There are stories of intrepid people who traversed marshland and forests on the isthmus of Danien Gap with their bikes, but we decide to go by ferry or plane discovering that there are no ferries between Panama and Colombia. Sea crossing is offered by yacht owners that can load a pair of bikes. But this type of transportation is very in demand and we should have booked a long time ago. Therefore, we decide to wait in Panama a few days hoping a few seats would free. At the end we give up and, after packing out bikes, take a flight out of Panama to Bogota, where, after 35,000 km, we changed the chain of one of the bikes for the third time with a spare part that came on with the gearbox spares.
The next checkpoint is the border with Venezuela.
We don’t know the road conditions in Colombia, but we hope to get there in less than one day because it isn’t far. But after only 100 km, in a highway rest area, we note that the pinion screw of one of the bikes came off; in the final stages of our long journey fate was throwing up roadblocks. And then comes George, a Colombian, who, to our great surprise, greets us in Polis; he finds the missing component in a nearby village allowing us to continue. But surprises aren’t finished: along a curvy mountain road a dog suddenly crosses the road in front of me; I instinctively hard brake and the bike skids on the blacktop getting all banged up and ripping my riding suit.
Venezuela is without doubt the paradise for car drivers - we pay less than a coffee for a full tank (23 liters for the Ténéré) – but it is hard to get in. We are used to the endless paperwork but seven hours waiting for customs, where lunch break lasts no less than two hours, are a bit too much.
To ride across this country, we chose the Southern road to reach the border with Brazil in Santa Elena, faster. The road includes crossing the Orinoco river from the city of San Fernando. During coffee break, talking with an old man of San Fernando, we discover that the road we want to use is unpaved, flooded in some points, and that bridges are missing on some smaller rivers and streams. It would be a great adventure, but time is not on our side, so we prefer to take the farther Northern way. Once again getting to know local people pays off.
Before the border with Brazil we get separated and pass the night in nearby villages without knowing where the rest of the group is. There is no way to contact them: no signal for the cell phone, no internet; we received some information only the following day from a few soldiers at one of the many road blocks before the border, which is where we meet and cross to Brazil. We are elated: in front of us there is the Amazon Rainforest!
We travel across this region on a ferry along the Amazon river from Manaus to Belem because this if the rainy season. In Manaus we immediately buy last minute tickets for the ferry that would leave in 40 minutes, since the next one is schedule in three days, and we cannot wait. Life onboard is slow; we sail for five days along the largest river in the world, observing life in the villages along its bank.
In Belem, the bike fixed in Mexico gives problems again. A Japanese mechanic of the Yamaha service in the Amazon Basin tells us this is caused by the job made in Acapulco.
We leave Belem twice: the first time the Ténéré stops after 80 km forcing us to go back to have it fixed by the magic hands of the Japanese, even though we decide to continue our journey riding on one motorcycle. We still have 2000 km to cover to get there in time for the Carnival, but we make it!
After 188 days, 40,000 km, 26 countries and 4 continents we finally arrive in Salvador on the fifth day of the Carnival, while it is still in full swing.
On the last stretch our tires are very worn, but the following days we celebrate our success with a group of friends.
We finally get to see the Capoeira, which is a Brazilian martial art we are fans of and that is the top event of our expedition. After the excitement of Carnival and a few days resting, we begin our training under the guide of one of the best athletes of the region of Bahia.
After 8 months we fly back to Warsaw, at the Frederic Chopin airport, with many memories, a world of experience that will stay with us forever and renewed energy for our next adventures.
Photos and texts: Lukasz Jastrzab