Entering Panama

January 23, 2010

I got an early start, but not too early since I’d been advised the border offices did not open until 8:30 am.

The Costa Rican side was a breeze…here is my bike at the Panamanian side…

It was a little confusing…like usual. When I finally finished my paperwork and went back to the bike, I could not find my keys…drat! I went through every pocket 5 times…and the worst part is that I REMEMBERED telling myself I was going  to lose my keys if I did not put them in my pocket…and I remember utting them into my pocket. Was I pickpocketed? No, I still had my SPOT, camera and wallet. HARuMPH!

Well luckily I brught an extra set of keys along with me…and luckily I had the foresight to put a spare key to my panniers in the seam of my jacket…so I retraced all me steps, asked for my missing keys at alll the windows I’d visited, and finally fetched the spare keys from deep within my panniers, and got rolling.

I stopped at the first ga station I found, and inn rolled two other gringo-types like me on bikes…but I as confused…were they backpackers of bikers? Turns out BOTH! Traveling on little 225 cc bikes they bought in Panama and riding around wearing backpacks. A couple of Canadians.

We looked at maps together, and then I rolled South. At the Aduana (customs) station another 5 miles down the road I found out that I had NOT gotten the correct papers for riding n Panama, and so I had to go back to the border. Grrr.

I saw the Canadians again, told them what was going on, and got the right papers.  Then I saw this beauty on the other side.

Well one of the people I’d chatted with the FIRST time I rolled through pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted to go to the mountains I could take a left there in town and there was a road that would take me north to Volcan.

Oh.

My.

God.

Was this road great. It was a fun, really tight, curvy and incredibly lush, hilly, b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l road through paradise. This was the best day of my trip I think. I was feeling so lucky, so alive, I was in pure bliss. (Plus I’d riisen in altitude and it was blessedly cool!)

I’ve posted a zillion pictures here because I could not decide which ones to cull.

Enjoy!

The cow caravan.   There was a stupid car behind me honking for me to move, but I was NOT going to ride into the middle of 200 cows moseying down the road. I turned off the engine and waited — and hoped that none of they would get frightened and knowck into me and knock me over. At one point I had to fluff my arms to get them to give me a wider berth..

I passed by beautiful fincas. The land seemed so RICH. So fertile. So cared for. It was a gift to me after the hot hot hot dry days I’d spent in Costa Rica.

I passed this really nice looking B&B, and decided to stop and ask the rates…In the reception area there was a humminngbird trapped in the window…most gorgeous bird I have ever seen…

($99 per night to stay there–um, gorgeous but no thank you)

I finally stopped in ________ . I was hungry and was overdue to eat. I stopped at this weird little place–a nursery / zoo / eatery / public garden. I had a delicious tamale.  Then another. Then another. And coffee.  And a piece of carrot cake.

Here’s a pic of the tamale before opening.

Now I was having a good time talking to the fellow serving up the tamales (his mother owned the place) and he was quite cultured and worldly. Hippie-ish. Groovy. I jokes with him that he should rename his place “Peace, Love and Tamales” for all the good vibe and zen music and altar relics he had around there.

I joked with him, too, that I needed a picture of his opening my tamale with the garden nippers–that would never fly in the USA. We had a good laugh.

Then I was handed a banana and offered a personal tour of the place…

Ah. Now I understood the banana.

I got a tour of tamale central…

The outdoor kitchen

The maiz (corn meal) that goes into the tamales

The gardens

Then back to the monkeys on my own. I offered them some entertainment…

and Dominga came and joined me at the monkey cage. She is a native girl, who lives with her Dad who works there. I thought she was just beautiful in her traditional clothing. I asked he Dad, then her, if we could take a picture together.

Well, everyone there was selling strawberries, and I’d parked across the street at the strawberry place, so I walked back over to get some dessert.

Then I brought one back to Dominga–I figure she might not ever have had the opportunity to have eaten one–and OMG they were good.

What a strange little town–like little Switzerland. I had to snap a pic to prove it.

I took off for Parque Nacional la Amistad (friendship, because the park is shared with Panama and Costa Rica) amd I was told that I could sleep in the park. Cool. Kinda like sleeping n a big garden I supposed and that had a lot of appeal. So I rode through some more beautiful farmland…

But when  got to the park at 4:30 the gate was closed. Dang.

Back down the mountain again, and now was in a hurry to find a place to stay since it was getting dark

I found a place that was really clean, but none too cheap ($30) I bargained them down to $20 but it was hard work.

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