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Just got done with a ride to Yaviza, first time ever. Eight years ago I Quit after seeing what kind of dusty rough potholed,rocky gravel road stretched beyond the Rio Bayano bridge. A short while ago I heard that the long planned improvements were being executed so that started my route planning while I was already in Honduras.
Sure enough. From the Bayano bridge a brand new ribbon of asphalt now stretches into the jungles through the roadcut which has been there for decades. I left Panama City at 11 am and was in Yaviza befor e 6PM.
The road is still being worked on and has a number of short gravel stretches still and a few pieces of poor grade asphalt put down in 2005 which is now blowing up. All the gravel bits are well graded and brought up to level ready for asphalt coating.The gravel bits are no worse than any rural road in Canada.After Bayano there is a regular spacing of villages with food lodging and gasoline stations- nothing like the primitive region I was sort of led to expect from other´s travel tales.
No doubt the hardcore dirt riders or masochists will decry this as another great ride gone and wilderness despoiled. But really, the road has been there for decades and the countryside was turned into ranches, teak tree plantations and farms long ago.The gravel road only added to the cost and time of moving products and people in and out. Okay now the road riding bike tourists can have a great ride too. And it is quite the scenic road at times when passing some of the tall tree groups ( which must not be of commercial value or else they would have been chopped down ages ago)
There are a number of police check points along the highway and regular patrols on bikes and in pickups. On arriving in Yaviza you should check in and register at the police station and they will keep an eye out for you. Good folks.
Only 2 hotels with very cramped inside parking in Yaviza . If that is not appealing stop in Meteti for the night ,feul up and then do Yaviza on a very easy day trip. Park the bike at the police HQ and walk around the primitive looking jungle river town. Yaviza has several small restaurants, only barrel gas available at the river conoe docks .A tire repair/welding shop at the entry to town at the water tower can fix a flat -personal experience here from picking up a nail in my back tire just 8km before town. .
It is something else and very interesting, you will always remember your visit to Yaviza
From your posting it sounds like you are living in Panama. If so, send me a message and let's get together and do some riding. I just got back from riding my KLR from here (flew to Bogota) to Ushuaia, but I'm ready to go again!
No Steve , I don´t live in Panama. I spent a week wandering around and exploring the corners of this lovely warm country.Tonight in David will be the last one and tomorrow I´ll be riding up to Volcan and taking the small border crossing that leads to San Vito Costa Rica.
Since I´m here now I might give a small summary of some roads I explored besides the Panam to Yavisa.
The Transistmica Highway Cd . Panama to Colon is getting really busted up in the midsection 50km , many big potholes and cracked slab concrete- lack of maintenance because they are using the funds to build the extension of the Autopista .Traffic there is bedlam during rush hour, small buses and cars dodging up the right shoulder going south , sometimes 3 wide, some cars dodging it on the opposite shoulder too- And it is only a two lane road ! This gets pretty exciting if the sun is setting ! Luckily I reached the gates of the wonderful El Camping Resort Hotel just when such was urgently needed. Great Place at ¨Mile 19 ¨ at Chilibre. The north half is pretty good , newer pavement with some passing lanes.
From Chilibre it is a great bit of road west to the canal thru the Soberania National Park. Stop to enjoy the views of the immense forest trees , see some blue morpho butterflies flitting about, listen and watch the birds, take a hike- this bit could be a vacation of itself while staying at that nearby Resort Hotel which is very economical to boot.This route called Madden Road delivers you right to the foot of the new CentenarioBridge over the canal and with any luck you will see a big ship passing into the Culebra cut of the canal. A few km south is the the last of the 3 Miraflores locks with a good view of the lockand the new bridge.
Use this new bridge and the Autopista it carries to avoid Panama City completely if going west , and you can then also bypass all the string of cities past La Chorrera. The Panam wewst is then all fourlane to Santiago. Santiago to David is good wide two lane with paved shoulders.
From Los Olmos west to San Fransico was a very good ride, paved rad, thru dry hill ranch country. From San francisco it is 40 km north tSanta Fe in much higher hill country on south side of the mountains which keep the wet Caribbean air out :Another great little vacation destination, not as warm as the south plains and a lot drier than the north coast. Many little paved and gravel roads to explore and very steep inclines!Totally different.
The coast highway east from the Transistmica to Portobello is a wonderful little ride thru green coastal forest and some farms, then some bits of gravel before ending at the port for crossing to Isla Grande.
West of the Gatun Locks the lakeside ride is thru mostly jungle first then higher ranchland. Pavement ends after 30 km or so then good gravl road to end at village of Cuipo- no tourist service at all on this road , but a nice ride. The road exists mainly because it serves in parts as a dike for Gatun Lake and the Canal people need it for access .
About 15 km southwest of the Gatun Locks thereis a turnoff to Pinos whch turned out to be a wonderful ride thru a continuation of the coast jungle and some vallies with old rarms .
The highway from Bocas del Toro region across the mountains south to Gualaca and the Panamerican Highway has suffered horibly during the last few rainy seasons . Huge sections were washed out, bridges too, and many landslides in the section climbig from the north to the Continental Divide. These have all been made passable and the ride was not difficult, again just a gravel road at times, no big obstacle. Tour buses are stopping at some of the narrow bits of cave-ins and making passengers walk across, then get back aboard. This in case the road might collapse while a bus was on it- fewer casualties and lawsuits.
A bit of advice on the Rio Sereno / San Vito crossing: There is no Costa Rican insurance available at Rio Sereno, although it is required. This can cause a problem. We had six bike to cross and they (CR customs) made five of us wait in Rio Sereno while the sixth went to San Vito to get insurance.
As I said earlier, I think, Yaviza is at the end of the road . And that is END, no mas caretera !
No problem about CR insurance here Steve, I bought that on the first run down and it is still valid. Actually somehow on that pass I managed to get in without doing the temp. import thing even though I got shunted around in proper sequence between al the correct wickets of migracion and aduana and they all signed off on my slips and sent me on my way . Then as I was leaving at Sixaola the aduana guy noticed the bike was not ïmported yet! He phoned the entry border an nope, not done. But he said, bah, not a problem. The bike technically has not been in CR , so on the way back just get it imported. So I´ll se how that goes in the morning. You see , with all the time and distractions en route via Volcan and all the neat roads and scenery there up in the hills I did not make the border before 5pm closing. So I called it a day, took a room in the hospedaje and will set off in the morning. It is nice when one does not have a travel time schedule.
Indeed I did go all the way to the end of the road. Yaviza is situated in the horseshoe bend of a river and the Panam highway runs right into the town where it becomes a narrow one-kilometer loop of concrete , the main street of the town. There is where all the shops and 2 hotels and restaurants can be found. There are also a number of other dirt streets to north of the town center .There is a suspended footbridge across the river to some more concrete walks and dirt paths but NO MORE ROAD. Thats it, Finito. Het einde.
If anybody wants to travel farther they will have to talk to the army for permission and be ready to hike or take a boat. But you can NOT ride or drive to Colombia even if it is only 50km away.( on maps they do show a mine or two far away but that is not for travel, maybe they fly or float their supplies in.)
Now as to my crossing from Panama into Costa Rica which I mentioned last time -- it was a breeze. The Panama customs stamped my passport out in about 3 minutes and 100m away the Costa Rican border post was equally as fast. I don`t know why the CR border guy at Sixaola said I did not have the import permit - I did too have it, a big one page printout. Maybe he was new on the job. Every border crossing in CA should be this simple and fast. And not one single ``helper`` pestering me and the only othe r traveler there at that hour.
A note on open hourst 8am to 5 pm PANAMA TIME ( Eastern)
Costa Rica time is one hour later (Central) so don`t get caught by this. Also shorter hours on certain spacial days.
If you do find it closed , no big deal ,In Panama Rio Sereno has two hotels and in CR the first little town 8km from the border ,gravel road, has several hotels.
Now as I add this a day later I get the picture of why the Sixaola aduana said my bike was not imported. I did indeed get a full page document with stamps and signatures stating all the particulars of temp import. When I asked multiple times if that was what I needed and if I was done with the formalities at entry point they repeatedly answered ....yes, all finished ,go away. . What they neglected was to tell me to go 100m south to another aduana building and get that document stamped yet again and pay the import fee.Having crossed this same border point multiple times before I should probably have remembered that but hey,I assumed they all knew their jobs and I was glad to sort of find that the process had been simplified a bit. So today when crossing the same border back to Nica it is of course a total mess as there are looooong lineups from multiple busloads as the locals are all off work for some superstition week and heading to the beaches. The actual processing only took a few minutes....once I got done waiting an hour and more in the lineups.This time the guy who issued the import permit in the first place initialed the pages as ''non pagado'' and sent me to the missed office. There the guy just took the papers and said '' listo'', did not make any hassel, no payments no fines. So, I saved a few bucks on not importing the BMW and it is quite clear that all the import rigamarole is totally pointless. A big load of beurocratic BS and job creation for deskjockies.
I was going to post some information on Yaviza myself but Sjoerd has beaten me to it. Sjoerd gives a great discription; the road is mostly beautiful tarma and for me reaching Yaviza was a bigger milestone than getting to the Panama Canal. From the town you can walk onto a foot bridge and look at the jungle beyond Yaviza and know that you are staring at the Darien Gap.
Yaviza is a friendly town and worth riding down and resting the night before returning to Panama City.
I took some video shots of the town if you can forgive my self promotion:
Since my trip I finally learned how to post pictures so here are some scenes of Yaviza
(more to come, time's up right now)
Yaviza , north end as the Panamerican Highway entrs town.
The PanamanianArmy is the police force which looks after public security in the Darien. Here two soldiers are giving me,on the bike, a guided tour of the Yaviza main street loop and they pointed out the two hotels and waited as I assessed each for suitability.
Hotel Yadarien , the best hotel in Yaviza with an enclosed verandah just wide enough to park a motorcycle
The footbridge across the river in Yaviza, at left is the suburb and the FDarien Gap,at right is Yaviza.Note the real dugout canoe with a load of plantains and a flat stern for outboard motor.
The docks area in front of the restaurant ,where all the river freight gets moved to and from trucks
Breakfast in Yaviza in restaurant at the docks- fried plantains, fried sausage and coffe and a bottle of cold water. Very tasty, very Panama, narly all nutritional requirements.
The docks of Yaviza, seen from opposite side of the river bridge. Everybody who lives on the river has a boat tied up at the house.
The river docks on the Rio Tuira in Yaviza. This is the center of all traffic on th river into the Darien gap and to the coast.These boats are of typical wood construction but very modern adaptation if you see the flat stern to hold outboard motor.The small farmers upstream bring down loads of plantains, the green cooking bananas and transfer them to the buyer's trucks at the dock.Also they buy their suplies in town- notice the flats of eggs behind the lady.
The bridge across the Tuira river from downtown Yavuza .The "Gap" is on the other side, actually a suburb of Yaviza and foot trails to other jungle villages.
You could probably hitch a ride on some of the river boats to some of those villages , but do clear your plan with the folks at the army post and they may have some recommendations ..
The main street as you come in from Panama city.This is as wide as it gets
More dugout canoes below the foot bridge.Water level is low here but check all the notches higher up for hitching boats during wet season..
And this is the modern plastic,foam-filled outboard motor launch which could be more able to take the bulk of a bike for those desperate to really stuggle their way upstream into Colombia. Just make sure you know what you are getting into and check with the army post for permission and clearance and so they know where to start sending search parties.
A family group? hunting party? on the river beside the Panam CA 1 north of Yaviza
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