It’s the journey not the destination, but it sure feels good to be in Panama City. Our last day on the road was a long one, and we both got the ultimate test in just how important (and awesome) our gear is.
We departed Almirante before dawn and spent the first few hours of early morning weaving our way through lush green mountains. As we made our way along we mostly saw kids dressed in uniforms on their way to school and men sitting along side the road waiting for buses to pick them up and take them to work. But sometimes you come across the unexpected and as we rounded a turn Rick rode straight into a flock of vultures feasting on some roadkill. They took flight as he approached, but one wasn’t quick enough and managed to fly straight into the side of his head. He is mostly unscathed except for a bit of a rattle and later a sore neck. Vultures are not only ugly, but they’re hefty! More importantly always wear your helmet!! You just never know what you’ll come upon on the road. If those vultures weren’t enough, we also crossed a giant hydro electric dam, came upon an overturned semi that had been left on the road and found a hostel named after us, well sort of.
It wasn’t long before we reconnected with the PanAmerican highway. The government is spending big bucks on expanding and repairing it, because as we found at one point, it’s littered with pot holes. One particular area they were so abundant it caused traffic to slow to a mere 40km and for trucks to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid them. While we always do our best to avoid pot holes, it was easier for us on the bikes to bump along at a much higher speed and pass the slower traffic. Mostly we just had sore asses.
Usually when we drive through towns or little cities we pull in for a fuel stop and to refresh our water. We decided to make a pit top in a town called Santiago. It was a town like many others we been through before and wouldn’t really be worth mentioning. Without getting dramatic about it, an SUV merging into traffic from the left decided to cross all 3 lanes in order to reach an exit on the right. They did so without looking carefully, therefore side swiping me and forcing me into the curb where I went down. Thankfully this all happened at very slow speeds. The bike fell to the right and on top of my right foot. I can’t tell you how grateful I was that I was wearing armoured and ankle protective boots! I have zero injury from the accident and the only scratches to my bike were on the Barkbusters, which is exactly what they’re built for. All the gear at all times, no matter what. The driver and her companion looked shocked by the whole thing and helped me get my bike up, but didn’t say much. As this was all happening poor Rick was ahead of me and only heard me shriek over our helmet comm before circling back. We had 200km left to get to Panama City and the bike and I were fine, so the only thing to do was shake it off and carry on.
Those last 200km were 2hrs of some of the most focused and determined riding I’d done this whole trip. As we reached Panama City the highway got bigger and the traffic heavier, but we quickly we found our exit for the Casco Viejo district where we’re staying. As you know Rick and I aren’t the most fancy pants people. We spent most of this trip staying in shitty motels. But we thought we’d treat ourselves and booked 2 nights at the American Trade Hotel, which is a co-brand with The Ace. The Casco Viejo neighbourhood is in an extraordinary state of transition. Opulence and poverty exist here side by side, literally. You can have a crumbling facade right next to a fully restored building. The area is rich in history and represents old Panama. It’s exactly where we wanted to spend our last 2 nights, and the king size bed and mini bar aren’t bad either. Unfortunately once we reached the hotel a cold I’d been holding off finally took over. I was completely and utterly exhausted, Rick too, and we ordered room service and went to bed early.
Today we were up not too early and my cold still has me feeling weak and woozy. So we arranged for a flat bed truck to pick up the bikes and take us to the cargo terminal at the airport. We connected with a company called ServiCarga per a recommendation from the AdvRider forum (thanks Pete!). We got a very good quote to ship the bikes home by air and the whole process was pretty seamless. We had to drain the remaining fuel from the bikes, disconnect the batteries and remove the windscreen and mirrors. We had a pack of helpful men getting the bikes crated, while I went to the office to deal with the paperwork. To process the shipment all they needed was copies of our passports, bikes titles/ownership and the document we had stamped upon entry into Panama. It took about 2 hours and before long we were in a taxi heading back to the city.
Tomorrow we are homeward bound. There are a lot of experiences and lessons we need to let sink in, plus the next few days will be filled with post-vacation adjustments (and we’re moving!). So I’m going to wait until we’ve settled in before putting together a wrap-up post. I can say for certain that 8000kms+ later, the only thing we can think of is where should we go next?
Sarah and Rick