Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Panama City

We left the farmers field at 7am and made it our goal to get close to Panama City by nightfall. It was a long, hot day on the Pan-American highway, broken up with a refreshing ride into the cooler mountains around El Valle which Alison’s Wanderland and the lovely Belgian family had recommended. Thank goodness. We needed it - it was unbelievably hot on the highway that day. Every time we took our jackets off, our shirts were just soaked and it seemed we couldn’t drink enough water to stay hydrated.

The ride to El Valle

We weren’t able to find anything on the way into Panama City (we were really hoping for a love hotel), so we wound up riding into the city just after dark and began our search for a place to stay in Casco Viejo (the Old Town). The way our route took us was shocking. The part of the city that we rode through looked like some post-apocalyptic movie set… water mains leaking everywhere, loose trash piled up on the sides of the streets, empty faces watching as we rode past. It was pretty horrid.

It's incredible how frequently you see a newly renovated building right next to a falling down one in Casco Viejo.

We eventually found a hotel with parking in Casco Viejo and crashed into a deep sleep.

The lovely street our hotel was on. Fortunately, there was secure bike parking #allthatmatters

His and hers beers

The next morning we made sure to be at the police inspection first thing to get the process of departing Panama and securing our passage on the ferry started. It took a while to find the station as there was no sign on the entry side of the building. So we probably passed it the first time at 8:30am and then after a series of retornos, asking police officers where to go (none actually knew) and referring to Google Maps, we eventually made it just before 9am.

The inspection was easy and the inspector was very good-natured. We were told to report at the DIJ office “across the highway” at 2pm to pick up the paperwork.

At 2pm, I sat with the other overlanders we’d met that morning at the inspection inside to get the paperwork while Roel sat outside with the bikes. (Yes, we know - NEVER trust the police in Central America!!) By 4pm everyone had their paperwork and we figured we had just enough time  to head across town and get to the Ferry Xpress office to pick up our tickets. Again, it took a bit of creative riding and figuring out retornos, etc, but we eventually found the office and got our tickets.

Crossing the canal

Kurt and Tinneke, the Belgians we’d met in Santa Catalina, had invited us to stay with them in Panama, so we headed to their home which was conveniently very close to the Canal so we could have a look at the Canal quickly. We spend a wonderful evening with them and their energetic, fun and brilliant kids, which gave us a taste of the family life we sometimes miss.

No comments:

Post a Comment