Into Panama - We're already in Panama City

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Entering Panama
Entering Panama (View on flickr)

We got to Panama from Costa Rica about ten days ago and have been working our way the (fairly long) length of the country.

We crossed an old railroad bridge to get across the border from Costa Rica on the little-used border crossing on the Caribbean - once again, no problems and no hassles, although we had to wait an hour or so for the single Panamanian clerk to get back from lunch or something.

From the border we rode another couple of hours to get to the pier for the water taxi to the main island of Bocas del Toro, a fantastic touristy area with lots of snorkelling and completely overrun with tourists. We had a very pleasant day snorkeling, seeing the brightest and most beautiful coral we've ever seen. Then we got back on a water taxi, went to the mainland, and started the ride through Panama.

Sights from the boat to Bocas del Toro
Sights from the boat to Bocas del Toro (View on flickr)

In northern Panama we saw some amazing living situations - lots of shacks on the water, or in other areas on stilts. We rode through indigenous areas with people in more traditional clothes.

The second day out, we had the honor of doing our biggest one-day climb of the entire trip, over 6000 feet (almost 2000 meters). We crossed over the Continental Divide, hitting a maximum elevation of 4200 feet, and then descending the whole thing. The Caribbean side was mostly virgin rainforest, with waterfalls. Besides being quite a grind to get up, it was beautiful and exhillarating.

Randy grabbing on to a truck on the way up the Continental Divide
Randy grabbing on to a truck on the way up the Continental Divide (View on flickr)

After we got over the top, we hit the Pan-American highway and had a few days of good-quality riding on a mostly excellent road through very rural areas. Then, when we hit Santiago, it started gradually turning into American suburbs - big box stores and eventually McDonald's in every town, with the increase in traffic you'd expect. But much of this was on a 4-lane highway with a shoulder most of the time, so it was fairly safe.

We rode into Panama City today, over the famous Bridge of the Americas. Riding up to the bridge, we were stopped by the police and informed that cyclists are not allowed on the bridge, and that we'd have to wait for a patrolman to take us over. But the patrolman came with too small a vehicle, so he escorted us over the bridge and we had a wonderful crossing, with a careful flashing-light police escort!