We rose early on Monday morning and met the guys from Adventure the Americas downstairs in the hotel lobby for our gratis gourmet breakfast of a cup of coffee and piece of bread. We confirmed everything was a GO with Seaboard Marine, our chosen shipping company, and mapped out a plan for the day.
Today mission was to get the initial inspection of our trucks to confirm the VINs matched our import permits and to confirm we had no outstanding warrants/traffic tickets. With this clearance we would be able to move onto the next step of the process.
Keith from Adv the Americas had already loaded up the GPS with the coords of the inspection yard. We jumped in the trucks and hit the crazy streets of Panama City.
After battling our way a few miles through heavy morning rush hour traffic we pulled into a dirt lot in the middle of one of the roughest neighborhoods we have had the pleasure of entering thus-far. I would have thought we were lost if our buddies Brad and Sheena from DriveNachoDrive and 10 other trucks weren’t already queued up waiting in the lot for inspections of their own.
View from the inspection lot.
The Pan-American Highway, a series of roads linking the great white North of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska all the way down to the southern-most reaches of Ushuaia, Argentina. At a total length of just under 30,000 miles, Guinness Book of World Records marks it the “World Longest Motor-able” road. Yes-siree, 30,000 miles of awesomeness all navigable with nothing but 4 wheels, a tank of gas, and a sense of adventure.
Except… Except…. Except 54 damn miles of impenetrable jungle full of beasts, FARC rebels, impassable mountain terrain, and native tribes who are rumored to still dabble in cannibalism. I am of course talking about the “Darien Gap”. The little stretch of jungle that separates Panama from Colombia. The little stretch of jungle that has created much headache for all overlanders headed south.
Panama City is where overlanders must arrange shipping around this swath of rainforest. I would say it tops the list of all overland PanAm travelers fears (the ones that have gotten over the whole kidnapping/beheading nonsense at least). Imagine loading your baby into a dark box, hoisting her high into the air, placing her among thousands of strangers, and setting her off to sea… Not to mention travelers have been stuck without their vehicles for months, forced to pay exorbitant fees, and there have been some whose trucks never showed up at all! Lauren and I approached the city with trepidation knowing what lies in store.
As we came upon the sprawling metropolis full of gigantic skyscrapers, super highways, and malls I was instantly reminded of my home city of Miami, Florida. Mix in everybody speaking Spanish and driving like crap and I really felt like I was back home!
We booked it south from the Osa and were soon at the border of Costa Rica-Panama.
Within an hour or so we had gotten all our paperwork squared away, changed some Costa Rican colones into U.S. dollars (the official currency of Panama) and drove on in. Country #9. Our friends at fromatob.org have a nice writeup on “How to cross the Costa Rica-Panama border with a truck”.