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01.03.10 Panama
Our day started with a 15km long downhill. We made 40 km in 2 hours only, following the wide 4 lane highway. On our right appeared an American mall. We stopped and went to a sports shop. Wow, even the air conditioned store was as cold as they are in the States. They have the same products and also the same American prices. The newest high-tech products. I asked myself, who is buying these expensive products? We kept riding and passed a Mc Donald sign, we passed KFC and some American stores. People have told us that Panama is pretty American. It seems to be that way. They also have the US dollar as their currency. Other then the American mall and American stores, the country from what we had seen so far seemed to be quite remote. We saw hardly any houses, no restaurants, no stores and no agriculture. All plants and trees grew wildly, it was lush and green. We passed some beautiful rivers and rode up and down these long, only a bit steep but steady, hills. Then we saw some simple houses made of wood and banana tree leafs and other stuff. Seeing these houses on one side and passing this big fancy and expensive American mall on the other side. How does that fit together? After 42 km riding we passed a little store, our first one. It was afternoon and we started to look for a place to stay, maybe a cheap room? We asked somebody where the closest accommodation was. The answer was 25 km. We rode and rode, long passed the 25 km, nothing there. Finally we passed a restaurant, shoveled some food into our faces and pressed on. The sun was about to disappear behind the mountains, no village, no houses to pitch a tent, no accommodation. We had no idea where we would stay tonight but it was great riding in these temperatures, feeling the fresh air.. We also gained one hour of daylight as Panama has a different time zone. The road was freshly paved and smooth with a wide shoulder. We enjoyed the evening sun, the beautiful colors of nature and the cooler air. The 25 km became 45km. Just before it got dark we rode into a little village and asked at a store for a simple room for us. The guy offered us to camp in his yard. We followed him. In front of his house were 3 women at a table having a great time, they played Bingo. As a dice cup they used an empty coconut. Just before it was completely dark we got set up our tent among the palm trees and banana plants. We were surrounded by chickens. They had a barrel of water and a bucket in front of their house, so we could wash ourselves. It didn't take long and we disappeared in our tent, listening to some crickets, music coming from the neighbour, we still heard the women playing Bingo. It was such a good riding day, we were fast and we went mostly downhill. I love these warm temperatures. These people have never felt cold temperatures. They probably have never experienced to feel cold. What a different reality.
Resume: Concepcion-San Juan, 87km, 31 to 42 degrees
LINK: Photos 001-012

02.03.10 Panama
The big full moon was peaked into our tent. The cicadas stopped in the early morning and lots of different birds took over. The dogs kept barking. The rising sun and rising temperature in the tent forced us to get up. At the end of that village was a restaurant where we stopped for breakfast. We got 2 big plates with only one egg on it. Quite stingy I would say. We ordered more, but only got one more which we shared. They had nothing else there. Okay, let's get moving here. We left that little village, the scenery got dryer. We passed quite a few Native Indian people. They wear colorful dresses and have long hair. We realized that we hadn't seen any in Costa Rica. We also saw lots of people on horses. After some hours of riding we got hungry, finally we got to a restaurant. We stopped, but all they had was rice and chicken feet. We decided we are not too hungry and kept riding. The next restaurant was an expensive, really overpriced gringo restaurant, 6 times as much as you would pay normally. We sat down on the side of the road and emptied some canned fish and olives that we had with us. It was 1pm and it was hot, there was no place to stop so we kept riding in the heat. We rode into bigger hills, one uphill took us one hour. On top of it we saw a stand on the side of the road and hoped they had fruit, but they had only clothes to sell. Native Indians set up little straw huts, displayed their stuff and lied relaxed in their hammocks. Then we saw a restaurant, but... it was closed. Okay, that obviously means we keep riding. We knocked on somebody's door for some more water. After a while we really found a restaurant that was open, had good food and even good prices. We were really tired and thank god we could stay in the backyard of that restaurant, right next to a pig farm, but we couldn't care less. Panama is so different than Costa Rica. Here is a lot of 'nothing' and untouched areas, not much traffic either. We had lots of uphills today and were resting our bones in the tent when it was still daylight.
Resume: San Juan-Tole, 46km, 31 to 45 degrees
LINK: Photos 013-020

03.03.10 Panama
As the restaurant was located on a hillside, we heard the trucks braking with their loud engines, all night long. But so what! In the restaurant we ate as much as we could as we didn't know when the next one will come. We kept riding in bigger hills. After 30 km of nothing we saw a little store with a combined little restaurant. No vegetables, only rubber chicken and lots of rice for $1.50 per meal. We haven't seen any vegetable in Panama, strange. We got through these big hills and dropped about 1100 feet (400 meters), a 10km long downhill. The air got hotter and the trees weren't so green anymore, the color of the grass changed to yellow. The new paved road turned into an old patched road. At about 4 pm we got to another restaurant and stopped, asked a family if we could camp in their backyard, no problemo. We set up our tent under a big mango tree and could use their simple outdoor toilet which were four walls with a hole and a seat on top of it. They also offered us their outside shower, which was also four walls and a barrel of water with a bucket. And.... we could use one of their hammocks, yay! The village where we stayed was called 'La Mesa' which means in English "The Table", why not.
Resume: Tole-La Mesa, 62km, 30 to 47 degrees
LINK: Photos 021-028 , video 183

05.03.10 Panama
Bhinti felt a bit sick so we decided to stay here another night. Everything we need is here: a restaurant (well, a sort of restaurant, they had only one simple dish), a tiny store, a shady campspot, it was windy and fresh, we had the outside shower and could use a hammock. We made porridge for breakfast: oats, raisins, stevia, coconut oil and flax, also boiled up some eggs. Bhinti rested in the hammock most of the day. We could smell old garbage, I guess they don't have a garbage pick up and take care of it themselves. As the distance from restaurant to restaurant are maybe 40 to 60 kms our motto is, eat whenever you can and as much as you can!
After a day of rest we left, stopped at this kind of restaurant, but they had no food. We made porridge again. I also started to feel a bit sick. The road was surprisingly flat. After 2.5 hours riding we arrived in Santiago, our first city in Panama. We were both tired and all in a sudden we were in the middle of chaos. Crazy traffic, loud music coming from different directions, people with microphones were shouting out their stuff that they want to sell, lots of people were running around from one shop to the next. Tired as we were, we only saw 2 cheap accommodations in the middle of all that chaos, the rooms were upstairs, which means, we would have to unload our bikes and haul all our gear up. We left the craziness just behind us and around the corner was that old shabby hotel. Good enough for us! It was only 12 pm. After shower and nap we started to explore the wild city. Back into the craziness, we haven't had any of that in Costa Rica, but in the other countries of Central America. You could scream, nobody would notice as the music from all over and the blaring voices coming out of loudspeakers were way louder. I tried it and screamed, I didn't get any attention. A woman had set up some chairs and a table with lots of different colors of nail polish and ran a nail polishing business. People sat on a chair occupying the footpath with their feet up to get their nails done. Nobody seemed to care that there was no room left for the passing pedestrians. We also saw a casino with lots of people gambling in there. I noticed, that the police wore short pants as their uniform, carrying a big gun. It looked quite unusual to me but why not. One police officer was deaf. He communicated with sign language. Have you ever seen a deaf policeman? I haven't!!! He approached us and shook our hand, we bought him some ice cream. This place is definitely a shopping city, one store after another. What a crazy and noisy city, I feel really good here!
Resume: La Mesa-Santiago, 32km, 32 to 37 degrees
LINK: Photos 029-032 , video 184

07.03.10 Panama
We both were still sick, so we stayed here for one day. When we left there was no wind and the road was flat. We passed teak forests, sugar cane and banana tree fields and also some wetlands, grasslands and some trees. Good riding, just what we need. We did already more than 40 km when we stopped for breakfast. Then all in a sudden, the wind picked up and we had strong head winds. I guess we had no choice other than keep riding, so we did. Bhinti drafted me. The area was now really dry and flat. We saw a river and stopped at a swimming hole. They dammed the river and lots of children had a good time in the water. Bhinti walked right in it with all his clothes on. We faced the strong headwinds again and kept riding. On our left we saw beautiful 1.500 meter high, dry and rugged mountains in all colours. Behind these mountains there are hardly any people living, there are no paved roads. On the map were some villages that you can only reach by plane. We kept riding and riding, and again, there were no restaurants... in a stretch of 60 km, nothing. We saw rain above the mountains and dark clouds. We were shooting for the next bigger town, 15 km to go. After a while we were only 4 km far away, it took ages until we got there, it didn't seem to get closer. The headwind was so strong and we were exhausted. Soon it will get dark. Finally we got there after almost 8 hours riding time, our longest day ever. We passed an American mall, and imagine Pizza Dominoe had pizzas for 15 to 20 dollars!!! Normally a meal costs between 1.50 and 5 dollars. Who eats there? We had a meal and looked for a room, passed 2 expensive hotels and it was almost dark. The universe threw us a clean and cheap room in a pension. Lucky us! The man on duty refused to show us the room because it was already dark. Is it so dangerous here??? The room was big enough for our bikes. We rolled them in, showered and fell in our bed. We did 106 km today, our longest ever. We made it...
Resume: Santiago-Penomome, 106km, 28 to 38 degrees
LINK: Photos 033-038 , video185

08.03.10 Panama
Chickens and a noisy rooster where right next to our window. The rooster started at 2 am, but I didn't care. It drove Bhinti crazy though, I mean it drove him crazier! Ha ha. The was so loud but I hardly heard him, I was to exhausted. We stayed right next to a duck farm! In the morning the real madness started: There were the ducks, the chickens, the rooster and the dogs, what a spectacle. They all made noises without any break. No silent second passed. We hoped that the strong wind wouldn't change its direction because the road makes a sharp turn. And... the wind hadn't changed. We had tailwind all the way until to the beach. I guess it all balances itself out. We did 30 km per hour and the wind still blew my hair into my face. We realized that the color of the people in Panama is different, there are lot more people with a darker skin. We had cross wind, but just still tailwind. There was a dot on the map at the beach, it was named Santa Clara, which is the first beach for us in Panama, about 2 km off the main road. It turned out that it was not a town, just a road to the beach with a restaurant on it. It is a destination for the people who live in Panama city and there were no stores, no promenade only one place for accommodation. The wide beach was overwhelming. White sand, clear and turquoise water, palm trees grew along the beach - no development, good for Panama! Some straw roofs were set up with hammocks, there were hardly any people at the beach. After a little while we rode a short distance back the road and found a place to camp. They had a pool, hammocks in the shade, internet, we could use a freezer and a fridge. Short, it was the perfect good place to chill. I still felt sick. It was only 1 pm when we set up our tent, under a mango tree. For dinner we walked to a close by restaurant. They had quite a few noisy and beautiful parrots and Macaws. They were talking all the time: Hola, good morning and other words. They also wistled songs. Hilarious was that they imitated human laughter. But more hilarious was that they even imitated a ring of a mobile phone. Bhinti thought that they have an electronic device in their cage. First they imitated the ring, then they said 'hola', like they picked up the phone answered it. It really cracked us up! It was not so hot and dry, and they were no mosquitoes. Very nice climate here.
Resume: Penomome-Santa Clara, 39km, 28 to 36 degrees
LINK: Photos 039-045 , videos 186-188

11.03.10 Panama
We rested for a few days. We had to be in Panama City on the 15.3.10 as the boat from the Caribbean Coast to Colombia leaves on 16.3.10. We felt the almost weightless bodies in the pool, checked out the hammocks, made use of the wireless internet and went for bike rides. I got out the map of South America. It is huge and the scale is a lot smaller then on our Central America map. It looks like we have some riding to do! It actually got more humid again. The neighborhood was quiet. Sandy roads and small houses, bigger houses at the beach. There was one huge property protected by a thick hedge. The security man saw our interested faces and asked us if we wanted to have a look around. He opened the big gate and let us in, giving us a show through. Wow! It was a park, a zoo and a swimming area with a bar in the pool and a waterfall. We asked him how many people live on this property. Only one family from Panam City. It is a couple with 4 sons/daughters and 16 grandchildren. It is their weekend house, still smaller than their house in Panama City. Okay, now the details: one big curvy pool with pool bar in it and waterfall, one trampoline, one tennis court, table tennis, a playground, a flying fox, lots of trees and paths, cages with monkeys, parrots (at least 15), rabbits and other birds. It took a while to walk through the whole area. There were also several buildings with sun beds in front of them. It was more a resort. Yepp, it all belongs to one family! Then we rode our bikes back to our little, humble place. Unfortunately all these beautiful little houses and all the grass area will disappear in the near future as a 15 storey high rise is planned. It will be the only tall building in that rural area. This is one of the few undeveloped places, everything will change. Nothing lasts forever.
Resume: Stay in Santa Clara
LINK: Photos 046-051 , videos 189-190

12.03.10 Panama
We had our last swim, packed up our tent, Bhinti made porridge for breakfast, and we left at 8am, somehow it took a long time to pack. It was hot and humid. We could see that we got closer to the capital. There was so much development on both sides of the road and in the distance at the beaches were high rises sticking out. Nothing remote anymore. On the side of the road, one billboard followed the next. I remember when we crossed the border from Costa Rica, we rode through lots of isolated area, now this has changed to the opposite. We rode through a national park, up a 40 min hill and the scenery changed from dry to green. On top of the hill were dark clouds hanging down and we rode through some refreshing rain. Funny enough, for a while it only rained on the left side of the road, but not on our side, strange. After 60 km riding we started looking for a hotel, nothing. On top of another hill was a fruit stand where we stopped. I parked my bike and the women who sells the fruit was concerned about my seat in the sun getting too hot. So she brought a cushion from her couch and put it on my seat. I was kind of speechless. We hade a nice rest on the couch with a few cold coco nut drinks . She gifted us 2 slices of pineapple. We rode into the next city, La Chorrera and looked for an accommodation. There was only one hospedaje upstairs and one hotel. Busses after busses, they all tooted their loud horns. The traffic was crazy. We rode to the hotel, could store our bikes in an extra room and our room was in the 4th storey. Good they had an elevator. I had a shower and lied down on the bed. It was 6 pm only. When I woke up again, it was already dark...
Resume: Santa Clara-La Chorrera, 82km, 28 to 43 degrees
LINK: Photos 052-054

13.03.10 Panama
Nice to have an air conditioned room. The elevator was broken, so we had to haul all our gear down from the 4th storey. Down was okay, but climbing all the stairs up again to get the rest... I really could feel my legs. We rode out of town and the crazy traffic stayed crazy. The busses look really funky here with lots of imaginary paintings. They have a super loud horn and when they pass they don't leave much room for us. Often we didn't have a shoulder. It was really intense riding. Crazy traffic, no shoulder and hills to climb. Then we got a puncture and dealt with it on the side of the road. Fortunately it happened in a town where we had space. We rode and rode, and all in a sudden we saw the bridge that goes over the Panama Canal, it was huge. We crossed the canal, after 2km we got to the other side. It was quite overwhelming. Underneath us was turquoise water and on the right hand side the open sea. On our left we saw lots and lots of cranes. While we were crossing the bridge we saw the high rises of Panama City popping up in front of us behind the hills. That was another overwhelming picture. We rode through a slum, then into downtown. We got to the ocean and rode to the old part of town, to 'Casco Viejo'. Hard to believe, but all hostels were booked out. Most of the houses in the old part looked like they were about to fall apart. So we rode back to the high rises and looked for another hostel. Finally we found it, checked in, washed the sweat of our bodies and explored the city. We rode to our last city in Central America. Panama City, the city almost at the end of the highway. It was really like a big city in the USA. Lots and lots of high rises, shopping malls, banks, and in the stores they had everything, a huge variety of every singly product. Were we really in Central America? It is so completely different then the rest of the country. It is more like an island.
Resume: La Chorrera-Panama City, 45km, 31 to 42degrees
LINK: Photos 055-061 , video 192

15.03.10 Panama
Two days of sight seeing in Panama City. We took the flag of Panama off and exchanged it with the Columbian one. How exciting! We walked around. A man parked his car on the side of the road. On the passenger seat sat a parrot, on top of the head rest. He was driving his bird through town. Why not!?! The staff in clothes stores is armed and they watch every move you make very closely. We saw some police men with guns in shorts and bulletproof vests riding their bicycles. Good for them! We took the bus back to Casco Viejo, back to Central America. People, chaos, little houses, garbage on the streets, street vendors, markets, music, shopping areas... So much life. Some houses are emphy, they are ruins without any window glasses. Sometimes only the outside wall was left, hollow in the inside. We walked along the pedestrian shopping area. The Native Indians here wear colorful clothes. They wear leggings and their clothes have as many different colors as possible, patched together somehow. It looked really interesting. After a while we made our way to the Panama Canal and passed some slums. Lots of clothes hung out of the windows to dry. They had no balconies. People slept underneath bridges and some of them had a fire going and boiled up some food.
After 40 min we arrived at the Miraflores platform, at the Panama Canal. Two big container ships from China were about to come through. There were two chambers they had to pass. As the level of the Pacific is different than the level of the Caribbean sea, they have to adjust the levels in the chambers. The canal is 50 miles long and big ships pay about 300.000 dollars to use it. It takes them 10 hours to pass through. If they don't go through the canal they will have to go around the dangerous Cape Horn, a detour of 8.000 miles. The Canal was built 1913 and took 100 years to build. The boats just fit through the canal. They couldn't have been any wider. They get pulled with ropes by 4 vehicles into the first chamber. Then the level gets adjusted to 50 %, to the same level as the second chamber. When the level is even, the gate opens and the boat gets pulled into the second chamber. The water level in the second chamber gets adjusted to the level of the other ocean and off they go. I remember my teacher in elementary school teaching us about the Panama Canal. He was so passionate about it, and now I am here, almost 30 years later I get to see it, wow!
After the 2 big Chinese freighters passed the chambers we left and went back to downtown. It was our last evening in Central America, tomorrow we will be on a boat to South America, to Colombia, somehow unreal. Our last meal was at a Lebanese restaurant, what a feast that was!
Resume: Stay in Panama City
LINK: Photos 062-087 , videos 193-194

16.03.10 Panama
We were both awake most of the night, got picked up at 5 am. Four people in the pickup truck, all our bags and the luggage of the other people and 5 bicycles on top of it! Maybe you can imagine how that looked like. On our way out of Panama City we stopped at a huge store with A/C. It was open 24 hours and had everything. We stocked up with snacks. It was a 3 hours drive to Carti, to the Caribbean coast. The road was like a rollercoaster, up and down, up and down, and steep... The last bit was all gravel. We were in the land of the Kunas, the untouched beautiful tropical jungle of the Native Indians. We thought of the 2 German cyclists that we met during our trip. They did the road from Carti to Panama City on their bicycles, without bags. They said this was the most challenging part of their trip, a ride to hell actually. I already started sweating by driving up and down these steep monster hills in a 4WD pickup truck. As we got closer to the coast the whole scenery changed. Different trees, even more humidity. What a big change. On top of a hill we stopped and saw the Caribbean sea ahead of us with lots and lots of little islands, the San Blas Islands, 365 in total. We found ourselves in the wild and untouched Kuna land! And 3 hours earlier we were in one of the huge American 24 hours open, modern, airconditioned supermarket... What a contrast. We didn't drive right to the coast, our truck stopped at a river where narrow and long motorboats waited for us. We unloaded our gear and but it all in one of the boats. The boat took us along the river with mangroves on both sides and all in a sudden we were in the Caribbean ocean, in the distance the sail boat waiting for us. Was I dreaming? We loaded the gear and ourselves onto the sail boat, the little motorboat dissapeared.
The 3 other bicycles on the truck belongs to 3 Kiwis! Two are from Auckland and one is from Nelson!!! The world is small. Andrew, the guy from Auckland had the same bike as ours, the Long Haul Trucker. They started their trip in New York and cycle down to Brasil, Rio de Janero. We found out that they met the same German cyclists that we met and they also recommended to the Kiwis the same sail boat. So they brought us together!!! We were 20 passengers and 6 people of the crew. The crew are all Germans and really great people! It didn't take long and they got the loud and powerful engine going. TtttTtttTtttTttt... What a great beat it had. Not short after that they put up these huge sails. It used to be a fisherman boat. It is 38 foot long and has 7 sails. The craws nest is 20 high. Bhinti was up there in no time. I think I would have shit my pants being so high up there... The boat has 2 storeys with a big table, benches, a hammock and a net underneath the 8 meter long bowsprit. We passed lots of little, tiny islands with palm trees on them and white sand around. The water was turquoise, warm and crystal clear. Welcome to paradise!!! On some of them were straw huts, most of them are untouched. In the afternoon we anchored close by an island, our stay for the night. We jumped into the water and swam to the island. It took 5 min to walk around. On the white fine sand were lots of corals lying, also big conches and palm tree leaves. The conches were about 40cm long and heavy. We also saw starfishes in the water. In the evening we made a fire at the beach and had a BBQ. And they made a German potatoe salad for us. German cuisine in a paradise, it can't get any better! Everything was really like in one of these movies...
Resume: Panama City-Carti-Sailboat, sailing the San Blas Islands
LINK: Photos 088-119 , videos 195-197

17.03.10 Panama
We were still in our bed when the crew turned on the engine, we are moving again, yay! The canoes of the Kunas look like they are made out of one piece of wood. Most of them have a mast and a simple squared sail. The ocean was calm, we passed lots and lots of little islands, saw the coast of Panama in the distance underneath some dark clouds. After 2 hours we set anchor again, sheltered between 4 islands. There were also some other sail boats. Bhinti and I snorkeled to a reef. We saw coral, healthy coral, lots of fish and starfish. At the end we walked around another island. Next to us was a tiny, tiny island with only 2 palm trees on it. Because of the reefs the water seem to have many different colors, it was calm and protected. I was so overwhelmed, just didn't expect so much beauty. For dinner we had fresh fish. After it got dark we saw some big manta rays, shining a bright flash light on it.
Resume: Sailing the San Blas Islands
LINK: Photos 120-131 , video 198

18.-20.03.10 Panama, Colombia
Early in the morning we heard the engine going again. DdddDdddDdddDddd... We have a whole day of sailing ahead of us and the whole night, until next day noon. We were leaving the sheltered San Blas Islands. I was glad I had some pills for motion sickness with me. We put 5 sails up and turned off the engine. Dolphins followed us next to the boat. We sat on the 8 meter long bowsprit, riding the waves, up and down. My tummy tickled. I felt so much freedom! It rained in the afternoon, it was warm rain, what a great atmosphere.
The next morning we got up at 4.30am. Bhinti almost panicked as he didn't want to miss the sunrise about 90 min later. We were sitting outside in the dark and listened to the waves. Magic! After the sun has come up I planted myself on the bowsprit and looked for land... For the first time in my life I saw flying fish. They reminded me of hummingbirds and they flew long distances, just above the water level. So many of them. Underneath me was only the net. After a while 2 dolphins swam underneath the bowsprit in front of the boat, putting up a show for us. They jumped playfully and swam around each other. At 12 pm we arrived in Cartagena and anchored 100m away from the land. Part of the crew took our passports left on their little motorboat to the mainland, to the immigration. After 3 hours of waiting the officers decided that they all wanted to see us in person. The crew shipped us load by load to the mainland from where we took several taxis through the dense traffic to the immigration building. Outside in front of the building we waited another 30 minutes. It was already after 4pm, Friday. Then the officer changed his mind and said, he doesn't want to see us, we can leave... Everything for nothing, we could have all stayed on the boat. So we took the taxis back and then the little motorboat took us back to the sail boat. We packed and said good bye. It had been an incredible time! The little boat took first me and the bags to the mainland, then Bhinti and the bikes. It was a beautiful sunset. The sun went down behind the inlet of Cartagena with all its boats and high rises in the distance. Together with the 3 Kiwis we cycled to the old part of the city and found an accommodation. We are in South America!!! Cartagena is one of the oldest cities, a Colonial city with lots of little streets, colorful houses. Almost all the houses have little wooden balconies. We walked through town to fill our tummies. We sat down next to a square. They played a movie for kids there. They didn't have a TV, they projected it to a wall of an old, dirty house. No sweat! Lots of children played around. 40 hours of sailing, the ground underneath me seem to move... It was such a great time, the crew was awesome! I am glad I made it on the bike okay without falling over. Ha ha. We were up since 4.30am, in bed at 8.30pm, so tired and happy.
Resume: Sailing to Cartagena, Colombia.
LINK: Photos Panama 132-153 , videos Panama 199-200 photos Colombia 001-011 , videos Colombia TO FOLLOW

21.-25.03.10 Colombia
The old part is located on a peninsula. There are lots of policemen here. I had never seen so many and I wondered how it would be without them. As we walked through the cozy streets with all the cute balconies on the second floor, we saw a woman on the side of the street; she got a pedicure and people were watching. Why not... Some people on unicycles passed us. There are lots of hostels here, many tourists. The floor underneath me still seemed to move, it lasted a few more days, actually much longer than the boat ride itself. I think I am very strange... I am land sick I guess. Most of the time we ate with the locals at the mercado. We also enjoyed the good coffee and pastry shops here... Who knows what we are going to eat when we are in the Andes (this is our favorite excuse). One night we found an Indian restaurant on the second floor. We had a little balcony just for us and looked down to the narrow street with all their cozy streetlights attached to the houses. Horses that pulled carriages with people in them passed us. Clack, clack, clack... So romantic. And the carriages, as it was already dark, had candles on on both sides, like in the movies. On the balconies were flowers growing. The people are so friendly and open. The city is full of life. We noticed that everybody checks the money notes really carefully. Colombia is an expert in faking money. They all seem to have their own technique checking it. Quite often we saw policemen that body searched young people for drugs. On one evening we caught up with the crew, together with the 3 Kiwis, and had dinner together. What a life they have, it is so completely different.
Resume: Stay in Cartagena.
LINK: Photos 011-032 , videos TO FOLLOW

26.03.10 Colombia
We got up at 6am and met the other three Kiwi-cyclists at 7am. As we were heading into the same direction for a while, we decided to cycle together. Yay! They guided us out of town. It felt so nice just to follow, like a sheep. No asking for directions, just following. So nice for a change. Most of the time we could see the ocean on our left. Sometimes we had water on both sides of the road. It was pretty flat and dry. We even passed some cacti. The last cacti we had seen were in the Baja California, Mexico. The road was quiet, we had a nice shoulder and many pigs were running around. We heard lots of good Latin music coming from houses. Colombia.... so full of life and the people are so open, curious and friendly. On the side of the road was a cute looking sign. Two circles, one half is black, the other one is white. It looked like a sleepy face, but it actually means to dim down the light. Each time when we passed them, it made me smile, the sleepy eyes... What a friendly sign! In the early afternoon we got to a village and asked for an accommodation. Actually the Kiwis asked. Again, it felt so nice not to have the pressure to ask for information. People were happy to tell us. One guy on a motorcycle even showed us the way. It was not sign posted. The couple from Auckland shared a room and we shared a room with Andy, they guy from Nelson. We have heard about the mud volcano which is only 4 km far away from where we stayed. We asked for a transport and 3 motorcycles picked us up. After a short time we got there. It was an about 10 meter high volcano. We walked up the stairs and there it was... the mud bath! We took off most our clothes and climbed down the stairs, into the thick mud. My feet were looking for a bottom, but it was bottomless. Well, the bottom was 200 meter further down. Because the mud was so thick, you didn't sink. It was actually hard to move, you could move only slowly. It is hard to imagine but we felt completely weightless, we just just relaxed in whatever position. It had the perfect temperature, sometimes air bubbles popped up. First I thought it was Bhinti... but they actually came really from the earth. Not only that we were lying in the mud without moving, we also got a massage from some locals. Working in a mud bath, not bad... They massaged front and back, and they also turned us over. I have never felt so relaxed. What a nice treat after a day on the bike fighting with exhaustion... We stayed there for about an hour. Our Kiwi friends had been dipped completely under water. I was too scared to do that. Somehow we moved our tired and relaxed bodies out of the mud and climbed down the ladder. Then some women took us by the hand and lead us to the lake to wash us down. The water at the shallow area (where we were) was surprisingly warm, about 37 degrees. We got dressed and at the end they all stood around us, the massage guys, the people who took the photos with our cameras and the women who washed us down. It was totally worth it! We got a ride back on the motorcycles, ate at a restaurant, walked to our room and fell into bed. Feeling completely weightless, what a feeling!
Resume: Cartagena-Lomarina, 55 km, 28 to 43 degrees.
LINK: Photos 033-040 , videos TO FOLLOW

27.03.10 Colombia
We got up at 6am. I didn't feel so good, my bladder and kidneys were bothering me. I seemed to be haunted with things. Fighting with permanent exhaustion, my body comes up with the weirdest things... Maybe one day my body will get used to the physical stress. At least I have become much stronger, that's for sure. Our map of South America was much bigger than our map of Central America, and the scale was much smaller. I felt a bit disencouraged. And then riding through the Andes... I didn't feel ready for it. We had porridge for breakfast and left altogether at 8am. We passed the nice mud volcano, my bike wanted to go there but I was assertive enough not to turn and to go straight, following the others. We had headwind today. Thank good the road was flat! I had a bad day today. To be honest I felt like shit. My bladder hurt and also my wrist that I broke in November keeps hurting. I find it difficult to keep up with the pace of the others, my legs didn't want to move. One of these days... First the saddle fell off in the morning when I moved my bike out of the room (I did some changes on it), then my chain came off, later my bike computer reseted itself to zero and to all default settings... What is this all about? But somehow I managed the little hills and the headwind. Slowly but surely. Where is my energy gone? I enjoyed talking to the Kiwis very much, good we had a wide shoulder. We saw the beautiful ocean partly on our left. Weiling, the girl from Auckland and I were the last ones as we were so slow, and all in a sudden we got overtaken by a man on a gallopping horse... We also saw an old man riding a donkey. His legs were comfortably crossed in front of his saddle. We passed a few military posts. Some of the guys even had a camouflaged face. Finally we rode into our destination city. It took quite a while until we found a not so expensive room. We had to hurry as it was getting dark. To make it all cheaper for us we all shared a room. We had dinner together and went to bed. Nice to lie down and not to move...
Resume: Lomarina-Barranquilla, 72km, 28 to 36 degrees.
LINK: Photos 041-044 , videos TO FOLLOW

28.03.10 Colombia
We all got up at first light. I walked like a zombie, still fighting my kidney infection. The bar next to us played loud music all night long. Okay, I stop complaining now. I love what we do, it is just much easier when my health and energy is up. We left early and the city was already thumping. Thumping at 7.30am on a Sunday morning! We had to ask lots of people how to get out of the city. We rode through busy markets. Their stands were made of wood and their wheels were wooden 'disks'. It reminded me of the Flintstones vehicles. They had rolling stands in all shapes. Shapes I had never seen before. Lots of bicycle rickshaws were everywhere. We rode through some slums, where the people were lying on the ground. People, busses, taxis, cars, music, yelling: CHAOS! Welcome to Colombia! After 13 km riding we finally left the busy city and rode over a huge bridge, crossing the 'Rio Magdalena'. There was only one road out of town on this end, and we saw lots of donkeys that pulled carriages along the road. Almost more than cars and trucks, it seemed. On the other side of the bridge was nothing, only lots of palm trees, it was really beautiful. We stopped on the side of the road for a coco drink. An old man came over with a wooden stick and hit against our tires telling us we have enough air pressure. At the end he wanted some money. Bhinti and I felt quite bad that we haven't bought him a coco, we were just so tired and wanted to move on. The road was flat and straight like an arrow. We had a bit of headwind. On our left was the wild ocean with lots of driftwood on the beach. On our right we also had partly water, wetland, lots of cacti and green grass and dried out salt lakes, that left a white mark. Some spots were filled with brown mud. What a beautiful, colorful scenery! So wild! Nobody lives here.
Then Bhinti had a puncture. We stopped and a little boy on his bike wanted to help us. At the end he changed the tire for us and we oiled his rusty old chain and pumped up his tires. Amazing how helpful people are here. After a while we got really hungry, there was nothing there, a stretch of 30 km. Finally we saw some houses in the distance. One of them was a restaurant and a hospedaje. Good timing! The building was built on poles above the water. There was a huge inlet that reached hundreds of km inland. This little village was a fisherman settlement. All the houses were built above the water on stilts. The food was really good an our rooms too! We had a nice shower, a snooze and then another meal in the evening, sitting above the water. Not far away from us was a shrimp farm. With lots of lights on the water they attracted the shrimps and caught them. These orange oil lamps looked really romantic. Our room had a loud A/C. The loudest ever. Even with earplugs it was really loud. But I couldn't care less, I was going to have a good sleep!
Resume: Barranquilla-Pueblo Viejo, 65 km, 30 to 42 degrees.
LINK: Photos 045-064 , videos TO FOLLOW

29.03.10 Colombia
Today is a rest day! From now on our rode we take is going south. The other cyclist kept on cycling along the coast. We had our last breakfast together, then they disappeared at the horizon. We asked the people who run the restaurant and hotel, if we can leave our bikes here for one or two nights as we wanted to take the bus to the coast to Santa Marta. No problemo. We stored our bikes in the little room of the watchman, so kind of him. We took the bus to Santa Marta, which is only 35 km far away. We almost missed it as it was a long distance bus going to Venezuela and didn't stop in town. We checked out some hotels, none of them was booked out. It was pretty quiet for the Easter weekend. I remember our Easter in Mexico... Everything in Guayabitos was completely booked out and the beach was just going nuts with all these people, stands and life music. Santa Marta is the only city at the Caribbean coast and has a beautiful promenade. People were swimming in the water and kids played soccer on the beach. I prepared a parcel, sending some stuff home. Too much weight! At the post office they wanted my passport and they even took my fingerprint. Okay... The clouds in the distance were really dark and I heard some thunder. The almost 5000 meter high mountains are not too far away. In the evening, somebody played the pan flute, lots of people were still in the water and the wide promenade with all its restaurants was illuminated. We heard bells all the time, people push their ice cream business around, or they have a special bicycle for that. Music was coming from everywhere. People, chatter, music, bells, traffic, horns, horses... life everywhere around us. We had chicken for dinner. Here comes something funny: instead of giving us cutlery they handed out some plastic gloves to wear. Have you ever eaten a chicken wearing a thin plastic glove on one hand??? It was 8.30 pm and it was still 31 degrees. I love these warm nights. Everything will change once we are in the Andes... it is going to be hilly and chilly.
Resume: Pueblo Viejo- Santa Marta, 35 km by bus.
LINK: Photos 065-079 , videos TO FOLLOW

31.03.10 Colombia
We had breakfast at the promenade. A horse passed pulling a carriage. This time they charged us more for the food then yesterday, for the same meal. We really have to make a list before we order food: ask for the price, without salt, drinks without sugar, drinks without straws... A woman passed us with a stethoscope asking us if we want our blood pressure measured. Everybody offers something, everybody tries to make business. At noon we left beautiful Santa Marta (the first settlement in Colombia) and took the bus back to our little fisherman village. We packed and left at 4.30 pm heading 11 km further to Cienaga. We passed lots of slums. Their houses were made of branches, palm leaves, wooden planks and stuff. Naked children were playing in the dirt, happy Latin music came from many houses. Everybody had a smile for us. The people are so beautiful. Nobody is in a hurry here. The road was busy with bicycle rickshaws, lots and lots... There was water and palm trees on both sides, in the middle the road and some land where the people lived. The scenery was so beautiful. Slums in paradise. I felt a strong connection to the people. I have looked into so many eyes, seen so many faces, I felt so much love for them. After 40 min we arrived in busy Cienaga and found a nice cheap room. After we parked our bikes in our room we looked for an internet place. We walked through the alive town and found one. It was actually a private living room from a family. They put in 4 computers and a sign in front of the house. Easy peasy! When we walked back we stopped at a store. It was already dark. The lights were still on but they had the iron bars closed, so nobody could go into the store anymore. First we thought they were about to close, but it was their security system. People stay outside and tell the people in the shop, what they want. Everybody was out. There was so much street life! We saw lots of garbage on the ground... and... an almost empty garbage bin. Nobody seems to use it. When we walked back to our room, we had no water and arranged a bucket with water. We got it from their laundry system. And... there were some fishes swimming in the water! In the laundry system!! That is one way to store fresh alive fish, I guess. Viva Colombia!
Resume: Santa Marta-Pueblo Viejo by bus, Pueblo Viejo-Cienaga, 11 kms by bike, 31 degrees.
LINK: Photos 080-083 , videos TO FOLLOW

 

 

Journals March 10
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01.03.10 Panama
Our day started with a 15km long downhill. We made 40 km in 2 hours only, following the wide 4 lane highway. On our right appeared an American mall. We stopped and went to a sports shop. Wow, even the air conditioned store was as cold as they are in the States. They have the same products and also the same American prices. The newest high-tech products. I asked myself, who is buying these expensive products? We kept riding and passed a Mc Donald sign, we passed KFC and some American stores. People have told us that Panama is pretty American. It seems to be that way. They also have the US dollar as their currency. Other then the American mall and American stores, the country from what we had seen so far seemed to be quite remote. We saw hardly any houses, no restaurants, no stores and no agriculture. All plants and trees grew wildly, it was lush and green. We passed some beautiful rivers and rode up and down these long, only a bit steep but steady, hills. Then we saw some simple houses made of wood and banana tree leafs and other stuff. Seeing these houses on one side and passing this big fancy and expensive American mall on the other side. How does that fit together? After 42 km riding we passed a little store, our first one. It was afternoon and we started to look for a place to stay, maybe a cheap room? We asked somebody where the closest accommodation was. The answer was 25 km. We rode and rode, long passed the 25 km, nothing there. Finally we passed a restaurant, shoveled some food into our faces and pressed on. The sun was about to disappear behind the mountains, no village, no houses to pitch a tent, no accommodation. We had no idea where we would stay tonight but it was great riding in these temperatures, feeling the fresh air.. We also gained one hour of daylight as Panama has a different time zone. The road was freshly paved and smooth with a wide shoulder. We enjoyed the evening sun, the beautiful colors of nature and the cooler air. The 25 km became 45km. Just before it got dark we rode into a little village and asked at a store for a simple room for us. The guy offered us to camp in his yard. We followed him. In front of his house were 3 women at a table having a great time, they played Bingo. As a dice cup they used an empty coconut. Just before it was completely dark we got set up our tent among the palm trees and banana plants. We were surrounded by chickens. They had a barrel of water and a bucket in front of their house, so we could wash ourselves. It didn't take long and we disappeared in our tent, listening to some crickets, music coming from the neighbour, we still heard the women playing Bingo. It was such a good riding day, we were fast and we went mostly downhill. I love these warm temperatures. These people have never felt cold temperatures. They probably have never experienced to feel cold. What a different reality.
Resume: Concepcion-San Juan, 87km, 31 to 42 degrees
LINK: Photos 001-012

02.03.10 Panama
The big full moon was peaked into our tent. The cicadas stopped in the early morning and lots of different birds took over. The dogs kept barking. The rising sun and rising temperature in the tent forced us to get up. At the end of that village was a restaurant where we stopped for breakfast. We got 2 big plates with only one egg on it. Quite stingy I would say. We ordered more, but only got one more which we shared. They had nothing else there. Okay, let's get moving here. We left that little village, the scenery got dryer. We passed quite a few Native Indian people. They wear colorful dresses and have long hair. We realized that we hadn't seen any in Costa Rica. We also saw lots of people on horses. After some hours of riding we got hungry, finally we got to a restaurant. We stopped, but all they had was rice and chicken feet. We decided we are not too hungry and kept riding. The next restaurant was an expensive, really overpriced gringo restaurant, 6 times as much as you would pay normally. We sat down on the side of the road and emptied some canned fish and olives that we had with us. It was 1pm and it was hot, there was no place to stop so we kept riding in the heat. We rode into bigger hills, one uphill took us one hour. On top of it we saw a stand on the side of the road and hoped they had fruit, but they had only clothes to sell. Native Indians set up little straw huts, displayed their stuff and lied relaxed in their hammocks. Then we saw a restaurant, but... it was closed. Okay, that obviously means we keep riding. We knocked on somebody's door for some more water. After a while we really found a restaurant that was open, had good food and even good prices. We were really tired and thank god we could stay in the backyard of that restaurant, right next to a pig farm, but we couldn't care less. Panama is so different than Costa Rica. Here is a lot of 'nothing' and untouched areas, not much traffic either. We had lots of uphills today and were resting our bones in the tent when it was still daylight.
Resume: San Juan-Tole, 46km, 31 to 45 degrees
LINK: Photos 013-020

03.03.10 Panama
As the restaurant was located on a hillside, we heard the trucks braking with their loud engines, all night long. But so what! In the restaurant we ate as much as we could as we didn't know when the next one will come. We kept riding in bigger hills. After 30 km of nothing we saw a little store with a combined little restaurant. No vegetables, only rubber chicken and lots of rice for $1.50 per meal. We haven't seen any vegetable in Panama, strange. We got through these big hills and dropped about 1100 feet (400 meters), a 10km long downhill. The air got hotter and the trees weren't so green anymore, the color of the grass changed to yellow. The new paved road turned into an old patched road. At about 4 pm we got to another restaurant and stopped, asked a family if we could camp in their backyard, no problemo. We set up our tent under a big mango tree and could use their simple outdoor toilet which were four walls with a hole and a seat on top of it. They also offered us their outside shower, which was also four walls and a barrel of water with a bucket. And.... we could use one of their hammocks, yay! The village where we stayed was called 'La Mesa' which means in English "The Table", why not.
Resume: Tole-La Mesa, 62km, 30 to 47 degrees
LINK: Photos 021-028 , video 183

05.03.10 Panama
Bhinti felt a bit sick so we decided to stay here another night. Everything we need is here: a restaurant (well, a sort of restaurant, they had only one simple dish), a tiny store, a shady campspot, it was windy and fresh, we had the outside shower and could use a hammock. We made porridge for breakfast: oats, raisins, stevia, coconut oil and flax, also boiled up some eggs. Bhinti rested in the hammock most of the day. We could smell old garbage, I guess they don't have a garbage pick up and take care of it themselves. As the distance from restaurant to restaurant are maybe 40 to 60 kms our motto is, eat whenever you can and as much as you can!
After a day of rest we left, stopped at this kind of restaurant, but they had no food. We made porridge again. I also started to feel a bit sick. The road was surprisingly flat. After 2.5 hours riding we arrived in Santiago, our first city in Panama. We were both tired and all in a sudden we were in the middle of chaos. Crazy traffic, loud music coming from different directions, people with microphones were shouting out their stuff that they want to sell, lots of people were running around from one shop to the next. Tired as we were, we only saw 2 cheap accommodations in the middle of all that chaos, the rooms were upstairs, which means, we would have to unload our bikes and haul all our gear up. We left the craziness just behind us and around the corner was that old shabby hotel. Good enough for us! It was only 12 pm. After shower and nap we started to explore the wild city. Back into the craziness, we haven't had any of that in Costa Rica, but in the other countries of Central America. You could scream, nobody would notice as the music from all over and the blaring voices coming out of loudspeakers were way louder. I tried it and screamed, I didn't get any attention. A woman had set up some chairs and a table with lots of different colors of nail polish and ran a nail polishing business. People sat on a chair occupying the footpath with their feet up to get their nails done. Nobody seemed to care that there was no room left for the passing pedestrians. We also saw a casino with lots of people gambling in there. I noticed, that the police wore short pants as their uniform, carrying a big gun. It looked quite unusual to me but why not. One police officer was deaf. He communicated with sign language. Have you ever seen a deaf policeman? I haven't!!! He approached us and shook our hand, we bought him some ice cream. This place is definitely a shopping city, one store after another. What a crazy and noisy city, I feel really good here!
Resume: La Mesa-Santiago, 32km, 32 to 37 degrees
LINK: Photos 029-032 , video 184

07.03.10 Panama
We both were still sick, so we stayed here for one day. When we left there was no wind and the road was flat. We passed teak forests, sugar cane and banana tree fields and also some wetlands, grasslands and some trees. Good riding, just what we need. We did already more than 40 km when we stopped for breakfast. Then all in a sudden, the wind picked up and we had strong head winds. I guess we had no choice other than keep riding, so we did. Bhinti drafted me. The area was now really dry and flat. We saw a river and stopped at a swimming hole. They dammed the river and lots of children had a good time in the water. Bhinti walked right in it with all his clothes on. We faced the strong headwinds again and kept riding. On our left we saw beautiful 1.500 meter high, dry and rugged mountains in all colours. Behind these mountains there are hardly any people living, there are no paved roads. On the map were some villages that you can only reach by plane. We kept riding and riding, and again, there were no restaurants... in a stretch of 60 km, nothing. We saw rain above the mountains and dark clouds. We were shooting for the next bigger town, 15 km to go. After a while we were only 4 km far away, it took ages until we got there, it didn't seem to get closer. The headwind was so strong and we were exhausted. Soon it will get dark. Finally we got there after almost 8 hours riding time, our longest day ever. We passed an American mall, and imagine Pizza Dominoe had pizzas for 15 to 20 dollars!!! Normally a meal costs between 1.50 and 5 dollars. Who eats there? We had a meal and looked for a room, passed 2 expensive hotels and it was almost dark. The universe threw us a clean and cheap room in a pension. Lucky us! The man on duty refused to show us the room because it was already dark. Is it so dangerous here??? The room was big enough for our bikes. We rolled them in, showered and fell in our bed. We did 106 km today, our longest ever. We made it...
Resume: Santiago-Penomome, 106km, 28 to 38 degrees
LINK: Photos 033-038 , video185

08.03.10 Panama
Chickens and a noisy rooster where right next to our window. The rooster started at 2 am, but I didn't care. It drove Bhinti crazy though, I mean it drove him crazier! Ha ha. The was so loud but I hardly heard him, I was to exhausted. We stayed right next to a duck farm! In the morning the real madness started: There were the ducks, the chickens, the rooster and the dogs, what a spectacle. They all made noises without any break. No silent second passed. We hoped that the strong wind wouldn't change its direction because the road makes a sharp turn. And... the wind hadn't changed. We had tailwind all the way until to the beach. I guess it all balances itself out. We did 30 km per hour and the wind still blew my hair into my face. We realized that the color of the people in Panama is different, there are lot more people with a darker skin. We had cross wind, but just still tailwind. There was a dot on the map at the beach, it was named Santa Clara, which is the first beach for us in Panama, about 2 km off the main road. It turned out that it was not a town, just a road to the beach with a restaurant on it. It is a destination for the people who live in Panama city and there were no stores, no promenade only one place for accommodation. The wide beach was overwhelming. White sand, clear and turquoise water, palm trees grew along the beach - no development, good for Panama! Some straw roofs were set up with hammocks, there were hardly any people at the beach. After a little while we rode a short distance back the road and found a place to camp. They had a pool, hammocks in the shade, internet, we could use a freezer and a fridge. Short, it was the perfect good place to chill. I still felt sick. It was only 1 pm when we set up our tent, under a mango tree. For dinner we walked to a close by restaurant. They had quite a few noisy and beautiful parrots and Macaws. They were talking all the time: Hola, good morning and other words. They also wistled songs. Hilarious was that they imitated human laughter. But more hilarious was that they even imitated a ring of a mobile phone. Bhinti thought that they have an electronic device in their cage. First they imitated the ring, then they said 'hola', like they picked up the phone answered it. It really cracked us up! It was not so hot and dry, and they were no mosquitoes. Very nice climate here.
Resume: Penomome-Santa Clara, 39km, 28 to 36 degrees
LINK: Photos 039-045 , videos 186-188

11.03.10 Panama
We rested for a few days. We had to be in Panama City on the 15.3.10 as the boat from the Caribbean Coast to Colombia leaves on 16.3.10. We felt the almost weightless bodies in the pool, checked out the hammocks, made use of the wireless internet and went for bike rides. I got out the map of South America. It is huge and the scale is a lot smaller then on our Central America map. It looks like we have some riding to do! It actually got more humid again. The neighborhood was quiet. Sandy roads and small houses, bigger houses at the beach. There was one huge property protected by a thick hedge. The security man saw our interested faces and asked us if we wanted to have a look around. He opened the big gate and let us in, giving us a show through. Wow! It was a park, a zoo and a swimming area with a bar in the pool and a waterfall. We asked him how many people live on this property. Only one family from Panam City. It is a couple with 4 sons/daughters and 16 grandchildren. It is their weekend house, still smaller than their house in Panama City. Okay, now the details: one big curvy pool with pool bar in it and waterfall, one trampoline, one tennis court, table tennis, a playground, a flying fox, lots of trees and paths, cages with monkeys, parrots (at least 15), rabbits and other birds. It took a while to walk through the whole area. There were also several buildings with sun beds in front of them. It was more a resort. Yepp, it all belongs to one family! Then we rode our bikes back to our little, humble place. Unfortunately all these beautiful little houses and all the grass area will disappear in the near future as a 15 storey high rise is planned. It will be the only tall building in that rural area. This is one of the few undeveloped places, everything will change. Nothing lasts forever.
Resume: Stay in Santa Clara
LINK: Photos 046-051 , videos 189-190

12.03.10 Panama
We had our last swim, packed up our tent, Bhinti made porridge for breakfast, and we left at 8am, somehow it took a long time to pack. It was hot and humid. We could see that we got closer to the capital. There was so much development on both sides of the road and in the distance at the beaches were high rises sticking out. Nothing remote anymore. On the side of the road, one billboard followed the next. I remember when we crossed the border from Costa Rica, we rode through lots of isolated area, now this has changed to the opposite. We rode through a national park, up a 40 min hill and the scenery changed from dry to green. On top of the hill were dark clouds hanging down and we rode through some refreshing rain. Funny enough, for a while it only rained on the left side of the road, but not on our side, strange. After 60 km riding we started looking for a hotel, nothing. On top of another hill was a fruit stand where we stopped. I parked my bike and the women who sells the fruit was concerned about my seat in the sun getting too hot. So she brought a cushion from her couch and put it on my seat. I was kind of speechless. We hade a nice rest on the couch with a few cold coco nut drinks . She gifted us 2 slices of pineapple. We rode into the next city, La Chorrera and looked for an accommodation. There was only one hospedaje upstairs and one hotel. Busses after busses, they all tooted their loud horns. The traffic was crazy. We rode to the hotel, could store our bikes in an extra room and our room was in the 4th storey. Good they had an elevator. I had a shower and lied down on the bed. It was 6 pm only. When I woke up again, it was already dark...
Resume: Santa Clara-La Chorrera, 82km, 28 to 43 degrees
LINK: Photos 052-054

13.03.10 Panama
Nice to have an air conditioned room. The elevator was broken, so we had to haul all our gear down from the 4th storey. Down was okay, but climbing all the stairs up again to get the rest... I really could feel my legs. We rode out of town and the crazy traffic stayed crazy. The busses look really funky here with lots of imaginary paintings. They have a super loud horn and when they pass they don't leave much room for us. Often we didn't have a shoulder. It was really intense riding. Crazy traffic, no shoulder and hills to climb. Then we got a puncture and dealt with it on the side of the road. Fortunately it happened in a town where we had space. We rode and rode, and all in a sudden we saw the bridge that goes over the Panama Canal, it was huge. We crossed the canal, after 2km we got to the other side. It was quite overwhelming. Underneath us was turquoise water and on the right hand side the open sea. On our left we saw lots and lots of cranes. While we were crossing the bridge we saw the high rises of Panama City popping up in front of us behind the hills. That was another overwhelming picture. We rode through a slum, then into downtown. We got to the ocean and rode to the old part of town, to 'Casco Viejo'. Hard to believe, but all hostels were booked out. Most of the houses in the old part looked like they were about to fall apart. So we rode back to the high rises and looked for another hostel. Finally we found it, checked in, washed the sweat of our bodies and explored the city. We rode to our last city in Central America. Panama City, the city almost at the end of the highway. It was really like a big city in the USA. Lots and lots of high rises, shopping malls, banks, and in the stores they had everything, a huge variety of every singly product. Were we really in Central America? It is so completely different then the rest of the country. It is more like an island.
Resume: La Chorrera-Panama City, 45km, 31 to 42degrees
LINK: Photos 055-061 , video 192

15.03.10 Panama
Two days of sight seeing in Panama City. We took the flag of Panama off and exchanged it with the Columbian one. How exciting! We walked around. A man parked his car on the side of the road. On the passenger seat sat a parrot, on top of the head rest. He was driving his bird through town. Why not!?! The staff in clothes stores is armed and they watch every move you make very closely. We saw some police men with guns in shorts and bulletproof vests riding their bicycles. Good for them! We took the bus back to Casco Viejo, back to Central America. People, chaos, little houses, garbage on the streets, street vendors, markets, music, shopping areas... So much life. Some houses are emphy, they are ruins without any window glasses. Sometimes only the outside wall was left, hollow in the inside. We walked along the pedestrian shopping area. The Native Indians here wear colorful clothes. They wear leggings and their clothes have as many different colors as possible, patched together somehow. It looked really interesting. After a while we made our way to the Panama Canal and passed some slums. Lots of clothes hung out of the windows to dry. They had no balconies. People slept underneath bridges and some of them had a fire going and boiled up some food.
After 40 min we arrived at the Miraflores platform, at the Panama Canal. Two big container ships from China were about to come through. There were two chambers they had to pass. As the level of the Pacific is different than the level of the Caribbean sea, they have to adjust the levels in the chambers. The canal is 50 miles long and big ships pay about 300.000 dollars to use it. It takes them 10 hours to pass through. If they don't go through the canal they will have to go around the dangerous Cape Horn, a detour of 8.000 miles. The Canal was built 1913 and took 100 years to build. The boats just fit through the canal. They couldn't have been any wider. They get pulled with ropes by 4 vehicles into the first chamber. Then the level gets adjusted to 50 %, to the same level as the second chamber. When the level is even, the gate opens and the boat gets pulled into the second chamber. The water level in the second chamber gets adjusted to the level of the other ocean and off they go. I remember my teacher in elementary school teaching us about the Panama Canal. He was so passionate about it, and now I am here, almost 30 years later I get to see it, wow!
After the 2 big Chinese freighters passed the chambers we left and went back to downtown. It was our last evening in Central America, tomorrow we will be on a boat to South America, to Colombia, somehow unreal. Our last meal was at a Lebanese restaurant, what a feast that was!
Resume: Stay in Panama City
LINK: Photos 062-087 , videos 193-194

16.03.10 Panama
We were both awake most of the night, got picked up at 5 am. Four people in the pickup truck, all our bags and the luggage of the other people and 5 bicycles on top of it! Maybe you can imagine how that looked like. On our way out of Panama City we stopped at a huge store with A/C. It was open 24 hours and had everything. We stocked up with snacks. It was a 3 hours drive to Carti, to the Caribbean coast. The road was like a rollercoaster, up and down, up and down, and steep... The last bit was all gravel. We were in the land of the Kunas, the untouched beautiful tropical jungle of the Native Indians. We thought of the 2 German cyclists that we met during our trip. They did the road from Carti to Panama City on their bicycles, without bags. They said this was the most challenging part of their trip, a ride to hell actually. I already started sweating by driving up and down these steep monster hills in a 4WD pickup truck. As we got closer to the coast the whole scenery changed. Different trees, even more humidity. What a big change. On top of a hill we stopped and saw the Caribbean sea ahead of us with lots and lots of little islands, the San Blas Islands, 365 in total. We found ourselves in the wild and untouched Kuna land! And 3 hours earlier we were in one of the huge American 24 hours open, modern, airconditioned supermarket... What a contrast. We didn't drive right to the coast, our truck stopped at a river where narrow and long motorboats waited for us. We unloaded our gear and but it all in one of the boats. The boat took us along the river with mangroves on both sides and all in a sudden we were in the Caribbean ocean, in the distance the sail boat waiting for us. Was I dreaming? We loaded the gear and ourselves onto the sail boat, the little motorboat dissapeared.
The 3 other bicycles on the truck belongs to 3 Kiwis! Two are from Auckland and one is from Nelson!!! The world is small. Andrew, the guy from Auckland had the same bike as ours, the Long Haul Trucker. They started their trip in New York and cycle down to Brasil, Rio de Janero. We found out that they met the same German cyclists that we met and they also recommended to the Kiwis the same sail boat. So they brought us together!!! We were 20 passengers and 6 people of the crew. The crew are all Germans and really great people! It didn't take long and they got the loud and powerful engine going. TtttTtttTtttTttt... What a great beat it had. Not short after that they put up these huge sails. It used to be a fisherman boat. It is 38 foot long and has 7 sails. The craws nest is 20 high. Bhinti was up there in no time. I think I would have shit my pants being so high up there... The boat has 2 storeys with a big table, benches, a hammock and a net underneath the 8 meter long bowsprit. We passed lots of little, tiny islands with palm trees on them and white sand around. The water was turquoise, warm and crystal clear. Welcome to paradise!!! On some of them were straw huts, most of them are untouched. In the afternoon we anchored close by an island, our stay for the night. We jumped into the water and swam to the island. It took 5 min to walk around. On the white fine sand were lots of corals lying, also big conches and palm tree leaves. The conches were about 40cm long and heavy. We also saw starfishes in the water. In the evening we made a fire at the beach and had a BBQ. And they made a German potatoe salad for us. German cuisine in a paradise, it can't get any better! Everything was really like in one of these movies...
Resume: Panama City-Carti-Sailboat, sailing the San Blas Islands
LINK: Photos 088-119 , videos 195-197

17.03.10 Panama
We were still in our bed when the crew turned on the engine, we are moving again, yay! The canoes of the Kunas look like they are made out of one piece of wood. Most of them have a mast and a simple squared sail. The ocean was calm, we passed lots and lots of little islands, saw the coast of Panama in the distance underneath some dark clouds. After 2 hours we set anchor again, sheltered between 4 islands. There were also some other sail boats. Bhinti and I snorkeled to a reef. We saw coral, healthy coral, lots of fish and starfish. At the end we walked around another island. Next to us was a tiny, tiny island with only 2 palm trees on it. Because of the reefs the water seem to have many different colors, it was calm and protected. I was so overwhelmed, just didn't expect so much beauty. For dinner we had fresh fish. After it got dark we saw some big manta rays, shining a bright flash light on it.
Resume: Sailing the San Blas Islands
LINK: Photos 120-131 , video 198

18.-20.03.10 Panama, Colombia
Early in the morning we heard the engine going again. DdddDdddDdddDddd... We have a whole day of sailing ahead of us and the whole night, until next day noon. We were leaving the sheltered San Blas Islands. I was glad I had some pills for motion sickness with me. We put 5 sails up and turned off the engine. Dolphins followed us next to the boat. We sat on the 8 meter long bowsprit, riding the waves, up and down. My tummy tickled. I felt so much freedom! It rained in the afternoon, it was warm rain, what a great atmosphere.
The next morning we got up at 4.30am. Bhinti almost panicked as he didn't want to miss the sunrise about 90 min later. We were sitting outside in the dark and listened to the waves. Magic! After the sun has come up I planted myself on the bowsprit and looked for land... For the first time in my life I saw flying fish. They reminded me of hummingbirds and they flew long distances, just above the water level. So many of them. Underneath me was only the net. After a while 2 dolphins swam underneath the bowsprit in front of the boat, putting up a show for us. They jumped playfully and swam around each other. At 12 pm we arrived in Cartagena and anchored 100m away from the land. Part of the crew took our passports left on their little motorboat to the mainland, to the immigration. After 3 hours of waiting the officers decided that they all wanted to see us in person. The crew shipped us load by load to the mainland from where we took several taxis through the dense traffic to the immigration building. Outside in front of the building we waited another 30 minutes. It was already after 4pm, Friday. Then the officer changed his mind and said, he doesn't want to see us, we can leave... Everything for nothing, we could have all stayed on the boat. So we took the taxis back and then the little motorboat took us back to the sail boat. We packed and said good bye. It had been an incredible time! The little boat took first me and the bags to the mainland, then Bhinti and the bikes. It was a beautiful sunset. The sun went down behind the inlet of Cartagena with all its boats and high rises in the distance. Together with the 3 Kiwis we cycled to the old part of the city and found an accommodation. We are in South America!!! Cartagena is one of the oldest cities, a Colonial city with lots of little streets, colorful houses. Almost all the houses have little wooden balconies. We walked through town to fill our tummies. We sat down next to a square. They played a movie for kids there. They didn't have a TV, they projected it to a wall of an old, dirty house. No sweat! Lots of children played around. 40 hours of sailing, the ground underneath me seem to move... It was such a great time, the crew was awesome! I am glad I made it on the bike okay without falling over. Ha ha. We were up since 4.30am, in bed at 8.30pm, so tired and happy.
Resume: Sailing to Cartagena, Colombia.
LINK: Photos Panama 132-153 , videos Panama 199-200 , photos Colombia 001-011

21.-25.03.10 Colombia
The old part is located on a peninsula. There are lots of policemen here. I had never seen so many and I wondered how it would be without them. As we walked through the cozy streets with all the cute balconies on the second floor, we saw a woman on the side of the street; she got a pedicure and people were watching. Why not... Some people on unicycles passed us. There are lots of hostels here, many tourists. The floor underneath me still seemed to move, it lasted a few more days, actually much longer than the boat ride itself. I think I am very strange... I am land sick I guess. Most of the time we ate with the locals at the mercado. We also enjoyed the good coffee and pastry shops here... Who knows what we are going to eat when we are in the Andes (this is our favorite excuse). One night we found an Indian restaurant on the second floor. We had a little balcony just for us and looked down to the narrow street with all their cozy streetlights attached to the houses. Horses that pulled carriages with people in them passed us. Clack, clack, clack... So romantic. And the carriages, as it was already dark, had candles on on both sides, like in the movies. On the balconies were flowers growing. The people are so friendly and open. The city is full of life. We noticed that everybody checks the money notes really carefully. Colombia is an expert in faking money. They all seem to have their own technique checking it. Quite often we saw policemen that body searched young people for drugs. On one evening we caught up with the crew, together with the 3 Kiwis, and had dinner together. What a life they have, it is so completely different.
Resume: Stay in Cartagena.
LINK: Photos 011-032 , video 201

26.03.10 Colombia
We got up at 6am and met the other three Kiwi-cyclists at 7am. As we were heading into the same direction for a while, we decided to cycle together. Yay! They guided us out of town. It felt so nice just to follow, like a sheep. No asking for directions, just following. So nice for a change. Most of the time we could see the ocean on our left. Sometimes we had water on both sides of the road. It was pretty flat and dry. We even passed some cacti. The last cacti we had seen were in the Baja California, Mexico. The road was quiet, we had a nice shoulder and many pigs were running around. We heard lots of good Latin music coming from houses. Colombia.... so full of life and the people are so open, curious and friendly. On the side of the road was a cute looking sign. Two circles, one half is black, the other one is white. It looked like a sleepy face, but it actually means to dim down the light. Each time when we passed them, it made me smile, the sleepy eyes... What a friendly sign! In the early afternoon we got to a village and asked for an accommodation. Actually the Kiwis asked. Again, it felt so nice not to have the pressure to ask for information. People were happy to tell us. One guy on a motorcycle even showed us the way. It was not sign posted. The couple from Auckland shared a room and we shared a room with Andy, they guy from Nelson. We have heard about the mud volcano which is only 4 km far away from where we stayed. We asked for a transport and 3 motorcycles picked us up. After a short time we got there. It was an about 10 meter high volcano. We walked up the stairs and there it was... the mud bath! We took off most our clothes and climbed down the stairs, into the thick mud. My feet were looking for a bottom, but it was bottomless. Well, the bottom was 200 meter further down. Because the mud was so thick, you didn't sink. It was actually hard to move, you could move only slowly. It is hard to imagine but we felt completely weightless, we just just relaxed in whatever position. It had the perfect temperature, sometimes air bubbles popped up. First I thought it was Bhinti... but they actually came really from the earth. Not only that we were lying in the mud without moving, we also got a massage from some locals. Working in a mud bath, not bad... They massaged front and back, and they also turned us over. I have never felt so relaxed. What a nice treat after a day on the bike fighting with exhaustion... We stayed there for about an hour. Our Kiwi friends had been dipped completely under water. I was too scared to do that. Somehow we moved our tired and relaxed bodies out of the mud and climbed down the ladder. Then some women took us by the hand and lead us to the lake to wash us down. The water at the shallow area (where we were) was surprisingly warm, about 37 degrees. We got dressed and at the end they all stood around us, the massage guys, the people who took the photos with our cameras and the women who washed us down. It was totally worth it! We got a ride back on the motorcycles, ate at a restaurant, walked to our room and fell into bed. Feeling completely weightless, what a feeling!
Resume: Cartagena-Lomarina, 55 km, 28 to 43 degrees.
LINK: Photos 033-040 , video 202

27.03.10 Colombia
We got up at 6am. I didn't feel so good, my bladder and kidneys were bothering me. I seemed to be haunted with things. Fighting with permanent exhaustion, my body comes up with the weirdest things... Maybe one day my body will get used to the physical stress. At least I have become much stronger, that's for sure. Our map of South America was much bigger than our map of Central America, and the scale was much smaller. I felt a bit disencouraged. And then riding through the Andes... I didn't feel ready for it. We had porridge for breakfast and left altogether at 8am. We passed the nice mud volcano, my bike wanted to go there but I was assertive enough not to turn and to go straight, following the others. We had headwind today. Thank good the road was flat! I had a bad day today. To be honest I felt like shit. My bladder hurt and also my wrist that I broke in November keeps hurting. I find it difficult to keep up with the pace of the others, my legs didn't want to move. One of these days... First the saddle fell off in the morning when I moved my bike out of the room (I did some changes on it), then my chain came off, later my bike computer reseted itself to zero and to all default settings... What is this all about? But somehow I managed the little hills and the headwind. Slowly but surely. Where is my energy gone? I enjoyed talking to the Kiwis very much, good we had a wide shoulder. We saw the beautiful ocean partly on our left. Weiling, the girl from Auckland and I were the last ones as we were so slow, and all in a sudden we got overtaken by a man on a gallopping horse... We also saw an old man riding a donkey. His legs were comfortably crossed in front of his saddle. We passed a few military posts. Some of the guys even had a camouflaged face. Finally we rode into our destination city. It took quite a while until we found a not so expensive room. We had to hurry as it was getting dark. To make it all cheaper for us we all shared a room. We had dinner together and went to bed. Nice to lie down and not to move...
Resume: Lomarina-Barranquilla, 72km, 28 to 36 degrees.
LINK: Photos 041-044

28.03.10 Colombia
We all got up at first light. I walked like a zombie, still fighting my kidney infection. The bar next to us played loud music all night long. Okay, I stop complaining now. I love what we do, it is just much easier when my health and energy is up. We left early and the city was already thumping. Thumping at 7.30am on a Sunday morning! We had to ask lots of people how to get out of the city. We rode through busy markets. Their stands were made of wood and their wheels were wooden 'disks'. It reminded me of the Flintstones vehicles. They had rolling stands in all shapes. Shapes I had never seen before. Lots of bicycle rickshaws were everywhere. We rode through some slums, where the people were lying on the ground. People, busses, taxis, cars, music, yelling: CHAOS! Welcome to Colombia! After 13 km riding we finally left the busy city and rode over a huge bridge, crossing the 'Rio Magdalena'. There was only one road out of town on this end, and we saw lots of donkeys that pulled carriages along the road. Almost more than cars and trucks, it seemed. On the other side of the bridge was nothing, only lots of palm trees, it was really beautiful. We stopped on the side of the road for a coco drink. An old man came over with a wooden stick and hit against our tires telling us we have enough air pressure. At the end he wanted some money. Bhinti and I felt quite bad that we haven't bought him a coco, we were just so tired and wanted to move on. The road was flat and straight like an arrow. We had a bit of headwind. On our left was the wild ocean with lots of driftwood on the beach. On our right we also had partly water, wetland, lots of cacti and green grass and dried out salt lakes, that left a white mark. Some spots were filled with brown mud. What a beautiful, colorful scenery! So wild! Nobody lives here.
Then Bhinti had a puncture. We stopped and a little boy on his bike wanted to help us. At the end he changed the tire for us and we oiled his rusty old chain and pumped up his tires. Amazing how helpful people are here. After a while we got really hungry, there was nothing there, a stretch of 30 km. Finally we saw some houses in the distance. One of them was a restaurant and a hospedaje. Good timing! The building was built on poles above the water. There was a huge inlet that reached hundreds of km inland. This little village was a fisherman settlement. All the houses were built above the water on stilts. The food was really good an our rooms too! We had a nice shower, a snooze and then another meal in the evening, sitting above the water. Not far away from us was a shrimp farm. With lots of lights on the water they attracted the shrimps and caught them. These orange oil lamps looked really romantic. Our room had a loud A/C. The loudest ever. Even with earplugs it was really loud. But I couldn't care less, I was going to have a good sleep!
Resume: Barranquilla-Pueblo Viejo, 65 km, 30 to 42 degrees.
LINK: Photos 045-064 , video 203

29.03.10 Colombia
Today is a rest day! From now on our rode we take is going south. The other cyclist kept on cycling along the coast. We had our last breakfast together, then they disappeared at the horizon. We asked the people who run the restaurant and hotel, if we can leave our bikes here for one or two nights as we wanted to take the bus to the coast to Santa Marta. No problemo. We stored our bikes in the little room of the watchman, so kind of him. We took the bus to Santa Marta, which is only 35 km far away. We almost missed it as it was a long distance bus going to Venezuela and didn't stop in town. We checked out some hotels, none of them was booked out. It was pretty quiet for the Easter weekend. I remember our Easter in Mexico... Everything in Guayabitos was completely booked out and the beach was just going nuts with all these people, stands and life music. Santa Marta is the only city at the Caribbean coast and has a beautiful promenade. People were swimming in the water and kids played soccer on the beach. I prepared a parcel, sending some stuff home. Too much weight! At the post office they wanted my passport and they even took my fingerprint. Okay... The clouds in the distance were really dark and I heard some thunder. The almost 5000 meter high mountains are not too far away. In the evening, somebody played the pan flute, lots of people were still in the water and the wide promenade with all its restaurants was illuminated. We heard bells all the time, people push their ice cream business around, or they have a special bicycle for that. Music was coming from everywhere. People, chatter, music, bells, traffic, horns, horses... life everywhere around us. We had chicken for dinner. Here comes something funny: instead of giving us cutlery they handed out some plastic gloves to wear. Have you ever eaten a chicken wearing a thin plastic glove on one hand??? It was 8.30 pm and it was still 31 degrees. I love these warm nights. Everything will change once we are in the Andes... it is going to be hilly and chilly.
Resume: Pueblo Viejo-Santa Marta, 35 km by bus.
LINK: Photos 065-079 , video 204

31.03.10 Colombia
We had breakfast at the promenade. A horse passed pulling a carriage. This time they charged us more for the food then yesterday, for the same meal. We really have to make a list before we order food: ask for the price, without salt, drinks without sugar, drinks without straws... A woman passed us with a stethoscope asking us if we want our blood pressure measured. Everybody offers something, everybody tries to make business. At noon we left beautiful Santa Marta (the first settlement in Colombia) and took the bus back to our little fisherman village. We packed and left at 4.30 pm heading 11 km further to Cienaga. We passed lots of slums. Their houses were made of branches, palm leaves, wooden planks and stuff. Naked children were playing in the dirt, happy Latin music came from many houses. Everybody had a smile for us. The people are so beautiful. Nobody is in a hurry here. The road was busy with bicycle rickshaws, lots and lots... There was water and palm trees on both sides, in the middle the road and some land where the people lived. The scenery was so beautiful. Slums in paradise. I felt a strong connection to the people. I have looked into so many eyes, seen so many faces, I felt so much love for them. After 40 min we arrived in busy Cienaga and found a nice cheap room. After we parked our bikes in our room we looked for an internet place. We walked through the alive town and found one. It was actually a private living room from a family. They put in 4 computers and a sign in front of the house. Easy peasy! When we walked back we stopped at a store. It was already dark. The lights were still on but they had the iron bars closed, so nobody could go into the store anymore. First we thought they were about to close, but it was their security system. People stay outside and tell the people in the shop, what they want. Everybody was out. There was so much street life! We saw lots of garbage on the ground... and... an almost empty garbage bin. Nobody seems to use it. When we walked back to our room, we had no water and arranged a bucket with water. We got it from their laundry system. And... there were some fishes swimming in the water! In the laundry system!! That is one way to store fresh alive fish, I guess. Viva Colombia!
Resume: Santa Marta-Pueblo Viejo by bus, Pueblo Viejo-Cienaga, 11 km by bike, 31 degrees.
LINK: Photos 080-083