Panama: (17th to 23rd January)

The two best things about Panama were collecting my bike and seeing a sloth. I arrived in Panama City on Sunday the 17.01.2016 and collected my bike the following day. It always feels good to have ones bike back, like seeing an old friend again. After dropping him off at the mechanic for a full service before we start our 12000km trip to Florida I went to explore Panama City. It is big, it is modern and it is okay … just very hot. It is the dry season now (thank goodness as I’d hate to travel in the wet season which is hot, humid and rainy) The only unfortunately thing about it being the dry season is that Panama is not as green and lush as one would expect (I think I’ll live with this J and rather have no rain while I am travelling on my bike) The locals do not talk in summer and winter seasons but wet and dry season although they call the dry season summer. I found this strange as Panama is in the northern hemisphere where every other country is having winter … weird.

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While the mechanic had gadget I went hiking with a young Swiss couple Ramon and Alex, and Chuck a retired school teacher from the US, all who were staying at the hostel, such nice people. We went to one of the national parks near the city and it was great. We did 2 hikes in two different areas of the park. Other than seeing a couple of birds, (we heard loads of them but only spotted a few) and a few beautiful butterflies all we saw were two ring tailed coatis and a sloth, oh and a lizard and frog. I was ecstatic at seeing the sloth as I have wanted to see one in the wild for the last 6 months but they kept eluding me. They are very hard to spot and sleep for 18 hours a day, so the fact that we saw one moving from one branch to another was even better. Then to top it all she had a baby with her well my Latin American wildlife spotting was now complete, nothing could top this 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Mommy Sloth and her baby

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One of the many beautiful butterflies we saw, and the only one that would sit still long enough for me to get a picture.

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Cutter ants, this guys fascinate me and I have learned that they follow each other by following pheromones. I also learned that the women do everything for the colony. The males are born, mate once with the queen and then die.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I love these huge trees

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Alex, Ramona and Chuck

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We finished our hike only to find we hate one flat tire and one half flat tire. Alex made quick work of changing the flat and we drove to a nearby hotel to wait to road side assistance to bring us some air.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA View from the hotel … nice

In total I spent 4 nights in Panama City and enjoyed it but was itching to get on the road. Once I left the city I headed to Miraflora lock to see the Panama Canal. It was interesting but sadly no boats were going through the lock. I would have liked to see that. From Miraflora I headed to Playa Farallon for the night. I wanted to be at the coast but to be honest it was not very exceptional and I hear the Atlantic side is far more beautiful. After Farallon I headed straight to David for the night before crossing the border into Costa Rica on the 23.01.2016

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Panama is easy the roads are good, the petrol is CHEAP, man 60 cents a litre, damn pity I can’t send some home. The people in Panama are very nice and it is modern, clean place. I would have liked to spend more time exploring and seeing the other parts of the country but I am just so damn eager to get to Costa Rica.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The beach at Playa Farallon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Just mucking about on the beach

I arrived at the border early but not early enough sadly 2 bus loads of people were ahead of me. I was surprisingly apprehensive about crossing the border as I had heard so much about the Central America border crossing and although I knew this would be one of the easier ones I still did not know what to expect. It wasn’t too bad just hot. I asked one of the guards if I go to immigration or customs first, he told me customs.  I stood in a long queue and the lady stamped my customs forms and told me to go see a customs officer to inspect my bike. I found one and waited until he had finished inspecting 2 cars and asked him to inspect my bike. He could not have been more gruff and unhelpful like I had asked him to please wash it while he was looking it over. He reluctantly did his job and then sent me to immigration. I stood in an even longer queue and FINALLY got my exit stamp. I then had to go back to customs to get my customs form signed again so that I could leave … bear in mind this is the easiest border crossing in Central America 😦

Glad it is over I hope on my bike and head to Costa Rica. The border post is 200m away and the queues are already around the block. I ask someone if I need to go to immigration or customs first at this border. He says customs. I stand in the customs queue and get told I need to go to immigration first. I stand in the immigration queue …. To cut a long long story short I get my passport stamped and return to customs. I stand in the customs queue. The lady gives me a form to fill out and tells me I need photocopy of my entry stamp to the country. I have the copies of my bike papers and passport which I knew in advance I needed. I look at the photocopier behind her and say ‘’oh can I get them here’’ no she says outside across the street.

I go to the photocopy place and meet the most unfriendly man I have ever met in my life. I am paying 1usd to get a photocopy and he acts like I asked him to climb Everest just for fun. I return to the customs office, with the copy and the required 3rd party insurance. I stand in the customs queue and FINALLY get to the front and a different person servers me, I fill in a different customs form.

Now you will not believe this but I swear it is true. He looks at the photocopies I have, picks up my documents walks to the back of the room and COPIES THEM and tears up the 3 photos copies I gave him …. I KID you NOT. I just stand there with my jaw open – erm well okay then. I learnt many years ago while crossing borders to just smile and act as if life is wonderful and not show the slightest hint of anger or frustration, but I am dumbfounded.

Passport stamped, customs papers safely stashed away, I enter Costs Rica 🙂

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