Archive for the ‘Central America’ Category

The AmericasI have travelled the length and bredth of the Americas since I started this trip back in December, but the time has come for me to move on.

It also means that I will no longer need to keep butchering the Spanish language that I have learned to some degree as I have moved south from the USA.

There have certainly been plenty of highs as well as a few lows to keep me grounded on the road, but as ever it is time to move on because the planet has so many more waves on offer for me to enjoy along the rest of this trip.

Las OlasRather fittingly I saw this road sign next to the pizza place on my last night in Chile.

It translates to The Waves, which is an odd name for a road if you ask me, but the sign was pointing westward towards the east and that is exactly where I am going.

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World_map_with_equatorI hadn’t realised it until after the fact but I have crossed the equator, and for the first time on this trip I am in the Southern Hemisphere.

I will be down here for the next four and a half months while you ‘northerners’ enjoy the rest of spring and all of your summer.

No snowAlthough it will be winter here I’m not expecting it to be too cold for most of my journey because a considerable part of the time will still be spent in the Tropic of Capricorn. At least I am hoping not!

However my boy scout training remains intact and I still have my winter wetsuit with me just in case.

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wpid-images.jpegI have just had my duct tape confiscated by the airport security at Tocumen International airport serving Panama City.

Clearly with one roll I represent a threat to world peace!

Another good reason to despise air travel.
I feel naked without it!

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Rain

With the sort of timing I am not normally known for I am going to be escaping Panama just as the rainy season begins.

For the next five or six months it is going to tip it down every day. Not your British drizzle but full on bucketing down for about an hour.

I can’t say I am too disappointed to be missing that!

Rainy Season 4

Yesterday seems to have been the first day of the rainy season, which is actually late this year.

There was thunder, lightning and rain like I have not seen in a long time. You might not be able to make out the rain in the picture but you can certainly see the splashes. I almost got my surfboard out! 

Rainy RoadThe rain did make the trip to the airport today a bit miserable, but I have arrived intact.

Now I am just waiting for my flight and will shortly be on my way.

Two continents down, three to go! Wooo-hooo!

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Flying_Down_to_RioWooo-hooo!

It is time for me to move on into another continent and for a few reasons I am flying down to Rio, where I hope to see 200 beauties! I am not sure my dancing is up to the standard of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but I may well have a go at a few Samba tunes whilst there.

The painful customs process in Panama City as cost me a lot of my exploring time in South America so I am only going to get the chance to spend a few days in Brazil before returning once more to the Pacific coast, where I will meet up with some old friends and do some surfing in Peru.

ASP RioAs luck would have it my visit is coinciding with the ASP tour event being in the city so I will get to catch up once more with all the pros who I last saw surfing the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. Anybody would think I had planned it. Oh hang on I did!

Hopefully I will get to catch a few Atlantic waves whilst there, as well as conjuring up some mischief for myself to get involved in when out of the water too.

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Room 13

I’m not usually superstitious but my sale may have had something to do with moving from room 13 to help the owners of the hostel do some decorating. I’m not sure how likely that is but I sold the Little Green Surf Machine late yesterday.

I had broadcast my very real threat of donating he car to the local charity to all the people who had been interested and that combined with a significantly reduced price meant that it is now off my hands. 

Car Souvenir 4

In a pleasant turn of events I have sold it to the Robert who helped me to replace the battery when I arrived in Panama City several weeks back.

The California registration plates are no longer required so I get to keep them as a souvenir. (I was always fond of them because 1984 was the year I first went surfing and the plates indicated that.) It is a bittersweet moment because I really have loved that car, and we have been through so much together but I couldn’t put it in my suitcase.

I didn’t do as well as I would have liked with the sale but still know that the cost of the leg from San Francisco to Panama City when compared with all the flights, transfers, taxis, buses, etc I would have needed to get to all the beaches (not to mention all the hassle of trying to do that with a 7’10” surfboard in tow) has been a bargain. Myself and the other Robert have also made sizable donations to the charity too so nobody is out of pocket.

Rob Rum 2

To celebrate in the spirit of the Welsh pirate Henri Morgan I bought a bottle of Captain Morgan rum and some Coca Cola with my plunder. All of which was then drank with pirate like speed with my friends at the hostel. You can see the state of me off the back of that here.

However that was just the start of the celebratory night. I went out with a few of the people I have got to know whilst living here and went on a big night out in the city.

Thankfully my time in Panama is now drawing to a close. It has been emotional!

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Darien_Gap_MapThe Darien Gap is the informal title given to the break in the highway which would otherwise run from Alaska to Chile. It gets its name from Darien, which is the largest and eastern most province in Panama, but also includes the northern extremes of neighbouring Colombia. It is what stopped me driving on towards South America

It is a vast area of rugged, sparsely populated, jungle covered terrain, which is second only to the Amazon in scale and within it’s confines are the huge Darien National Park and a self governing indigenous area.

Darien ColonyEuropeans first visited The Darien in the early 1500s. However people from my own shores arrived in 1696 when 2500 Scots tried to establish a trading colony. Many of the settlers died from disease, and those that didn’t had everything destroyed by Spanish soliers a few years later.  So much of Scotland’s wealth was invested in the colony, and subsequently lost, that Scotland was nearly bankrupted and effectively lost its status as an indepent nation as a result of the fiasco.

I know how they must of felt because all my own best laid plans are starting to look more than a little shaky because I can’t off-load the car. I have now significantly dropped the price to get rid of it, because it will be impacting on my later plans in a big way if I allow things to drag on much longer. A cheap selling price is not ideal but the financial implications of the potential delays, the time itself and the administrative overhead of any changes needed, will be far more costly for me in terms of this trip.

Darien KidsDrastic times call for drastic measures and I spotted this place a few doors down from my hostel yesterday. (www.darien.org.pa) I have decided that if I do not sell by lunchtime on Monday I will walk into their offices and hand over the keys. That would be outrageously generous of me but I really have had enough of feeding the local mosquito population and just sitting around for days on end. We did something similar on the Sahara Surf trip, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world and a lot of good would come from it, not least me leaving!

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Wigan AthleticMassive congratulations to Wigan Athletic for winning the FA Cup. I have been following the text update on the BBC website for hours. It is great to see a team come up through the ranks and win the oldest knockout football competition in the world. King Street will be rocking tonight!

It is brilliant that the chairman (who admittedly is not without a few bob) is above everything a football fan, and not just using the club as a Billionaire’s plaything. That he actually broke his own leg playing in the 1960 Cup Final, just adds to the romance of the tournament.

I can’t believe it Swansea and Wigan, which are my two favourite nights out in the UK, bagging both the cup competitions and I am unable to join the party for either of their biggest nights ever. Gutted! With all the above and all the Welsh success it may be better for my sporting teams if I do not return to the UK. I have turned into something of a Jonah!

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Deafening SilenceApologies for the radio silence but nothing much has happened to update you about. I am still trying to sell the car and am getting a great deal of interest in it, but nobody has bitten yet.

I have also been doing my own share of self publicity driving it around the city with the ‘for sale’ signs on display, as well as trying to find interested buyers.

pot-hole-road-hazardOn one such journey I was following a motorcycle down the road. The rider went into a pot hole right in front of me and never came out!

I swerved to one side to avoid following him in and peered over the precipice to my right to see if he was ok. Alhough somewhat dazed and a bit confused by what ha just happened he seemed to be ok so I helped him get his bike back upright and out of the hole. In true biker style however he was back on his way in seconds.

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Customs Paperwork 2

I did a final trip to the customs office yesterday to get ‘Autorizada la salida de este viajero sin su vehiculo autoridad. Nacional de Aduanas’ stamped in my passport. So far each of these 13 words has cost me $150, a day from my time exploring and surfing in South America, and a considerable amount of my sanity. Even yesterday’s efforts were a joke with nobody even acknowledging my presence at the relevant desk for nearly half an hour despite half a dozen people sitting around doing nothing. The paper mountain is now complete though and I am free to leave once I sell the car.

Talking Driver

Since putting the for sale signs in the window I have already had three people try to ask me about it whilst I am driving down the road, one of which pulled alongside on the motorway, wound down the passenger window and was actually trying to haggle whilst swerving along the road at 60mph! I could barely here a word he said and just kept pointing at the telephone number eventually jamming on the brakes so the maniac would go past me.

Fingers crossedI have to say I am now desperate to sell the car and if it goes on much longer I will practically give it away. As ever time is far more precious than money to me, and every minute I am spending pacing around the garden at Panama House waiting for a buyer is a minute where I could be doing something new. I am trying to keep myself both busy and positive, but there is only so much of that I can do. On the plus side I am getting many calls about the car, but as with selling a motor back home you get a number of time wasters, false promises, no shows, etc which adds to the frustration. I am going to rock up at a number of used car dealers tomorrow to see if anybody will take it off my hands. Please can you keep you fingers crossed for me?

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