Page 45: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
We ride out of Panama City. During our walking tour of Casco Viejo we saw a road sign for the Pan American bridge, the bridge we need to cross to get out of town. Great, we start riding down the malecon (Ave Balboa) toward Central Ave. This is where we saw the road sign to the bridge. Well somehow we got off Ave Balboa and had to circle around and around the central business district. We did finally find the bridge and get out of town, no problem...
We’re shooting for Santiago or David today, two larger cities along the Pan American highway that should have a good selection of hotels. The highway here is in great shape and the traffic is surprisingly light. The bike is riding smooth. We have two new tires and fresh oil. We are confident we have everything we need to complete the return leg of our Central American adventure. It’s a good feeling.
We tool into Santiago just before 3:00 PM. Our rule is to start looking for lodging anytime after 2:00 PM. We do this to guarantee we never run the risk of riding in the dark. Just before town I see a hotel with great parking security and an Olympic size pool. At $24 a night we had no problem moving in. A long swim and a long walk into town is just exactly what we like after a days ride. On our walk into town we passed several restaurants. We check-out a cafeteria line at a large bus stop near town. Bus stops always seem to have great food at good prices. We get two huge plates to-go (para llevar) of mixed rice, tender beef, carrots and fried plantains (Arroz mixto, carne asada y platanos) for $1.30 a plate. A couple beers at a store near the hotel and we are set.
We’re engaging in spirited discussions now about our adventures ahead. It’s unbelievable how fired-up we are for the ride back through Central America AND how fired-up again we are for reaching South America. In Panama City we purchased the new version ‘Central America guide book’. As we worked our way south, down through Central America we admitted several times to each other that after South America we will be in a big hurry to get home ASAP. Now our discussions are about what new places we can visit that we missed the first time through. We’re talking about Tikal, Belize, Chiapas, Eastern Mexico, bla bla bla. It truly feels as if we have both been ‘charged up’ with new adventure adrenaline just like we are starting to plan this whole adventure all over again for the first time. We are so lucky to have each other. I feel like we are some type of bionic machine, we operate as one. It’s like every time there’s a problem or fault in either of us we spawn a new mechanism that’s designed to deal with that issue so the mechanism (us) can continue its mission. No organism or machine is designed perfectly from the start. It survives and prospers only by adapting to new and changing environments and conditions. (Woo, I better have another coffee)
No big hurry again today. The planed ride is to a mountain village, Boquete, it’s a five hour ride. A few people in Panama City had mentioned Boquete to us. They said it’s a beautiful area and the climate is much cooler than Panama City. Our guide book also raves about the area.
Another slow morning drinking coffee, reading and swimming. When I ride along I usually like to get a big breakfast in me before I hit the road so I can ride long and hard. With Heidi onboard I have developed a different riding style. We try to get on the road between 7:30 and 8:30 AM and put some miles on before we look for food. This is working well for Heidi. I still like to ‘pound down’ some dried fruit, nuts or a breakfast bar before we hit the road, and that’s working for me also. Anyway, we ride for a couple hours then eat at a small cafeteria style restaurant at a rural gas station. We each have a couple $.30 Pollo empanadas (chicken meat pies), our favorite and a cappuccino.
We’re on the Pan American highway. The traffic is still light. It starts to sprinkle and the sky looks really dark ahead. We pull over to suit up in our rain gear.
A couple hours later we pull off the Pan American at David and start heading north into the mountains. An hour later we stop at a modern coffee shop overlooking the village Boquete. This is looken’ good…..
Boquete main street:
We ride all around town ‘checkin’ out’ hotels. Our guide book talked about a place right on the river but it wasn’t open for business. All the other hotels in town either did not look desirable or they didn’t have adequate parking security. We head out of town on the other side. We see this place (photo below) which is right on the river and has great parking. It looked expensive so we keep riding. All the other hotels we looked at were too far out of town for our liking so we ride back to see if we can swing a deal. It’s $66 a day or $42 a day if we stay a week. Well, Boquete is said to be the best area in Panama for hiking and sight seeing. No problem, a week here sounds good.
Oh yeah. We get the best room in the hotel with a large patio jetting out over the rushing river, rio Caldera.
Villas Lorena. We have a kitchen, living room and loft bedroom. Liken’ life……
It's fun hanging out on the patio watching all the horse and foot traffic going across the bridge into town and back.
We walk into Boquete once or twice a day. The center of town is 5 or 6 city blocks from our hotel. Today we take a camera. Enjoy….
Three or four guys have been working everyday on building a sidewalk into town. They always enjoy exchanging greetings with us.
This is the menu of our favorite restaurant in Boquete. It’s cafeteria style and is always a buzz with locals. The food is fantastic and is so inexpensive it’s hard to justify cooking. A full breakfast (Desayunos) is $1.25, empanadas $.25, a big plate of tender beef and potatoes (Carne Asada con Papas) $1.00, a great cup of coffee $.25. We like Panama…..
This is a good place to buy fruit.
So is this. I get a pineapple for $.50
There are two parks in the center of town.
The hotel has two resident dogs and three cats. This guy is stationed next to the bike every morning when we get up and every time we return to the hotel.
There’s an 11 KM loop up into the hills around Boquete. Here we go…
There are rows and rows of coffee plants everywhere we look.
We pass several coffee plantations
The only volcano in Panama is just outside of Boquete, Volcan Baru. The volcano summit is surrounded by a national park cloud forest. It’s a steep 15 KM hike up to the park trailhead. Our guide book talks about taking a taxi to the park but Heidi and I decide to devote a day hiking up to the trailhead and back. This way we don’t miss any local action along the way. Another day we will taxi to the park so we can reach the summit.
We start climbing….
I like hiking with Heidi. Can ya tell?
The air is filled with the scent of flowering coffee plants and pine needles.
Pine trees, palm trees, banana trees and cacti. This is cool.
We were sitting along side the road resting when we these guys pop up next to us.
It looks like they just finished harvesting this potato field. The younger boys are carting off the sacks of potatoes to a pile near the road while the old man plows the field. He was almost finished plowing the field in one direction. When we returned back down the road he was plowing in the other direction. It sounded like he had his own language for communicating with the bulls. It was musical.
We passed dozens of small households on our way to the park. We received a warm greeting from everyone we came across.
Going back down. This was a great hike and we got a huge workout.
Pine trees and hibiscus.
Almost back down to Boquete. We both feel like we are walking funny now.
Heidi saw a hot spring mentioned in the guide book and wants to do it. The guide book says to take a taxi. Its ten miles down one road, 6 miles down another road and a 45 minute hike from the town Caldera. We both agree, what fun is taking a taxi to somewhere where we can take public transportation.
OK, here we go. We board a bus in Boquete heading south. The bus drops us off in the middle of nowhere at an intersecting road leading to Caldera. Two locals were standing at the intersection. Heidi asks them if it’s too far to walk to Caldera. They say “Si” We start walking and the first pickup truck stops and offers us a lift.
This truck seems to serve as local transport.
We get dropped off right in Caldera near the trailhead to the hot spring (Pozos termales) Sweet…
It’s a decent road at first.
Mostly horse traffic.
I first thought this color was from copper. On the way back we figured it was from sulfur.
We pay one dollar each to a local owner. We had the whole place to ourselves.
This is cool, or I should say ‘hot’
We still have a couple more hikes planned along with another bus adventure to a local village. Then it’s one more destination in Panama before we bike back across into Costa Rica.
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