Monday, January 17, 2011

Panama to Colombia- Motorcycle over the ocean, medical emergencies, illegal drugs, one crazy adventure

Continued post from last update Portobello-san-blas-island-paradise.html

I swam


Finally got myself a great fresh coconut after my first failed attempt in Costa Rica that had me hanging by a rope 20 feet off the ground hanging by my shorts, I was aching to get one.

This is Mel, her along with her friends had been making fun of me because of my cool camera tripod I’ve been using this entire trip saying it was super geeky.

Geeky perhaps, but I think I’ve been quite artistic at capturing the moment and getting spectacular shots and experiences to share with everyone.

They left me alone after seeing this awesome picture.


As we were enjoying the island, a young Dutch gentleman was jumping around the beach throwing around a football with the others when he ran over some very ruff coral that perforated his heel very deep, about an inch into the foot. You could almost see the bone.

So we carried him back to the ship. A crew member, Nigel, started to attend him, it looked like he knew what he was doing. As I stood behind and let him do his thing, I noticed he was being a little too gentle and wasn’t cleaning the wound sufficiently enough. The Dutch guy didn’t look too happy and was starting to freak out, not to mention the pain he was in didn’t help either.

Finally I could take it no more, Nigel was doing what he couldn’t but he didn’t know quite what to do. So I finally stepped in. I took over the situation, got my medical supplies, used my medical knowledge to disinfect and clean the wound tough and diligently, even getting some pliers and pulling out sand and shards of coral from deep in the wound which would otherwise not have gotten taken out if I didn’t intervene.

After some time and final wrapping of the foot along with careful explanations of what happened, what I did, what no to do with the wound and what to expect and keep an eye out for to the Dutchman, he breathed a sigh of relief and knew he was in good hands.  So far, official translator and medical doctor on board.

After the medical emergency, the group came back from the island, back to the boat where I spent my time attending the wounded. 

 Despite the grim day thus far, we had a great sunset.

And even had a beach bonfire party.

The entire day everyone was drinking, and it only continued. My theory of the typical backpacker that either drinks heavily, has tattoos or smokes continues.

Seeing I’m stuck on a boat with crazy chain smokers, I have nowhere to escape the fumes, and I can start to feel it pretty bad. Not to mention, one smell of the second hand smoke, and the sea sickness comes creeping up again!

Yeah I can ride a roller coaster all day, I can do simultaneous back flips on a trampoline for hours, I can swim, scuba dive and jump on a trampoline directly after eating a large meal, not squint at the sight of blood or open wounds, can control the autonomic gag reflex, eat gross stuff like 1000 year old eggs etc but sea sickness is what always gets me, not cool.

Once again without a bed, I slept on the top of the ship next to the mast. Lucky me got rained on at 4am and stood inside of the ship the rest of the night, as there wasn’t even room on the floor to sleep. Well no one said it was going to be easy!

The next day, as I was outside watching the sunrise, watching all the hung over people wake from their slumber, we were off to the next island.

We saw some crazy ship wrecks on the way.

At this point in time, Joe the other biker came back on board with a bleeding foot saying something attacked him. Well everyone looked at me; they knew I was the man for the job again. Doctor Chacon reporting for duty!

So after Joe took it easy for a bit and told me his symptoms and watched over him for a bit, I realized he had cut himself on some fire coral and his leg was throbbing in pain. So I cleaned him up, reassured him he would survive and kept an eye for any infection along with the Dutchman. The same day a young Aussie girl threw her back out and couldn’t even get up.  So she literally had to be carried out of her bed, no easy job on a moving ship. So we put her up on deck and started some anti-inflammatory drugs along with me giving her some Chinese pressure point treatment to ease the horrible pain, she was amazed along with the others of my methods.

You can see the top deck became the infirmary for the sick and wounded.

By this point in time I received the nickname of Shaman by the crew and fellow backpackers, while others swam and had some fun, I was on the ship deck in our new infirmary ward taking care of the people, just as fun for me though.

The Shaman at his office

As official ambassador and translator, I did some business for the captain. I called a Kuna gentlemen, by the name of Apio, which literally means celery in Spanish, and ordered our dinner for the night.

Arriving at next island, we were greeted by Apio, driving a canoe that looked like it had been through a hurricane and back and laid out in the sun for decades that had some huge lobster, crab, fish and more for our feast tonight.

The gang even had some fun with the food.

Also had some fun with jumping off the ship.


I had to join in as well.

Everyone wanted to stay on the ship and drink themselves silly again.

As for myself, I swam off to an uninhabited island for the night.

An entire island to myself can’t beat that!

The next day, went snorkeling again.

Saw some beautiful starfish.

And even went hunting for some lobster, unsuccessfully, but it gave me just another use for my awesome tripod, now a tripod and spear all in one.


I’m beginning to think I can really market this thing, monopod for your camera and spear, crazy but it can work! My only demographic would probably be only me.

I saw and visited the quintessential of a paradise island, you know the one you draw and see as a little kid, the island with two palm trees and coconuts in the middle of nowhere.

Later on we took a tour with Apio to his village.

 Here comes the worst of the trip thus far.

So this cost $12, to make a long story short-It took 1 hour to reach the village by boat, there was nothing to see in the village, Apio and his friend were drunk and even looked under the influence of narcotics as they picked us up and drove us. We tried going up river to see their agriculture but gave me a flimsy excuse why we couldn’t continue. We stopped to have a break on land, and out he busts out with some Marijuana and Cocaine that later I found out washes up to the islands from pirate ships transporting it from Colombia that are about the get searched, they just throw it out, and the Kuna get it. Half the boat has at the weed and white stuff while I’m there along with a few others realizing this trip has gotten horrible.

As a non drinking or drug abuser myself, this was infuriating I couldn’t just walk away, I had to sit in the same 17 ft canoe while this was going on. I finally had it and convinced Apio and his toothless friend it was time to go. The boat trip back was filled with Apio and his new firneds snorting and getting high in the back of the canoe and myself in the front getting salt water to the face to avoid what I’ve always stood against.

Stay away from these guys if your ever around the islands

Seeing this was pure Colombian stuff, it was extremely strong and I could see it in their pale faces, side effects like the shakes along with some tripping and freaking out were evident and proceeded the whole way back to the boat, not fun having that when your all on the same small boat, it could have gotten quite ugly but it was quite the pain in the ass to deal with.

Alex not happy

For all those young readers out there, don’t do drugs, it silly, stupid and a waste of time. You don’t have to do them to know that, and when you see others doing it, you appreciate how stupid and ridiculous it really is. I got a nice reminder of this.

I personally have never done drugs nor will ever do so. I also don’t drink nor do I smoke. You can have an amazing life, better in my opinion, without drugs and drinking, and only encourage those out there seeking their own adventure, to be strong, be confident, don’t succumb to peer pressure, and create your own adventure of living a healthy clean life. As that in itself is an achievement and adventure on its own many do not experience.

That is the end of Alex’s public service announcement.

Anyways, we ate some food at the village and left. Finally we got on the boat and off we went. No sooner did I get the worst stomach cramps of my life. Heavy fever, vomiting, delusional, and added on I got sea sick. Turns out after my deductive research, half the others were also ill with the same thing, the dang food from the village had given us food poisoning! Darn you Apio! Is all I could say as I lived a living nightmare the next two days.

So drugs, puking, fever, sickness, waste of $12, miserable, frustrated, angry etc., worst day ever. And to top it off, I didn’t have a bed either, so off to the engine room I went, fumes and all to sleep, sick puking and all! Well no one said it was going to be easy!

The next day was filled with the druggies sleeping all day recuperating from the Colombian cocaine and weed, and myself sea sick the entire day puking, dehydrated fighting the horrible food poisoning.

The crazy Aussie Shane, was down to his last case of beer and was still putting them down through rough seas and all! I was pretty impressed, 5 days of straight drinking morning until night that was pretty hardcore. But he was the life of the party, never a dull moment with this guy.

After 36 hours of hell, we finally arrived in Cartagena; words cannot describe the miserable state that I endured on the last few days of the trip. For some reason I got the eerie sense of what it was to be on a slave ship crossing the Atlantic ocean many hundreds of years ago. Not something I want to do again.

To top things off, upon everyone packing up, I noticed that my keys for my bike were missing from my backpack…..I looked everywhere and couldn’t find them. I had a spare in my cases on the bike, but those also had locks. My lock picking skills came in handy as I picked them open and got the spare key. That would have been ugly, all the way to Colombia and can’t start the bike. The keys popped up later on the next day. Lucky moment number 5? 6? I’m starting to loose track.

Back on land, I still felt the waves beneath my feet and am still fighting the sea sickness. Oh well, I can say I crossed through an ocean on my bike on a boat.

At this point in time I noticed that my bike along with the others was completely rusted head to toe because of the salt water. The chain, brake pads, screws, bolts, interesting it was and another pain in the ass to deal with.

Brian the other biker started complaining and making a huge fuss about it, and about how he was going to have to replace everything. I knew I could just drive it all off and didn’t worry a bit.

We proceeded the next morning to haul the bikes off the boat onto a smaller dingy than the one we initially put them on when we loaded them on. I was the first lucky one this time.

Once again I was biting my nails as three of us drove across the water to Cartagena in a dingy with a heavy motorcycle, balancing it, trying not to drop it into the ocean.

 We finally got it to land with a little bit of help pulling it off the dingy and straight onto land through a boat access point.


Back on land!

Off to customs I went. We hired a guy to do all the paper work and such for us before we actually arrived as this was a super busy port with large super tanker container shipping vessels that take days to unload and inspectors to import vehicles are always super busy with hundreds of containers.

$35 later, we were official in Colombia, another $25 for stupid mandatory insurance and we were legally in.

So final thoughts for this incredibly difficult journey, sea sickness sucks, so do drugs, and loosing keys. But it saved me $700, as to air ship the bike along with myself would have been $1400, this cost me $700 and got to see some amazing islands.

And the adventure continues! On to some volcanic mud baths tomorrow

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