Tag Archives: RTWbyBIKE

America Sur – we are on the way! Shipping the bikes

On the way to Panama City we had a stop in Playa Farallon at Trixi´s little cozy Taca Tucan Hostel just next to the beach. The bikes were just fitting in her front garden and we jumped into the ocean directly after parking. We spend a nice evening together with her, her friends and with Adeline and Francoise (our container-buddies who parked at the beach) in her garden drinking beer and eating Pizza. The Pan-American Highway is not really nice at this point, so where possible we made a little detour through the hills along the coast.
Now the serious part started. We rode to Panama City where we booked a room just behind the Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas) together with all our container buddies: Adeline and Francoise (France) and Lars and Carin (Swiss). We explored a bit the bridge and the area, cooked and sorted our paper work.
The next morning we all needed to go to get the inspection of our vehicles done. We were told to be there at 7 AM and we agreed to be there already at 6:30 AM. When we arrived there was already a long cue but hey, at 10 past 9 AM we all had our inspection done. Now we had to wait until 2 PM to get the papers. We drove back to the hostel having breakfast and another shower and to pack our things together. The plan was to leave after the inspection directly to Colón where we had the loading appointment at 7:30 next morning. At 2 PM at the office they told us to sit down and wait a few minutes…we were watching the scenery… clerks carrying coffee cups, clerks carrying empty boxes, waiting, clerks carrying some papers, waiting a little bit longer and after two hours they handed out the inspection papers. The traffic in the city was mad! And Adeline, Francois and us we decided to stay one more night in the hostel in Panama City and drive very early morning to Colón. Adeline made incredible delicious crepes and we had a relaxed evening.At 5:30 with the first glimpse of daylight we left. The air was still cool and we drove north along the Panama Canal, through the rain forest and on the highway to Colón. It was a real good decision we realized because we heard the road was blocked the last evening and they had a hell of traffic yam. Now we drove only 80 minutes. The last meters it started to rain and we just parked under the roof at the meeting point and heavy rain started. We do not want having everything wet in the container and we were praying that it will stop soon.
Boris was our agent on the Panama side. His dad, “Papa Boris”, arrived at the meeting point and the rain stopped when we were driving over to the port area. We found our way in a convoy (two more cars were sharing another container) on this gravel area full of rain filled potholes trucks and trash. Finally we were all parking around the two containers. Papa Boris told us that we probably need to take off all four panniers to make it fit. Hmmm not nice but well… There was no dry or clean area to put anything and we always have to unpack the pannier to take it off. So it was a bit off a challenge to sort everything. Of course meanwhile the sun was out, it became immediately hot and we were sweated in a second. Our container buddies allowed us to store all our `loose´ things in their cars – THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR THAT AGAIN!!! As a precaution we organized some big rubbish bags where we `sealed in´ all our sweated gears and boots not to `contaminating´ the cars of our buddies ;) So far so good! On arrival we identified with the pre-bill of lading the correct container together with Papa Boris and an hour later they started to load the wrong car (one of the other group with the second container) into our container while we were sorting our things. Luckily Sascha saw it and so they had to unload it again… puhhh! Additional Papa Boris is suddenly mentioning that our two motorcycles might not fit in the container as they are really big… ????!!!!???? WHAT??? We gave all our measurements upfront to them from the beginning – even the width with the panniers on. So we told him there is no question about putting maybe one bike in the other container. They HAVE to fit!
The loading was a sweaty act. Kerstin’s bike they dropped once with the front wheel in the space between the loading truck and the container. It plunged hard on the fork – uffff. We had to fit the bikes in on the main-stand. Sascha did not like that idea at all but there was no other way and finally we fit them and strapped everything as best as possible – DONE. Let´s hope they will arrive in one piece and still standing…
The next step was the customs. Boris was waiting for us outside at the port entrance and the paperwork was done pretty quickly. Good part! When we paid Boris he was wondering about the amount and said $300 USD is missing because of the two bikes. Hmmm??? The last invoice was nothing mentioning like that and as well in the e-mails he never said the price will rise. We discussed a while and in the end we agreed he takes over 100 and us we share the 200 between us as we did not want to risk delayed shipping. It was a shame somehow – everything went well and now that – it left a bad taste in our mouth. So be aware! Ask for the final invoice because it may not be up-dated by them!

We had to find our way back to Panama City where we booked a hotel with a roof-top pool. We had to stay 5 nights before our flight to Cartagena Colombia is going. We do not like to stay in cities that much but we wanted to make the best out of it. We explored the area we lived, the old town (Casco Viejo), the fish market and the viewpoints. We went to the shopping center to get some supplies and of course we went to the Panama Canal. With the bus you can go for 0,25 cents to Miraflores, Panama Canal locks. It is worth a visit. You can watch the boats driving through the locks and in the museum you learn everything about the construction, the boats, the fauna and flora. In the little cinema they show a kind of short summary – if you don´t see it you do not really miss anything. The entrance fee is $20 but the ticket is valid the whole day. We went early morning and when we left at 1pm we sold the tickets for $10 USD.
Of course we spent time as well at the pool and enjoying the views from the roof top… and getting prepared for the process to take the vehicles out at the Colombian side.  The flight is going on Sunday the 4th November and on Monday we need to start the process which will take probably 1 and a half to two days… A new chapter: South America (America del Sur)!!! We are really curious, excited and looking forward to explore this new continent!!!

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Trouble to leave Mexico and a welcoming lovely new country: Guatemala

If a border crossing is up-coming we are prepared as best as possible: knowing which papers are required or if we do need copies, for which paper or part we have to pay how much fee, which stamps, stickers etc. we should receive. And if possible where the required places as immigration-, customs-office and in this case the fumigation-station for the motorcycles and the money-changer are located. In our days you will be able to find most of these details in the internet (e.g. wikioverland.org). So everything was in place when we met Mike early morning at the gas station to drive towards `Frontera La Mesilla´. We really enjoyed the windy road heading south-east with a great view on the mountain scenery on the Guatemalan side.

To leave Mexico, any country, we had as usual to check out our motorcycles out of the country again with customs. And in this case we had to get back our deposit which we had to pay when we entered Mexico (2x200USD). The customs officer was calm friendly and it did not take long to process all three motorcycles in the computer, doing pictures of the bikes and the VIN-Numbers. We kindly thanked him and walked over to immigration while Mike took care of the bikes.
The immigration officer asked all our papers and passports which we handed over; as well the receipt of our tourist-fee (533 pesos each) which we had to pay when we entered Mexcico. He sorted the papers and murmured something that the entry/leaving form should be a kind of sticker and not paper and we indicated that it is the only paper we received at the border from the USA to Mexico. It is the original with all required signatures and stamps (in color) as required. He continued murmuring and put the exit stamps on our passports he explained that we will need to pay each 500 some kind of tourist fee again as he cannot find the proof in the system that it was paid already. We looked each other wondering and indicated again that the receipt with tracking number is attached to our papers. The immigration guy took the receipt off and persists on additional paying. So we said: OK, but first we want him to hand out back our original receipt and second we want a new receipt of the additional 1000pesos, including his name so we can claim it back somehow… NOW he was totally freaking out which showed that this was not correct at all, speaking up loud and he snatched the passports away from Kerstin´s hand. In a second he signed our exit stamps as `not valid´ and threw the passports back to us. He said now we need to go back to the Bancajero (customs) and pay each 500 first. We were confused… and went back to the customs officer. When we explained to him what happened he looked amazed and replied there is no need to pay anything `extra´ and he asked where the receipt is which he saw already. We told him the Immigration Officer kept it, is not willing to pass it back and that he signed our exit as invalid unless we pay the additional fee. He looked at everything again and we helpless told him we do not know what to do now. (– all that we had to do in Spanish as none of them spoke any English -) He immediately recognized our situation: the bikes were exported of the country already and the immigration officer does not let us go out of it… He looked serious and asked us to walk over together with him. All that took already nearly an hour and Mike was still outside with the bikes. ( A BIG THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN!!!)
(Nevertheless he´s riding a beamer he´s a really good guy and at the time our hero!)

Both officers were arguing and we could feel the tension. But in the end we walked out again with the customs officer without our exit stamps and he was looking even more serious and worried as well. What the hell is going on here??? He walked back to his office together with us and advised us very gentle to wait once more. We waited, quietly looking each other but inside we started to worry and getting bumpy. The customs officer started making pictures of all our papers, sorting, thinking, writing e-mails and making phone calls… It was clear to us he is shouldering something he do not has to do at all. Trying to stay calm; the time was passing and we informed Mike about the situation. We told him he should give it a try himself. And he walked over to the immigration officer who even did not look even at him while being at the phone (probably receiving an harsh phone call from Mexico City ;) and put the required exit stamp in his pass port. Lucky Mike – but maybe the officer recognized meanwhile that he is in not such good situation… It seemed to us an eternity when the customs officer suddenly asked us to follow him once more. The immigration officer did not have many words anymore and finally asked us to hand out our passports again – and WE GOT OUR EXIT STAMPS!!! Hurray!!! (without that we would not be able to cross into Guatemala!!) Very, very kindly we thanked the immigration officer (F….) and now he was close to explode ;) He turned totally red but couldn´t say anything anymore. ;)

We walked over the last time to the customs officer to thank him for all his effort and patience. Without him we probably would still sit at the border (like in thin Airport movie with Tom Hanks)… Not sure exactly how long all that took, maybe around 3-4 hours and now we had to go to manage the Guatemala border… The narrow road became very turbulent, full of shops and people and vehicles. But everything went well. We found the moneychangers next to the fumigation so we had the required Quetzales to pay. We processed customs with all required copies and received our papers and stickers. And we managed immigration and the paying without any problems – it all just took time. They lady at the Guatemalan Immigration was playing with her mobile-phone so Sascha did the same and they looked like they got an interesting game going on… Sascha won and got all the papers… ;)

Mike´s plan was to drive north-east to Uspantán, El Quiché and visit the father of his friend from Chicago, Alvero. The family is originally from there and Alvero went back to Guatemala after he retired. Our original plan was to go to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, south east. While Mike was waiting at the border he was chatting with Alvero and he invited us to come as well. As the distance to there was about 80km less we spontaneously decided to change the plan and to accompany Mike to Uspantán. For going to Lake Atitlan it was  much too late anyhow so we would had so sleep somewhere on the way anyhow. The ride was wonderful with great views. And wherever we stopped people came towards us and welcoming us to their country and thanking us for visiting it. We arrived at the suburbia of Uspantán with the last daylight and Alverio was waiting for us already and guarding us to his house.  Lily and Lola were already preparing the dinner for us and we went for a great hot shower. While dinner we shared our story and were interested to learn more about this beautiful country. And we all had a good deep sleep in clean big beds. The hospitality of Alvero is incredible and after a powerful breakfast and a visit at his gas station we were leaving to Lake Atitlan together with Mike.

In Panajachel at Lake Atitlan, Sololá, a couple, Jessica (Canada) and Greg (USA) and their dog Moxie are living here since two years. They traveled the Americas on their bikes and now settled here and doing trips with Moxie on the back of one of their bikes.

They contacted us a while ago, that they would like to meet us and that we are welcoming to stay with them. We planned a longer stop at Lake Atitlan, surrounded by impressive volcanoes cause Kerstin wants to do a language course. So it was just a perfect fit well! And Kerstin was curious to meet another woman driving her own bike ;)

We arrived together with Mike who was welcomed to stay as well. Mike left the next day as he has a tighter schedule but we do stay still with them. They are great, lovely and interesting persons and make us right away feeling home. Beside their normal jobs (they are able to do them mostly online) they produce dog collars and travel-pillows out of Guatemalan fabrics (www.ruffontheroad.com). Sascha is becoming more and more a real dog lover and Kerstin did 6 days language school… Not that she became fluent but it helps a lot! We adore chatting and cooking together, visiting friends of them and circled the lake with its pueblos (villages) all around. Beside we could manage to weld Sascha’s pannier-holder the 35th time. We got new rear break-pads for Kerstin’s bike and Sascha changed our rear tires so we do not have to carry them around anymore as spares.

For our further journey we found a container sharing for the Darien Gap, to cross over from Central to South America, and therefore we do have a fixed appointment now. 29th of October we have to be in Colón, Panama to handover our motorcycles. We do not like having fixed dates but at one point we have to commit to one. We enjoyed staying every minute of these ten days with Jessica, Greg and Moxie! We are absolutely sure we will meet again… somewhere, sometime and somehow!!!

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