Lost at Sea part two

Part Two: Recovering from Blindness

I was ready to go at dawn. Fishermen were already trolling close by, and the sounds of livestock wailing and townsfolk awakening drifted from Mamitupu. Goat yelled at me from his hammock as I packed my Kayak; “Are you not going to cook breakfast here?�

“NO,�I growled, grumpy and wanting to eat. “Once we reach Mamitupu, I’ll cook. I don’t want a repeat of yesterday morning.�

“Are you mad…? Do you realize how miserable it’ll be, the whole village swarming around our stove…â€�Yelled back Goat from his Hammock. “You know, it took that police unit till noon to get off their ass and inspect our scene.â€�

Goat had a point of sorts but I decided to ignore him rather than argue further.

The inevitable Kuna greeting party was there to meet us on the shores of Mamitupu. It consisted mostly of women in their gowns of intricate geometric patterns (called Mola) cradling, without rest, their small children. A man, presumably the most fluent Spanish speaker at hand, stepped through the crowd to decipher our needs.

Goat carefully related the terms of our predicament including how we had spent much of last night searching the nearby bay for our friends.

“Ah, so it must have been you guys who were scaring the hell out of all the boatmen.â€� our helper said with a grin. “Everyone’s afraid of the eye robbers… Have you heard about this?â€�

“We have heard.â€� I answered, “and we are terrified.â€�

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Lost at Sea

Part One: Out of Sight

Goat was in the lead. More accurately he was far ahead of the pack, and completely unaware of the span of choppy sea separating him from me.

With my left foot I pushed in the rudder control foot peg as far as it would go and paddled till my front made the 180 degree change. The Kayak rotated with the grace of a battle ship, yet still responded better than the muscles in my back, which cramp and spasm every time I turn my head to face backwards. For some time I squint directly into the setting sun, searching for the two miniscule figures of Jacob and J.

Minutes later two paddling figures emerge, unfortunately from the opposite direction. Two young Kuna men in their Cayucos were returning it seemed from a deep sea fishing trip. Their Payloads however told a different story.

“Nuedie!� I greeted them with the word that encompasses all variations of salutation.

Neither of them responded so I shouted louder.

“Are those Rocks in your boat?� I asked. Curious about the huge mound of broken corral heaped within their boats.

“Yeah, rocks.� They replied, politely smiling.

My head buzzed with questions; how the hell did they dig up all that coral? What would they use it for? Does the entire Kuna Yala Comarca plunder their reefs like this?�

Usually fishermen in the Comarca are baffled by the sight of our small gringo boats weighed down by dismantled bicycles of all things. Nearly everyone we’d encountered had paused and made an effort to figure out where we came from, where we were going, and why we chose to travel unassisted by motor. These rock gathering boatmen, however, were in a major hurry. They bolted right past my idle vessel and continued on to the town of Ustupu leaving me to admire the fluid form of their oar strokes propelling them so swift and straight.

“Damn, where are they…?�

Though the sun was softened by low-lying clouds, still my search was directed into the center of its brilliance. I pulled off my sunglasses, rinsed the sweat streaked lenses in the ocean, looked again, but could not find the characteristic flash of paddles arcing through the air.

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Entering Colombia

Our excursion has proven quite the adventure.  Starting in the tranquil clear waters of the San Blas Islands we worked our way into the open ocean without the protective islands and have been staying in indigenous communities along the way.

One morning we were ambushed by a Kuna police squad, complete with a guy in a ski mask and a semi-automatic rifle jumping out of the bushes.   Another day, after a long paddle, Goat and Sean somehow got separated from J and I we lost sight of them before reaching Island Mosquito just after it got dark.    We waited most of the next day for them to show, but saw nothing.  Apparently an airplane was even out searching for us.  Eventually we ran into them at a nearby community.ç

Anyways, the paddling has been exceptionally challenging, but the experience traveling through the Kuna Comarca has been unforgettable.

Paddling to Colombia

We have been busy rigging up our kayaks to support our bikes. We have permission to enter the Comarca tomorrow and expect to begin our kayak expedition to Colombia. With up to 500 nautical miles to cover, we’re looking at a good month+ of kayaking and are hoping for calm seas and good weather. There more than likely isn’t any internet access along the coast until we reach Cartagena, but you can follow our progress with our

Spiners Appreciate Your Support

Yes.  Any donations/support you can offer makes us about as happy as this dancing skeleton.  We do our best with our dirtbag budget, but with drivetrain replacements/tires/etc, food costs for hungry cyclists and extraneous adventures like paddling kayaks (with our bikes strapped on) to Colombia, we come up short. Any help will be appreciated as we continue our journey into South America.

Petitioning the Council of Kuna Comarca

Before setting out on our kayak expedition to circumvent the Darien Gap, it was necessary for us to receive the blessings of the Kuna Yala congress. We would have to meet with the Central Indigenous leadership that presides over Tourist activity in the Kuna Territory – a section of Panamanian Caribbean Coast that stretches from the San Blas Island chain to the Frontier of Colombia.

Luckily we had befriended Nemesio: a native of the Kuna Yala, a veteran Kayak guide of the San Blas Islands, and a businessman accustomed to negotiating with the Kuna General Congress. Nemesio already had scheduled an appointment with the Congress to discuss matters relating to his Solar-panel installation business, and had no trouble coupling our petition onto the same visit.  

Our appointment was for one-o’clock sharp but we rolled into the secretarial offices a little after two.

“The Congress is at lunch.� Asserted a grave faced secretary.

I assumed from her tone that the legislative body suffered the burden of a bloated agenda and wouldn’t have time to reschedule. And yet within seconds we were summoned into an upstairs office to present our case.

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Panama Canal & Kayak Practice

We’ve been hanging around the Canal Zone, marveling at what a tremendous industrial miracle it truly is.   The crazy things humans do: like making water flow uphill (which is what the canal effectively does); creating a river that flows from sea to sea across a mountain range, which would be an impossible feat without the “locks” that are setup throughout the canal.  

          Locks are surprisingly simple, though pretty darn impressive to watch; basically they are 2 sets of giant double doors which separate one section of the canal from from another, each section is higher than the last – until the mountain is crossed and the canal starts descending (section by section). To change levels and pass through the canal, a ship first enters through one set of the double doors into the lock chamber (the section of canal between the doors) where the doors close, sealing the ship off in a little section of the canal.  Water rushes in and the level of the water in the lock rises (the ship with it) until it is even with the next section of canal. At this point the second set of doors open and the ship moves along the canal until it reaches the next lock. Going down simply reverses the process: the ship enters the full lock, the doors close, water is let out until the ship reaches the level of the lower canal, the second set of doors open….

 Here a few facts for the trivia buffs:

The most expensive regular toll for canal passage to date was charged on May 16th, 2008 to the 964-foot (295 m) Disney Magic Cruise Liner, which paid just over US$331,200.

The adventurer Richard Halliburton paid the lowest toll, 36 cents to swim the canal in 1928.  (No one else has ever been allowed to swim the entire canal; it’s apparently too dangerous).

The average transit takes 8 to 10 hours. Continue reading

El Hermitanio and the French Channel


    While entertaining the notion of getting on a bridge over the Panama Canal to take photos, the police drove by eyeing me suspiciously.  Their expressions encouraged me to look elsewhere.  Further down was a gated entrance to an overgrown patch of land with some abandoned houses. 

     I lifted the heavy chain and guided my bike into the old road, covered with jungle vines and grass, put the bike into a lower gear and pedaled up a steep grade.  As I wound around a bend, I began to feel that eerie sensation that I was not alone. 

     I soon came upon one of the abandoned houses and felt dozens of eyes watching me from the bushes.  I could see movement all around me as if the plants were a bit more terrestrial than I would like.  Something was definitely out there, watching me.

     “Hola� I yelled out, cupping my hands over my mouth to carry the message.

“Buenas Tarrrrddddeeess.� I called out.


   “Buenos Tardes.�  I called out again, looking around for any sign of el dueno de la casa, y nada. I jumped at the sound of two animals crashing  through the foliage just a stone’s throw away.

      Then out of the house and from the bushes, the eyes that had been following me ran out in front.

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Environmental Film Project Seeking Cyclists

I was recently sent an email asking for me to help find some cyclists pedaling across the Americas starting next May.  Anybody heading south next year should look into this:


Going South 
cycling through the Americas
deepeei film productions is looking for adventure cyclist who will cycle in the North or South America’s

Our climate is changing; these indications are measured in all parts of the world. Inconvenient messages are spread by scientists, common and famous people. The television series Going South is about meeting inspiring people and search for the challenge of our generation; to fight climate change. We cross the continents in search of eye opening idea’s and breathtaking initiatives taken by businesses, Non-governmental organizations and individual people in our society.

The goal of Going South: To create participation of global citizens in the invention and implementation of solutions for a more sustainable life. 

In a 13 episode documentary series for international television we discover the world of innovative and inspiring initiatives for a more sustainable life. 

In the series we travel from Alaska to Chile following the Pan- Americana trail. Two separate cycling expeditions are making an 8th months travel on the continents. These teams are filming their adventures on the road, record the amazing environment/scenery  and interview the locals about their climate expectations. They share their trip of a lifetime, the expedition, camping/sleeping, cooking and lot’s of cycling with the rest of the world.

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