Friday, October 8, 2010

22. My crazy adventure crossing the Darien Gap (11/18-12/03/07)

After doing some research on Darien motorcycle transportation I decided that the standard sailboat rate of $550 from Portobello, Panama to Cartegena, Colombia was too much. Flying the bike and myself was also too expensive. While I was searching the previous shipments by travelers section on horizonsunlimited.com I found a review from a guy who shipped his bike (and himself) on a cargo ship from Colon to Cartegena for only $200!

This daring traveler warned others that many of the cargo ships smuggle drugs or have untrustworthy captains who extort money from you. He also gave a warning about the poor mechanical condition of these old cargo ships.

Feeling confident that I knew what to look out for I split ways with my riding buddies Wayne and Mike who opted for sailboat transport with Mark on the Melody in Portobello.

Upon arriving in Colon I suddenly started to feel sick in my stomach. I knew at first sight that I had made a mistake by not traveling safely with my friends. If you have ever seen the movie Black Hawk Down, Colon looks like downtown Mogadishu in this movie. The buildings all look like they are ready to fall down and it makes sense because almost all of them were constructed by the French and Americans when they were building the Canal in the 1900-1920s.

Every other man on the street appears to be sizing you up. To give you a sense of how afraid I was, I kept my helmet on anytime I had to walk on the streets. There are dumpsters blocking access to alleys for no apparent reason and many of the man hole covers are missing from vandals trying to make a quick buck recycling them.

I followed my instuctions and made it to Calle 5 Pier 7 (I think it was this, do not follow this info). The dock has about 5-10 cargo ships docked on average. Some are going to Venezuela, some Brazil, and some Colombia. The ships to Colombia do not leave regularly (grrrr) like the guy on horizons said they did. After inquiring for 30 minutes about finding a ship to Cartegena the gate attendant told me to come back one week from now (Saturday) to catch a ship.

Not wanting to wait a whole week I drove to another Calle called Coco Solo. I could not believe that there was a more dangerous looking place than Colon! The buildings around Coco Solo are all in ruins (no roofs, no windows, and collapsed walls) but people actually live in them! Occupancy seems to be around 100%! To get to the dock you have to drive your bike past this group of buildings and through a road of standing water that is hard to tell the depth. After finally finding the dock, the aduana man quickly informed me that this dock only has ships that travel North to Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Next I drove to the Panama City Yacht club which was also a great waste of time. My lonely planet told me that there was a post it board listing adds from captains willing to transport passengers to Colombia. The board had no ads like this and the lady working the counter knew nothing about transportation to Colombia.

I decided to return to Panama City and stay with my friend until my ship left to Cartegena the next Saturday.


Day 1:

I woke up at 5 am the next Saturday and after saying goodbye to my friend I left for Colon. Upon arriving, I was disappointed to find out that my ship to Cartegena had already departed the day before. Schedules in Latin America often seem to be more of an optimistic goal than a realistic expectation.

The guard informed me that there was a ship called the Lyadelmar leaving to Puerto Obaldia (closest town to the Colombian border). He also told me that a ship going to Cartegena was arriving that day, but that it would not depart for 3 days. Lacking further patience I began searching for Captain Sierra of the Lyadelmar.

After a couple hours of not finding him I noticed 3 foreign backpackers who had just entered the gate to the dock. They called Captain Sierra for me and negotiated a price of $100 for the bike and I. They also found out from the Captain that he was running behind and that the ship would not leave until the late afternoon.

My 3 new friends and I killed time at the bar accross the street. We were warned not to walk further into town because a possy of thugs wanting to rob us was waiting at the next steet corner (we could see them).

After about 10 hours of waiting the crew was finally ready to load my bike at 1:00 am. I knew that this was going to be quite the challenge because the dock was 6 ft taller than the deck of the ship. Of course, the captain was no where to be found and the only crew still awake were 4 short skinny guys who looked exhausted from loading the ship the whole day.

Fortuantely, my new friend Rudolph (Rudolph toured Europe on his motorcyle) agreed to help us load the bike on the ship and translate directions to the crew from me (My directions were defintitely not from experience, lol).

Nervously, I wheeled the bike to the edge of the concrete on the dock. Rudolph and I slowly lifted the front of the bike over the edge of the dock and down to the 4 guys who were waiting to catch the front end of the bike. I assumed that these guys had experience doing this before, but they must have never done this before . As the bike began to fall towards them instead of working in unison and grabbing the bike together just 2 of the guys grabbed at the front tire and did not manage to pull the bike far enough into the interior of the ship. My bike just about fell into the ocean but Rudolph and I saved it barely by supporting the rear end. A crew member who was woken up from my nervous yelling also saved the bike because he was quick to tie a from the frame to an overhead pulley so the bike could be hoisted.

We finally got my bike on the ship and moved it to the very shitty location that the captain had left me. The bike was parked sideways on the ship. It had to be stored next to 2 generators that I thought were welded to the ground, but turned out to be unmounted to the deck. The crew also said that I could not tie the bike to the nearby pole because they needed to open the cargo hatch there.


(ship behind ours was being investigated for drugs.)

btw: More to come later



Days 2, 3, and 4

To my surprise after waking up from the previous stressful night there is a pig that has been crammed up into the small space where my bike sits on the ship!

(my bike is not shown in this picture but it was sitting right where the pig is standing in the picture.)

I am immeadiately pissed about this, but than I think that maybe he will leave my bike alone. I was sure wrong about that. As the journey continued the pig started to go crazy because of hunger and he would kick the hell out of my spokes, or jam his snout into them. The bastard would also jump up and kick the side of my bike if someone was trying to move him.

The first day on the ocean was very rough. Everyone had to find a spot where they could brace themself. My 3 tourist friends puked multiple times over the course of a few hours. I have never been sea sick before in my life but towards the end of the day I got sick and puked. (Hopefully my greatgrand dad who was in the Royal Britsish Navy, my great uncle who was one of the first Navy Seals, and my other great uncle who was tugboat captain).


Days 4, 5, and 6.


Captain Sierra told us that the journey would only take 4 days, but early on it became evident to us that it would be a lot longer. On the first day when we had big seas the bilge pump would not start and we were taking on a lot of water from the waves coming up and over the deck. The ship was getting tossed around like a kite in a tornado (I have a new found respect for those crab fishermen who work the Bering Straight).

Problem on Day 1

After a while we were all getting a little nervous because as the crew tried to fix the pump the level of the water on the deck was increasing (I think it was because the ship was sitting lower in the water because of all the water in the cargo hold. Finally they got it working and ran the pump for about an hour to get all the water out.

Problem on Day 2

On the second day the engine started to act up. It slowly started to die and we were stranded on the open ocean many miles from the nearest mechanic. Rudolph and I both starred through the cargo hatch down at the incredibly dirty engine. We wondered when the last time it had an oil change was. By the looks of it, never!

After 2 hours of tinkering with the engine, the same crew member who fixed the bilge pump was able to fix the engine. I have to give this guy credit because he most likely had no formal education, but could probably give many educated mechanics a run for their money.

Problem on Day 3

Rudolph and I were hoping that the ship would carry on without anymore problems, but than we hit a sand bar and got stuck. We were dangerously close to land and the Captain was reversing the engine off and on for 30 minutes. Finally we managed to get free and it was strange because you would think that the Captain would have been mad at the first mate for driving us on to a sandbar, but he did not seem angered at all and went about things if this was a normal event for a Panamanian cargo boat captain.

After 3 days of traveling it felt like we had made zero progress. On the 4th day we finally started to make some miles and for the next few days we saw many of the San Blas islands where the indigenous Kuna people live. They have managed to block out the majority of Western influence ever since Colombus first landed on one of the islands in 1502. The Kuna people mainly barter fish and coconuts to the outside world in exchange for goods.


Days 7, 8, and 9

The last days of the voyage were so boring. Traveling at what seems to be 4 knots per hour really starts to wear on you menatally. Fortunately, I was able to entertain myself by trying to learn Spanish from the kindergarten type textbooks that Rudolph gave me. The only problem was that he bought the books for his Colombian gf to learn English so the phonetics did not help me. Instead, I was forced to annoy Rudolph and the hot Norwegian girl constantly about pronouciation.




                                           (Your typical cruise ship type meal.)


On the 9th day, 5 days after we were supposed to have been there, we finally reached Puerto Obaldia. To my horrible surprise there was hardly a dock there! (grrrrr). I felt worse this day than the whole rest of my Darien trip. I was counting on a dock being there so I could unload my bike on to the dock and than load it on to another ship. Rudolph was very surprised also because he had been to Puerto Obaldia only a few months before and said that the dock had been greatly damaged since than (apparently it used to be twice as long).

Now, I was forced into having to unload my bike over the ocean and into a lancha (small boat). This idea seemed very bad to me because Puerto Obaldia is not protected by a harbor and the waves were really moving our ship that day.

One of the local lancha smugglers came to greet us on our boat. This man was about 55 years old and he was the cocky type of guy who immeadiately rubs you the wrong way. After questioning him about how he was going to do the job I began to change my mind about getting off here and thought that it would be better to count my losses and go back to Colon than have my bike fall into the ocean.

It is funny how no one cares as much about your bike as you do. This lancha guy was telling me that we did not need to use tires to set the bike on in his boat. He said we could just sit it on the vertical 2x6 planks that went accross the top of his tiny boat. It was powered by one 60 hp engine and was very narrow like a canoe.

I am doing my best to make a very long story short, but I also had a problem with getting my exit stamp from the customs guy. Unfortunately, I had opted against buying the $25 required drivers insurance when you enter Panama. I got very lucky in making it into Panama because an hour after you drive in there is a mandatory check point where they check to make sure you have all the right papers.

Anyway, the customs guy did not want to give me an exit stamp, until finally he agreed that if I went back to my boat and brought back the papers that showed that I had been traveling in other countries, he would give me the stamp.

With all the time I was taking up and the fact that I was changing my mind about even taking my bike off the ship, my backpacker friends understandably decided to ditch me. Sadly, I watched their small boat leaving at a distance towards Colombia. Rudolph had helped me out a lot by negotiating a price with the lancha guys, telling me about how I should find 3 tires so I could lay my bike sideways on the lancha, and also helping me out initially to try and get my exit stamp.

After much debating, I made up my mind that I was going to put my bike into a lancha. Finally, the lancha men had sent a capable crew and boat to deal with my 500 lb bike. These guys had 2 very large tires for me to lay my bike on and there lancha was big with two 75 hp engines on the back. I still had to argue with them about removing a 2x6 so that the bike would not be resting on it, but after much babble in bad Spanish they removed it.

I rounded up the remaining crew on my cargo ship (many of them had left by now because they were frustrated with me changing my mind every 5 minutes). The crews of both ships worked as a team and we used a rope to hoist and lower the bike over the ocean and carefully into the lancha. I know that some of you are probably thinking that this sounds easy but it was not because both ships were moving at the time from being hit by waves and it was very difficult to keep the bike from getting damaged.

Once the bike was successfully on the lancha I can not describe how good I felt at that moment. Should I dare to say that it was better than sex? The crew was also very happy and we all started to high five eachother (sounds lame, but was very cool). I really wish I had a videotape of the unloading of the bike.


Days 7, 8, and 9

The last days of the voyage were so boring. Traveling at what seems to be 4 knots per hour really starts to wear on you menatally. Fortunately, I was able to entertain myself by trying to learn Spanish from the kindergarten type textbooks that Rudolph gave me. The only problem was that he bought the books for his Colombian gf to learn English so the phonetics did not help me. Instead, I was forced to annoy Rudolph and the hot Norwegian girl constantly about pronouciation.

On the 9th day, 5 days after we were supposed to have been there, we finally reached Puerto Obaldia. To my horrible surprise there was hardly a dock there! (grrrrr). I felt worse this day than the whole rest of my Darien trip. I was counting on a dock being there so I could unload my bike on to the dock and than load it on to another ship. Rudolph was very surprised also because he had been to Puerto Obaldia only a few months before and said that the dock had been greatly damaged since than (apparently it used to be twice as long).

Now, I was forced into having to unload my bike over the ocean and into a lancha (small boat). This idea seemed very bad to me because Puerto Obaldia is not protected by a harbor and the waves were really moving our ship that day.

One of the local lancha smugglers came to greet us on our boat. This man was about 55 years old and he was the cocky type of guy who immeadiately rubs you the wrong way. After questioning him about how he was going to do the job I began to change my mind about getting off here and thought that it would be better to count my losses and go back to Colon than have my bike fall into the ocean.

It is funny how no one cares as much about your bike as you do. This lancha guy was telling me that we did not need to use tires to set the bike on in his boat. He said we could just sit it on the vertical 2x6 planks that went accross the top of his tiny boat. It was powered by one 60 hp engine and was very narrow like a canoe.

I am doing my best to make a very long story short, but I also had a problem with getting my exit stamp from the customs guy. Unfortunately, I had opted against buying the $25 required drivers insurance when you enter Panama. I got very lucky in making it into Panama because an hour after you drive in there is a mandatory check point where they check to make sure you have all the right papers.

Anyway, the customs guy did not want to give me an exit stamp, until finally he agreed that if I went back to my boat and brought back the papers that showed that I had been traveling in other countries, he would give me the stamp.

With all the time I was taking up and the fact that I was changing my mind about even taking my bike off the ship, my backpacker friends understandably decided to ditch me. Sadly, I watched their small boat leaving at a distance towards Colombia. Rudolph had helped me out a lot by negotiating a price with the lancha guys, telling me about how I should find 3 tires so I could lay my bike sideways on the lancha, and also helping me out initially to try and get my exit stamp.

After much debating, I made up my mind that I was going to put my bike into a lancha. Finally, the lancha men had sent a capable crew and boat to deal with my 500 lb bike. These guys had 2 very large tires for me to lay my bike on and there lancha was big with two 75 hp engines on the back. I still had to argue with them about removing a 2x6 so that the bike would not be resting on it, but after much babble in bad Spanish they removed it.

I rounded up the remaining crew on my cargo ship (many of them had left by now because they were frustrated with me changing my mind every 5 minutes). The crews of both ships worked as a team and we used a rope to hoist and lower the bike over the ocean and carefully into the lancha. I know that some of you are probably thinking that this sounds easy but it was not because both ships were moving at the time from being hit by waves and it was very difficult to keep the bike from getting damaged.

Once the bike was successfully on the lancha I can not describe how good I felt at that moment. Should I dare to say that it was better than sex? The crew was also very happy and we all started to high five eachother (sounds lame, but was very cool). I really wish I had a videotape of the unloading of the bike.


Day 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
The lancha (small boat) dropped me off at the first Colombian village after the border. It is a very small picturesque place called Sapzurro. It was not the worst place you could be stuck for a week.Luckily, there was a ship leaving the next morning to go to the mainland where they have roads. I woke up at 5:00 am the next morning and took a shower and packed all my things. I was just about ready to start my bike when the camp manager walked up and informed me that you could see my ship taking off out of the harbor! (grrr, no, no, no) I knew that it would be a week before this ship returned. Reluctantly I unpacked all my things.
The next 2 days I played survivor man and tried to catch fish and find coconuts to eat. I failed at all efforts to catch fish and I think the tourists on the sailboats got a kick out of my fishing rod which was a big stick with green string and a hook (from my homemade survival first aid kit).

I had better luck with the coconuts and was able to climb some low hanging coconut trees. It is amazing how strong every part of a coconut is. To get them off the tree I had to use all of my body weight and hang suspended in the air off a coconut. To break them is a different story. In order to drink the milk you have to be careful not to completely shatter the inner shell of the coconut. Fortunately, my camp manager, who would not let me barrow his machete, had some extra cinder blocks next to my campsite. After trial and error I found that if you busted up the top of the coconut pretty good and than began to beat down on it with the corner of a cinder block you could most times break a small whole in the inner shell and than carefully drink the milk from where it leaked out of the outer shell.

After discovering that I could buy fresh fish off the boat for $0.50 U.S. I gave up my fishing efforts and started cooking fish every day. My intitial problem was not knowing how to skin a fish. Fortunately, a local passing by showed me where to make the cuts and take out the innards.


I forgot to mention my 2.5 mile trek through the jungle to get from the small fishing village of Sapzurro (Colombian/Panamanian border) to the resort town of Capurgina. The reason for this trek was to call my mom because I was told there was a tourist phone business there.(Looking down from the top at Capurgina)
In my lonely planet central america book there was a warning about this trek saying that it is a safe route, but make sure to get a guide because the trail is confusing and one can get lost. They were right about the getting lost part. There are lots of trails that criss cross eachother here and I had to be careful to remember the landmarks that one of the locals had told me about earlier.

The trail is brutal once you get to the top of the hill/mountain and start making your way down to Capurgina. It was swamp mud the whole way and my feet just started to sink in (up to a foot in some places). Originally, I thought maybe I could ride my bike through here. Yeah right! Even with a highly specialized setup I have my doubts.

Now that I have experience with hiking through Darien jungle I do not think it is possible to ride your bike through the Darien Gap! Before this, I thought it was possible. I still believe that people have crossed the Darien by winching their bike the whole way, but to me it does not count unless the vast majority is riding.

Day 17 (Finally, making it to the mainland!)

Spending an entire week at the border fishing village of Sapzurro really started to make me go crazy. I met lots of great people and definitely had amazing experiences, but after a few days on an island (calling it an island because you can only reach it by sea) there is only so much you can do.

On my second to last day a Colombian motorcyclist showed up (Sabastian). After meeting him I found out that he needed my help because the
small cargo boat captain would not allow Sabastian to travel on the boat with his bike because he was Colombian (I later found out). Sabastian, needed me to watch after his bike and I agreed to help him. His gf and him were on there way back from Alaska and headed on a sailboat for Cartegena. The gf was sea sick from being on the sailboat for so long and they decided to make a short cut to the mainland from Sapzurro.

It was time to load our bikes on the boat and Sabastian still had to off load his bike from the sailboat. I watched in amazement as it came to the dock with a 1200 gs on the back! (How in the world do you get that big of a bike on and off a sailboat I wondered!) It is pretty clever how they do it. The sailboats use the smaller rear mast as a winch to lift and lower heavy items on and off the boat. This thing did not look capable of lifting a 600+ lb bike, but it was apparently.

Sabastian had tried to get permission from the police to go to Turbo with his bike, but the police had no idea what he was talking about. It was reassuring to learn that this was not just a Gringo problem, lol. I spent the necessary 3 hours of completing stupid tasks to help Sabastian get his paper work (ie. walking to dock so name and passport can be written down, waiting at the police station for the customs lady to be called from her house, going to the drug store to make a photo copy for police records.)

I said goodbye to Sabastian and his gf and went back to my campsite to begin packing up and killing time until nightfall. Around 8:00 pm my lancha captain came up to my tent and scared the crap out of me! (in South America anyone who approaches your tent in the darkness tends to do this)
He tried to explain something to me, but at my comprehension level I could only understad every 10th word. grrr He called his English speaking hotel owner friend in Capurgina (next town, 2 miles South) on his cell phone for me. After chatting with this man I found out that I had been red flagged by DAS (colombian customs) because all motorcycle travelers to Sapzurro are required to take their bikes by boat to Capurgina and have the DAS agent stamp their passport grrrr . He explained that the DAS agent in Capurgina or my boat´s captain could have simply warned me about this but that DAS has a practice of keeping motorcyclists uninformed so that they have to pay a big $300 fine once they get to the mainland.

My dilemma now was that my boat was leaving at 6:00 am and that the only way to get my DAS stamp was to wait at Sapzurro for 1 more week. There was no way I was doing this.


I slept on the boat that night (I could not afford to miss this damn boat again!).


I woke up at 5:00 am because of my strange inability to sleep comfortably on a hammock. After 30 minutes the crew woke up and began loading the ship. The ship was very small and so incredibly underpowered that I think we would have made it faster to Turbo by rigging up a big sail.

There was 1 crew member who I really did not care for. He was the same guy that I negotiated with upon arriving to have my bike lifted off the lancha and on to the dock (they smacked my rotor on the concrete and I was paying them good money).

This was the type of guy that you see once and know you will not like. He was cocky, rude, short, and built like an NFL football player. As soon as he woke up he began to annoy me by cracking jokes at my expense, pointing in my face, and trying to scare me about Colombia. After 20 minutes of this I told him I was tired and did not feel like talking anymore.

We traveled at about 4 knots for 2 hours and than anchored down outside the harbor of a big landlocked village. We sat in the water for waiting for locals to come out and pickup their goods. After 30 minutes the crew started yelling at passing boats so they could hitchhike into the town. An hour later, they finally returned with the locals. By this time my headache was uncontrollable.(The Colombian coast)

Just as we are leaving, the police show up to inspect are load. I think the word got out that there was a gringo on board because for the hour and a half we were waiting there. They immeadiately started to question me about the bike. I showed them all my paperwork and explained that the other bike was a Colombian guy´s who I met yesterday and that he was returning from dirt biking in Sapzurro (Sabastian told me to say that). The police were unsatisfied with seeing all my papers once, so I had to show them again and again for probably 20 minutes. After finally being satisfied with my title, registration, drivers license, etc. they told me that I had to get off the boat and go back to Capurgina to get my DAS stamp and leave my bike unattended in the hands of the crew until I could meet them in Turbo.

I was utterly opposed to this and argued with them for 10 minutes. I realized that they were dead serious about this so with no other option I pretended to cry. This had to be the worst acting in the history of horrible movies. I really tried to bring tears, but nothing would come so I was forced to keep cracking my voice and making awkward crying noises.

After 5 minutes of this the police finally agreed to let me go to Turbo, but said that they would have to take my papers (original title, registration, etc.) and have them delivered to Capurgina so they could be stamped and I could pick them up on a lancha the next day. Having experienced the level of efficiency that the police operate at in Colombia, I knew the chances of me seeing my papers again would be 0.0017%

I had put my papers back into my bag by this time and there was no way I was handing them over. The crew member I was talking about earlier, went into my bag, took out the papers, and handed them to a police officer on the police boat while I was distracted. I saw my papers being handed accross boats and I immeadiately wanted them back, but the police conviently stopped understanding my horrible Spanish and left. grrr

I was the most mad after this that I have been on my whole trip. We started to head towards Turbo and the crew member I did not like (the one who stole my papers) came over and tried to cheer me up. I immediately flicked him off because that was the only way to adequately express my anger towards him.

continued...


The last post was pretty negative, but it was some of the worst part of the trip for me.


After about 20 minutes of being completely furious about losing my papers I began to look at things more positively. I realized that while it was a major headache to lose my papers, I still had my backup set. The title that they took was actually a good color copy of my original copy which was safe at home.

The next 4 hours on the boat were uncomfortable because I had flicked off the one guy and he told the rest of the crew about it. The crew did their best to avoid me for the rest of the journey.

Finally, after what seemed like forever we made it to Turbo. Getting to our dock took a long time because you have to weave in and out of a river type network. Turbo was very rough. All the men I saw looked like scraggly dock workers. The buildings are very similar to Colon, Panama where it looks like maybe the city was abandoned for 50 years, but than reinhabited yesterday.

We approached the merchant dock and I noticed Sabastian and his gf. We docked and Sabastian came up and asked me if I knew that my parents were in Panama looking for me and that the Colombian embassy was trying to track me down. Damn, I thought, I should have called my mom in Puerto Obaldia (I was very busy when I was in Puerto Obaldia and I did look for a phone there briefly but did not see one).

A couple minutes later the DAS officer and 15 military guys showed up next to the boat. Soon there were about 100 suspicious looking spectators crowding the dock. This was not the kind of place where you wanted to be attracting attention.There were random people getting on and off the boat and after a couple minutes of being distracted with the DAS officer I thought about my stuff being stolen and jumped back on the boat (luckily everything was still there).

Sebastian did his best to help me and keep me from being detained for 10 days! After talking with the DAS officer and military sargent he convinced the DAS officer to call off the military and let me and Sebastian go to the DAS office and get things worked out. (Sebastian was in a lot of trouble with the DAS officer too, because he was suspected of helping me get into the country). The DAS man took my photo and than fingerprinted me (Cant remember the last time I was fingerprinted). He wrote out a letter saying that if I agreed to go straight to Cartegena on my motorcycle and pay a $200 fine than I could get things straighened out.

Our ship was suspended from traveling for 15 days Sebastian told me. I felt bad about this, but at the same time I thought it was karma, because of the captain knowingly taking motorcyclists illegally and the guy stealing my papers.

The DAS officer told me that the next day I had to go to the DIAN (Colombian immigration) at 7:00 am to see if I could get papers for my motorcycle. The problem was that Sabastian told me he had to leave at 5:00 am the next day to go home because of personal reasons. (I think he did not want to get into any more trouble with Colombian immigration/customs. Colombians are very afraid of the DAS I have learned). I needed someone to translate for me at the DIAN tomorrow.

Sabastian helped me look for a translator. We set off to find a bi-lingual foreigners possibly staying in the local hotels. My German friend Rudolph who I had traveled with on the boat from Colon to Puerto Obaldia came up and surprised me. He had been in Colon with his gf for the last week. We told Rudolph my crazy story and he agreed to help in the hotel search.

After trying 3 hotels we found a English teacher from Turbo named Thomas who agreed to help me. Thomas and I got the papers the next day and ended up becoming friends. He was looking for a ride to Barranquilla, Colombia and I agreed to take him to Cartegena.

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