Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 30 - Volcán to Coronado Playa, Panama

RobT:  We left Volcán after finding an ATM to get US dollars, as that is the currency in Panama. We fueled up and filled our Camelback water systems.  We planned on taking a scenic route to break up the monotony and traffic on the Panamerican highway.  The route was a secondary road south off the Panamerican, just past Remedios.  We were runnning along nicely and smoothly until we started to wonder where the start of the secondary road was.  Up ahead was a police checkpoint.  They motioned us over, checked our documents and RobC inquired about the entrance to the road.  The officer pointed 100 m down the road.  Cool.  We didn't miss it.  In all our discussions we forget to ask about the condition of the road and we assumed it was paved.  Well, it was a mix of deteriorated, crumbling blacktop, very loose gravel, mud sections, packed gravel and rock.  After about 10 km we asked a local what the remaining 100km of road was like.  "Same as this," was the answer.

Slip-sliding away .......  this was truly like a planned, choreographed, pirouette, the way RobC slid the bike to a stop and just walked away from it.  Very gracefully done my friend.

Very loose gravel, like riding on big marbles with bald tires.

We decided to turn around and sheepishly make our way back to the main highway in search of nice smooth, paved twisties.

We noticed some vendors along the roadside selling bead jewelry, so we stopped. Turns out these objects are made by the Guaymi Indians, the same ones who wear the colorful, floor-length dresses. We bought some nice pieces for our handycraft collection and for gifts back home.

Both of us were very aware of the reputation the police in Panama, so we made sure we were obeying all traffic signs and speed laws.  The only problem was it was hard to obey posted speed limits when the signs were all but non-existent.  The odd time there was a posted limit of 100kph, then 60kph, then 80kph ... and they seemed to make sense, 60 in the pueblos and 80 or 100 in the open country ..... until ... at the last minute we saw a sign for 60kph (38 miles/hour) (yup, we were in the countryside, plus this is the Panamerican Highway) and in the distance a fluorescent green clad officer jumps out into the road waving us over.  Shit.  We explained what we knew about the postings and pleaded our case.  He wouldn't acknowledge a thing RobC said, just asked for our passports and driver's licences.  He keyed it all into a cell phone and printed us each what appeared to be a notice of infraction.  Didn't explain where we could pay it, how much it was, only that we were speeding and motioned us off.  No courtesy, nothing.  Very curt and unfriendly. We debated whether we should have offered some money but these two guys seemed to be very official about it all. 10 minutes down the road we noticed a big sign, "Tourism helps everyone" .... yeah!

We got into Coronado looking for a nice hotel along the Pacific ocean, still steaming from the "ticket".  Wanted to sit down with a beer on an ocean front patio watching the sunset.  Turn right in town and were stopped short by a kiosk and a gate.  More curt, unfriendly people.  Turns out it's all residential along the coast and the guard really wasn't interested in helping.  Turn around and tried another place.  The lady at another restricted entrance was the same.  These people must go to the same school of hospitality.  Decided to kick this town and see what we could find down the road.  Nothing.  No hotels and if we did find one there was no Internet, no hot water and no secure parking.  We came from countries where the tiniest little hole in the wall joint for 10USD a night had Internet and hot water.  What's going on here?

We ended up going back to Coronado, miserable little place, to spend the night.  We found a "hotel," no Internet or hot water and were told we had to go to the plaza for Internet.  The guy behind the desk didn't make eye contact with RobC at all during the entire 10min conversation.  Apparently, there was something on the wall behind us that was more intriguing.

No real restaurants either so we are writing this post from the McDonald's in Coronado.  Yes, it tastes the same in Panama as in Canada and the US.

Nobody smiles here or offers any assistance, even when asked and if by chance they do, its' more flippant than anything, like we are taking them away from some world decisions they have to make.  The town is dirty and grimy but we can only imagine what it's like behind the gates of the seaside residences and resorts.  We bet it's nice.  Such a contrast between the garbage and run down buildings and new taxis, buses and shopping malls.

Dejected in Panama at the "hotel".... to quote RobC, "The only good thing so far will be the exit sign from Panama."  Miserable place.  :)


  1. He Rob and Rob,

    How nice to see that you made it to Panama! We are now also in Volcan, but it took some time ;-)

    Well I hope that you two enjoy your trip in Panama were the roads are much better :-)

    Ik wens jullie alle geluk toe met jullie reis en wens jullie Gods zegen toe.

    Met vriendelijke groet,

    Michael (en Anneke)

  2. I was expecting a picture of whatever was so interesting on the wall behind your head while trying to talk to the hotel guy. Was it another native Mona Lisa? :)

  3. Hi Phyllis,

    I think it was one of those calendars, such as the ones in the hardware store where Toby and Greg were looking around, trying hard to ignore them. :-)


  4. Hi Michael en Anneke,

    Ik hoop dat jullie de Cerro Punta hebben kunnen zien in Volcán - voor ons was het bewolkt en regenachtig. Maar de kronkelige landwegen waren fantastisch voor de motor.

    Goede reis verder naar Guayaquil!


  5. Hey Rob (and Rob) -

    Just a note to say that we missed you at the ATA conference in Denver, but understand that you are otherwise engaged. Love the updates and the pictures: ride safe. -- Nick

  6. Drie dagen sinds het laatste bijwerken van de blog. Hoop dat alles nog oké is...

  7. Hi Dick,

    We have been busy sightseeing in Panama City, plus handling the bike shipments, which is no mean task. But all is well and we are now in Bogota, and we will be getting the bikes out of customs tomorrow (Friday). Colombia is an incredibly interesting country with very friendly and happy people!

  8. Hi Nick,

    I am sure the Conference was great and I hated to miss my first conference in 18 years. Hope to see you next year in Boston. Glad you like our humble photography and tavelogues.

    Best wishes,

  9. hi Guys,
    I still follow you. Nice pictures and a great trip.. Are you not tired? don't miss house? :-))
    Ride safe ! see you soon :-))