Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crashing on a bridge crossing to Panama, GoPro and Oakley join the adventure as Sponsors! Don’t tell the police I lost my license plate! Mexican standoff in Panama! Reaching the Darien Gap by motorcycle to Yarviza

My apologies for the wait on the next installment of the adventure. Lots of adventure to talk about!

Thanks for waiting!


So in our time in Costa Rica, David and I visited the Hanging Bridges, which are suspension bridges hung out over the Costa Rica rainforest canopy.



Some leaves





I would recommend this one located near the Dam in La Fortuna, and not the one called Sky Trek.

I also went to Sky Trek to check it out, and it sucks compared to the other one, but they did have a nice butterfly garden.




On the way to our hotel, David got a taste of the slippery ground when he slipped his way to the ground along with the bike. He was ok





I did some chilling for a few days waiting for the volcanoes to show….




Roamed around






Changed my front tire in the mean time




Met some telephone poll technicians at the hotel, we had a pool tournament....I dominated :)


We we were all laughing because the guy taking the picture said I was too tall and had to hunch down 



And it finally the Arenal Volcano showed its face!




We then made our way up the coast to Panama on the Caribbean side. We passed some awesome signs.

Finally after a worldwide search I’ve found a street name with my last name Chacon!




And next to it was the Alex electric shop! What a coincidence! It was great



David also took the opportunity of the first sunshine we've seen in 5 days to start drying out his boots





We passed some awesome rainforest stuff




And crazy roads




And great scenery











We arrived just outside the Poas Volcano where we spent the night.

Saw some crazy sized leaves



We met our new friend Frank, from the states on a crazy adventure trip to Costa Rica for the weekend.



Got some cool parking





We chatted, and had some dinner.




David being a pimp with the cooks




As its approaches Christmas, we are seeing it all over the place, even on our tortillas!






And on chihuahuas




Saw some cool bumper stickers




And the traditional Costa Rica cart.




Frank was such a cool guy; we even gave him a lift to the Poas volcano the following morning.

Unfortunately it was cloudy so there wasn’t much to see.




We wanted to thank Frank for pitching in for the park entrance, we hope he enjoyed his time as an adventure rider with us, and wish him well on his future adventures to come. Thanks Frank! Pura Vida Amigo!

For those who don’t know, there’s a saying in Costa Rica, Pura Vida, which is used in almost anything from greetings to good byes.

We then headed our way to San Jose

We arrived in San Jose to visit Alfonso. To make a long story short, I want to thank Alfonso and Mario for helping this adventure with their efforts and generosity that have brought GoPro and Oakley as official sponsors to this project and adventure.




Some of the support received from GoPro and Oakley



Gracias Alfonso y Mario!





They even invited me to attend an event the following day they had promoting a new line of True HD optics from Oakley at the huge muliplaza mall


David at the mall
The calm before the media storm


I was inducted as an “Oakley Athlete” and got to present my video, click here to see it.
Alex Chacon along with the other best in their field and class!


I got a chance to talk about my journey, the foundation and future plans to the local media and fellow peers.

Along with other Oakley athletes I am now a part of, were the Central America motocross champion, the under 16 surfing champion of Central America, skate board champ holding various titles from California, another front runner for surfing that just got back from Hawaii, Costa Rica’s top Triathlete, and the motor rally champion of Central America recently back from France as well. And there I was, Alex Chacon as the World Motorcycle Adventure Rider, standing alongside the best in their field, and now myself one. 
Awesome!

Along with the presentation, GoPro and Oakley were kind enough to donate to the adventure two GoPro HD cameras, along with some Oakley sun glasses.

Nothing like a little media coverage to lighten up your day! Having them support us and this journey will be fantastic and of great benefit

The following day we were fortunate enough to run into this cool National Stadium in San Jose.





In the process finding Hostel Nomads in San Jose Costa Rica, owned by the nicest Colombian couple I’ve ever met. Like I say some of the friendliest people in the world are Colombians!

Gracias Gabriel y Magdalena por todo~!

Parking at Nomadas Hostel in San Jose

While at the hostel I took the time to talk to some friends online. Turn out my friend Matze from Germany was in town. He was on his Honda XR 650. If you remember, I met him and his girlfriend Oaxana last year at the tip of south america in the Patagonia going to Ushuaia, click here to read that post.

Now he was on his way up to Mexico and we happen to run into each other again in Costa Rica, what a small world!

I waited around for him a bit



Then he finally showed up.



It was a pleasure to see him again. We shared such a profound trip to the End of the World together for 5 days and we were both delighted to share another day here in Costa Rica.

Buena suerte amigo!

 I also took this opportunity to fix a major problem I had. Somewhere along the Monteverde cloud forest I had hit such a huge obstacle that it completely took out my rear plastic fearing along with my license plate. 






So now I was roaming Latin America without a licenses plate, a completely illegal thing to do making it impossible to cross borders.

We were crossing the border the following day to make it to our already booked ship that was departing panama to take us to Colombia in 8 days, without a license plate this would be impossible. Calling back home to have my mom get the same license plate with the correct letters and numbers was not possible, only new ones could be issued with different numbers. Not only that but they couldn’t print a new title with the new plates on there. So I still couldn’t cross borders if this was done. Plus shipping would take a few weeks I didn’t have.

I looked for anywhere that could fabricate a new one, with absolutely no luck, because that’s right, you guessed it that would be illegal as well. Consequently at borders they check your title of your vehicle along with your plates to match. So a difficult problem to solve.

So I will not say that my experience gave me a bright idea. I will also not say that I know once in South America this will not be a big issue. I will also not say that I went to a local workshop, or that I found a guy to cut me a piece the same size as a license plate.



I will also deny that I went to the local EPA aka Home depot to buy spray paint, and again will deny my obtaining of some sharpies and stencils at a Hobby Lobby looking place.

I will also negate the fact that I fabricated my own plates.




I will however confirm that by not doing such a thing, the rest of my travels would have been severely delayed and detracted in a massive meltdown.

Again, all I know is that some long haired funky looking guy very similar to my appearance, that to my knowledge was not me, managed to create a work of art that somehow ended up on the back of my motorcycle.

David however did fabricate his own license plate in honor of his son Colton’s 10th birthday with some extra scraps we deny ever finding.






The following day we headed out to the rainforest and Panama.





At the Costa Rica Panama border we met Brad; a semi retired media director from the USA crossing to Panama to Bocas Del Toro.

Fascinating guy to say the least dove the Blue Hole many times in Belize and worked as a photographer for magazines and such, an absolute pleasure to meet him.





We wish him well on the rest of his travels and if you’re out there Brad, make sure to get in contact with me so we can send you some of these pictures!

So the craziest physical border crossing yet is this one from Costa Rica to Panama, which consists of this extremely old bridge.




David was determined to go down the middle. I was kind enough to mention that I didn’t think that was such a good idea as experience has taught me that is probably the worst way to cross such a bridge, down the middle.

Regardless David was determined to do it his way, and this is what happened.




He was ok, just a little sad about dropping the bike.

It seems Chacon the Oakley World Adventure Rider Athlete truly knows his stuff.

It pissed rain the entire day, we were soaked, and the roads were difficult, but the drive was the most amazing and beautiful jungle road I’ve ever driven.





Even saw some banana farms on the way.






And was captain cool with the gas station attendants....as always



And saw two license plates on a single vehicle, that would suck on a motorcycle, especially if you lost both.





After 6 hours of driving it was getting late and we came across a line of vehicles.

We customarily drove past the never ending line, it was a grand total of a 2 miles! We saw people camping and sleeping under semi trucks, people out of their cars chatting, everyone had their engines off and there were police everywhere. We knew this going not going to be good.

As we approached the front we were stunned to see this!





Turns out that the local villagers were protesting something by cutting access to the bridge to everyone, including pedestrians!

The people in the front of the line told me they had been there since yesterday morning, a total of 30 hours in this Mexican standoff in Panama!

We had little hope of crossing as negotiations had previously failed. We were pressed for time trying to catch our ferry to Colombia and this was a killer delay if it continued. There was only one way to Panama City, otherwise it would be returning to Costa Rica then finding another way from there, something that would take no less than 5 days!


The future culpret


As a backup plan I rallied up another local motorcycle driver to join us in a last ditch effort to removing the barriers and trying to storm through the vicious crowds of people across the bridge. I was rudely notified we would be pummeled with rocks or worse, and the police would try and stop us to prevent conflict. I thought, no way they were going to mess with a tourist like me right? Remember, I ‘m good at threatening of an international affair if I don’t get my way, that’s how I got through Honduras remember!? Click here to read about that adventure.

So David was ancy and said we should turn back, but I had a feeling something was going to happen….soon.

After half an hour, somehow the lawyers, and politicians came to an agreement, and the 30 hour standoff was over. We had gotten there in the 30th hour of the road block and protest and within 30 minutes of our arrival it was finally over! Its seems my telekinetic powers have grown greatly.

We finally crossed, and were forced to drive through pouring rain at night in the jungle with hundreds of angry and frustrated drivers in slippery and dangerous roads.

The drive was very dangerous and we were on pins and needles as drives sped by us on the road at full speed with high beam making it a terrible ride!

We finally arrived at a little town where we found what was the last room available at the place. Lucky again.



I attempted at drying my stuff....David knew it was pointless as tomorrow we had another day full of rain...and he was right







We left the following morning early, driving more than 8 hours to reach Panama City, encountering lots of Police check points that were interested in checking our passports.




There are also a large amount of Police on the Pan American to Panama City with radar guns.

Food break!
We were even stopped by one officer who unfortunately tried getting a bribe from us. I saw unfortunately because he showed me the radar gun that in this 45mph zone said he clocked me at 55mph. I knew he was totally lying because I know I was going at least 65 mph coming in on the corner.



As he showed me the gun, I gave a cocky smirk to the guy. I also saw him from the distance and he didn’t even have time to point the gun at me, not only that but he approached me very timidly. So I knew he had nothing on me. After his failed attempts at a bribe my complete silence and sincere nodding of my head and finger saying no, I don’t think so, finally got us through.

One bad apple spoils the bunch…. Again!

We finally arrived in Panama.



We headed over towards the end of the day to the Miraflores locks, when most big ships come through….it didn’t disappoint.






Should have waited until Panama to buy this plate for my bike lol


Then we tried to stay at the Mamallena hostel in Panama City, but it was full. So we settled for another. I reccommend Mamallena to anyone coming to Panama city, if not then Lunas Castle, as they are fun with lots of people to chat with


Parking in a nice alley next to Mamallena


The following day rested and recuperated.


And saw some cool police




The following morning we headed towards the Darien Gap, the city of Yarviza to be exact. 




Cool building in Panama


This is the last and furthest most city at the end of the Pan-American highway you can get to be vehicle.


A typically gas up in Panama, they make you get off the bike, theres plenty of gas stations to Yarviza from Panama City, so no worries there. Odd for such a remote place


The Darien Gap is the land bridge way that connects Panama and Colombia. It’s regarded as a very dangerous place where many have been kidnapped and held for ransom trying to cross by rebel guerilla groups.

I personally believe it you find a good guide, speak Spanish, and don’t make it apparent to everyone else that you’re a tourist that have assets and money and don’t carry buy minimum documentation with you, that crossing the Darien is much less dangerous that many think.

Regardless this might be a future expedition for myself, but David and I will take a boat form Portobello in a week to cross over, as we found it would be much cheaper and safer than to find our way through the jungle and hope in and out of canoes.


We saw a saw mill on the way, and David cut some wood




He said it reminded him of his old building cabinets days.

So after 6 hours and some difficult road we made it to Yaviza, and the Darien province




Along the road there were lots of people around these remote areas, which was surprising.


Here's a visual of how remote and crazy this place is. this area is where you hear of all the kidnapping and such from rebel groups.








































But living was not the most technologically advanced either




Not only that but there was a lot of military and police presence that stopped us 4 times along this 170 mile stretch to check our passports and document us entering the Darien province for security purposes….for example : if we don’t return back out!


One of the many stops we had to make going into the Darien


Even got a police escort through a small rough patch.



David also made a quick phone call from a remote phone booth along the road




And I realized what a cool adventure bike I have....all the stickers and my awesome shopping basket make it one sweet ride!






We also hit some muddy road


The clean boot of an experienced rider to the right, and the newbie to the left. Guess which one is mine ha ha


And with a nice little touch of mud my authentic and new license plate looked great!





In Yarviza we saw the famous bridge where road literally ends, that you also shouldn’t drive over because on the other side lies the hospital, which means if you damage the bridge you lose access to this necessity.








Looks like the Amazon!





Oddly some the nicest friendliest people were here. Everyone we saw and saw us said good afternoon to us....everyone! Even the little kids!


Th Panamerica highway eventually turns into this.... can you Belize-it!?




It was a peculiar feeling to be in such a remote place, but spiritually enlightening.






Yaviza Panama


One of the little kids in the village was scared of us as we passed by.




But he calmed down and stared to enjoy himself once he got on the bike.




We even found a lonely phone booth at the end of the road that oddly had the best reception out of any phone thus far. David made a call to his son Colton for his birthday and dad all the way back home in the USA.


On the way out we volunteer a visit to the children of the Darien. This place is a somewhat popular place to volunteer according to the Lonely Planet travel guide.




On the way out, we were rained out...pretty heavily. Panama's rainy season in the Darien is 9 months out of the year.


Wet is the new cool




I of course was chatting it up with the locals




And David was across with some indiginous Kuna women trying to figure out what the heck they were saying to him as I along with the other locals smiled and laughed across the street as the women tried to sell their Mola's stiching clothing to him, as David waved me over to help him... in which I let nature take its course by watching him trying to survive with the language. Quite the entertaining moment I must say.


Then it rained some more


Alex super happy driving in rain with his rainsuit that has a hole in it
Also randomly say an ID someone left under the hut....gave my a chuckle







So we headed back to Panama City, and the port of Portobello where we depart on our next journey of crossing over the Atlantic Ocean to Colombia with our motorcycles to Colombia. If you’re interested in reading that from my last trip, click here.




Until Colombia, Chau!