Panama

Day 1701 Friday 12th June

In Panama we took a cab to our pre booked room. On arrival we were given a room key, so we headed up three flights of steps only to find it was taken! Fellow guests gear all over the bed and floor. Nervous that could be our room we only stayed one night in the place, in a dive with so much air con that we could not turn off, we shivered the night away with window open to try to get some warm air in! The area was so rough our container buddies abandoned us for hundred dollar a night posh camp hotel.

Day 1702 Saturday 13th June

Walking out of Red Room awful hostel we headed to the old quarters where it was backpacker heaven, cheap safe rooms with a balcony one could watch the sky light up from and still be safe from the vertical rain that fell for hours at night.

Day 1703 Sunday 14th June

Taking a cab from a semi tourist area the guy asked us for fifteen bucks to the Miraflores locks. I looked surprised and said how “about five”? He looked surprised and asked for eight, so we sat in and were whisked through what would have been a horrible walk to marvel at what must be at one of the most driest yet most tasty empanadas we have had to date. Filled with spinach and tangy cream cheese it was a delight, even at three bucks.

The Panama Canal locks on the Atlantic ocean was also worth the ride for, very sedate and relaxed, the enormous ships with towering containers filled with God knows what from wherever cruised by, along side oil and gas tankers, silently passing through this marvel of man’s determination to over come what ever nature puts in his path. The museum I read about and thought expensive was well worth the fifteen bucks. To witness this was amazing.

A swift three hours later we looked for a ride back to town, the cabbie asked for fifteen and looked really surprised when we said no thanks and we wandered off. Two km down the road another cabbie said “you folks wanna ride to town for five bucks, I’m empty and headin’ that way”, so we leapt in and headed that way with. We said how much we had just been asked for, he told us that was the tourist price, eight was Panamanian price. “No white folks walk to the canal, it’s too far and too damn dangerous”. In town we thanked him and gave him ten for being such a nice honest guy.

Day 1704 Monday 15th June

Enjoying a pleasant day walking the poor run down area, streets filled with fruit and veg stalls, stalls selling all day one dollar dinner menu of mashed spuds, rice, spicy beans and abstract meat products soaked in rich gravy, served in plastic a bowel with cheap bendy forks, (yummy). Fish markets just off the seaboard selling grilled prawns the size of lobsters and chunks of grilled fish. I love being a lowly peasant eating street food!!

Day 1705 Tuesday 16th June

Not so great was being woke at three am to the sound of English females singing ‘I will survive’ at the top of their voices. Gave up at four thirty made coffee and ate the rest of last nights pasta.

Five thirty at hostel of our Argentinian friends, they were a bit of a late show, taxi was even later, by six ten were were heading north to the city port of Colon, which some uncouth folks call the poop hole of the world…

We arrived at the insurance office at opening time seven forty five prompt, as our shipping agent advised, however they had no rush on their day and let us in twenty minutes later. That should have been an indication of how long our day was going to be… We left there with required third party cover two hours later. Our taxi driver was a great asset, we reckon our buddies had hired him for the day, thank God they did as the customs office and container port were close together but still two km! Would have been hell of a walk back and forth three times. Collecting a stamp from one then back and another stamp from them and back again! By the time we left the port with bikes all cleared a mere seven hours of our lives had passed. Very much like in Alexandria in Egypt years back, though there they were making our driving licenses!

So at just gone five pm we had one and half hours of daylight left to get to our backpackers in Arenosa, one hundred and thirty km distant. Could be done. After a hot day then putting on bike gear was not that pleasant, soon we had cleared the city traffic and the speed of the highway cooled us and it felt great to be riding again after six days of no bike. This utopia was soon interrupted by our new two lane highway, (two and a half bucks every twenty ka’s) being closed to single lane due to road repairs then a peaje. We said our fair wells to our container buddies and cabbie, then started the dodgy process of weaving through the traffic to beat the last of the days heat, the failing light and our dwindling energy. Diane managed to navigate our way via a huge road bridge over the canal, the most direct route to our hostel. We still had to ride for an hour in the dark though, not to bad as by now we were off the highway and on a tiny back lane. As we rode steadily through the dark I though huge moths were flying past our heads, later I learned they were bats. As the air was full of insects it made sense. Off and on it tried to rain, but thankfully nothing came of it. In the village we felt cheated as we failed to find the place, the GPS co-ordinates were forty km away and not one of the locals had any clue as to where our bed was situated, the name we had been given meant nothing. Thankfully we had the ‘foresight’ to by a dozen beers and a bag of potato chips for supper. In a nice grassy spot we set up camp by flash light and slept till the rooster crowed. Ten thirty pm finish after a three am start, hell of a day!

Day 1706 Wednesday 17th June

At day break I went walkabout to find water, not long before I had ten litres and was making tea and hot oats for brekkie. Both of us felt totally drained by the previous day, we agreed in mono syllables that two hours would be spent trying to find the hostel, then we would move on, north and west.

Once again we asked at doors, the third said they knew the names of the guys at the hostel, and a neighbour had worked for one of them, and he knew the whereabouts of the hostel.

Enter slim Jamaican Butch a guy that could show us the house, which boosted my faith in humanity and fellow man generally, by being nice to a stranger in need. We took off the spare fuel can from my pillion and we went to find the place. I did not trust we could follow his directions. There are no postal address in Panama so mail and direction are given as ‘big mango tree by pink gates etc. After finding the house and meeting the resident caretaker I took Butch back and thanked him greatly. My faith in human nature was to be dented somewhat by his request to be paid for his services! How naive am I? I asked how much, “he said make an offer”, “five bucks” said I, “give me the ten bucks” said he. We would never have found the hostel so I guess that was ok……..

Spending the rest of the day washing and cleaning our room free from wildlife, drinking still nasty beer and getting to know our new buddy whom was soon to depart back to north America.

Day 1707 Thursday 18th June

One of the morning tasks was to clean the dogs water bowel out. As we discovered it was a bathing place and toilet for the resident cane toad that we found, living behind an old broken chest freezer that was used as a biscuit safe for dog food. So that night we put the food away to take away the lure of easy chow, although there was little we could do to stop the birds eating it. The dogs did not mind so neither did we.

Day 1708 Friday 19th June

Woke to find el toad sat in one of the empty feed bowel looking really ugly at me as if to say, well were IS the food? I felt like pushing him off the one metre balcony but thought better of it, even though he was one mean horny looking son of a toad. We had read that they could spray nasty poison up to a couple of meters if provoked so I left him lone and fed the dogs further away

Day 1718 Monday 29th June

Spent the day drinking beer and soaking up the visions of the guy that is kind of running the place. He has big plans for the house and grounds which he does not own but seams to have rule over. I reckon the money to invest will be his, so he refused our offer to stay for half a year and continue to turn the grounds from over grown wilderness to kempt lawns and flower beds, weed and leaf free paths. We asked for beer and a salary of two hundred bucks a week for the two of us. Understandably as there is no money coming in yet he is reluctant to pay out. So we said we would stay out our agreed time then move on, if any other folks wanted to come out and we were not required we could move on. The night times were taken up with watching the bats swoop across the stoap hunting for the many victims that pestered our evenings, and listening to avocados and mango hitting the ground, while a big fat moon crossed sky.

 

Day 1722 Friday 3rd July

Starting to suffer from cabin fever we took a fifty km ride out to La Chorrera to shop for some cheap chicken meat for the dogs. I have never seen dogs look so uninterested when their bowel we filled with dry food, they even lay down to eat they were that board of it. We bought some food for us and tried to send our parcel of souvenirs back to the UK. The guy in a UPS type of mail shop was very helpful and said it would take four days and his best price was four hundred and twenty five dollars. After a few seconds hard thinking that we working in Chilean Pesos I looked wide eyed and weakly said, “could it go by surface mail?” Alas not so said box came home again. Riding back I wondered how many countries it is going to accompany us for, strapped to my bike giving me another three and a half kg to carry, well the bike anyhow.

Arriving back elated after being out for three hours we were besieged at the gate by four ridiculously happy hounds. Who later were going to be even more ecstatic with meat and fatty water to add to the dry stuff. Made it well worth the cost to see them so happy at supper time.

Day 1730 Saturday 11th July

Our thoughts for the three resident dogs and red dog (free loader) being fed with chicken and fatty water on their biscuits when we were long gone were fading fast when the replacement arrived. She showed all the signs of not buy chicken meat for our four hounds to enjoy as they had done for our stay. All we can do is give them their last meal and ride out.

She cooked up some meat at lunch time and I asked if that was for the dogs, I got a look like I had slapped her in the face, and said “no”! Poor hounds…

Well we spent the day packing and keeping in touch with the UK. Looking forward to riding out in the morning come rain or shine.

We greatly enjoyed our time in Arenosa, resurrecting the front and rear gardens, but sadly no time to attack the old vegetable grounds of banana plantation. The dog were fun, always at our heels when we went walking and red dog looking wild eyed at us and chasing in and out of folks gardens, ignoring the resident dogs, I think he owned to village! I hope subsequent visitors keep up our good work!!

Day 1731 Sunday 12th July

Well temped fate there, it was rain! However by eight it had slowed and we continued to pack and make a dash for it. Red dog was absent at breakfast time and the three girls looked very mournful, one came and lay under the bed, another lay in the shower tray (!??) As I loaded my bike I found red dog lay in front of the wheels, with normally erect ears as big as banana leaves lying flaccid, his chin on the ground and ears almost joining it on the concrete. Oh bugger they really know when folks pack its shift change again, and probably no more chicken. Well as we fired up the bike the three girls say sit by side and watched, red dog trotted off, very independent dog, does not like long fair wells. As we rode the three ran the fence line to the ranch fence and watched us get smaller, never saw red dog again. (Fat tear).

Joining the highway and riding out was a mixture of elation tinged with sadness at leaving the dogs, but we can’t stay forever, or take them with.

Our old companion the Pan Americana wound through pleasant looking village selling the usual lovely looking fruit and veg from home made stalls, behind these the steeply rising hills of pale red dirt and bright green grass, bushes and trees. Such lush vegetation though pretty to behold meant one thing to me, rain. We were in the wet after all. Finding a camp ground on the ocean was not really our ideal as we wanted to free camp. However we did want to see the water again. A cabin was only a few more bucks and with a dark sky and rumbling, we left our tired tent in its bag. Barely parked it started to rain, not the heavy short, but soaking tropical rain we had on the way, but steady English rain with thunder and good lightning thrown in. Poor bikes, the shelter had not a water proof roof and they got a soaking.

Cooking our dinner with a chilli from our last camp filled the room with hectic acidic smells that were good, however burnt my nose and throat even though I was in the shower! Dinner was a heated affair to say the least.

Writing this listening to the steady falling of water and distant constant rumbling made a change from the chopper like noise from the fans in our Arenosa room. Hope its dry for the morning……

Day 1732 Monday 13th July

Being woke at day break by the sound of the ocean was not unpleasant, though earlier than I would have liked. We had tea and hot oats as often, packed and rode out under a heavy sky and light hearts.

A few hours saw us at the border and out of Panama in less than forty minutes, considering it took seven hours to get in this was a huge tick in our book. Getting into Costa Rica? One and a half hours, riding out into more lush green paradise.