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Continental Divide - Panama- in one day

PANAMA | Friday, 1 February 2013 | Views [1301] | Comments [1]

feels good to be on top!

feels good to be on top!

21st of January (Panama): From the Caribbean to the Pacific across the Continental Divide.

We rode close to the bottom of the mountains the night before, coming out of Chiriqui Grande at the Caribbean, heading to the Pacific. Chiriqui was a pit, but we did not expect anything. The night was spend at the police station, once again - first one in Panama and they sure treated us well!! We rode right to the front door across a big parking lot on the main road and the guys - yes all guys- stumbled upon our question to camp and phone calls had to be made. About 20 minutes later we were led to the back  of the police station to a concrete floored palapa with electricity, a table and chairs, a hammock and a bunch of rubbish, but still enough room to fit our tent.  Pretty cozy and I am not kidding..
The jefe brought us three pipa coconuts after an attempted (we stopped him) to  sweep the floor for us...wow!
The night was cool and the morning bright and sunny. Again, our  jefe brought us cafe (not before asking if we wanted sugar and cream) and two cute little maize pancakes which tasted like shit, but it is the gesture that counts, right? 
On the road at 7:45am and not too much traffic. I don't know why I was so excited...some anxiety was definitely in the mix too. It was hard to research the condition of the road, the traffic, the temperatures and all that stuff we like to  know, even though we are going to do it anyways. Sometimes I can't tell if it is actually better to know and prepare or to not know and just be there now (?!). I guess there is a healthy balance in it all. What we did know, was,  that we will be above 1200 meters, starting from sea level (duh...) and expected the roads to be steep based on our experience of Panama roads thus far and so they were.....something like 20 degree grades at times. It was gorgeous though - stunningly beautiful every step on the way. At the very devisón the wind was howling, but we were not done climbing for a while.....it didn't feel very inviting to camp the wind was too strong and it was early enough, so we kept on going.......until we saw the Pacific. Nice!!! A sense of pride came over me. Not for the first time, but more noticeable than other times. Feeling good!
Two Oceans in one day!! I like Panama! So it was confirmed, not only the beauty of the country, but, heading down the other side, hoping to get out of the wind we stopped for water at the tiniest little house with a sign: Cafe and Hamburgers. The sweet little woman gave us water and just talked up a storm (in Spanish, of course) leaving us -language wise -totally stranded. She didn't seem to mind, but it felt rude to leave and I identified some words about camping, so I ask if we could camp  here and she seemed to be delighted -yes-. We sat down and  ordered two HAMBURGERS ( I haven't had one in probably ten years) while she kept on talking. There was something sweet about her demeanor, her voice. I didn't mind not understanding, but I tried and I liked listening to her anyways.....Her partner showed up, showed us the place for the tent, up  a hill, away from the road,  out of the wind. We spend a peaceful night followed by breakfast with sweet, milky cafe, hot chocolate (all local), fried eggs and toast in the tiny house by the road, before heading down to the PanAmerican Highway once again.




Hi! I hitchhiked from New York to Buenos Aires and back last year and am writing a book about it. I remember crossing the continental divide in the place marked on your map here. My driver said the ridge was called the "Jaws of the Devil", but I haven't found any other sources that the ridge is called this. I remember it well, because there was a very localized rainstorm casting a vibrant rainbow across it. Anyways, while researching, I stumbled across this post.

Great to see some old hippies with the same wanderlust as me! And I love the steely sticker on your bike; I am a big head. I used to go to the fire departments for free accommodation... I never thought about the police.

Anyway, I hope you got back safely from your travels, or are still on the road. In any case, I wish y'all the best!

  Keith Oct 19, 2015 12:19 PM

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