- Puerto Obaldia
As soon as the
immigration office opened we were there and, after a long wait,
we eventually got stamped into Panama. Puerto Obaldia is a
small military post and there is very little to do. We soon met
Simon, from Italy, who is travelling by 50cc motorbike from
Ushuaia to Alaska (he has already set a new record for distance
on a 50cc). He had been stuck there for a couple of days
looking for a boat. There was a small wooden cargo boat (the
Rey Emmanuel) anchored in the bay, and eventually we found the
captain drinking in the local cantina. It was time for us to
negotiate as we didn’t have enough money left for the trip. Captain Martsialle offered us a fair price ($80 each), which we
could pay at the end (we understood there was an ATM about 50 km
from where the boat would take us). We were not allowed to cook
on the boat which was going to be a bit of a problem, so we
decided to buy tinned food, as well as stuff that we hoped to be
able to cook whenever the boat docked along the way.
Off we went to the
shop in search of food for the trip. There was a rather limited
supply of tinned stuff in the tiny shop, but we bought a few
things and hoped that we would moor somewhere where we could
find more food. The trip was going to take between 3 and 6 days
and would only take us to Miramar, a small village up the coast
where the road starts.
As the boat was
anchored in the bay, we had to find a lancha to row us
out to the boat the following morning. According to the
captain, the boat would sail at 9 a.m, so we arranged for the
lancha to ferry us there at 6.30.
The following morning
early we were at the jetty, but were told that the captain was
NOT leaving that day. We continued sitting around, laughing at
the madness of it all. Nine o´clock came and went, and still we
were sitting, hoping that something would crop up. Then, in a
sudden rush of urgency, the captain appeared and told us he was
leaving. We quickly got the two bikes, motorbike, bags and
ourselves onto a lancha and paddled out to the boat. Besides the crew, also on the boat were Ernest and myself,
Simon, Matthias form Uruguay, a Colombian guy and a lady from
Colombia on her way to visit family in Miramar. There wasn’t
much space on the boat for passengers, and the crew weren’t
particularly friendly towards us.
Finally we set off. The boat was small and unstable, and she rocked and she rolled
over the big swells – we had to hang on, tooth and nail, in
order not to be flung overboard. There was little else to do
but find a spot to wedge yourself into, and lie down. There was
no chance of walking around, and due to the noise from the
diesel engine, it was not even possible to have a conversation.
After about three
hours of sailing, we spotted the first of the San Blas islands.
366 islands in total, and once we were amongst the islands, the
sailing was much smoother. It was still not possible to walk
about or chat. We stopped at two island villages to pick up
empty gas cylinders and to empty crates of cool drink bottles. The captain must have relented on meals as we were given lunch
(rice with chicken wings and feet). By 4 p.m. we reached yet
another little island village, where we moored for the night.
Soon we were given supper, consisting of cooked bananas, cassava
and salted pork, or rather, just pork fat.
There were three
other boats moored along the small jetty, and it seemed that
everyone knew one another. Soon it was dark and we all settled
in, crew in hammocks and passengers on the hard wooden slats of
the boat deck.
Our first morning
arrived and we pulled out of the little harbour at around 6 a.m.
Again we stopped at a small island village, picked up the
necessary goods and were given a breakfast of boiled banana and
chicken. We were pretty happy about them giving us food, as
there appeared to be no shops on these tiny islands. The tins
of “Pork & Beans” that we had purchased also turned out to be
more beans than pork, in a very watery, tomato juice – it was
quite gross! Gross or not, we had quite a few of these tins to
work through. Soon after we left, the crew caught a nice big
fish and I was sure that it was going to be our lunch.
The inhabited islands
were packed “wall to wall” with reed and palm-thatch shacks,
where people wore traditional clothes and were extremely short. We slowly putt-putted between the tiny islands of the San Blas. We stopped numerous times to load up empty crates and gas
cylinders, as well as to collect outstanding money. We could
not have covered very much distance before we reached our
overnight stop. Sure thing – supper consisted of rice and fried
fish, which was much more edible than the salted pork fat. Life
in the San Blas is slow, and with no electricity, you go to bed
as soon as it gets dark, and you wake at sunrise. It all made
for a rather long night on the uncomfortable deck.
Day 3 and we were on
our way even earlier than the previous day. At the first island
stop we were given breakfast: boiled banana and salty pork fat!
I’m not ungrateful, but truly, I could not eat that. The crew,
however, seemed delighted with their breakfast. Fortunately, we
still had a few stale rolls and half a jar of peanut butter, and
of course the famous “Pork & Beans” (without pork).
After loading we left
and passed numerous small islands with coconut palms and white
sandy beaches. It looked idyllic, coupled with the fact that
the water is so clear that you can see fish swimming even in the
deeper water - it is close to paradise. The local Kuna people
are quite shy and don’t like to be photographed. I did,
however, manage to steal a shot or two. Small kids run around
naked and row about in their wooden dug-out canoes, seemingly
before they can even walk.
It was getting
increasingly hot during the day; it wasn’t too bad while we were
sailing, but as soon as we moored, the heat sent everyone
running for a shady spot. We loaded on and loaded off, sailed to
the next island and did the same again. We always seemed to
have lunch when moored; a good thing too, as the boat rocked far
too much to be able to cook or eat. Lunch was rice, beans and
liver – I happily gave my liver to Ernest and ate the rice and
beans. By evening we reached a fairly big island (about 500m x
800m), anchored for the night and sat watching the local teams
playing basketball. With the Kuna people being so tiny, is a
good thing they play each other. Supper consisted of boiled
banana and fried fish. We sat around the square until there was
nothing more to do but crawl in and try and get as comfortable
as possible, while lying listening to the snoring and farting of
the crew in their hammocks above.
We stayed moored for
the day as the captain apparently had some business to attend
to, but I never saw him doing anything but lie in his hammock,
or sit in a chair on the dock, drinking beer. At least
breakfast was slightly different being boiled banana and tinned
meat (spam). There was a small branch of the Bank of Panama
(closed on Sunday), but someone said that there is an ATM
inside. We decided to give it a try in the morning.
We walked around the
island a few times, but it was so small that it took no time at
all to crisscross it. It rained on and off for most of the day,
and the local kids loved it, playing endlessly in the puddles,
and never seeming to tire. Each and every island seems to have
a central basketball court where everyone gathers. The courts apppear to be well-used, and most of the time, various games of
basketball and football are played at the same time.
We were up early to
catch the bank as soon as it opened. We rushed over in the
pouring rain, just to find that there was no ATM inside. We
were getting used to getting the wrong information. So tail
between the legs and empty-handed, we returned to the boat to
eat our breakfast of fish and boiled banana.
Instead of setting
off again that morning as planned, we sat around endlessly
waiting for something to happen. It never stopped raining all
day. The cook boiled up some crabs for lunch, which we ate with
rice (I found the rice far more appealing than the crab).
Everyone seemed to be delighted with their lunch, except me.
It was 3 p.m when we
finally left. We sailed for about 2.5 hours before stopping at
another tiny island for the night. Again, supper was rice with
tinned sardines this time! We were, by this time, sitting around
fantasizing about pizzas, wine, coffee and whatever people could
think of. The weather turned absolutely foul, with a strong
wind and bucketing rain. The boat rocked and rolled, and the
crew were swinging wildly in their hammocks (some eventually
opted for the floor). Simon slept out on the dock, but the rain
drove him back onto the boat.
With the canvas
rolled down to keep the rain out, we slept late and it must have
been around 7 a.m before our unfriendly crew started moving
about. The boat seemed to be out of coffee for days now, but
they must have found a wee bit stashed away somewhere as there
was a sip of coffee before breakfast. Then, in a sudden spurt of
urgency, the engines got started and in no time we were untied
from the quay, nearly leaving Matthias and the Colombian guy
behind (they had camped ashore).
Again we sailed off
to the next island, where the captain collected outstanding
money and we ate our breakfast. This was also to be our last
stop before a straight 6 hour sail to Miramar. We had all had
just about enough of that boat by then and could not wait for
the trip to be over. As soon as we left the San Blas islands
and hit the open ocean, the weather deteriorated and at times I
feared that our tiny boat was not going to make the final
stretch. She rolled and she pitched, and whatever was not
lashed down, came flying across the deck! Again, we were
hanging on for dear life. There was little to do but wedge
yourself in between the cargo and hope for the best. It rained
so hard that the engine noise was almost drowned out, and
visibility was down to only a few metres.
Finally, and to
everyone’s relief, we arrived in Miramar in the late afternoon. We could not have been happier to be off that boat. We went in
search of a cheap room, and found one in the village. Ernest
and myself in one room and Simon, Matthias and the Colombian guy
in the other room. It was fairly basic but I think all were
happy to be on a mattress of sorts, and to at least have a
By this time, no one
had any money left, and I mean zero money, so Ernest
cooked up some pasta that we mixed with the infamous “Pork &
Beans without the pork”. Matthias also threw in his last few
tins, and it was, in the end, quite a big pot of food.
- Miramar –
Portobelo - 44km
Early morning Simon
gave Ernest a lift on his 50cc motorbike to the ATM at Portobelo,
which was about 45 km away. We still had to pay for the boat
trip, and the captain had kept one bike on the boat as ransom!
We also had to pay Matthias back for the room, which he had
kindly paid for the previous night.
This was all easier
said than done. The front tyre of the motorbike had a large
hole in it, so Simon had glued a piece of old inner tube over
the hole. I had my doubts as to whether it was going to last
the 45 km. Soon after they had left, unexpectedly the Colombian
guy hurriedly caught a bus to Panama City, and Matthias and I
waited for Simon and Ernest to arrive back.
They got back all
smiles, and although Simon hadn’t been able to get any money in
Portobelo, at least Ernest and I now had money to pay for the
trip, and I could get my bike out of the pound. To his dismay,
Simon discovered that his very expensive Canon camera and lens
had disappeared from his bag in their room while he had been
away! He straightaway reported it to the local police, but
there was little they could do. Eventually we saddled up and
headed down the very lush and forested road in the direction of Portobelo. The road was fairly good, but there were lots of
very steep little uphills. However, we still reached Portobelo
in good time. I was quite surprised to find a tiny but
interesting village, with remains of an old castle and fort. There were also many foreign sailing yachts anchored in the
bay. We first enquired at the famous Captain Jacks for a room,
but at $11 per dorm bed, it was a bit pricey. So we looked
elsewhere and found a room at Hospedaje La Aduana on the square
for $13. Although not the cleanest of rooms, with mice nibbling
at our food bags during the night, it was not that bad and had a
big balcony where we could sit and people-watch.
- Portobelo - Colon - 44 km
I awoke with a seriously
upset stomach - it felt as though I had dined from a garbage
truck the previous night! Despite this, we packed up and left
Portobelo, cycling along the very scenic coastal road.
Unfortunately my camera
was playing up and, as I had heard that Colon is a free trade
zone, we decided to turn off to Colon to see if there were any
bargains to be found. We had been warned that Colon was a nasty
place and very dangerous. We found some quite friendly people
in the city (all warning us about the dangers), ready to help us
find a safe place for the night. We found a very nice hotel and
straight away went to the free trade zone. It seemed to be more
of a money-making area, and not really a place to pick up a good
deal. I looked around but could not see cameras I liked at a
reasonable price. So all I could do was try and have mine
The following day we did
our laundry and sorted out some internet stuff that was, by
then, long overdue. Although Colon is situated close to the
Panama Canal, I never saw it.
- Colon – Panama
City - 90 km
Panama is a small
country and we cycled across the country to Panama City on the
Pacific side. It was not a bad ride, a bit hilly, but no rain. We cycled into Panama City and found a sprawling, cosmopolitan
city. It is the centre for international banking and trade in
Panama; it therefore sports a modern skyline of glass and steel
We cycled around looking
for a cheap room, but we were clearly in the wrong area, with
international hotels of the likes of Le Meridian, The Radisson
and the Continental. In the end, we found a more
reasonably-priced room for the night.
The following day we
packed up and went looking for a cheaper room. In the process,
we cycled through the old city and on to the famous Panama
Canal. Panama City is located at the Pacific entrance of the
Panama Canal, but the canal is not half as interesting as the
Suez Canal. They even make you pay to see it!
The interesting part
about Panama is that sunrise is approx. 6:20 a.m and sunset is
approx. 6:20 p.m, every day, year round. It is no wonder that
it has been among the top five places for retirement in the
Sadly, my camera then
packed up completely, and I went in search of a new camera, or
at least a place to fix mine, but unfortunately it was Sunday so
most places were closed. The following day turned out to be a
public holiday, so once again I got little done.
- Panama City
Off to the shops I went
again, back and forth between the large shopping centres,
firstly looking for a place to fix the camera, and secondly to
check on prices for a new one. I found both, handed in my
camera to be repaired, but then went totally wild and bought
myself a new Canon Rebel as well! Deed done!
I also spotted a rather
nice bike shop and took my bike in for a service. Then it was
back to the room to play with my new toy.
- Panama City
The old city of Panama,
known as Casco Viejo, has an interesting history. The city was
a major trading post for oriental silks and spices. Being a
rich city, it was the envy of many pirates. In 1671, the city
was ransacked and destroyed by the Welsh pirate, Sir Henry
Morgan, leaving only the stone ruins of Panama Viejo. Today the
area consists of crumbling buildings with narrow lanes, forming
part of a high-density slum. Although it´s said to be an unsafe
area, the only danger I encountered was the missing drain
- Panama City
Panama is also a
confusing country, direction wise. Due to its ‘S’ shape North,
South, East and West are never where I expect them to be. In
Panama City, the sun rises over the Pacific Ocean and sets over
the Atlantic Ocean – this surely must be the only place in the
world where that happens. Take a good look at a map of Panama.
The canal runs roughly north to south (not east to west, as I
thought). Thus Panama is one of those places where you can see
the sun rise over the Pacific and set over the Atlantic. Weird!
5 May - Panama City – Chepo - 73km
It was time to pack up and leave Panama
Seeing that we had 20 days before I could pick up the camera,
we decided to first head down to the Darien and see what
all about. Not only remote, the
jungle of the Panamanian Darien
has a reputation for danger (drug traffickers and Columbian
rebels). We decided to head in that direction anyway, mostly
because it is one of the most remote places on earth where one
It was 11
before we finally left and got on the road. Nearly the entire
was built up and it was only after about 50km
that we finally got into the
country side. As we cycled into Chepo we met a Mr.
Singh who lived in South Africa for 5 years.
He now runs the Pizza King and no
Singh arrived with a pizza. I must admit that it was absolutely
delicious. Afterwards we went to visit him in his shop and had
some coffee and cake while chatting about his life in South
6 May - Chepo – settlement 60km
were woken by Mr.
Singh who invited
us for breakfast. We scurried across the
road and had a good old chat and some breakfast. Then it was
time to say goodbye
and we got
back on the road. No sooner had we left or
it started bucketing down. We took shelter waiting for the worst
to pass and then headed down the road again. To our surprise the
paved road came to an end and we found ourselves on a muddy and
potholed road, again.
We battled along the muddy and sometimes gravelly
road until finally we were back on a paved road. At around
reached a tiny settlement and decided to camp at the local
Kantina. Now the local Kantina does not make for the most
peaceful place to sleep. Music was blearing and people were
I just hoped that no one
would fall on my tent. We were
covered in mud but
there was little privacy to wash so I just crawled in, muddy
feet and all.
7 May - settlement -Torti - 38km
One seems to go through stages of things
breaking. This seems to be the
as in one night both Ernest and I suffered broken tent poles.
Luckily duct tape, cable ties, and the odd hacksaw blade comes
in very handy. Again it was rather late before we got on the
road. We cycled past tiny unmapped settlements with thatched
huts and indigenous people going about their business. However,
the amount of deforestation in the area is rather sad.
We soon reached Torti.
Ernest spotted a hotel and we went in to enquire.
The price was very reasonable and I
was in desperate need of a shower.
As the room came with hot water I
made use of the opportunity to do my laundry
This is also an area where most people seem to travel by
horseback and in Torti we found the saddle makers, making the
most beautiful saddles.
8 May - Torti – Meteti - 77km
The road seemed to deteriorate even more
after we entered
the Darien province. It was however a stunning cycle as the road
ran through the forest. We
were stopped by police a few times
and they even searched our bags at one police post. I´m not sure
what exactly they were looking for.
I could not believe that I got bitten
again by ants and it appears that I have now developed a slight
reaction to ant bites. I immediately started itching under my
arm pits and it burnt like hell.
It seems to get worse every time it
We reached Meteti early and fortunately just
before the rain came down. It rained so hard that we could not
even hear each other.
9 May - Meteti – Javisa - 54km
It was not only terribly hot but also very
humid. As is the case with any good jungle road, it was not
without a hill or two. We reached the small village of Yaviza,
where the road came to a grinding halt. The town marks the end
of the Pan American Highway, and the start of the Darien Gap. We
were under the impression that we could take a boat from Yavisa
to La Palma, but it appears not! We will now have to backtrack
80km to get a boat from there.
10 May - Javisa –Meteti - 55km
It was not so bad backtracking as we
escaped the rain and it was a stunning day on the road. We
various times for a cooldrink,
and at one small stall were given a pineapple, avocados, mangoes
and some strange unknown fruit. They wanted no money for it and
with our bags loaded we continued down the road.
We soon reached Meteti and instead of going
on we found ourselves a room for the night.
11 May - Meteti – La Palma via Puerto Quimba
We left Meteti at leisure and cycled the
short distance on a rather hilly and gravelly road to Puerto
Quimba. The area was as beautiful as it was remote; at times it
was so quiet that the forest noises sounded ear deafening. Once
in Puerto Quimba it was easy to find a boat to La Palma. It was
a short distance and it only took about 30
to get to La Palma.
La Palma is the capital of the Darien
as it is not reachable by road and only consists of a few
houses on stilts. La Palma only has one street along a muddy
and besides the few shops, bars and restaurants lining the only
street, there is truly nothing else. Our stilted accommodation
was rather rickety and one could not only hear the water
sloshing underneath but also see it
12 May - La Palma – Sambu - By boat
Initial info was that the first boat to
Sambu was only on Monday (2 days), but at the slipway we got the
impression that there may be a boat some time that day. I read
somewhere that the service here is as slow as molasses and I
can’t think of
a better description. We hung around the area,
watching boats come and go, and eventually we loaded up on an
open speedboat, bikes and all. We flew across the Gulf de San
Miguel at breakneck speed while brown pelicans and shearwaters
drifted effortlessly above us. The Gulf was quite scenic and
peppered with islands.
We turned up the River Sambu and after
about 2 hours arrived at the little settlement of Sambu, home to
the Embera and Cimarrones
whose ancestors escaped the slave trade by living in the
jungle). Sambu is situated deep in the jungle and I would not
even have spotted it from the water if we didn´t get off the
Although it was a rather tiny settlement
it is considered substantial for the Darien as it had a pay
phone, landing strip, clinic, and school. The center of town
a large shady mango tree where everyone
In the event of wanting to reach anyone in the village by phone,
the pay phone is the number to dial and someone will answer. The
landing strip, being the only paved road in the village, is the
place where kids ride their bikes and lovers take a stroll in
the evening. We sat on our little veranda overlooking all the
action and I was quite happy just to sit there. Watching the
I once again realised
that although the Embera people live in reeded houses on high
stilts, cook on open fires and wear traditional clothes, they
are no different from the
people where I come from.
13 May - Sambu
Early morning I took a walk through the
village and down to the river where people bathed. It was rather
interesting to watch the village folk go about their business.
We started enquiring about our boat and the answer was that yes,
it may arrive, maybe today, maybe tomorrow. It did however
arrive and at first I was quite shocked at the state of the old
rust bucket. I wondered whether it would make it on the open
seas all the way to Panama City. I was also rather concerned
about how I was going to get myself, bags and bike up
that narrow plank and onto the deck. We were however told that
was only leaving the following day. The reason for the delayed
departure soon became apparent:
as the tide went out,
the ship was soon sitting firmly on the muddy river bed. At
least we knew it was not leaving without us.
We took another stroll through the village
and were invited into one of the homes. I was surprised as it
was quite spacious and airy. It is however interesting that they
cook on an open wood fire even inside. A concrete slab was
placed in the one corner and that was where all the cooking was
done. I also bought a local wrap-around skirt from the lady and
felt that I blended in much better (ha-ha,
not that I will ever
in at all!).
There are not many shops around the village and every now and
again someone pushing a wheelbarrow would come past selling
whatever they had. Fish, cucumbers, even a cow´s head,
and later the shrimp man arrived. We bought a bag full of shrimp
tails and Ernest cooked it, but he probably ate too much of it
as he was terribly sick that night. I sat on our balcony
watching a display of
lightning in the distance and
listening to the sounds of the forest.
14 May - Sambu
I was getting used to the slow jungle pace
and when we were told that the boat was only going to leave at
we took it in our stride! It rained for
most of the day so there was little else to do but sit on our
balcony watching the Embara people paddle their dugout canoes.
Each household also seemed to have a few
chickens and they are
by far the ugliest chickens I have ever seen. Fish seemed to be
the staple diet in the jungle.
Riverside living makes for easy
fishing, even if it is
only catfish. Rice, beans, bananas, mangoes and avocados seems
to accompany any meal.
Soon it was time to head back to the Doña-Dora.
It was a bit of a balancing act to get our stuff and
the boat. Once on the boat we found tiny little wooden cabins –
6 bunks to a cabin, leaving little headroom or space. Most of
the bunks were broken so not all bunks could be used.
Our fellow passengers were rather
interesting, travelling with live
in hessian bags, parrots in boxes and buckets of fresh seafood
for family and friends in the big city.
15 May - Sambu –Panama City - By boat
The following morning we anchored in the
gulf off the village of Geruchine, where the local launches came
out to meet our boat. They loaded us up with lots of huge fish,
crates, gas cylinders and more passengers. Getting on board was
a tricky affair as the small panga boats came alongside and
passengers had to be pushed and shoved onto the Doña-Dora. Once
we cleared the Gulf
de San Miguel we were in the open Pacific Ocean, sailing
smoothly along while watching dolphins and flying fish. It was
the first time in my life I saw flying fish and I was ecstatic
this was not even the South China Sea! Brown pelicans followed
in our wake,
diving for food, while shearwaters soared about.
We were served food, based on the local
staples of boiled bananas, and rice and beans. The cook was much
better than on the previous boat (at least there was no chicken
feet or salted pork fat).
At around midnight we slowly cruised into
Panama Bay. We anchored in the
and after coming from the jungle the night view of the towering
city lights was quite spectacular. We slept on the rocking boat,
as we had to wait until
high tide the following day before we could dock.
16 - 19 May Panama City
We woke on our rocking boat and I could
hardly believe that the Doña-Dora made it all the way to Panama
City. We sat watching the city skyline from a completely
waiting for midday and high tide to go
the pier. We were served breakfast and lunch on the boat again,
and as the other passengers had gradually left for shore by
small launches, the food on the boat got better. At high tide
there was a bit of a swell, and it was tricky getting our bikes
and things off the boat while it was bashing back and forth
against the dock. I was more than ready to finally get off the
boat and be on my way again. We had some business to do in the
city, so once we were
off the boat we headed for a reasonable
room for a much needed shower. There was a big supermarket
close by, so we had something very different from boat food for
20 May - Panama City – Capira - 55km
We finally left Panama City via the Bridge of
the Americas, a road bridge, which spans the Pacific entrance to
the Panama Canal. I could not cycle over this bridge without
snapping one of the container ships coming into the canal.
We cycled a good but hilly road. It was, as
usual, hot and humid so we stopped often to fill up with water.
We soon reached Capira, a rural town in
the Cermeno Mountains.
Capira is a typical Spanish
Colonial type town originally centered around a central church
plaza. We found a room with a balcony and sat watching the
rolling hills around the town.
21 May - Capira – Anton - 79km
We pushed on along the Pan-American Highway.
It’s very much the only road heading to Costa Rica from here; it
was therefore not strange that we met other cyclists along the
way. The last time we cycled along this highway was in Chili
many moons ago. It’s never very interesting along a highway so
it was a fairly uneventful day.
22 May - Anton – Aquadulce - 73km
Early morning a truck driver stopped and
offered me a cycling helmet. He told us that it is a busy and
dangerous road with many
trucks and therefore safer to wear
a helmet. What a kind man. Again we met other
heading to Panama City and the end of their cycling journey. The
road flattened out and it was easy cycling for most of the day.
We encountered some rain but fortunately it soon cleared up and
we had a good ride to Aquadulce, a small village along the way,
where we found a good room for the night.
23 May - Aquadulce – Santiago - 58km
Central Panama is located between the
continental divide and the Pacific;
the area is sparsely populated and dotted with farms and
ranches. Ranchers herd their cattle by horseback, something
which is always a pleasure to watch.
24 May– Santiago -
I managed to find a public phone that
worked and after confirming that my camera would be ready the
we decided to stay put and first pick up the camera before
25 May– Santiago -
Early morning I took a bus to Panama City,
picked up the camera and jumped on a bus back to Santiago. The
whole process took
the entire day and I only arrived back after dark. At least I
had my old trusted Panasonic back again.
26 May - Santiago – Los Ruices - 64km
It was a much harder day than expected. It
was an incredibly hot, humid and hilly day on the road. The
going was slow and we crept up the hills at
pace. The sweat ran
down my face and I watched it dropping on the tarmac. Around
mid-day I started feeling faint and nauseous but continued on as
there is little else
one can do. Around 4 p.m.
we reached a tiny settlement and found an abandoned restaurant
with a nice little veranda where we could camp. At
back we found a laundry trough with running water, which was a
Ernest cooked some food and I was in bed
27 May - Los Ruices - San Feliz - 58km
We tried to get away early but after
packing up Ernest found a broken spoke on
bike and after fixing that it was fairly late again. There was
no escaping the heat and I
keenly looked at the sky wishing that we would get some rain. It
was, however, another rainless day but the road seemed to have
reached a high point as it felt that we were going downhill more
I must admit that it was a beautiful ride
through the hills and highlands. High up in the mountains we
found the Guaymi tribe. The Guaymi women make traditional
crafts, both for their own use and their families', and also to
sell as an
extra income. These include handmade bags from plant fibers
called "kra" in their language,
dresses called "nagua" and beaded bracelets and necklaces. The
men of the Guaymi have a tradition of weaving hats from plant
When the Spanish arrived in Panama they
found three distinct Guaymi tribes in what is
western Panama; each was named after its chief and each spoke a
different language. The chiefs were Nata, Parita and the
greatest chief Urraca. Urraca became famous by defeating the
Spaniards, and forced the Spanish to sign a peace treaty in
1522. Urraca was nonetheless betrayed and captured but he
escaped and made his way back to the mountains, vowing to fight
the Spaniards unto death, a vow which he fulfilled. Urraca was
so feared by the Spaniards that they avoided combat with his
men. When Urraca died in 1531 he was still a free man.
Today some Guaymi still choose to live
secluded lives away from modern society and with little
28/29 May - San Felix – David - 84km
Again it was a blistering hot, cloudless day.
Fortunately we did not encounter as many hills as expected.
Unfortunately the road deteriorated and the shoulder just about
disappeared altogether. I was fairly tired by the time we reach
We headed for the
of town looking for a room. In the
we found the Parque Cervantes surrounded by local vendors
selling anything from clothing to local fruit juices (but mainly
lottery tickets). We also found a rather pricy room but I could
not care less as all I wanted to do was have a shower and
We also stayed the following day as it was
time to do the dreaded laundry again.
30 May - David,
Panama – Paso Canoas, Costa Rica - 55km
We left at leisure and found that the road
had leveled out making for an easy ride, past plenty fruit
stalls to the Panama/Costa Rica border. The border crossing went
as smooth as silk and they did not even give
just stamped us
in and that was that. There were plenty of
duty free shops so we went looking for bargains, but found that
(as usual) there were no bargains to be had. In fact it was a
typical border town packed with trucks and busses, doggy looking
money changers and food stalls. We decided to stay the night and
continue on in the morning.