Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 31 - Coronado to Panama City, Panama

RobC came down with some sort of cold last night, loaded up on meds and slept like a log.  Today, we planned to ride to the Luna's Castle, a hostel in the old part of Panama City.  We got to the outskirts of the city (total metro population of 1.2 million) and ended up asking a local delivery truck driver how to get to the hostel.   He had to go that way, so we followed him through some pretty narrow and hilly parts of town on streets lines with old decrepit buildings.  It's amazing those buildings were still standing on their own!  Got to Luna's Castle, a renovated old 3-story building overlooking the bay.  The hostel was crawling with 20-something year old backpackers out to see the world. The place had not parking at all, either on the street or anywhere on the premises. RobC used their internet connection to try to get a handle on the shipping companies, while I stood guard over the bikes.  No luck doing anything by phone.  We decided to head for the airport and go from there.  Priority one was securing passage for the bikes to Columbia.

 Waiting outside Luna's Castle for RobC trying to figure things out with respect to shipping the bikes.

 The old fishing harbor just outside San Felipe (Casco Viejo), the old town of Panama City.

In this part of town even the milk delivery truck uses an armed guard.

At the Tocumen airport we found Girag Air Freight at the cargo terminal and ended up talking to a very nice lady.  This was the place we needed.  For 901.38 USD, they took care of everything.  The bikes will be in Bogota Thursday, as tomorrow is a holiday.  We just had to make sure there was minimal fuel in the tank, battery was disconnected and there was nothing loose on the bike.  We had to drain the jerry cans too so we offered to give our fuel free of charge to an employee who was more than happy to fill his car with 4 gallons of fuel.  Never offered a thank you ... not to me anyway.  Maybe RobC got one.  That was 16 USD worth of fuel!

Girag Air freight.

We spent the better part of 2 hours waiting for the paperwork, then 45 min waiting for the customs official to sign our bikes out of Panama.  None of the 4 women in the office offered any help or even told us who the right person was.  Wasn't their job.  It was a guy standing in line that pointed her out.  Wow.  Bikes taken care of, we were off to the other side of the airport to see about flights and hotels.  Tocumen is a suburb of Panama City that surrounds the airport almost like a ring road around the runway.  It was dirty, garbage along the streets, construction (wasn't apparent what they were doing) and dilapidated housing, yet the school kids on their way home were dressed in their best clothes. 

We decided on a hotel in the center of the city.  75USD a night (split two ways) that way we were close to any sightseeing.  First things first, I strolled out into the night in search of some refreshments and found a messy, dirty corner store where I bought a 26oz bottle of rum, 2L bottle of Coke, bag of ice and 2, 500ml bottles of water for 12USD.  We booked our flights for Bogota on COPA Airlines.  That taken care of, we could relax.  Later, we decided to search for a coffee shop and discovered the neighborhood we were in was not of the highest caliber.  First clue, prostitutes on most corners.  Nice.  Ended up back at the hotel restaurant for coffee where the staff also went to the same school of hospitality as those individuals in Coronado.  Must have satellite campuses all over Panama.

"Colorful" buses in Panama.

Common sight on the ring road around the airport.

Car repair shop in the town of Tocumen, near the airport.

I am adding some videos that are a bit outdated only because I could finally upload them to YouTube today.
Road to the CR/Panama border:

Landslide ride:

First 50km into Panama was like this.  Awesome!

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