Panama

by lwsaville

From Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica Logan and I made our way down to the Osa Peninsula. It is a comparatively wild part of the world and a biodiversity hotspot. Before we had thought of trying to make out the perimeter of the peninsula on bike but the chance got dimmer the further we looked into it. Stopping for lunch at the turnoff we pondered exploring just the one side but decided against it and pushed on towards the border of Panama. Unfortunately choices have to be made. I’d like to go back to Costa Rica one day if I ever have a lot of money that needs spending.

The next day we hit the border and prepared ourselves mentally for one of the supposed low points on the panamerican route, panama being an isthmus and forcing us to ride principally on the busy, hot, flat, fast, relatively dull panamericana highway. Over-all I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Panama. We were able to camp a bit on some beaches and the price break starting at the border was an immediate release. The side trip off to Soná was quite pretty and gave us a few day break from the monotony. Panama City feels enormous in it’s filth and character. A visit to the Panama Canal was in order and after that I set my sights on finding a boat to cross for the next big frontier in my head, Colombia and South America. At this juncture Logan and I had to say our goodbyes as he was heading back to the states. Check out his blog: http://www.pedalingnowhere.com (see a bit of me recently and other cool stuff he’s done as well as what he’ll be up to in the future).

The mysterious spheres of an ancient culture. I figured I had seen one before but we made it to where they keep the motherload, this being the largest. They're scattered around a public park.

The mysterious spheres of an ancient culture. I figured I had seen one before but we made it to where they keep the mother lode, this being the largest. They’re scattered around a public park.

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Logan and I got to the edge of David and before we could navigate to some housing it began to rain. We hid out under a gas station roof for a bit and thinking it was raining light enough to continue started off. It then poured and the addition of what seemed a million shabby drivers in taxis drove us under the roof again.

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Girl on he roadside selling Guaba. 2 or 1 for 25 cents depending on size.

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Logan forging ahead on the original bridge. Out of sight to the right they’re building a wider one.

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Picturesque grazing

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They prize their livestock in Panama. We cycled past many cattle auctioning houses on the way. I just want to know where that shoulder hump came from.

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Painted taverns with a good dose of character.

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Our first encounter with Hojaldres (puff pastry) for breakfast. Less than healthy but very tasty.

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Corn dough for making empanadas and a special thick and small fried tortilla that I can’t remember the name of. Love the kitchen implement.

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Dough balls ready for shaping.

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We experienced a refreshing morning of fog on the last little bit into Soná.

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Sun starting to cut through.

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After buying the green bandana and using it well in Costa Rica to help me keep my sweat off the handlebars (hand to hand passing required), I scored a second in a happy shade of yellow in one of the many Chinese run shops along the road. Adding color and grip to my trial of the butterfly/trekking handlebars I got from Virginia.

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I could feel the gravity of Panama City as we got closer. Added into the mix were a string of flats: one here for Logan and two for me (the same day of arrival to the city).

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Draped over my handlebars sweating under the shade of a bridge and wondering whether it was too early to stop at a shop for a coke, a man took the decision out of my hands by offering it through his car window. How magical.

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Sunrise at our beach camp.

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I ran into a few biologically interesting bananas…. one peel, two bananas. In evidence is the general difficulty a bicycle tourer has in trying to transport the fruit. It’s something I’ve not come up with a solution for.

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Graffiti on a shut up warehouse.

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One of our first sights in Panama City.

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Pigeons roosting among the signs on a commercial walking street.

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The edge of the prettier parts of Casco Viejo.

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Always a church.

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Kids hanging out on a balcony

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More good graffiti on the edge of an urban football pitch. Almost abandoned while we were there a woman setting up to sell food says the place fills up and they play football all afternoon.

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The newer developed Panama’s skyline.

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Fish market man selling his wares.

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Cocktails and ceviche are popular. Left is shrimp ceviche and right is lobster cocktail.

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The large gates of the locks at Miraflores showing the elevation difference between the chambers. Originally a French endeavor marred with many deaths the US took over the construction. Conveniently the people of the isthmus had a revolution (hmmm…) and broke off of Colombia what is now the country of Panama. Further away from where the camera is pointed they are in the process of building wider locks to accommodate and upgrade (projected finish in 2014). On a side note Nicaragua and some Chinese interests are trying to revive the idea of  building a canal over there.

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An unbelievably large cruise ship happened to be passing while Logan and I were visiting the locks.

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The people of the lock observation deck looking out at the spectacle.

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And the spectacle looking back. (both spectacles)

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A slightly dejected Logan with his things packed for the US.

Points:

-The decision to ditch the Osa Peninsula plans.

-The price break crossing the border from Costa Rica.

-Magical delivery of Coca-Cola.

-Chinese run shops.

-Respite from the Pan-American dipping down to Soná.

-Panama City: Big-feel dirty city with character.

-Really excellent in-the-street marching band practice in Panama City.

-Sad departure of Logan.

-Boat plans and the promise of Colombia.