Friday, 25 November 2011

Days 21 & 22: Shipping the bikes & flying to Bogotà

We headed out to the airport first thing on Thursday morning, intending to take care of shipping the machines to Colombia. Our schedule through Central America had been carefully crafted so that we would arrive in Panama with several week days to make arrangements and so minimize the chances of a delay due to the aduana or some other office being closed. The air freight company that most overland motorcyclists use is called Girag. We called on their offices first. It seemed as though everything was coming up roses because there was a flight leaving Friday morning for Bogota. The catch was that we had to leave our bikes as soon as possible. While this was a little inconvenient and cut short the time we intended to stay in PC, we decided to go for it: we would gain three whole days in South America and could stop rushing!!

In the aduana to exit Panama there was evidence of many previous overlanders, some of whom had left stickers on the fusebox. After taking care of all the details, including booking a flight for ourselves on Friday, we left the bikes to be packed up in Girag's loading dock.

I went out for dinner with an international group of overlanders (Brit, Kiwi, French, Thai) while Nathan took some more R&R. In chatting with these folks I contemplated the inherent challenges of this kind of trip: First, every day brings a myriad of decision points, both small and large; Second, communicating between motorcycles is inherently difficult (which is why Peter and I have developed an extremely complex and sophisticated set of hand signals); Third, as in any situation, the number of parties involved increases the challenge of coordination exponentially. The trick is to balance the rewards of spontaneity, with the certainty of unforeseen circumstances and the reality of a hard time cap. A detailed day-by-day schedule has helped us avoid existential discussions about the macro without hampering our flexibility to go a bit further on a given day, see something that we couldn't have known about before the trip or take a road that just had to be driven.

We caught our 11am flight the next morning after an embarrassing episode checking out of the hostel. Since Nathan lost his wallet, I'm bankrolling the trip (it's more like a bridge loan). This included $1800 cash for the freight. So on Thursday, I withdrew my daily limit, leaving not quite enough for cab fares, food and the hotel. I planned to take out some more cash on Friday morning before checking out. But when I went to the ATM it told me to contact my financial institution. That's code for "why the heck are you in Panama and draining your account anyway?" There wasn't time to return to the hostel, call the bank, return to the ATM, check-out and make it to the airport in time. We had to beg forgiveness at the hostel (which didn't take visa) and eventually they let us go, charging us for one night (instead of two) and for a calling card the Nathan had used. We tried to pay more, but they wouldn't accept the partial payment. They did insist on paying for that calling card.

Upon arrival in Bogota, the bikes weren't there. Drag. They would most likely arrive Saturday. I had a great time negotiating with Girag for compensation. Eventually they gave us $300 to cover our accommodation and transport. We had to sit around for a few hours until they were sure that we weren't going to leave without some persuasion.

My old friend and motorcycle enthusiast Estelle, along with her partner Camilo, took us into their home as guests. It was so nice to be somewhere that truly felt like home after three weeks on the road!


  1. such a wonderful update. You are having a grand adventure.

  2. The second picture from the bottom is exactly where I met Nick Sanders. What a dude.