Panama City Skyline
We were delayed getting to the Panamanian border due to follow-up we had to do with Costa Rican Police Internal Affairs. This sounds ominous but it wasn’t. A local police officer had stopped us the night before for not wearing a reflective vest while riding. He wanted a bribe, otherwise he would issue each of us a $100 ticket. We paid a bribe of about $33 US and went on our way. Omar, being a good citizen, was incensed by the policeman and took action. He will be writing a post about our time in Costa Rica and will cover this event in more detail.
With our late start and a border crossing to deal with that morning, we were once again going to be riding in the dark before arriving at our destination for the day. The roads were in good condition and well-marked, so riding after dark wasn’t such a big deal as I feared it would be. We arrived at our hotel in Santiago, Panama around 8:00PM, quickly checked in and proceeded to the dining room to enjoy our favorite pastime. We both had pasta dishes that were surprisingly good.
As you can see from the video, the view beyond the windows was pitch black. Since we arrived late, we had no idea what was out there. The next morning, we discovered there was a little lake around much of the property and there was all kinds of tropical plants and vegetation. The hotel was very nice and we both had a restful sleep.
On our way to Panama City we passed numerous fruit stands causing us to crave a cool drink and some sweet fruit to eat. One thing you quickly realize about Central America, all types of exotic fruit grow in abundance. The fruit stand we stopped at was perfect. They had many varieties of fruits and vegetables, but mostly we wanted fresh coconut water. Inside a refrigerator, just waiting for us, were dozens of chilled coconuts, so we ordered two cool ones. At that point, the lady pulled out a two-foot-long machete and went to work. She swiftly chopped the tops off the coconuts with a couple strokes, made a small hole with the end of her machete, stuck in a straw and served them up. With fresh chilled coconut water and bananas on the side, we were suddenly in Panamanian heaven.
Not long after we left the fruit stand, the clouds began building until they were a boiling mass of dark gray. We had seen these types of dense coastal cloud systems before and knew it was about to dump buckets of rain on us. We headed for the nearest shelter we could find in hopes the storm would blow over in an hour or so. We no more than pulled into an underground parking area when it started to rain intensely and continued to do so for about an hour and a half. When it rains like that in Phoenix, the resultant flooding would make the national news. In Central America it is just another coastal rain shower, and no big deal. We got back on our bikes and we were off again to Panama City.
The road was in great shape all the way. It was a divided four-lane highway that continued to the heart of the city where our hostel for the night was located. The big event of the ride was crossing the bridge over the channel leading to the Panama Canal. It is long and very high.
We stayed at a hostel located in the City that was within walking distance of several restaurants and coffee shops. We ate at a Korean restaurant. Yes, there was an excellent Korean restaurant in Panama City. On our way back to the hostel we stopped at a busy, little bakery where we had coffee and a dessert.
The hostel we stayed at was really basic and haphazardly laid out, and in a trashy section of town. On the positive side, this hostel is frequented by travelers from every corner of the planet. Here is one of the gringos who stayed there caught watching cat videos.
That night there were Asians, Latinos, Europeans and two gringo American motorcyclists. One guy from England had been traveling for two and a half years, only going home periodically to visit family. Another couple had just completed a month-long tour of Cuba and were going to spend another month or so in Panama and Colombia. An Italian gal who stayed in our dorm room spent a month in Colombia before coming to Panama. Although the hostel lacked amenities, we certainly enjoyed meeting other adventures with an itch to travel.
Because the hostel was so bare bones, we decided to spend a few more bucks and relocate to a nicer hostel. It was certainly worth the money to get a private room with clean showers and A/C that is on all day. The neighborhood was also much cleaner. Here is the view from the deck on top of the building.