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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Panama - Part I

From some people i met i heard that there's not a lot to see in Panama. For me it was different (luckily). I encountered some very nice and beautiful places and people.

I crossed the border at Rio Sereno, a small crossing in the middle of the country. To find the crossing, go to

The crossing took a few hours, besides the totally unmotivated personell - Clipping nailes appeard to be more prudent than my paperwork - and that for a guy. And he suffered from a slow internet connection, illustrated by the official in charge with a lot of totally unnecessary mouse pointer movement and dito bashing.

Right after the border the road turns to great tarmac. There's no signs and it took me a while to find the road to David, which would connect me to the panamericana.

This road turned out to be brand new and winding through lush hills.

After this joyful ride i stopped for lunch at a village called El Vólcan.

Returning from lunch and ready to go i heard a voice behind me: "You're a long way from home arent you?" (In Dutch). I met a retires Dutch couple, Erikk and Fenna, and, in proper dutch tradition, they invited me for coffee. I stayed the night.

My luck, home made kroketten!

Erik likes to cook for a hobby and he made his own real dutch Kroketten.


...and there was real dutch "snert" too!!

A typical dutch soup, usually only made in winter.


Really the least of all things i expected.

Erik, Fenna, thanks again for your hospitality!

From another bike traveler i learned that Playa Las Lajas is worth seeing. And it is. This beach supposed to be the longest beach in Central America. This fact is a great selling point, and it therefore supprised me that tourism is not very developt (yet...). I stumbled upon a german couple  who just started this restaurant-and-soon-to-be hostel. Great place, Great food!

They bought a piece of land with a worn down restaurant and build this huge palapa. From what i'd see, this place has potential.

As usually, i hang out a day or so. Determined to finish a great book i was reading. An anticlimax, unfortunately.

It ended with the hero's falling off the edge of the world and a message that the story continues in the next part of the saga. Bummer, slim change i can find this book in this part of the world. Forgot the name of book and author though.

There's basically one road crossing Panama, the panam highway. Although i try to stay away from the panam, in Panama you don't have much choice.

Some parts are really boring: Panam at it's worst.

El Valle. I was told El Valle is a beautiful spot. So there i went. To get to El Valley you have to cross a fantastic and good winding road for abour 35km. The village El Valle is a hideout for rich Panamenians and Gringo's.
The panamenian harley club was out for a ride. they didn't wave, and one SOB pulled over in from of me to get to the fuelstation on my side of the road, resulting in a close encounter. Good to know my brakes still work OK. For a moment i wanted to get off my bike to tell the person involved that he should see a opticien. Decided not to, considered 40+ other HD riders in the group.

I asked around for a cheap hostel and Myrna from Finland pointed me to campsite called "Camping Yoga Swabi".

A very kind and generous person. This campsite attracted interesting travellers and artisanos.

I spend two days finding a place called 'the sleeping indian'. Local indigenous people in the mountains could not explain clearly what it was, or where.

Myrna and i try to find it, and it lead us through the jungle and mountains surrounding the Valley. Beautifull.
First day we took the wrong way. But we found it the following. The sleeping indian, with some (lots) imagination is in the shape of mountainridges.

In this picture we are on top of one of them.

Panama City. Casco Viejo. Panama city has not much i'm attracted too, big city, lots of construction, crowded. Instead i went to the oldest part of the city, Casco Viejo.

Beautiful french colonial architecture. Sad thing is that the majority of the buildings are in bad shape and inhabits poor people. Recently project developers started renovatinig. Which resulted in nice restored colonial buildings belonging to rich people. Of course, as always, the poor people who live here for generations are 'relocated'.

There's already a lot of restoring done and restaurants, hotels and apartments are neighboring worn down buildings with poor people. This gives a weird vibe to this environment.

Only the richer part is considered to be save. Illustrated by the police guided tour i got to a hotel to meet a friend.

Rainy season. Every day it rained Cats and Dogs for a while. I only encountered bad weather from Panama city down to Porto Lindo.

Interesting. Makes the heaviest rain in Holland a joke.

Panama City skyline as seen from Casco Viejo.

Impression of the bad neighberhood separating the new City Center and Casco Viejo. 

For the first time in my trip riding and walking through this part of town give me an unsafe feeling. Awkward.

I'm not sure if it's really unsafe, it's more the attitude towards tourists i guess. usually, at the caribean cost i encounter more indifferent toward unfriendlyness people than in central or pacific side of Central America.


Panama canal locks at Miraflores. A recommended visit, if you fancy big engineering stuff. A great accomplishment considered the tools and techniques they had back in the days they build it. The museum is quite interesting. At this moment work is started to make the canal bigger and build new locks.

The decision to do this was made by issueing a referendum. Very democratic. Too bad for the surrounding ecological systems though. Since the panama canal is the most important financial source of income, i guess it's of the best interest of the country.

Read all about the canal here.

A good thing to know: The ships get through in two batches a day, luckily i was in time to see the last ship of the morning batch. Nothing happens till the afternoon batch.

I couln't be bothered with riding to the end of the Panamerica to see if the road really stops in front of the Darien gap. I wanted to go to Colombia. One of the countries high on my list. Ships leave to Cartagena from Puerto Lindo, so there's where i went, to Hostel Wunderbar, known for it's info on boats and schedules.

Next post: about shipping the bike and San Blas Islands.


All pictures of Panama can be found here.