This little experience cost me approximately $2000 USD all added up, so I hope you enjoy the read!
Upon returning back to Panama from Colombia, having travelled like a shmuk-tourist for the last 40 days on planes buses taxis, and other Colombian death traps that masquerade as public transport, retrieving my bike was at the top of my priority list! My lawyer in Panama city had organised me to meet up with the same “Fixer”, (Customs broker aka ‘professional thief’) that recommended getting the bike impounded at the Costa Rican border to “solve” the problem some 40 days ago.
So I fly off to the border early the next morning to get the action started before the border got too busy. Enthusiastically I arrived one hour ahead of schedule, and everything was quiet and ready to go. The fixer suggested the first thing to do is to get the bike. Now… considering that the reason why the bike was impounded in the first place was because I did not have the correct documentation…, suddenly retrieving the bike without documentation was not a problem??? As much I did’t understand this, the allure of repossessing precious NAKAR was too great to question the process and within minutes I was staring at a dusty BMW. I put the keys in for the moment of truth, after 40 days and 40 nights.
in a humid dusty shed….
NAKAR fired up straight away. Gotta love that bike!
So off we go to customs to get the all important permit we had paid a handsome ‘fee’ for 40 days ago. After 5 minutes tense negotiation with the official, my fixer turns around and delivers me a mouthful of country yokel Spanish at warp speed with a very surprised look on his face. I call my translator and put them on the phone together. It turns out, this “Fixer”, who is charging a small fortune for his expertise in ‘handling’ these matters, and whose livelihood is supposedly ‘handling’ these matters day in day out, is seemingly not fixing anything for me but extra problems! 40 days ago, this same guy said I could not possibly just cross the border into Costa Rica and come back into Panama to get a new permit, but that I HAVE to impound the bike and go off on my trip to Colombia without it! The same guy now says, Ohhh., I””m sorry, they say you have to cross into Costa Rica and come back in to get a new permit!!!! AND by the way, you have to wait on the side of the road for an hour before you can come back in€, because of some stupid new clock system set up by customs to stop people doing the very thing customs were now asking me to do!!!!. It is 35 degrees now and somewhere not far off 100% humidity and I am now stinking in my bike gear in the baking sun.
Once you come back in then we pay off another official another ‘fee’ and we can continue to process your paperwork! Now, keep in mind the bike has been sitting in Panamanian compound for the last 40 days, for another stinking fortune. AND NOT in COSTA RICA where there is no problem with the permit!
Anyway some 4 hours and a hefty sum of cash later I am legal in Panama, with my bike, and able to travel in and out with no problem. By the way in case you may be reading this thinking €œthe guy has been ripped off! Yep, you’re damn right, but at this point I have no other option!
It is late in the day now, and with the tinted visor on my helmet, (yes I thought I had left the clear one with the bike, but alas,) I think if I “fang it” I can get over the mountains before dark, I take off, exhilarated at the speed, power and thrill of being back on NAKAR, Not 20 minutes into the trip I a find myself trying to talk my way out of a traffic fine, with a non English speaking Military cop, who proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the Panamanian police department does not insist on any measurable level intelligence to join the force! God what a day!
Much later, I head into the mountains in the dark, “drafting” off other cars headlights the entire 5 hours back to Panama city.
So what did I learn from this little experience, Cross borders with Michel??? I did think for a minute that I should possibly learn to stay legal, but of course that is just silly talk. Instead, I will just keep practising Spanish and keep riding until I leave Panama and get back to Colombia!