We are in David, Panama, and if you have been following SPOT, you know that in the past five days we have been in five countries and crossed four international borders. Potholes in the road and border crossings have slowed our forward progress. The crossings have taken anywhere from two to four hours and take a big chunk out of the twelve hours of daylight that we have for traveling.
To enter each country we must import ourselves (immigracion) and our bikes (aduana); the reverse takes place when we depart. The immigration (passport) usually takes less than 30 minutes while the bike paperwork takes much longer. Jean and RuthAnn have been tasked with pursuing the paper chase while Ross and I look tough and guard the bikes. With paperwork in hand (passport, International Driver’s License, bike registration/title, and any other papers issued on entry) the ladies bounce from one office to another getting the proper forms filled out, photocopied, stamped, fees paid, etc. Eventually the VINs are checked, the bikes fumigated and we are on our way. There are usually two check points within a few kilometers to check papers or pay a road tax and then we are free to roam until we reach the next border.
At each border there are “helpers” who say they will expedite the process (for a fee), but we have only paid once (entering Honduras). Getting four bikes and riders through each border tests our patience, but it eventually is accomplished and we can continue on our way.
The money changers also haunt the borders, and we have used them several times as the banks at the border often will not deal in the local currencies!
At times it all seems like a bad dream full of petty bureaucrats not doing their jobs very well, but that is what it is and we must smile and be pleasant throughout the process. The countries in South America are much larger than those here in Central America so the crossings will not be as frequent; 7/8 down, six countries to go before reaching Ushuaia.