30 August 2011

Panama: Bridging the Americas

Location: Panama City, Panamá
Biggest riding day: 101 miles
Months on the road: 8
Countries so far: 7
Liquid cocaine confiscated off the Panamanian coast last week: 900 gallons
Most surprising sight:  an Oldsmobile moving down the road under its own power

In Panamá, the riding options have been limited, but I turned on the gas and headed for the big city.  The kilometers ticked down on the Panamerican Highway until I crossed the bridge of the Americas yesterday.  It was good to arrive and reach a major waypoint on my journey.

I have not done a good job quantifying my journey, but here is a chart showing how much time I have spent in each country, then correlating that to the size of the country.  In other words, the land are of mexico and central america, divided by my days on the bike...  A different way to examine travel pace.  If I knew my miles ridden in each country, that would be interesting to compare how much I wander...

welcome to Panamá

the roads are inviting

crunchy leaves brightened my day.

the road winds up into the mountains

and into the wake of hurricane Irene

daily routine

leaving a wake...

The high lands

I watched the bike channel for a while, but it was boring.

better live...

carmel.  and chocolate frosting.  delicious.  if i was in america, it would be on a pop tart

didn't expect to find you here...

Suzuki LJ-80

bag o baked treats a soda and a gift of fruit.  $1.20.  i had an allergic reaction to the wacky fruit, which leads me to believe that i am also allergic to lychee nuts (similar), which i have only ever eaten the same time as mango, which means, that maybe i am only allergic to mango PEEL.  more investigation needed before i go wolfing down some mangos.

camping by the river is scenic, but i try to be in the water or in the tent, as the skeeters and midges are a bit voracious

every girder all the way down was bashed upwards.  how fast was this guy going?

don crispi just sounds like a latin version of colonel sanders...

panamerican road marker tells me my daily mileage

shower, and a foto sexi for my friends in Club de Ciclismo IxmiBike

dawn patrol on the panamerican highway

breakfast of champions, chocolate frosting, peanut butter, and banana sandwiches.

i suppose a real champion would eat the snake, and use the skin for some new grip tape...

cookie cutter subdivisions line the road leading to the city.

they repair tires...

When gifted kids succeed.  A Far Side reference

you can buy grade B milk here.  i splurged the extra 10 cents for the grade A.  the drip is a nice touch.

cool panamericana sign

heading into the weeds for some camping.

an enthusiast backpacker heads out of panama city for his first day of cycle touring.

the bridge of the americas...

not super cycling friendly heading towards the city...

riding over the Panama canal, with the skyline in the background.

a snarl of traffic leaves a nice path for the cyclist.

this is a toast to los abuelos peregrinos.  and to panama.  thank you, for a good ride thus far!  flor de caña....yum

the skyline really is a sight at all hours.

at nighttime, the empty money-laundering hulks sit dark and vacant.

my view from bed is nice.

a vortex in the sky.  perhaps a sign?

smog visible in glow of dawn

aaaaand the hostel is surrounded by crumbling buildings, that will be worth a fortune when rebuilt.
Now getting prepared for Colombia with some excursions here and there to round out the continent... 

Costa Rica: Pura Subida!

Days spent in Costa Rica: 11
Cost of a banana: $0.02
Price in colones: 10
Bananas eaten: 40
Bananas Scott eats per day: 20
Policemen I brought to tears: 1
Policemen I saw wearing pink satin underwear: 1
Other cycletourists encountered: 2
Days without rain since Managua: 0

I entered Costa Rica at the backwater town of Los Chiles and continued over rolling farmland to the base of the mountains.  From there, I went up and up and up until I was in the cloud forest, then descended down to the Pacific coast.  I followed the coastline on new highway to Palmar Norte, then cut back all the way to top of the mountains again, where I crossed into Panama.  The climbing was the steepest I had seen since the backroads of Veracruz, but thankfully not as rough.

Costa Rica has taken a far different approach to development than its neighbors to the north and the result has been a tremendous boost in the average quality of life of its citizens.  As a result, it was more costly, but produce (I think due to large scale agriculture) was the cheapest I have ever encountered.  I sought ways to consume as much as possible.  Supplementing with bread and condiments.  My constant hard riding has depleted my energy reserves and every day is a quest for enough calories to keep my pedals spinning as fast as possible, bringing me closer to the end of the continent and the next geographical stage in my journey.  Luckily, mass intake is keeping me going and the miles have flown by over the last month.  Central America is like a funnel, routewise, and seems to have a strange psychological effect on travelers.  It limits your options, with all routes heavily trafficked and/or physically demanding.  In other words, it has neat places to visit, but not enough space for me.  I am looking forward to wide open landscapes again and having a good reason to stay up late dreaming over a large fold-out map of all the adventures that await...

The wealth of Costa Rica compared to Nicaragua struck me immediately, as I saw families purchasing a week's worth of heavily packaged food at the supermarkets, instead of one meal at a time as basic staples.  I enjoyed this oldster's hat, which said ''I like it in groups''

the rolling roads out of Los Chiles

sugar cane super highway

pineapple plantations

stepping in as the 9th man for some Nicaraguan immigrants that work at the gravel crushing plant.  They play baseball every sunday, while the soccer goals lay derelict and broken in the field.

the jungle hides cold showers

the way i washed off road grime in Costa Rica...  waterfalls everywhere.

usually a bit of a climb or descent is involved.

highway in a bad state...

i like signs with intricate details.

looking down a switchback near Zarcero

route advice from passing cyclists...

chicken hotdogs with carmel sauce.  cheap and power packed.  

entering the fog...

i can't see!!!!

sometimes you need some roadside treats...

sleeping alongside the ambulances in the red cross garage.  better than camping in the rain again.

Zarcero has an awesome topiary garden.

it was fun to weave through the archways at dawn.

and visit the dinosaur.  i like the wear spot in the grass from the children approaching it.

looks like a cross between mr. bill and princess leia...

fun faces line the garden

more mountains to cross today...

the morning sun always warms spirits.

i came across this land rover ''taller'' and stopped for a chat.

old rovers were hiding out back...

if they could tell stories of the places they have been...

after an afternoon dousing, the mist clears for a peek at the day's route.

down down we go

to cross the swollen river of chocomilk

then up and up we go

then down down we go

to san Mateo!

Nacho, 2 years out from Spain, he rode through Africa, then sailed to Brazil and is headed northwards.

I can swimming?

Costa Rica is an apt name for the land craze that has made most beaches exclusive.

but there are some rugged coves left open for the explorers...

and fun bugs explore my gear.

rice on the beach...

The wandering grandparents of mexico (abuelos peregrinos)

They have driven all the way to Alaska, to Argentina, and were headed home to Mexico City.  We had a chat about the massive coconut oil plantations.  They gave me enthusiastic support.  Great fun to meet other travelers on the road...

my leather SPD inserts became sodden from the daily rain, so i opted for plastic.

these click in and out better and don't seem to affect walking too much.

coconut oil factory

scandalous break!

these are my afternoons, rolling in the rain.

camping under the bridge.

yeah.  thugs life.

i'd say my front chainring is about worn out.  compare it to the larger gear i use as a bash guard...

this beach was a good shady spot to do some sprocket maintenance and body surfing.

when i am my only audience jokes like ''coming up on your right, is the pacific ocean!' never get old'



a fork in the road.  

rubbing alcohol is the drink of choice for the hopeless here, and bottles lay everywhere in the poorer streets.

most communities seem to turn a blind eye to the members that slip through the cracks.

dawn patrol

winding through the jungle

i had johnny cash's ''big river'' stuck in my head all morning

landslides make good speed breaks

river discipline.

you want to be banked into this turn right now.

i like crossing bridges where you can see through.

like this one...

the road climbed up and up back into the highlands.

i picked up another loaf of bread

and then i picked up this land rover

and then i pushed my bike up this hill, and rode back down again, looking for the lost oasis .... Scott's farm.

Scott bought a chunk of land down here, rode his bike down from Washington, and has been living off the land for the past two years. He grows all manners of edible things.

he gathers wood and cooks on the fire

and chills in his hammock when it rains a lot

and builds cool bamboo shelters for visitors

swimming holes beckon through the forest.

it's guav-o'clock!  Scott gets ready for lunch, which involves about 20 bananas and about 30 guavas.

The local jail...

I found a nice sleepy road to take me to Panama

It was Guav-o'clock there, too.

I arrived at the border after closing time, but the Costa Rican police let me stay in the quarantine tent.

I made them banana, peanut butter, caramel sandwiches, which they throroughly enjoyed, even asking me to dictate the recipe exactly.  They duly noted my key to a good sandwich: getting the ingredients all the way into the corners. ''los rinconcitos''

i liked their coffee contraption

anyways, when you stay with the police, you might learn too much about their  habits.  I asked them if they liked spicy food, and the ones that said yes got some chilis I have carried since northern mexico put in their soup.  Tears, rosy cheeks, and runny noses all around.  One said to make sure I note that I made the police cry.

Next post... Panama