Our 8-day ride through Panama was eventful. We decided Panama was a perfect blend of the things we enjoyed in other Central American countries except Costa Rica, but with a few more developments (like drinkable water).
Day one crossing the border was absolute chaos! We have not had any problems with any other border crossing, and typically, the whole process might take about one hour. However, we stood in line for 1.5 hours just to leave Costa Rica! Then we got in the barely moving entry line on the Panamanian side and waited another 3.5 hours. What a disaster! Part of it was because the locals kept cutting in line. But of course, we’re too nice to do that. So we waited and killed a whole half day at the border.
The ride across Panama also included our most desolate stretch of highway yet. There was about 200 km where there was very little as far as accommodations and food options, and the last 100 of those we had to do in one day because there was NOTHING. Not even a gas station. There was one tiny little mini-supermarket. That day also included a few tough climbs, but those afforded some fantastic views!
Even after the long stretch of nothing, our hotel options were limited. One night the only hotel we could find was going to cost $22. So we roamed around the town, asking the locals about other options. And guess where we ended up? We went to the firehouse! And, just like in the US, they were so kind and offered us free showers and a place to sleep on the floor in their large multi-purpose room. What a blessing! They said it was not unusual for people on bicycles to come to them looking for a place to sleep. So, as we have said many other times… some things really are cross-cultural.
Toward the end of our time in Panama, we were close to the coast and were able to stop and have a rest day on the beach. We found a place that let us camp for $10/night, and we were basically right on the beach! The next day we rode on to El Palmar, where we borrowed a boogie board and hit some of the biggest waves we’d seen yet.
After the beach, we did one last long day into Panama City. We got here a little early (so yes, we made up the time lost to the hospital in Guatemala!). We needed this time to take care of getting the bikes boxed up, packing up for our trip home, Christmas shopping, and of course, checking out the City. It won’t be long before we’ll be home for Christmas!