Day 43 to 47 – The Stahlratte and the Crossing to Colombia

2016-10-24 – Day 43 – Puerto Carti, PA to El Porvenir, PA (4:15 hrs – 124 km)
2016-10-25 – Day 44 – El Porvenir, PA to San Blas Islas, PA (4:30 hrs – 44 km)
2016-10-26 – Day 45 – San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia
2016-10-27 – Day 46 – San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia
2016-10-28 – Day 47 – San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia (32 hrs – 390 km)

The passage between Panama and Colombia is virtually impossible on 2 wheels. Crossing by plane or by air is mandatory.

My choice was, after several months of research, to cross on the great sailboat Stahlratte, that makes this route several times per year, and also allows for the transport of the motorcycle.

This is a German ship built in 1903 in Holland. It measures 60 metres and has a weight of 235 tons (a little bigger than your boat isn’t it Christine D.?).

On the morning of October 24th, I left early in the morning to get to a hostel where all people driving a motorcycle and taking the same boat gathered together to drive to the port of Carti, which is located on the native reserve of Kuna Yala.

The group slowly formed in front of the hotel and we left together to get out of Panama City. What a mess, but what an adventure!


It had been awhile since I had not risen with other motorcyclists, and sneaking past the ultra-dense traffic for several long minutes was really difficult, but very exciting.

Those who came from Europe are quickly taking over, passing between the immobilized or slow cars in traffic jams. I did my best to follow them!

Then we drove on a very small winding road to the reserve and a motorcycle even a fell, caused by a car that suddenly stopped in a very steep curve.

The clip doesn’t show how steep it was!

After a series of curves and slopes, we stopped at the military checkpoint where we had to pay $23 to enter the reserve.



We arrived around 11:30 at the port of Cali, surrounded by children taking small boats to get to school.


We could see in the distance the Stahlratte waiting for us, but we had no idea how our bikes would be taken on board!

People waved us to drive to the dock and make it completely to the end!



A crew member then came to install ropes on motorcycles and slowly, the vessel approached the dock in order to use its winch to lift the bikes one by one.

It is clear that this maneuver was made hundreds of times by the captain and his crew, but that would be lying to say I did not have a few butterflies in the stomach to see the bike being lifted, then go over the water to eventually disappear on the deck!





We then loaded our luggage and sailed out to sea.

It was planned that the first night be spent on a small island (El Porvenir) and a water taxi picked us up a few hours later to get us there.

The hotel located on this island is shabby, dirty, crowded with 4 beds per room, no door to the toilet, and accompanied by many friends (read: bugs and creatures of many kinds) all over the walls, the shower and floors.

Still, we took the time to get to know each other, to go swimming in the ocean and have a good meal together.





The next morning, the taxi boat came back for us and once we reached the Stahlratte in the pouring rain, we set sail to the islands of San Blas.

We also got quickly accustomed to our new quarters, which, although we all sleep in the same room, seemed luxurious compared to yesterday’s hotel! This is perhaps the reason why the tour is built this way.




Even if rain is present and the sky cloudy, the small islands that surround the place where the ship stops are beautiful and inviting for swimming, what we all did when we arrived.

The water is clear and warm. The islands are green and inhabited by native fishermen who spend weeks at a time there during he season. A little paradise on earth! A passenger carries with him a drone. Look at these pictures!




After spending 24 hours lounging, eating, drinking, telling stories, one better than the other, we leave in the late evening of October 26th towards Cartagena.














The journey is over 350 km and takes 30 hours. This is done with the help of a big engine rumbling steadily and slowly in the ship’s hold, which produces a small continuous rhythm in our ears.

The hours are a little long, but the group of people present makes it an exciting voyage. Fellow passengers are all great travelers who have amazing travel stories to tell and so we exchange our experiences, tips, techniques, and past and future destinations for several hours.

We also stopped a few moments to take a dip in the ocean, with no land in view, and where the depth is over 3,000 metres. This was a first and extremely impressive. The water was completely clear blue. We swam in the waves trying to stay near the ship was still moving gently. Wow! What sight.

The sea was not very rough, but the boat was pitching heavily up and down, and side to side. Everything was going OK for me up until I tried to write a few pages of my blog on my iPad sitting on the upper deck.

Mistake! That’s when a slight seasickness settled in for a few hours. I did not feed the fish (very naval expression!), but I had to spend a meal.

We arrived early in the morning of 28 October in the port of Cartagena. After a good breakfast, inspectors boarded and we started the immigration process and import motorcycles.



Everything was taken care of very quickly and efficiently. We then headed to a wharf to unload the bikes and at noon, once we had said our good byes to the crew and new friends, we were all the way to our respective destinations. What efficiency!




I made a short clip of these couple of days. Thanks Dave for the areal footage!

Note for my countryman, Canadian citizens must pay $ 60 to enter the country (reciprocity tax) and the only cost for motorcycles is insurance, which I took for 30 days at a cost of $ 50. The rest of the paperwork was done master hand by the ship’s crew.

Can you believe that I now ride my motorcycle in South America !!! Amazing isn’t it?

Next Article (Recent) ⇨

Day 48 to 53 - Colombia - Cartagena, Mompos and some Adrenaline on 2 Wheels!

2016-10-29 - Day 48 - Cartagena, CO 2016-10-30 - Day 49 - Cartagena, CO 2016-10-31 - Day 50 - Cartagena, CO 2016-11-01 - Day 51 - Cartagena, CO to Mompos, CO (314 km - 4:45 hrs) 2016-11-02 - Day 52 - Mompos, CO to Marguarita, CO, and return (51 km ... Read more

⇦ Previous Article (Older)

Day 36 to 43 - Panama - Thinking in the rain and preparation for the Darien Gap Crossing

2016-10-17 - Day 36 - San Jose, CR to David, Panama (429 km - 7:45 hrs) 2016-10-18 - Day 37 - David, PA to Las Tablas, PA (306 km - 5:00 hrs) 2016-10-19 - Day 38 - Las Tablas, PA 2016-10-20 - Day 39 - Las Tablas, PA 2016-10-21 - ... Read more

Marc Ouellet

Adventurer at heart. Travelling on 2 wheels to South America soon!

  • Peter Parsons

    You are on a whole new planet Marc!! Have fun. The boat ride looked like a blast. Time to relax and sit back a bit. Give Nadine a hug!!!
    Oh, and it might be a good time to have a peek at all your nuts and bolts. With a cerveza, of course. Geoff and Julie are up in Dunany looking at a little snow. Cheers!! pp

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Hi Peter! Indeed, I really feel far from home, but happy to be here!

      Good point about the nuts and bolts. Will take a bit of time tomorrow to go over the bike. The tire seems to be able to give me another 5000km… I’m hoping to change only once in Lima!

      Take care sir!

  • Chris

    WOW yes much bigger than mine …..but my Manhattan is much nicer!!!!!
    Be SAFE my friend!

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Wasn’t sure you were going to read this page! Glad you did! I’m sure you boat is much nicer but at the same time, much younger!

  • Francis Derome

    Vraiment intéressant !

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Merci Frank!

  • Carl

    Wataboy!!! Je viens de dévorer carrément la lecture de ton blog… Tu m’as bien fait rire … J’espère que le fun se poursuit… Et que le petit découragement est derrière toi…
    Félicitations pour t’être rendu déjà aussi loin… Tu es en Amérique du Sud!
    J’ai déjà hate à la suite!

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Je suis persuadé qu’il y aura d’autres moments moins faciles mais il faut les accepter comme faisant partie de l’aventure!

      Merci d’avoir pris le temps de lire et commenter!

  • Chris Cheston

    The Steel Rat, a rather discourteous name for a fine vessel? Glad you made it without paying Neptune his fees! Enjoy your next stage my friend and stay safe out there. Chris.4400

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Thanks Chris! Indeed, the name is bizarre but it fits well with the ship after all! Lots of fun anyways!

  • Chantal Cournoyer

    Mon Dieu Marc. Je lis ton récit et regarde tes photos et j’ai les yeux pleins d’eau. Ça me rappelle d’excellents souvenirs tous plus fabuleux les uns que les autres. Et je vois les mêmes visages qui travaillaient sur le quai.

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Salut Chantal! Heureux de te rappeler de bons souvenir. J’ai d’ailleurs pensé à toi sur la route de Mompos! Ouch, pas facile!

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