growing group of people. Antarctica is also a drawcard, and generally warrants smiles and shaking of the heads from my audience. After we talk about the country we're in, and exhaust my Spanish (it's not often that any of them speak English), I ask a question or two - generally about the safety of the upcoming road, or where I should stop for lunch/dinner. I then collect my passport/licence/import permit, put on my helmet and head off into the distance, waving officers in the background.

That being said, some officers only see dollar signs when they see the colour of my skin. I've had a few encounters now with those type of people, and am happy to be able to say that each time I left them empty handed. I'm not breaking the law (any more than anyone else), and in many countries (such as Mexico), tourists aren't supposed to be fined for traffic infringements (supposedly removing the potential for these kinds of encounters). It's pretty easy to get out of these situations - If they don't speak English and you pretend that Spanish is foreign to you, you'll quickly reach an impasse where the officer will be forced to let you go. If you can communicate, he may try to offer you a choice: ticket, or a smaller on the spot 'fine'. If you opt for the fine, he'll give up. Finally, if they ask outright for a bribe - calmly and consistently refuse. There is a caveat however - judge the situation according to it's merits, and don't get aggressive. If they actually have you by the balls, you may be stuck. In several countries, police can impound your vehicle for a number of reasons, so it never pays to be aggressive or annoy them. Be polite, smile and spend that money on a beer, far sweeter for being bought with money saved.

Road Users

Motorcycles & Cars

Since crossing the Rio Grande, engine size has shrunk and the passenger load has increased. A 250cc engine seems almost excessive here, and a 1000cc+ engine is laughably over the top. I often find myself on the worst 'road', passing a 125cc Chinese built postie bike with two people and cargo. I am then reminded of a quote from an online forum for adventure riders - "It only takes 12HP to cross the world - the rest is just wheelspin". The popularity of motorcycles is also directly related to the safety of riding such a vehicle - countries with high rates of motorcycle use tend to be more aware of others on the road, and less likely to spread you along the bitumen. I honestly felt safer riding in Managua, Nicaragua than in Chicago, where cars move first & check their blind spot later, generally after you've had to take evasive action.


The lumbering, traffic-jam-inducing giants of the Central American road system, and the bane of existence for cars in the mountains. I don't mind them, as I can easily pass several vehicles in one shot while going uphill. In some of the more dangerous areas (the danger being due to the type of people who frequent the road - be they guerrillas or criminals), trucks are a reassurance and shield of sorts. There is safety in numbers, and following an unofficial convoy is certainly safer than sticking it out alone. Sometimes, it has been necessary to ride despite a quadruple threat - past sunset, raining, in the mountains, in an area known for guerrillas. I don't like it, but continuing on to the next city is safer than camping out. In those times, trucks are high-beamed angels. I slot myself into a convoy and bask in the bright beams that dwarf the pathetic torchlight Izzy is capable of. With brake lights in front guiding me (and partially sheltering me from the rain), I can sit back and cruise leisurely at 20mph. I may not get there early, but I'll get there.


While there are a limited number of people employed to tame roadside vegetation (sometimes with just machetes!), often this task is left to animals. Horses and cattle are often tied up on the side of the road and left to consume the vegetation that grows like bamboo possessed. While normally quite safe, the animals sometimes break free from their bonds, and wander as is their want. These beasts are not scared of traffic, and certainly won't move or change course for a motorcycle. A stationary horse is an easy obstacle to avoid, but a moving bull is tricky. I confess to wanting to kick a few when passing, but I don't know if they'll react, and send me flying (a pretty embarrassing way to end the trip!). Dogs react to motorcycles, sometimes chasing them, sometimes running away, sometimes not seeming to be able to decide what to do. I rode past my hostel in David, Panama several times as the owner's dogs would almost run under my wheels each time I approached, distracting me. I have forcefully shooed a few away with my steel caps, which might seem mean, but is lot better than turning them into vulture food. On that sombre note, the quantity of roadkill is incredible. If it wasn't for the vultures, there would be piles of rotting carcasses lining the street. Another tip: if you see black birds circling in the distance, be prepared to hold your breath - tropical heat does overpowering things to the dead here.


Roads in Central America are not built to conquer the landscape, but rather follow it. Hence, roads skirt along hills and rise and fall with the terrain, with no tunnels in sight, and only the bare minimum of bridges. This means one thing - curves. lots and lots of "Curvas Peligrosas", one hairpin after another. As someone who had only ridden in countries with large, open areas, this was quite new to me. Quite often, the road is conquered by the landscape - landslides, serious potholes and sunken sections of bitumen are quite common, generally preceded by an orange cone or tree branch on the road before the bend. Riding back in Oz is going to seem boring by comparison.

Fluidity of traffic

Despite the apparent chaos that is endemic to the traffic in the larger cities, there remains a certain structure - a natural order if you will. Someone along the way had hit the nail on the head when they mentioned the traffic here as much more 'fluid'. With less adherence to laws, traffic resembles a mass of marbles rolling down a hill, rather than a series of queues in formal order. Every vehicle still occupies an individual space, but that space is not rigidly stuck in their current lane (if they're even marked - several multi-lane roads remain devoid of markings of any sort). This is exemplified at red light stops, where cars give at least a metre or two between the car in front of them. This allows the hundreds of motorcyclists to filter through and across lanes to the front of the line. Being on two wheels is a real time saver here. It can be unnerving though, especially as an approaching truck barrels towards you in your lane, in order to pass someone else. When you expect it though, it becomes less confronting. The fact that slow moving traffic always move over to the shoulder to let you pass is a nice touch too.
This fluidity has several impacts. The most obvious of which is the alertness of everyone on the road. I have yet to see anyone being dangerously cutoff, as EVERYONE checks their blind spots before moving. Compounding this alertness is the ready use of horns, not as a tool of aggression but for their designed purpose - to warn of danger. Originally, I winced and braced for impact every time I heard a horn go off nearby, but eventually worked it out - it was their way of saying "I'm in your blind spot and coming past, so don't do something unpredictable". Now when I hear a horn I calmly check my blind spot, and let them pass.
While people use their horns appropriately (if a little too frequently), indicator use is another story. There is almost no rhyme or reason to their use. Buses use either the left or right indicator to signal their intention to pull over to the right, and cars travel with indicators on for miles, completely oblivious. The only rule I can identify is that hazard lights mean "caution, I'm travelling slower than other traffic", or similarly "I intend on staying in this slow moving line behind a truck, so pass me". In short, I don't trust a blinking indicator, and instead look at the driver (if possible) or make a judgement based on other factors (speed, proximity to side streets,etc)

Panama - Colombia / San Blas Archipelago

Crossing the Darien is not really possible overland, so alternative arrangements have to be made to cross from Panama to Colombia. Flights are expensive, the rumored ferry between Colon and Cartagena still hasn't materialized, and shipping Izzy in a container is a slow, still relatively expensive option. There was one attractive option however: A five day trip on a sailboat through the San Blas Islands, with Izzy on the back. It was about as expensive as a flight, but with the added bonus of a bit of adventure and of course, three days in the white sand/blue water paradise of the San Blas. I found a boat online that would be able to take both of us, leaving from Carti to Cartagena.

The boat I was destined to be on was called the Independance. Able to hold up to 24 people and 9 motorcycles, this was not small yacht. While it did have sails, it was mainly powered by the lage engines below deck, which took away some of the romantic notions of sailing through the carribbean, but gave the voyage a measure of reliability - we weren't at the fickle whims of the wind.

To be stuck on a boat for 5 days with people who annoy you would be disasterous, so it was a massive relief that everyone on board became friends quickly. Besides the ubiqutous Australians (myself included), there were a few Kiwis, Canadians, Germans and Americans - pretty standard for any travel adventure. This got me thinking - what is it about a culture that implores its people to explore the world? If you picked any hostel in the world at random, It'd be a fair bet that Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Ireland would all be represented. In this part of the world you could include Canada and the US. I often joke that we're taking over the world one hostel at a time, but when you think that Contiki, Lonely Planet and FlightCentre are all Aussie exports (and budget traveler essentials), it gets weird. Germans intrigue me - what makes their youth travel more than say the French or (particularly here) the Spanish? Any budding Sociologists out there have a clue?

Anyway, the first day was mainly spent waiting for me to arrive. Once everyone was on board and acounted for, we headed to our first anchor spot which was only an hour or so away. We stayed there for the day, swimming, kayaking, snorkling and generally absorbing some sun. The islands make the postcards look like a dump - palm trees on white sand, surrounded by impossibly blue water and reefs full of sea life.

The first night we had a beautiful seafood bbq on one of the larger islands, complete with a bar and sound system, even internet access. This swung it for me - I could live there. Traveling always reveals things about yourself, but it wasn't a real surprise that I need to be surrounded by technology. I love the wilderness and getting away from it all, as long as I can get back quickly. That was the hardest thing about being on the boat - not the rocking, not the confined nature of ship life, but the lack of internet access. But that's me.

The next two days was more of the same - in the morning we would 'sail' for a few hours, before anchoring in a remote area of this idyllic archipelago for more relaxing. I had a look around at two shipwrecks - one of which apparently was a backpacker boat, running the same route we were (although it looked more like a small fishing boat/drug running boat). The other wreck was a small fishing trawler that had wrecked onto a reef in about 3 feet of water. Several other wrecks drove home the need to be careful when in charge of a vessel in this area.

But as a passenger, the reefs and islands were amazing. The surprise guest appearance of dolphins was definitely a highlight, despite their hasty retreat as a few of us attempted to swim out to them.

After dinner on the third day, we headed out into the open sea, for a 36 hour voyage to Cartagena. It started to get a bit rough then, but not as rough as I had imagined - I suffered no falls or bruises, although some definitely needed the dramamine onboard. I actually got to help steer the boat for a bit, which was cool, and with several people in no mood to eat anything, I manage to gorge myself on pancakes for brekkie. We stopped at one point to have a swim in open water which is a cool experience, if a little unnerving - not being able to see land combined with large waves, brings to mind the harrowing stories of maritime disasters. After the swim, we headed straight in the direction of Cartagena, and Colombia. I spent a fair part of the night watching the multitude of stars, listening to my books on tape.

We arrived in Cartagena early in the morning, as apparently an approaching storm meant we had hauled ass. And so we had arrived in Colombia, for the third part of my journey - South America.

Saturday, 18 August 2012


The city of David was first on the agenda - not for any great reason, except that it was the largest place within a day's ride of both the border and Panama City. I holed up at a hostel, headed out to the central park (the only place deemed a tourist sight) and quickly established that it wasn't worth a photo. I picked up some groceries, and prepared for the next day's ride.

The essentials are always cheap in Panama..
Panama City was 440km away - pretty simple on the Interamericana. What wasn't so easy was that I only had $9US on me. But with these meagre funds i bought lunch, and filled up with gas. I now know I can make over 157 miles on a single tank, without needing the reserve. Rough calcs put Izzy's fuel efficiency over 70mpg!

70mpg on roads like this isn't bad!
Panama City is sometimes referred to as the Miami of Central America (except that more english is spoken in Panama), and as I cought periodic glimpses of the impressive skyline peeking over rolling hills, it wasn't hard to see why. Glass apartment towers lined the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by high end boutiques and american style malls. There is at least one critical difference between the two metropolises - the Panama Canal. As I passed over the Bridge of the Americas I pondered the profound effect that this crucial shipping channel has had on this tiny country. Far more than just a major source of income, the canal played a pivotal role in the continual fight for independence from Spain, Colombia and US in succession. In fact, The canal zone remained a foreign country until the 21st century. The constant flow of international goods through the country has deeply affected the psyche of Panamanians, and they seem to be a most open and visitor friendly nation, with a variety of cultures I had not seen since the US.

I checked into a local hostel and had a quick look around my local area before retiring for the night. The next day I headed out to Casco Viejo (the old part of town) and had a look at the many colonial buildings and museums, including the Canal Museum (where I wasn't allowed to take photos, much to my chagrin). I think it's a real tragedy we no longer take as much pride in the construction of our homes as we did a few hundred years ago, as the stark contrast between the colonial houses of Casco Viejo stood in stark contrast to the slum-like buildings of the surrounding neighbourhoods. The next day I headed out to the end of the road.

Casco Viejo

The Darién is one of the world's last true wildernesses - the impenetrable terrain of mountains and swamps originally prevented any motorized transport or construction of roads connecting the isthmus to the rest of Colombia. (Panama was originally part of Colombia, until it declared independence with the support of the US, who wished to make a deal with the new republic. To this day it remains remote and impassable, as the foreign powers to be refuse to provide the finances necessary to connect the two ends of the Pan American Highway. Colombian guerilla elements also operate extensively in the jungle, using the dense cover to run drugs and lauch offensives. In short, it's not the safest place in the world. But I wanted to see the end of the road, so I set off mid morning for Yaviza. The road started off good, then rapidly got worse as periodic roadworks and a general state of disrepair became the norm. Then the military checkpoints began. I had expected these, as this is a major drug running route. However, they were far more thorough than I had expected. I had to stop and explain my situation at each post, and after they determined that I was a tourist visiting for the day, they all took down my details, bike and all. The first checkpoint also said they'd make a phonecall for me. It wasn't until I reached Yaviza and the 5th checkpoint that i realized they'd called ahead to organize a security detail for me. I had a fully armed soldier at my side while I wandered around Yaviza, took some photos and had a quick lunch. I think it was partly for my safety, but partly to ensure I don't do anything stupid like going into the jungle, or pick up any packages. There wasn't anything to really see in Yaviza, nor any sign highlighting that this was the site of the break in one of the world's greatest roads. Anyway, I thanked my guard, and turned and burned for Panama City again.

End of the Interamericana

Panama Canal is the defining point in any visit to Panama City, and as an engineer I felt it a necessary pilgrimage. I headed out to the Miraflores locks, the closest set of locks to Panama city. For those of you who don't know, the locks help to raise and lower ships as they traverse the canal - as the majority of the canal is above sea level, ships must first be raised upon entering the canal, then lowered at the other end. This is achieved via the pumping of water in and out of a series of chambers sealed with impressively strong and watertight gates. The attached Visitors centre provided an interesting account of the construction history and biodiversity of the surrounding area. A particularly interesting example of the indirect impact of the canal is the eradication of yellow fever and paving of the streets in Panama City - The americans quickly decided that eradication of diseases that previously took heavy tolls on large workforces warranted investment. As a result of paving the streets, sanitation levels greatly improved, leading to a far healthier and more productive workforce. After waiting a bit, a large ship appeared, ready to be lowered to the level of the Pacific Ocean. I watched, fascinated at this marvel of engineering and precision - locomotives on either side guided this massive ship through the locks, with barely an inch of space on either side.

Miraflores Locks

The next day was spent shopping - I was hoping to pick up a new radiator pipe, as Izzy had sprung a leak all over the road where I had parked her overnight. These things are not easily picked up it seems, as while a dozen mechanics or stores within a stone's throw could help tune an engine, none carry parts on them. In the end, I hit up the hardware store, and got some glue and duct tape (to be honest, I'm surprised it took until now for duct tape to make it into the inventory!). I also looked at some hammocks, and made a mental note to return to pick up some new camping gear.

The next morning, I woke around 7am, planning to take it easy, do some shopping, and head to Carti by the early afternoon, plenty early for the 4pm loading time. I checked my email, and thank god I did - there was an email from the captain's wife saying the boat was about to leave, and where was I! It turns out the booking agency I had booked through had given me the wrong date: instead of loading on the 7th for departure on the morning of the 8th, I was supposed to board on the 6th, and leave on the morning of the 7th - right then. My heart sank and skipped a dozen beats. I raced down to the hostel front  desk, and asked the manager to call the boat and agency, and stall the boat. While he called (as luck would have it, he was perfectly fluent in English and Spanish which helped no end in a panicked situation like this), I packed like a postie on speed.

 The bike and I were ready in about 15 mins, and the manager had got in contact with the boat - they would wait for me. I thanked him, bitched about the whole situation a bit, then took off. I was out of Panama city in another 15 mins, and my feet barely touched the ground before I reached Carti, where I had to catch a small boat up the river mouth to the Carribbean sea and the Independence. Once we were both on board, I managed to take a breath, and we took off for the San Blas Islands not long after. I would have loved to stop and take photos of the road to Carti, as it was unbelievably twisty - the map looked like a small kid had not liked his spaghetti, and tossed it against the wall.

All Photos Available HERE

Friday, 3 August 2012

Costa Rica

After my horror run of bad luck in Nicaragua, I was looking forward to the relative safety and comfort of Costa Rica.

With a history largely devoid of civil wars, Costa Rica has enjoyed economic prosperity and stability envied across the isthmus.This prosperity has only been helped by a nationwide focus on tourism, and in particular ecotourism. These factors have themselves led to a variety of negative consequences for the small nation. As far as a backpacker/adventurer traveller is concerned, the conspicuous nature of tourism has it's drawbacks also. While the prevelance of english has helped me somewhat, I much prefer to be an oddity or be embraced by a community as a (temporary) local than seen as just an ATM, which can happen in the more tourist oriented areas of the globe. So I was approaching Costa Rica with both excitement and apprehension.

Thanks (again) to previous travellers, I knew what I was facing at the border before I got there. I've now found out that the single most effective deterrent against touts on borders is to show them that you have a step-by-step list of what needs to be done. When they see that they are really not needed, they keep their distance (and border crossings become a more relaxed, cheaper, albeit longer process). I got through the border no problems, and the only non-official fee I paid was about 10c in Nicaraguan currency to an old man to watch Isabella while I went through the process. He dutifully stood by her, not letting anyone near - 10 cents for peace of mind is cheap, as far as I'm concerned.

My first stop was Liberia. As my boat from Panama wasn't leaving until the 7th, I was now in an unusual situation - I had time to waste. So my original plans of one nght in Liberia turned into two. The fact that I had negotiated with a local guesthouse owner for a good deal helped somewhat. Unless the place is already charging rock bottom prices, everything is up for negotiation. I ended up getting a room for 15 bucks a night if I cooked my own brekkie. The normally provided breakfast is dominated by melon, of which I'm not a fan so I was happy with that deal. I've found that hotels are like real estate: get the worst room in the best hotel - I had a small room, but with access to a jacuzzi, pool, high speed wifi and the lounge had an art gallery inside!

I did leave the guesthouse for a bit - on the first night, I hit up a recommended pizza joint for the best Italian I've had since leaving home. It really takes travelling to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your home town - until you leave, you have no idea what is normal and what isn't around the world. For the record, Perth punches above it's weight on a culinary level. Food seems to me to be the most prominent and demonstratable argument for racial diversity in any city. Whenever someone boasts about the diversity of their home, the conversation invariably turns to the variety of delicious cuisine that can only be supported by a critical mass of immigrants. I for one hope to never be far from a cappucino machine, decent thai place, or late night kebab joint again. But I will miss the lack of decent Latin American and Middle Eastern cuisine (and will support those that we already have - TMLP & Two Fat Indians, I am looking at you).

The next day I went to get some stationary, and have a look around the town. However, my knack for turning up in places for local holidays continued - that day was the anniversary for the annexation of Guanacaste (of which Liberia is the capital) to Costa Rica. There wasn't really much on that was photo worthy - a few stands selling food, a radio DJ and some kids rides in the Parque Central.

The next day I headed to San Jose. Originally, I was headed towards La Fortuna and Volcan Aerenal as the guidebook waxed lyrical about the constant lava flow, an apparently spectacular sight at night. However, the guidebook was printed in 2009, and Aerenal has been dormant for 2 years. Not wanting to travel out to see yet another dormant volcano, I headed for the capital. I had booked a good guesthouse online, but when I arrived, I found out they didn't allocate me a space. I was about to head over to the neighbouring hostel (a good second choice, with a pool) when the manager said I could fit in the dorm (which I had booked for 2 nights) for the first nght, and then move to a semi private room the next day, for the original price. Score. I checked  in, and headed out for dinner at a local soda (diner) and picked up some beers on the way back.

The next day was touristy day. Markets followed museums of jade, and old buildings galore. I got back to the guesthouse for the opening ceremony of the Olympic games,and an intended siesta. Some guests had noisy kids, so that killed the siesta. I made a mental note to return the favour after a planned night out mixing it up in San Jose. I got a new pair of jeans to replace those stolen in Antigua, and headed out to see what San Jose could offer. As it turs out, not much. I went through several areas, but found each place to either be completely empty or a place for professional hookups (prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, and in some bars the entire female population seem to be working). The one bar that seemed cool was so packed you'd need a snorkel to breathe, and it was a sports bar (there wasn't any major games on that night). So I ended up having a beer at the local and returning to the guesthouse earlier than expected.

The next day, I was heading for Playa Uvita, a good launching point for the border with Panama. But first, I needed to have lunch. I chose a particular restaurant, known for a particular set of attributes of all its waitresses, and the iconic orange shorts. I have never been to a Hooters restaurant before, but it was definitely on my list of things to do this trip (albeit something I thought I'd do in the US). It's an unusual place, that's for  sure: there is an obvious underlying fun and sexual nature to the restaurant, but in most respects it's a respectable restaurant - the food was fantastic, service was fast. It was expensive (prices on par with most restaurants in the US), but worth it for the familiar food and safety (I could order water without having to worry about it's impact on my digestive system). The  best indicator of the ambience of the restaurant: there were a few  single guys there (myself included), but it was mostly families and groups of friends (of both genders). All in all, the restaurant chain has a reputation asa bit seedy which isn't deserved, and I look forward to my next visit (rumor is that one is coming soon to Perth).

Blatting out of San Jose, I started heading up into the hills, one of which is ominously named Cerro de Muerte (hill of death). It earned this moniker before the Pan American tamed it, and is no longer the dangerous ride it once was. However, it did start raining. Normally, rain in the tropics is no problem - it is warm enough that you can just persevere for the 10 mins or so it takes to pass under the clouds. But in the cloud forest, at 3000m above sea level, it's a different story. I was getting cold quickly, and the combination of altidtude, tight corners and slow trucks meant I was going nowhere fast. I wasn't enjoying the ride, and I felt that I really should be. So I promised myself that I would stop at the next place that would have me. As it turned out, the next place to stay happened to be a Quetzal sanctuary/farmstay. Quetzal are brightly coloured birds that were considered sacred by the Mayans, and are still revered in modern times (It features prominently on the Guatemalan coat of arms and currency). It was expensive, but all inclusive and so I had a warm shower and turned the heater all the way up to Hades in a desperate attempt to dry all my clothes for the next day. In the morning, I went for a self guided walk along a trail, saw a few birds but no Quetzals. As I was packing up (and enjoying my warm, dry clothes) the manager came running, and practically dragged me to a telescope, with which he had found a family of Quetzals. They truly are beautiful birds, and surprisingly large.

The next destination was Playa (beach) Uvita. As I had plenty of time until my boat for Colombia left, I was taking my time getting to Panama. The hostel was pretty close to the beach, and so after checking in, I headed out for a swim. There were alot of beginner surfers practicing in the 3 foot waves, but no sign of the famous Costa Rican surf that would please an experienced surfer. It was picturesque though, with the palm and mangrove trees lining the cocoa coloured sand and gentle, lapping breaks. I met a British couple at the hostel, who are also heading southbound in a campervan, albeit at a slower pace. It's a great comfort to meet on a similar adventure, knowing that others are going through the same trials and tribulations, and share common goals. I will soon post a list of the blogs of people I meet on the way, so you can get an idea of how others are doing what I'm attempting.

After Uvita, It was time to cross another border and enter Panama, the last stop in Central America. Again I printed off the instructions for crossing, and also a ticket for my boat trip (Panamanian authorities sometimes require proof of onward travel, despite the obvious form of transport I arrive on). Getting through the border proved fairly easy - the only holdup was that I arrived at noon, which was lunchtime for the transit police who needed to check and stamp my insurance paperwork. Thankfully, the no mans land was well populated with restaurants, so I took my cue to also have lunch. A tout tried to help me, despite my insistence that I was capable without him. I did manage to give him the slip when leaving, meaning I paid only the official and necessary costs. An interesting point to note is that Panama is the only country so far that has properly fumigated Isabella - only Belize and Panama had the equipment to spray motorbikes (car fumigation booths at every border aren't suitable - I don't want to breathe in the spray), and Belize barely did anything.

All Photos Available Here