Journeys for a cause

The “Oh Crap!” Moment

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

January 30-31, 2019

From Boca Chica to Penasi and then to Portobelo, Panama

Hello Friends!

It was going to be a very laid back day, but it ended up being a near sleepless night.

The morning started off easy. There must have been at least five roosters trying to out crow each other. It was very comical, but routine to members of the Boca Chica Community of Panama.

Laura and Massimo, of La Residencia La & Ma, have a demeanour that makes you feel as comfortable as possible. Being Italians from Milan, I choose to opt in for their optional supper and breakfast. The food was home made comfortable food with a cup of vino. Michaèl, an elderly man from Torino, Italy was also a guest who was city hopping in South and Central America. It was refreshing to see a man of his age (maybe 75 years old) embracing life and feeling so passionate about the beautiful things he saw over the past few weeks. A French couple, who mostly kept to themselves, were touring South and Central America by Land Rover.

During a 20 minute walk, I saw all of Boca Chica. I noticed there were many hostels in this small community and that the inlet would also be a perfect place to do some stand up paddle- boarding (SUP). I tried to meet up with Don, an 80 year old man I met yesterday that doesn’t look older than 65. Don is a world traveller who says he has sailed and ridden a motorcycle on every continent, including Antartica — A true world traveller. After our brief meeting yesterday, he invited me over for a beer later that night. However, since I was having supper at the hostel and having a nice discussion with the owners and Michaèl, I felt it would be inappropriate to leave their company.

I decided to go to the town of Penasi, as recommended by Laura and Massimo. As usual, the estimated time on my GPS was off. This time, only by about an hour. Most of the ride was on the Inter American Highway (same as the Pan American Highway in the other countries), which is a basic four lane highway.

At around 4:30 PM I arrived in Penasi and recorded the arrival in the city and to both of the local beaches. While at a coffee shop and preparing to go to the $7 hostel I booked for the night, I looked through emails, I reviewed an email reservation I made for my transfer from Panama to Colombia. Although I must have looked at that email about 5 times, I was convinced that the departure date was February 1st, but in an "oh shit" moment, I realized that the actual date was January 31st at 10:00 AM. I was about 6 hours away from the departure city, and it would soon get dark.

Penasi, Panama

I chose to lose my $7 deposit and hit the road. It got dark by the time I got on the Inter American Highway. Luckily, this road was nothing like many of the previous roads through mountainsides, jungles, and riddled with roadkill and people walking on the sides in total darkness. This part of the highway was well-travelled and felt very similar to riding the Trans Canada Highway, or any other major North American highways.

The most disappointing part of the ride was the fact that I crossed the Panama Canal at night and didn’t get to see it properly and explore it. However, the plan is to return through Panama, so I should be seeing it in a few weeks.

During a stop to get some food at an all night grocery store, a man jumped out of the passenger seat of a new Toyota Land Cruiser, and came up to me. He immediately asked me questions about the motorcycle, started looking it over as if it was on display in yard sale, and then asked what it was worth. I told him that it was not for sale, but he insisted and asked me several more times. Amazed at his rudeness, I shoo’ed him away.

I got to the City of Portobelo on Panama’s Caribbean coast. It was about 11:00 PM and I felt a little wired. Maybe it was the panic to get here, or maybe it was just a little anxiety about what I’d be doing the next day. I rode around looking for a place to stay, however, I soon realized that I didn’t feel like checking in anywhere. Portabelo is a port town and it was nice to ride up and down, except for at least four occasions when I was chased by a pack if dogs. Feeling restless, I decided to stop in a parking area between the beach and the road, put down the side-stand and positioned myself as comfortable as possible on the motorcycle. I put my feet up on the crash bars and leaning back on the bags. I actually fell asleep for about 30 minutes.

At around 9 AM, I went to the meeting area and found the Catamaran Jacqueline and Captain Fritz of San Blas Islands Charter. I removed the bags from The Motorcycle so the crew could tie it up and hoist it onto the boat. Once onboard, the crew secured The Motorcycle on port side (right) of the deck. In time I got to know all onboard: Fritz, the Captain; José, the first mate; Tülay, Fritz’s wife and helping crew; Rose, Fritz’s well travelled childhood friend; and Vic, a retired Austrian police officer. This felt somewhat like the cast of Gilligan’s Island. Hopefully without the being marooned on a deserted island part of it.

Being as tired as I was, I fell asleep as we set off and after we had a supper. I was ready for the next destination— Colombia via the catamaran sailing amongst the San Blas Islands.

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