Surfing Santa Catalina - Panama

When I crossed over the Panama Canal on the Centennial Bridge, I started to have
flashbacks from the last time I rode here in January 2008 on my way to Panama City to fly
the bike to Colombia. For some reason it felt as if it was only last year... but over 3 years
had gone by since I was in Central America. It felt great to ride the nice easy going straight
Pan American highway. I remembered the large Chinese stores where you can find everything
you need. - At Cheap price! - and cheap quality. Great thing in Panama, beers are only 45 cents.

I arrived in Santiago, a small size city half way up the country. The sun was just setting when I pulled in Hostal Veraquas. I quickly jumped in a cold shower to clean up the highway fumes and had a cold beer dinner and got in touch with the internet world.
The next morning, the sun was shinning - it had been raining for the past few weeks none stop!
My timing was perfect, I was craving some surf so I headed west towards the little fishing town
of Santa Catalina in hope to catch a swell.
The clean and cheap hostel Vera - Aquas in Santiago Panama. A perfect place to stay
on your way to Santa Catalina. visit their website..

Riding back on this road to Santa Catalina brought back memories when I was last here
with Angela - my riding partner at the time, we rode to Santa Catalina after finding out it
was a surf destination not to miss.
It was also Angela's first time ever riding her own motorbike. Perfect learning road, asphalt, potholes, curves, dirt, little bit of everything in 110 km. We rode here on January 05 2008.
Only this time, the road was in better shape... almost 4 years later.

Vamos a la Playa!!! Surf time...
I was excited to go back to this spot with a surfboard. Last time I was here, I only
got to surf one day - Thanks to some friends we met on the beach and lent me a board
so I could catch a few waves. This time... I was ready with my board.
Not a bad set up for $5 bucks a night. A Canadian couple - my camping neighbors scored
the palapa roof. Luckily for them, since it had been raining everyday.
They said the day I arrived... the rain stopped... sunny 16 style!
A lot more horsepower then my suzuki dr 350!
My base camp - surf in front, Playa Estero. Good thing it didn't rain since I
didn't have a nice Palapa roof...
My only worry was ... the place was closed.
For $8bucks.... giant shrimp a la Coconut Curry... or fresh catch of the day.
Yummi.... I ate breakfast - lunch and diner at this same place. A killer view and
amazing food ( bad ass Brownies too! ) ... Mama Ines Hostal and Restaurant, just before crossing the river to Playa Estero.
The sign says it all!!! Surf'n Shake... but instead I did a shake and Piuk!
After having a banana shake one afternoon... later on that nigh my stomach didn't
feel so good... I'm not sure if I can blame it on the shake, or other food, can't see being anything
else then the milk... I ended up throwing up all night, until my stomach was empty.
The good side of it is I felt pretty light surfing the next day...

My morning breakfast... killer coffee and watermelon juice, view of the waves.
After surf... I come back for an amazing fish wrap.

Local kids walking to Playa Estero
Unfortunately I didn't shoot any action surfing. The waves were small and not many hot surfers out to get good shots. So I spend most of my days in the water surfing... after all, I'de been waiting to surf again since way too long.

My little home...
End of session.
Ride'n surf...
You can rent these pimp cabinas for $35 a night. - Warm Shower!
Local kid Andy climbing to get a coconut
Sunset soccer game on Playa Estero.

Sailing on Fritz the Cat from Colombia to Panama

I was running out of patience after spending the last couple days on board the Meta Comet.
Captain Herve kept delaying the trip back to Panama, now a week had gone by, no bike and NO signs of leaving soon. I'de been anxious to get to Panama so I can surf again. I was also craving a Central America lifestyle, more beaches and sunshine. Colombia gave me many
life challenges and I was ready to move on north. Being stuck on this boat didn't help.
On my third day on the Meta Comet. I was sipping on my morning coffee when I saw Fritz the Cat anchored 50 meters away from us. A 50 foot Catamaran. I asked the captain; Fritz, when he was leaving for San Blas Islands and to Panama.... " In a few hours he says - Comon, you come with us", he yells out in his Austrian accent.
I jump in the canoe and paddle out to his boat to pay him a visit and see about negotiating a price.
I met Fritz several months before in Villa de Leyva, a beautiful Colonial town near Bogota. We exchanged several emails regarding sailing with him back to Panama. His price was a little higher then some other boats, but he had a good reputation, great cook and good captain. Not to forget a killer 50 foot catamaran!
After explaining to him my situation with Captain Herve and the Meta Comet, he gave me a last minute fair price so I jumped for the deal.
I paddled back to the Meta Comet, psyked to get going. I woke up Captain Herve to announce him the bad news. - Asked for my money back ( luckily I did get it)
I told him I was changing boat and could no longer wait for him to leave.
"I told you we leave Tomorrow" he says...
A week ago, it was in a few days, then a few days after, it was tomorrow, then tomorrow was tomorrow... I wanted to hear, we leave NOW!
An Captain Fritz said the Magic word.... we leave NOW!

At noon, in the middle of a down pour, Captain Fritz pulled over next to the Meta Comet and we loaded my bike on board * Fritz the Cat *
The rest of the crew arrived. There were 12 of us including Captain Fritz, his girlfriend and the deck helper, Jose.

Lifting my bike off the Meta Comet with the main boom in pissing rain.
Captain Herve wasn't too spyked.
All anxious to leave. By the time we got our passports, it was getting
late. Finally after sunset we pulled the anchor and set off to sea...
Adios Cartagena - Colombia, see you next time.
It takes nearly 30 hours to get from Cartagena Colombia to the first islands of San Blas.
Our first night at sea was a bit rough. We all took turns at night watch for an hour.
None of us felt sick (yet) I had a few Rum & Coke with Tony to celebrate our departure.
Making me feel a little dehydrated. My night watch turned out to be a good time to get fresh air and drink up some limonade.
The next morning, sea was calm, bikinis were out on deck, guitar jamming, life was good again.
Arriving at San Blas Island at sunset.
Captain Fritz, spear gun in hand, off to get us something for diner... but came back empty hands 3 hours later.
Instead we bought fresh lobster and crabs from locals for only a few bucks each.
Captain Fritz and his lady
Suzanna and Paige working on their tan.
Dream Rider enjoying a pimping boat ride.
Suzanna trying to get us more wind.
Here I am keeping things in balance.
Gabriel reflecting in a calm sea.
The girls
Chilling in the shade.

Pirate ship in the San Blas.
Local mode of transportation.
Argentinian bad navigation... bye bye boat.
Little too much RUM for those boyz.
Golden light in the San Blas
Time for a swim... no waves, but fun to paddle around other sailboats and clear blue water.
Jose cheff'in up a roast!
San Blas locals coming to sell us hand made jewelry... a sneaky shot as they are hard people to
Cheers and another feast!
We spent a couple nights anchored in the San Blas.Welcome to the San Blas beauty paradise islands...
Paige being creative, her own island idea...
Dug out local canoe. - Heavy has hell!

Maybe drifted from Japan?
Local Kuna woman selling jewelry they make from little color beads.
Our boat in paradise

Kuna home
Little tropical paradise
Good bye to the crew... good 5 days of laughing, eating and fun adventure.

We arrived in Puerto Lindo Panama after a long night sailing from San Blas. The journey
was rough, sea was big with heavy rain. All windows shut , no air, it was humid and no one could sleep. Sick sickness got a few crew members spending hours piuckin on the side of the boat under heavy rain - No rum was drank that night!!!
Early next morning we continued our last 20 km push to Puertobelo were my bike would be unloaded.
The weather was good until my bike was off the boat. I had just enough time to say goodbye to the crew. As soon as my bags were strapped to my bike came a heavy tropical rain.
Welcome to Panama Caribbean !!! it's rainy season here...
I rode around in town under a torrential rain to find the Aduana so I could import my bike. I was told to go to Colon to do the paper work.
I had no intentions to go to Colon - one of the most dangerous cities in Central America! No thanks... I'm going paper less! No Import... (the paper work is nothing but a waste of time anyways)
I continued on towards Panama city where I would find the Pan-American highway once I crossed over the Panama Canal and ride north to Santiago also hope not to be stopped by the police - with my surfboard strapped on my side! I never know if some countries might not like the surfboard Idea.
The rain finally stopped as I got closer to the Pacific side. No more high mountain pass or landslides, no more military checks.
Flash back memories drifted in my thoughts as I rode with my music blasting in my ipod. Psyked to be back riding in Central America. On a surf mission north...
Last time I was here was in January 2009.