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The Sailing Bikes : Crossing the Great Divide

Of course, there are many alternatives to trekking through jungle with a machete, hoping your bike doesn’t break down in the Darien Gap. One can fly- there is a frequent service from Bogota to Panama City, or one can ship- again, the Panama Canal is famous for transporting containers, or one can sail the Caribbean. The latter seeming far more adventurous and apt to the journey. Simon and Alex decided that sailing was the best option and through word of mouth, they’d heard about the infamous Stahlratte: a 113 year old fishing sailing vessel with a retro-fitted engine. This amazing boat is capable of taking bikers (and their bikes) across the sea with a crew all actively learning how to sail and maintain the boat.We were planning on the Cartagena- San Blas 3 day journey which deposits you neatly in Panama and rested for the next stage. Spoiler alert! – for once, this is a post  not about crashing motorbikes or challenging roads!


Waiting for sunset in Cartagena


Sundowners (little early)


Custom square in Cartagena


Cartagena’s coast

We boarded at Cartagena, watching the bikes being winched aboard with our hearts in our throats. 12mm rope held a swaying Brunnie and Freja from the raft quay to the deck and having never seen our bikes from such an angle, we stopped for a minute hoping that the rope would hold as the belly of the bikes swept over the harbour sea and boat railing and landed gently onto the deck. The bikes were strapped in and protected from the weather and waves with thick tarpaulin and, reassured, we looked forward to the sail.

Setting off before midday, we caught a favourable wind and managed to eventually raise the sails after a delicious lunch. We ploughed on through the Caribbean, watching dolphins cavort in the waves alongside the boat and flying fish try to race us. The skies were characteristically wide and open as we skimmed between the Atlantic and the Caribbean. A night and a morning later and we’d arrived in Paradise: San Blas, the island archipelago of the Kuna Yala, an autonomous region of Panama. Waking from our cabin sleep, we were treated to another amazing meal – a breakfast worthy of any Sunday brunch. Sipping coffee, we contemplated the surroundings and between us wondered which of these desert islands we’d explore and which reef we would snorkel through.


This is paradise : San Blas in the Kuna Yala region

The boat trip was frankly, paradise. The food was amazing (such a good change after endless spicy bean stews and tuna pasta!) and the time spent in San Blas was pretty magical. Snorkelling, we saw sting ray, starfish, and plenty of others (like pipe fish, lion fish, scorpion fish, angel fish, groupers and needlefish) and two particularly cosy whiptail stingray. The beaches were perfect, white sands surrounded by coral reefs and and an alleged shark. We spent the evenings on the desert islands, around a campfire drinking rum and watching the endless stars and surrounded by coconut palms languishing into the sea,to be closer to its warm embrace.


Caribbean Sunsets


Camp fire on the beach of a tiny island


Night-time relaxation in Paradise, our new mode of transport


Paradise at night


Stahlratte from the beach

We didn’t really want to the leave but as they say, all good things must come to an end so we packed up our swimsuits and tried not to think about how sweaty we’d be in our motorbike clothes now that we were in the tropics. We reached the coast near Carti, ready to disembark and leave our idyll. Not quite rested for the next stage of the journey: Panama- Canada, we decided to stay a while longer in Panama.


Another desert island…


Coming close to Carti


How to Bike in style


The receiving end! Freja and Brunnie wait for us on shore

Having disembarked and paid our dues with the the Carti receivers, we set off for Panama City and the net adventure.


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