T – Now it begins. The process of getting our bikes out of Panama. We know nothing of this process except what the agent for the sailboat has told us. So this morning we had to go to a place only known to us as the DIJ where we would get our bikes inspected, wait around for the day, and then hopefully be given a certificate clearing us to leave with our bikes within the next 8 days.
Getting to the DIJ office was insane! The traffic banked up in every direction. It didn’t take too long and we were lost. Our GPS maps just can’t handle the on off ramps of the myriad of highways in this city. Eventually though we pulled up outside of a place with a huge DIJ sign. Found it!
Actually no we hadn’t. It was the wrong DIJ. The one we wanted was about another 5kms away. This time we asked Aaron if he wanted to take charge with the navigation. It seemed his Google maps was way more up to the task of navigating us through the traffic than our GPS. In a very short amount of time we were pulling into a fenced yard full of dusty cars and soon we had our VIN’s checked and then it was just time to wait. We couldn’t pick up the final paperwork until 2pm. So that left us a good few hours to kill.
What is the one must see thing in Panama? That would of course be the Panama Canal. A monstrous feat of engineering. So that’s where we went.
There was a great little museum there and we were lucky enough to witness to massive cargo ships passing through the locks. Very cool!
C – I did not expect to enjoy the trip to the Canal as much as I did. It was absolutely amazing watching the massive cargo ships move through the lock system. The museum was also really well done – both informative and enjoyable!
T – From there it was back to the DIJ place to pick up our papers, which took ages and involved an earthquake, and then we were told by aduana that we were free to leave the country with our bikes! Woohoo! Colombia here we come!
C – There were a few dodgy characters hanging around the DIJ office, so Todd stayed outside with the bikes whilst I went in to organise the paperwork. Whilst waiting, I met a really lovely Australian couple who were overlanding in their vehicle.
After sitting down to wait, the whole building began to shake and the walls visibly shook with two massive wave like motions. It was incredible! Most incredible though, was that the entire staff began to evacuate, with not one person stopping to tell the tourists waiting what was going on. Eventually an American staff member approached us and advised to evacuate too. It was a very weird experience!
T – We planned to head straight to Portobelo for the night so we would be ready to load the bikes and leave tomorrow. But the traffic had other ideas. All the roads in the city were at a complete standstill. I have never seen traffic like it. No one was moving and it was damn hot. Luckily we managed to filter up through the traffic with most cars moving around a little to let us through. Even still it took us the best part of 2 hours to travel just 15kms.
Finally many many hours later we broke free of the city and rolled on towards Portobelo. A simple 100km ride turned into a four hour venture. We feel like we have everything in order now and trust that the Captain knows what he is doing.