The Darien Gap is both cool and frustrating at the same time.
I think it's the neatest thing that there isn't a road connecting North and South America, and that overland travelers have to resort to sea or air travel to continue the journey. It adds a bit of variety to the travel routine.
What we've found frustrating is that our preferred method of travel, the Stahlratte, is booked up several months in advance, which forces us on a schedule and a deadline - the antithesis of what we wanted our trip to be about. We had given ourselves two months to travel through Central America, but once again, we grossly underestimated how slow we move. Travel fatigue has also settled in again, it seems to have come a lot quicker now and more often since the beginning of our trip...
Stahlratte, we meet again...
Picture by Baja Bob
The Stahlratte experience was like deja-vu all over again. From our departure in Panama City all the way to the loading process, we knew exactly what to expect and there were no surprises. Actually, there was one: the weather was much nicer - blue skies instead of rain!
If you've just joined our blog recently and skipped all the earlier bits, you can see the writeup and a ton of pictures from our first trip on the Stahlratte here: http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/87.html
So not many pictures this time round, but I took some videos instead - going to try my hand at video editing again.
This little guy was the son of the Kuna island's liason
Someone on the Stahlratte team must have been keeping tabs on our blog, because when the rest of the passengers were rounded up to be shipped off to the Kuna island for the first night, we were told that we could remain on board with the crew. We didn't have such a great time the first go-around, and I think we already paid the Kuna tax, so we were exempt this time. It was a nice gesture and showed a personal touch.
However, this special treatment didn't endear us to the rest of the passengers. When they came back by dinghy the next morning, we were greeted with cold accusing stares and had to make friends with them all over again... HAHA!
Kuna Yala Sunset
Staying aboard the Stahlratte with the crew was an eye-opening experience, watching them prepare the bikes and boat for the journey, having one quiet relaxing evening before having to play host to 20 passengers, and also seeing how integrated the ship is in the San Blas eco-system. In the morning, Kuna from the neighbouring islands would pull up to the ship on their dugout boats, climb aboard, make smalltalk with Lulu (that's what they call Ludwig) and then raid the food stores. The Kuna women would then setup their jewelry and crafts store on the upper deck and wait for passengers to window-shop.
They shoot cannonballs out of pirate ships, don't they?
On this trip, I've discovered that I am a barfin' land-lubber, not suited for water travel. Maybe it's amnesia or masochism, but that hasn't stopped us from booking four different sailings on the Stahlratte, and in total we've spent 15 days on the water with the ship and crew! I'd never have thought we'd do something like that!
Fortunately, the sailing this time round was calm and I only threw up a couple of times... :(
RideDOT.com trivia: Neda's tankbag is full of seashells.
Don't ask. It's just one of those things...
Here's a video I put together of our time on the Stahlratte. Because the bikes are such an important part of our traveling family, there's quite a lot of footage of the loading and unloading process. If you've followed our first voyage on the pirate ship 6 months ago, you'll notice that the unloading process is a bit different. When I asked Ludwig about it, he said his back couldn't handle the dinghy unloading method any more... ha!