Rains in Panama, cooling down in mountains, rescuers from Argentina, skyscrapers in capital and the rescuers again
The Panamanian highway is great (at least the part after the boarder) – 4 lines and wide shoulder. Pure joy to bicycle! It starts to drizzle, the air is getting colder and the pedaling is even better. After five minutes it is like someone opens the tap and we can feel the shower on our heads. We are totally wet and there is no reason to hide. But the drops grow in size and with he wind they are like acupuncture needles on not covered body parts. Then the thunder and lightning starts and we can feel its proximity. We see a roof and hide. The thunderstorm sounds wildly around us and everywhere around are streams of water (but there is a hope for better future on the horizon :)).
We bicycle a little bit and we find shelter at the fireman station in David. Argentinian cyclists are already there. After a big dinner we are the only lazy ones who don’t build a tent.
We have just muesli and milk for breakfast while the guys cook coffee, mate, toast platanos, make tortillas, scrambled eggs and eat it with the rest of rice from yesterday – and we think we eat much :). Sebastian says he enjoys only two things on this journey: food and sleep and therefore he takes care of them (the bicycling part is just to fulfill the time while he doesn’t work). We say goodbyes and everybody goes other direction – we to the mountains and they continue on Panamericana. We’ll see, maybe we’ll meet sometime on the road again.
1000m altitude gain on 35km road is in front of us today. The climb is smooth and we don’t really feel it is so much and after 5 hours we eat ice-cream and drink coke on the square in Boquete. Many children in school uniforms and indigenous women in traditional dresses (very colorful and simple) are around us.
We ask in many hostel and finally choose one in which we’ll unexpected stay next 3 night (if it’s the 3 days of bike or the Corcovado hiking before, the rest is exactly what we need now).
Town Boquete is surrounded by mountains and the volcano Baru which makes a pleasant climate here. It’s green here, neat gardens are full of flowers different colors and other plants. Everywhere are coffee trees, nearby is a national park, waterfalls and viewpoint to both oceans (we didn’t see it because of our laziness). We mostly just relax in the hostel, cook and talk with neighbors.
I’m killing mosquitoes which bother our sleep with anti-bug spray in the night and unwillingly chase out also sleeping Jan who stares at me with one eye slightly open and doesn’t understand what is going on. “Dont’ touch me!”, and he goes back to the bed. Oops :D.
It’s time to move again. Downhill back to Panamericana is great – beautiful surrounding, almost no people around, hills, dam, meadows… pleasure to ride.
For night we crash under a public roof in the middle of a village and we talk a little with a local family. Next to us is a church and we can hear singing and drums – and it’s a woman voice – she is the priest :).
Next day welcomes us with rain and it rains-drizzles-rains the whole time. We try to hitchhike but the look on 2 wet creatures is probably more repellent than pitying and nobody stops. We give up at noon and we stop at a petrol station with the hope to find somebody there. We ask bigger cars, but everybody goes other direction.
And then we see a big RV coming and we go to talk with them, make good impression to give us a ride. There are two older men in the car and because they have license plate from USA, we start in English. But they are from Argentina and (un)fortunately they talk just their shushlish Spanish. They travel with their wives – Jose and Carmen, Juan and Cristina. All of them are in 60ties, but with young souls. They bought the RV in USA and now they are taking it home. They traveled much more in Europe than we did and they have many interesting stories and adventures…
After 10minutes talk I just BTW mention that the weather is really bad and nobody wants to stop and take us.. and it works. They are thinking where is possible to put the bikes :). Soon all our bags are in the luggage room, the bikes on the roof and we are in dry clothes with hot mate tea in our hands enjoying the ride inside of the big vehicle.
Everything is here – kitchen, living room, dining table, toilet, shower and bedroom. It’s possible to put out the side of it and the room becomes really rich. Above the cabin is big double bed and the couch and table can be adjusted so 8 people can sleep here (we will see if there will be also a room for us today…).
We sleep at a parking lot of a shopping mall 70km before Panama city – of course inside (because we remind them their children who travel a lot also, they feel they need to take care about us – and we don’t resist :)).
The next day we visit the canal and from the observatory we watch the equalizing of water in the locks when 3 small boats go through. We say goodbyes to our new Argentinian family in the city – maybe they’ll give us a ride also later.
First half an hour of riding the fully loaded bikes in the center full of cars is really stressful but fortunately we continue on a bike path going to the hostel.
Panama is a mix of a American metropolis full of skyscrapers, historical part like Havana with collapsing colonial buildings and lots of Chinese cheap goods on the streets.
We meet an interesting couple from Argentina at the hostel and because of the training in the past days, we understand them quite well. We walk the streets, meet another Slovak Daniel and visit marinas and anchorages with the hope to find some boat to take us to Colombia.
It’s Monday and we try to contact Carmen and Jose if they can give us a ride to Colon … mail, sms, but without answer. We’ll need to pedal. It takes 2 hours to get out from the jungle of this bike-unfriendly city. There are 3 roads to the Caribbean side – 2 highways and one side road along the canal. We choose that one with hope that there will be just few cars. But the true is that we couldn’t choose worse – no shoulder and heavy traffic… and also the sky in front of us is getting dark and we know that the shower will come. We stop at a crossroad to check our position with GPS.
Suddenly I hear somebody calling my name – hallucinations or a desire for a ride?! :D It repeats and I see Carmen running towards us waving with hands. We don’t believe our eyes – our adoptive Argentinian parents! She apologize that she sent us 5 messages, but they were not delivered. Totally happy we put the bikes up and in 5 minutes we are inside the car and a heavy rain starts outside.
We didn’t know where are the others, when who will go and they passed us on the road without shoulder on a place where was possible to park the caravan next to the road … we are lucky! :) I’m wearing a big smile and if it is just a coinsidence, destiny, guardina anjels, god’s will … thanks!!!
And also – they found a boat which will take their car to Colombia. In their case it is a little more difficult because the car is too big to fit to the container. Disadvantage is that passengers cannot go with the car (bicycles yes:)) and so we are googling possibilities for a fast and cheap transport to Southamerica. It’s needed to use all the food from the fridge and Carmen prepares perfect food full of meat and vegetables.
Early in the morning we are in harbor to do all the paper work and 5 hours later, destroyed we get in the local bus direction Puerto Lindo to find some boat to take us at least to the boarder.
We got the tip for a hostel Wunderbar and we are going to stay there for the night. It’s owned by very unsympathetic Germans and they offer a ride on a sailboat to Cartagena with stop on San Blas islands (considered a “must see” in Panama) for 350 dollars – too expensive for us. We still have more options: go by local speed boats, but we would need to get back to Panama city, take a 4×4 car to Carti, then 6 hours with the boat to Puerto Obaldia, from there by other boat to Capurgana, then another one to Turbo and then by 2 buses to Cartagena – price 200USD, time 3 days. Second: a local flight from Panama city to Puerto Obaldia and then the rest as mentioned before – price 200USD, time: 2 days. Third: flight Panama-Cartagena – price 350USD, time 1 hour. Fourth: find some boat with captain who will take us at least to Puerto Obaldia and fifth: find some sailboat which will take us to Cartagena cheaper.
We try luck in the local restaurant but there are just couple of fishermen. Argentinias decided to go with the sailboat. We meet their captain and Carmen advocates for us that we don’t have much money, our bicycles are in their RV and it’s a honeymoon… He asks how much we can pay and that he will let us know the next day.
We will see if we’ll be lucky also in this case and how we’ll get to Colombia…