Epic Rides in Panama
Boat trip from Colombia to Panama
(Via San Blaas Islands)
Why not ‘Ride’ between Colombia to Panama (The Darien Gap)
Anyone that has decided to overland the Americas will know, very early on, the existence of the oddly named Darien Gap. While looking at the map, it may seems obvious that Panama and Colombia are connected by land and therefore a simple border crossing should be all that is required (just like any other in Central or South America country). Nothing could be further from the truth. This ‘gap’ has a very interesting history and its future isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
The Darien Gap is a break across the North and South American continents within Central America, consisting of a large watershed, forest, and mountains in the northern portion of Colombia‘s Chocó Department and Panama‘s Darién Province. From an overland prospective, the highway also has a corresponding gap of 106 km (66 mi), beginning at Turbo, Colombia, and ending at Yaviza, Panama. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive and detrimental to the environment. Political consensus in favour of road construction collapsed after an initial attempt failed in the early 1970s, resuming in 1992 only to be halted by serious environmental concerns, and to date has not re-emerged
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Options to Cross the Darien Gap
Plane, shipping container or sailboat. But some notes to consider:
- There are more options to transit a motorcycle from Panama to Colombia. This seems to be because more people travel top to bottom (Alaska to Patagonia). More client, more options.
- Customs is more complicated from Colombia to Panama. Like it or not, Colombia has a history with skirting customs. Unfortunately, this means Panama will be more suspicious with goods coming from Colombia.
- If planning to go from Colombia to Panama. and not via a plan. PLAN AHEAD.
- Amazingly, there is no RORO (Roll on Roll off) ferry service.
The quickest and most expensive option is to fly yourself and the motorcycle from Bogota to Panama City (or vice versa). Quickest because the amount of flights per week is obviously more than other options. Also the customs procedure will be much more mature meaning the whole process ‘should’ be more streamlined.
The slowest and cheapest option is putting the motorcycle in a shipping container. The catch is you will need to find fellow travellers to help you fill the container. This is where it gets complicated and time can be easily wasted during the process. In theory, you can get two cars/4WD and 2 motorcycles in a container. The container is shipped as one, so it is important to ensure everyone party has the correct paperwork for customs etc. If one party has issues, everyone has issues. This is really the only option for over-landers with cars/4WD, and they will be looking for motorcycle riders to help bring the costs down.
Since the motorcycle is much easier to transport, the option I chose was the sailboat. One of the only options from Colombia to Panama was the 1903 build, legendary Stahlratte.
The route goes via the stunning San Blas Islands.
The process was very easy (since the owner does everything in regards to customs are loading.
San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands of Panama is an archipelago comprising approximately 365 islands and cays, of which 49 are inhabited. As you sail between the many islands, locals will meet you mid-sail to sell fresh seafood and coconuts.