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December 13, 2017

Day 31 [Wed 12/13/17] - Portobelo, Panama - Colon, Panama

Starting Odometer: 11,037
Ending Odometer: 11,155
Distance Traveled Today: 118 miles
Distance Traveled This Trip: 6,552 miles [11,155 - 4,603]

In the morning, I get up, prepared to ride to Colon.

I want to go to the Panafoto camera store in Colon and buy a new Canon EOS 80D. But of course, it's raining, as always.
So I just sort of lie in bed, wishing that the rain would go away. And presently, it does fade away.

I decide that I have to try to make a concerted effort to get to Colon today. Now, this is tricky because of the weather,
but also because I'm low on fuel. And there are no gas stations to be found around here. Not in Colon. Not in Porto Lindo. Nowhere between here and Colon, to the best of my knowledge.

So I tell Marco Polo that I'm rolling out, but I'm leaving all of my gear at the Hostel Portobelo, to return later today. Mind you, it's only 30 miles to Colon. About a 1 hour drive, according to Waze.

Like...all of this is very hard to figure out. Should I take everything with me, or not? What if I get to Colon, and then it starts to pour? If I had all of my gear, then I could just stay in Colon? It's so hard to guess the right answers to this nightmare. But finally, I just decide to leave everything I have at the hostel. Take some cash, my passport, my wallet, riding gear, Garmin, and iPhone. That's all I'm taking.

And I set off for Colon.

It feels great to be on the bike again. I wish that I'd never been separated from the bike by the rains. It feels strange. LIke getting back together with an old girlfriend. And you go to say you're sorry and she just hushes you. THat's how this feels. So great to be riding again.

There are lots of clouds, but somehow, over the coast, it is clear, and as I follow the coast, I remember some of the beaches and some of the rivers from when I rode in.

I make it about 20 miles before it starts to rain on me. Ahead, the skies loom dark and threatening. I don't feel like getting drowned. I stop in a little town and ask the policia there what it's like in Colon. He marks that it's about knee-deep witih rain and flooding in Colon. So I turn back for the hostel.

Now, I'm getting low on gas and, you'd think that a town Portobelo would have a gas station, but it does not. There's no gas anywhere that I pass either. So when I do roll back into town, I start asking people where to get gas because, seriously people...there are cars here...so were are y'all gassing up at? Has to be gas around here somewhere.

I ask a man at the Chinos' grocery store, and he tells me that there's a purple house on the way out of town that sells gas.

"Con firmar?" I clarify....like...is there a sign?"


Of course. So, there's a purple house, somewhere between 1 and 3 minutes outside of town that sells gas, but doesn't have a sign.

I decide to go to the taxis. Always there are taxis here in town, but where they take people and where the money comes from is anyone's guess.

So I go to the taxi stand.

"Necessito gasolina para motorcycleta. Donde gasolina?"

Again, the purple house on the edge of town. I ask him to lead me there in the taxi. For a dollar, it is done.

Now, I roll up to the purple house behind the taxi. A man comes out and asks how much gas I want. It's $5.00 a gallon.

"Uno gallones, por favor," and he pours a gallon of gas into my gas tank through a funnel, spilling some on me as part of the process. He could learn from the gas station attendants that I saw on the way down here. Most gas stations technically don't allow you to pump your own gas, so the gas station attendants pump your gas and when they're finishing the pour, they're like a fine somelier in a San Francisco restaurant, turning the gas pump handle ever so delicately to avoid spilling gas on the new motorcycleta. But not this guy. He spills some on my hand, at which point I just remove myself from the entire process.

I pay him his $5.00, and now I have a gallon of gas. Plus, I know where to buy gas now. So, I've solved that problem.

I roll out to the Restaurante El Castillo on the edge of town. I like the place because it has dramatic views of the Carribbean and the bay of Portobelo. And there's a sunken ship there also, which is kind of cool.

So I eat lunch there. I ask for Carne Asado, which is literally grilled steak. I want carne asado tacos, but they really don't server that down here. What's very common in Mexico, is very uncommon down here.

After I eat, I head back into town. It's not raining. I have gas now. At some point, I decide to try to make another run for Colon. This time, when I get about the same place I turned around last time, I see that there is a gas station. Lord. Like...how bad off do you have to be that you're excited to see a gas station?

I'm not sure what the deal is though, as there's no one here to pump my gas, and I've never seen this before in Latin America. Never.

But I ask this guy that has a taxi there, and he points to a woman cowering behind about 1" of plexiglass across the parking lot. And I walk over.

"Necessicitas quatro liters, por favor," and she asks if I want regular or premium, and I want premium. But, at this gas station, the colors are reversed from Pemex in Mexico. Verde is Premium and Rojo is Regular, which is a little confusing. But it is what it is.

Somehow, my tank is now completely full. Oh well. I've got a week to burn it off before we load it onto the boat.

So now I follow my Waze app and it takes me down into an area near the Zona Libre in Colon...a warehouse district. And I see a sign that says Canon, so I turn in and tell them I'm looking for Panafoto. But they send me away and say this isn't the right place, so I roll around for a while, and everyone keeps sending me back to the same yellow building I started at.

Finally, I go back and say, "This is, in fact, Panafoto," which they now (finally) admit is true. But they want me to go to the Panafoto store down in the Zona Libre. So, one of the workers there hops on his bike, and leads me down into the gridlocked chaos that is the Zona Libre. At the time, I wasn't clear what was going on. Now, I know what caused all of the madness....yesterday, Colon was deluged with about 12" of rain, and many of the roads were flooded as a result. So, the gridlock was caused because about 1/2 of the streets were still closed today due to massive flooding.

Colon gets, on average, 130" of rain a year.

So we're weaving through the gridlock and he takes me to a store, and it's a Panafoto, and I give him a thumbs up and he rolls off, returning back to the warehouse he works at. But, after they let me into the store, I see that all they have is crap. Just junkie little Canon cameras for people that are broke. I'm looking for the Canon EOS 80D, which is a little more expensive than anything they carry in this store. So, I ask them where to go, and they send me back to the warehouse I came from. So, I go back to the warehouse, and now I tell them....there's another store, but I don't know where it is.

The woman comes out and tells me that the guy that led me to the wrong store is working, and helped me out of the goodness of his heart, and I didn't even tip him. So now, I hand him a $5.00 and I'm like..."Vamos, amigo."

So now, we go back down into the Zona Libre, but this time, we go past the store we went to last time, and then sort of end up right outside of the Zona Libre, at a different Panafoto. Now, he's on board and we both go into the store and, I can't believe it, but they actually have a Canon EOS 80D, and I hand her 12 dripping wet $100 bills. Now that I have the new camera, and also a 64 Gig MicroSD memory card, I think that I am good to go.

I give my helper another $5.00 for helping me to find the store, and now I pack up the camera and wrap it up in plastic bags twice over so it won't get ruined if I get wet on the way home to my little hostel in Portabelo.

On the way back, I never do get rained on and, there are some other things I needed from the Zona Libre, but I'm thinking now that tomorrow, I'll go back again. I need to mail some things back to Colorado, and now I have a box to mail back my broken camera, and some other items as well.

Posted by Rob Kiser on December 13, 2017 at 9:58 AM


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