Ever seen what the inside of a LiveWire looks like?
Episode 9 – Colombia, Panama, & Costa Rica (45 minutes)
Every episode so far has covered only one country at a time. Episode 8 covers three. Why? Because they’re not spending much time in Colombia – it’s now about getting to Panama City as fast as possible to get Ewan’s LiveWire fixed. After a three hour wait at an airport due to fog, the crew splits up into two planes and they end up seeing each other in the air. This is the bigger of the two, which fits two pilots, Ewan and Charley, and three motorcycles. Interior shots suggests that there isn’t room for much else.
5,419 miles to LA!
It’s somewhat interesting to see the guys deal with logistical issues, but only up to a point. So my mind starts to wander about how Harley-Davidson’s marketing department feels about this show so far. They took a big risk letting Long Way Up ride two prototypes up through countries that have minimal electric infrastructure at points, and a component failure clearly would have been on their minds. Shame that it happened, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable considering the situation.
The plane lands and the first leg of their journey into Panama City is over. Next up is a two day boat trip, and the crew isn’t impressed when they see the boat they’ve been booked on (which doesn’t look like what they saw photos of when they made the arrangements). Charley just calls it a wreck, and another producer jokes that it’s not even seaworthy. It’s their home for the next two days.
This kind of thing is enjoyable in hindsight, but I’d be nervous as hell at the time. As Ewan puts it, “I think that they’re used to doing this with scooters, I don’t think that they’re used to doing it with Harley-Davidsons.” What doesn’t help is that the dockworkers have to rush because the tide is going out. Everything gets loaded with a couple of minutes to spare, but (quite fitting for this trip), the boat is having some battery issues and need to borrow a battery from another boat to get their main engine started up. Not an auspicious beginning to the next ~48 hours.
The boat’s a little odd, but the crew is fascinating. One gentleman is about to turn 85, and he’s been working at sea since he was a “young lad.” Halfway through the trip, they hop onto a smaller boat and break for a small community called Nuqui to get supplies. There are no roads into this coastal town, so it’s either boat or chopper.
On the boat, Ewan gets a call from Harley. They say that they’ve got the parts he needs, but it’ll be significantly quicker to have them delivered into Costa Rica and not Panama. We’re halfway through the episode and no one’s ridden a bike yet. It’s definitely a different episode than the usual, and a nice way to mix things up. Everything then gets loaded up on an Antonov cargo plane to Medellin, Colombia. The group then splits with Ewan flying separately to Panama City with all of the bikes, then hopefully driving to Costa Rica to get his bike fixed. Everyone else will go a different route, and Charley will ride his motorcycle to meet up with Ewan…hopefully. This narcotics dog has more seat time than Ewan and Charley do so far in this episode.
The only way that Ewan is able to fly across an international border on a dedicated cargo plane is to become a crew member…so that’s what happens. I wish they were allowed to show how that was arranged!
Ewan loads his bike on a pickup truck and drives to Costa Rica, while Charley checks out the Panama Canal. He speaks with the Chief Engineer, and she tells him that it’s 51 miles long, designed to accept 14 vessels in a day, it takes about 11 and a half hours to go through, and if a container ship is fully loaded it costs approximately $1.2 million to go through! New locks were built in 2016 to increase the capacity as it makes Panama so much money – cost of the expansion was $5.5 billion.
While we have a bit of a lull in the riding action, Ewan tells us a story about how one simple decision can change a life. He refers back to the original Long Way Round in 2004, when him and Charley were struggling in Mongolia and thought about bailing up to Russia. They decided to continue on and ended up at a government-run shelter for street children in Ulaanbaatar. Ewan connected with one of the children there so much that he ended up adopting her a couple of years later. To be frank, it made me miss the adventures of Long Way Round because the guys could really go to remote places instead of being tied to the main road and charging points like this trip. But it’s a sweet story, and not many people are aware that Ewan adopted Jamywan.
Meanwhile, Charley visits an 85 year old local of Chiquiri, Panama. His name Pachanga and he still rides! He’s a big Harley fan, which he attributes to an uncle who had a 1940s H-D. At one point he pulls out a beauty, fires it up, and tells Charley to wait and listen for the rhythmic idle, which he starts dancing to.
On to Episode 10!