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Entry 23: Panama

MEXICO | Friday, 27 June 2014 | Views [1895]

Panama, I love you! You are what I had though Cost-a-lot Rica was going to be and I thank you for holding onto cultural autonomy (Panama City excluded) from the US cookie cutter developments and assimilation machine that has affected your northern neighbor. Ok, done-ski with CR bashing.

My first few hours in Panama were spent riding in rain. This was not the fly by night rain variety which rattles driver ed. students or prompts the experienced trucker to calmly dial the windshield wiper setting up a couple of notches and call it good, this was the kind of rain that kills anything that is smaller than a Kestrel and disrupts the flight patterns of large raptors, Cessnas and the ever elusive duck-billed sea Osprey (also a raptor).

Due to the rain, my incompetence or a lack of GPS guidance, I overshot the turn to Boquete by 50 miles and ended up staying the night in Santiago. Not too much went down during my stay in Santiago other than meeting a cool cat from the Czech Republic that had bought a 200cc bike in Mexico and managed to make it all the way thru CA with a 65lb backpack on his shoulders. Czechs – I’ve only met two but, I like them!

The next day I headed towards La Península de Azuero and had a lovely ride which took me down to Pedsi, around passed Tonosi & the coast and then up and over a small mountain pass that led back to Chitre . Fantastic scenery, mixed surfaces, mixed skies and curvy countryside roads made this one of my favorite rides of the trip.

From Chitre I headed back north, crossed the Pan-American Highway and had another great ride up to the mountain community of Santa Fe. After getting settled in on the edge of town, I donned my helmet, rain pants and a tee shirt with torn off sleeves and set out exploring. There are three roads that lead NW, N & NE out of town and I was lucky enough to put and eye on all three. My only regret is that (due to the fun factor) I didn’t take any photos of the ride. Short and skinny: green, curvy, steep, lush, smooth and pastoral.  

South to the Pan-Am, east 40K and then north for about 30 minutes found me in El Valle de Antonio. Turns out, there are folks from Tennessee soaking up the Ex-Pat lifestyle and offering cheap and clean and new accommodations at the Windmill Hostel. I stayed for four nights, shared bi-lingual company and conversation and managed to do a little planning. The four night trifecta culminated in the realization that Panama will be in my rear view mirror in three days. Talk about creaper…Dang!

After the Windmill Hostel I headed to Panama City and checked into the Panama House B&B - the rendezvous point for six or so motorcyclists who were taking the Stahlratte (Steel Rat) to Colombia. Among the steel horse posse representing at the B&B were the freshly married Regis & Emma aka: Wolf & Zebra (French & South African Californians) rocking a couple DR650’s, Marcus & Karin (Team Swiss) sporting Yamaha Tenere 660’s, Marcos (California – Not Mexico!) on a KLR 650 and they call me Peter (from London – we met at the Backpackers Hostel in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, MX) who purrs along on a BMW F800GS. It’s nice to get inspired by cool kids on bikes.  

With only one full day in the city I decided to check out the manmade wonder of the Panama Canal and the old part of town. The Canal and Old Town were good but I didn’t start speaking in tongues from any sort of spiritual experience from visiting the two. Come morning, the international moto posse rolled out of town and began the 2.5hr ride east & north to the village of Carti, a sailing ship named the Stahlratte and our departure point from Central America.

Rain, traffic jams, toll booths that don’t accept cash or credit and one bobsled style motorcycle push start aside, it was a pretty normal day of riding in CA and we all arrived in one piece. At the dock we met the rest of the ship’s passengers, loaded up the bikes (using an effective, ship mounted pulley system that caused a few bike owners to twitch), loaded our gear onto the ship and then took small boats to one of the Kuni’s 365 islands. On the island we stayed in thatched huts, drank Cuban rum & beer, ate local fare and enjoyed a traditional dance that dates back to pre-Columbus times.

In the morning, we boarded the Stahlratte and set sails for Cartagena, Colombia.



Having arrived at the travel journal’s destination, let’s take a line to reflect…

I’ve been gone from home in Colorado for 6 months, driven over 10,000 miles, rode 3 different ferries, changed my oil & filter 5 times, switched the carb jet 3 times, replaced the rear tire & tube, re-sealed the upper-end, snapped/replaced the clutch cable, cleaned the air filter 3 times, replaced the front & rear brake pads, reshaped a bent luggage rack and fixed an oil leak at one of the radiator hose connections – not too bad for a 2003 DR650.

The original intent of this travel journal was to cover my trip from Colorado to Panama on a DR650. That said I have decided to take the Sthalratte from Panama to Colombia and extend my travels into South America. With mission accomplished & for better or for worse, the journal will end here in Panama.

I hope that something entertaining or informational was gleamed. Cheers, Salud & Adios!


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Colorado: 1995 & 2013

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