Panama, I really did this most prosperous and modern country an injustice. I did not spend enough time to really get to know either the country or it's people. However opportunity knocked and I grabbed it.
Arriving in Panama City Wednesday morning, I immediately found myself in rush hour traffic in the midst of torrential tropical storms. After at least an hour of hectic riding I arrived at the International Airport in Tocumen, Panama only to be told I was at the wrong airport. Back on the Blue Goose and fighting rain and terrible traffic, I was on my way to Allbrook Airport in the center of Panama City. And what a modern and busy city. Panama is the financial center of Central America and looks it.
After two trips to each airport, some twenty miles apart, I finally gave up on fiinding the contact who was going to help me locate transport for the bike and me to Colombia. Not only could I not find him, but I could not reach him by phone. Gary Pitts and I had an exchange by e-mail since I was considering going to Colon and attempting to find passage on a boat or ship but Gary warned me of the dangers of Colon at night.
Frustrated, I went this time to the Cargo Terminal at International Airport in Panama City and after much discussion found Copa Airlines who is very experienced in flying motorcycles to Colombia. While there I also ran into a Canadian couple also on their way to Tierra Del Fuego. There was a pallet of motorcycles leaving that night and within an hour my newly found friend's and my motorcycle were being loaded on a plane. Booking a flight on a passenger plane (Copa), we were in Cali, Colombia Wednesday night, the very same day I arrived in Panama City. Total cost of the flights--$680 for the motorcycle and $320 for me. That tells you which is more important.
Panama City deserves more time and I will spend time there upon my return in several months. I am under instructions from a neighbor, Lupe, to take a picture of the Canal which I will do upon my return.
By late Friday (yesterday) we had totally cleared customs and entry for our motorcycles and the Blue Goose was in Colombia, with me aboard. However, not going into the details of the myriad of paperwork involved, We would not have negotiated this confusing entry process if we had not lucked into meeting a great Colombian gentleman who virtually dropped everything he was doing am helped the three of us.
Carlos Alfredo Chamorro Velasco, an accountant and university docent, is a terrific guy. What started as a simple exchange of pleasantries took over his entire day. And he seemed to be excited to help us--what a man. Because of Carlos, my Canadian friends and I had a truly enjoyable first full day in Colombia.
We were able to find a truly great Hostal, Casa Blanca, the night we arrived, because the owner, Mikkel Thomsen, is also a member of Adventure Riders. He and Robert, my Canadian friend, had been conversing by e-mail. Mike opened this remarkable hostal several months ago. From Denmark, Mike was riding in South America when he met the woman who is now his wife. A year or so later and Monday they welcomed a baby daughter to their new family. Mike, while running the best hostal in which I have stayed, is really a bike rider and adverturer, so he is making our visit enjoyable. If you are in Cali, Colombia, you must stay at Casa Blanca.
Today, Friday morning, I am visiting the BMW dealer. The slight leak worries me and I still want to have it repaired. Finding the right oil seal may be impossible but I will keep trying.
Cali, the most beautiful city I have yet visited, with tremendous people! And it has the reputation for having the most beautiful ladies in the world. At my age, and with my dirty bifocals, I have not been able to judge but I will ask some of the younger guys here at the hostal. Two have already told me that they are staying here for a bit time since they have met a young lady that they cannot bear to leave. It seems that Cali's reputation is well deserved.
A down day today, but Saturday morning we are off south, toward Ecuador. I will be riding with my new found Canadian friends. No, Art and Gary have not been replaced but I am finding that there are fine people and new friends just around each corner. Gary, Art and I will ride again. We are all very young (at heart anyway).