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Big Bertha and the horse

October 17, 2014

David - Boquete, Panama

...I packed up and left my room at the Wynn hotel in David. After filling up my gas tank, I headed north toward Boquete, then I would connect on a smaller road to Hwy 4, which would take me to a road along the Carribean side of Panama, on which I then would cross the border in to Costa Rica. I had it all mapped out on Googlemaps the night before, no big deal. About half an hour out of David, a traffic cop on a motorcycle stops me. He wants to see my temporary vehicle permit, which I obtained at the border and is required to operate my bike in any foreign country. He is very friendly, we chat a bit and he sends me on my way with a handshake.

Then, a right turn on to the smaller connector road. The road is paved at first, then turns in to gravel. No sweat, it's easy. I am happy that I am finally getting in to some dirt again. The last time I had ridden in dirt was back in Guatemala. So, I was due.

Nice road

Nice road

Just some what.

Just some what.

I have no clue, what is a ahead of me. But I soon will find out. The road is getting progressively worse. The road is getting smaller, and turns from gravel to soft with rocks. My bike is getting harder to control. There are a few older tire tracks, but they have water standing in them. I have to navigate around some heavier rocks. Then a river. Two larger pipes and heavy bolders had been used to create a bridge. Can I make that? I get off my bike to inspect conditions. It takes me a while to figure out how to best make that challenging obstacle. Turning around or riding through the water are no options. My heart is pounding, adrenaline high when I finally ride over these rocks and make it to the other side alive. Yeah!

Rocks over water

Rocks over water

Then two more rivers, which I ride through with ease. More mud, more rocks, wet grass. The road has now turned into a slippery path, only used by farmers with horses. Hwy 4 must be near!

Then it happens. A muddy section, with standing water and rocks across the path only leave me one choice. I have to ride straight through. But riding in a straight line quickly is impossible. Too many rocks make this mud pit very difficult to navigate through. If I hit one of them, it could bend my rim... and damage my bike severely. Not good.

So, I restart the engine, tip toeing my way in first gear in to the devils mouth and just as I am in the middle of this mess, I hit a rock. Bang!!! The front wheel is blocked, rear tire, now full of heavy mud that feels like clay, has no traction. The bike goes sideways. Big B. and myself fall to the right. Into water and sticky messy mud. Fuck!!!

Schoen Scheisse

Schoen Scheisse

After assessing the situation, I know, I have to take all luggage off, including panniers, if I even want to have the slightest chance of lifting the bike. It takes me a while. Man, I am sweating, I am thirsty, dirty and haven't breakfast, yet. Not a soul around.'s quiet here.

I have water in my water canister. Refreshing warm water. Not bad. Thank heaven!

I pile all my belongs ahead of me on a dry spot of road. I try to muscle the bike up, leaning with my back against it and pushing from my legs. But trying to supporting my feet is difficult. They keep slipping like I am ice skating. I have to get creative and build a solid foothold with rocks which prevents my feet from slipping from under me, when I push agains the heavy bike. Then, after several, many, exhausting attempts, I finally manage to bring the bike back up to it tires. I am really feeling dead now. Out of breath, my energy is fading.

I catch my breath, sit on Big B. and start the engine. Thick white smoke exists the exhaust. No wonder, the bike has laid in its side for quite a while now. Nothing to worry about. I have to get out of here. Clouds are moving in.

As I am trying to move forward, I can feel that the bike wants to make its own track. The way I am positioned, there is only one way out, and that is through more mud. I twist the throttle, not too much, just enough for the wheel to turn. Something smells burned.

And then episode number 2 happens. The rear wheels starts to dig itself in. Deeper and deeper. Shit! I don't need that! I had enough drama!

I get off the bike, take out my hand shovel (cool, finally get to use my shovel and my axe), get on all fours and start digging out mud from underneath the wheel, so the bike would still stand stable (couldn't lower the kickstand, not enough clearance) and I was able to squeeze a few rocks under the tire. I also let out some air to give it more surface.

Let's try again. Ha, no such luck. Muddy wheel would not connect with the rocks and move the bike just one inch forward. It digs itself in even deeper.

Don't give up yet, Axel! Gotta get this baby out.

After trying a few more times, digging, rocks, digging, rocks, I decide to walk back in the direction I had come from. I need a horse, tractor or space ship. Something, that can pull my bike free. So, I started walking. Water, documents, electronics in hand. Everything else, I leave behind.

After about 10 minutes, I see a farmer with his son herding cattle on the side of the road. In broken Spanish, I explain my situation. The boy has a horse, and he agrees to follow me back to my bike. Wow, I am relieved! I had seen myself already walking for miles without running in to anybody.

Gracias, amigos!

Gracias, amigos!

He tied one end of a strong rope around the front fork, the other around the saddle horn and very slowly, pulls the bike out of the mud. It feels like I am in a modern Western movie with Charles Bronson.

A challenging task, because the horse has to pull the bike out in somewhat of an angle, not straight ahead. But, it works out. Yeah, I am free again!!

My new amigo helps me loading up the bike, and escorts me to the paved road, which is just a few 100 meters ahead of me. This entire "adventure" has set me back about 3 hours. So what...

Dirty and tired, I decide to alter my route to Boquete instead of the Carribean and chill out for a couple of days in this mountain town, before continuing on with my original route.