The Darién Gap– that effectively impassible 160km long stretch between South and Central America that bedevils all overland travelers. There are no roads, plenty of rebels and drug smugglers, and enough swampy rivers to make crossing it- even without a vehicle- a herculean task. Being slightly more removed from the gods than Hercules, I decided to take the easy route and use a charter boat for the crossing.
In Cartagena I was planning on meeting up again with HP2 and then tak a fantastic sailboat to Panama. The owners of the boat had two dedicated tie-downs for bikes and were trying to get more motorcycle travelers, so offered us a fantastic price for the 4 day trip- jet skis, hot tub on deck, beautiful private ensuite cabins… A rare treat for us grubby rider types. Unfortunately, a couple of days before sailing they ran into mechanical difficulties and we had to scramble to find another option. But before that, I had some time to spend in Cartagena.
Cartagena is an odd city and more like 3 cities in one. The sprawling majority of it was the dirtiest and most unpleasant city I’d visited in Colombia- sullen locals forced to gaze upon the unattainable beachside towers of the countrys monied elite and the beautifully restored tourist district were less than interested in dealing with yet another gringo- unless it was in a dark alley. The long peninsula of shinning white condos and designer stores was equally bleak and unwelcoming- this was the pervue of Colombias wealthy and not at all interested in catering to the modest needs of a long distance rider. Then we have the old town, a wonderfully restored walled part of town and hence, a true tourist getto. I couldn’t really dislike the old town since it was a wonderful place to walk and absorb the architecture, but the constant efforts to sell me something along with the mobs of tourists left me rather tired and worn. Like a beautiful, but vapid woman, it was much better in the pictures.
So, after a couple of days of Caratgena I was more than happy to be leaving. HP2 and I had managed to find another boat to Panama and the one we got was a well know catamaran that promised a suspiciously long list of features; from the price we knew the boat was a backpackers option, but it could take our bikes, so we took a chance.
After a delay at the dock and getting the bikes we were eventually off into the night…
The fat guy in the background was the Austrian owner of the catamaran- a seemingly jolly fellow who would soon help his passengers bond in their shared misery.
Before that, we had the perfect sail out of the harbour and into the Caribbean night.