We start the morning by visiting a hostel that has information on the boats to Colombia. Panama City is on the Pacific side and the departure ports are on the Caribbean side, of which there are many. Our plan would be to ride the bikes to our departure port. However, none of the upcoming departures are from ports that are easily accessible by bike. They either require a boat taxi or traversing many miles of roads in very poor condition. And not all the boats go to Cartagena, Colombia, which is our desired destination.
The boat ride to Colombia takes about five days. The boats plying the Caribbean are small catamaran or sailboats. While they do stop at the beautiful San Blas Islands, five days on a small boat crammed with ten or so other people gives me pause. I’m not a big fan of being on small boats in rough waters. I also get seasick easily. I got seasick while snorkeling!
Furthermore, the boats are expensive. It has become popular with the backpacking crowd and boats are now charging about $550 per person. And they want $100 per bike.
Losing interest in the boat option we set off into the city to talk with some bike shops. If we fly, we’ll need the bikes disassembled and in boxes. We’ve already looked into flights and know that a direct flight to Cartagena runs about $370 per person. A bit steep for a 1 hour flight. It’s not clear on the website, but we would likely get charged another $100 per bike. An additional fee will be charged if we’re over the weight limit (70lb/32kg). The bikes weighed 100+ pounds when we weighed them in Montana, but that was with food and water.
Scott found a couple of bike shops that cater to triathletes. The idea was that triathletes often travel with their bikes so these shops would be a good place to inquire about bike boxing.
Navigating Panama City is a bit of an ordeal. Streets often go by two names and there are no street signs. Thankfully we have a GPS, though it often is only able to get us in the general area of the store and then we ride around in circles until we actually find it.
The first bike shop does not box bikes. The second shop said they don’t have any boxes today but they’d have some tomorrow and could do it for $25 per bike. They’re closing at noon on Thursday for Easter and open again on Monday. Tomorrow is our only option for bike boxing.
Next set of business is to find two large duffle bags for the panniers. If we fly, the panniers would need to go into a bag in order to protect the mounting hardware and also so we aren’t charged for excess pieces of baggage. We went to the mall but half the stores are closed for Passover. I found a store called Big Bag, but ironically, their selection was quite small. Finally, we passed a Mail Boxes Etc store and I inquired about shipping boxes. They have some large boxes that meet the airline’s dimension requirements, so our gear could be packaged into cardboard boxes.
All of this took the better part of the day. We’re still undecided. The boat would be an adventure. Though I could be horrendously seasick, puking off the side of the boat for five days. Also, the boat will likely be cramped and hot. Flying is never fun, but at least it would be over in a day.
We head back to the hostel before sunset. My nerves are fried after meandering around in Panama City traffic all day. I just want to click my heals three times and be in Colombia. Alas, these are not ruby slippers and I’m not over the rainbow.