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.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

What I've been up to: Working for Agua para la Vida

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The internet cafe where I spend all my time
The internet cafe where I spend all my time (View on flickr)

Inside the internet cafe where I spend all my time
Inside the internet cafe where I spend all my time (View on flickr)

Well, Nancy will fly back tomorrow from California (where her dad is quite healthy, gracias a Diós, and we'll get on a boat to Colombia.

What have I been doing for these three weeks? In some ways, nothing. Every morning I get up at the rather boring (and too expensive at $22/night) hotel where I've been staying, walk to a little Chinese restaurant where I have coffee and read the newspaper, and then I go sit down at the internet cafe for the entire day working on the new website of Agua para la Vida, the wonderful organization we visited in Nicaragua that builds rural drinking water systems. It has been a strange little interlude in a fairly uninteresting place, lonely of course without Nancy here (both as a friend and as our primary friend-maker!)

Anyway, Agua para la Vida now has a new Drupal-based website, with database-oriented features that allow a map of the sites they have built, reporting capabilities for donations, and the like. I could have been volunteering for them in Nicaragua for these three weeks and it would have been more enjoyable and social in many ways, but on the other hand the technology would have been a real challenge. Here I have decent, cheap places to work (there's even a 24-hour internet cafe) and good speed and quality.

But I'll be really glad to see Nancy tomorrow and continue on our way!

Panama City

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view of Panama City with many highrises and even more cranes. Looks like Miami.
view of Panama City with many highrises and even more cranes. Looks like Miami. (View on flickr)

Fish market
Fish market (View on flickr)

Panama City is certainly the most cosmopolitan place we've been in Central America, possibly in all of Latin America so far. Of course we've skipped a couple of the capital cities, like Guatemala City. But parts of the city are just full of skyscrapers and cranes, and there are gringos all over the place, and slick brochures about all the fancy condos you can buy in those high-rises. It really looks like Miami, and when you think about it, Panama City is probably giving Miami a run for its money. Miami used to be the big central point for rich Latin Americans to visit, with good shopping and comfort and luxury. But Panama City is so much more central, and has everything including the shopping, and is probably safer.... I'd say you should probably invest in Panama if you're the investing type.

Panama in general and Panama City specifically are also far more diverse than any place we've yet been in Latin America - approaching Panama City we saw several mosques. In my hotel there have been a number of traditional rabbis. And there is a vast array of skin colors, from Caribbean blacks to blonde gringos. And the Chinese seem to have the mini-super business sewed up throughout the country, and the cheap restaurant business in part of it.

But of course the rich fancy condos and diversity aren't the only story. This is a big city. There are beggars and some very poor people. You'll see the young men coming through on their rapid check of the street garbage containers checking for aluminum cans. But the sad thing is that there will be one guy coming right after another one... So there aren't enough cans to go around.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Nancy's return back to Panama

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I am back in Panama after spending 3 weeks playing nurse for my dad. I want to first thank all of you who wished my father a quick return to good health. I am positive all the warm wishes aided in his return to health and also return back to his own home in Boston.

It is amazing to see how sick he was and how his body was able to heal and how far he has come. My family gave me the nickname Nurse Ratchett, who was the nurse in the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest". When I arrived to California, my brother Mark and I drove to the rehab center to bring my dad home to my brothers home. I had a 2 hour crash course on how to do more medical stuff than I ever thought possible.

Two days later my brother left for the week on a business trip. I was left to take care of my very sick dad. When he was released from the rehab center, he was on oxygen, insulin dependent, in a wheel chair, 15 different medicines, had bedsores and was still very sick. Every day he made incredible strides toward health. When I left him on April 6th, he was using a cane (when he remembered), no insulin, oxygen, and took 12 medicines a day and was in awesome health. My goal was to get him health so he could return back home in Boston. He is going home on the 10th with my brother Dan. I hope my dad continues to thrive when he returns back to his own home and does not have Nurse Ratchett telling him what to do.

It is very hot here in Panama and I can not wait to get to the highlands again where it is 30 degrees cooler. I have been having such intense hot flashes, I just about drowned myself.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

On the boat to Cartagena, Colombia

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The Stahlratte
Tomorrow we take a 4-wheel-drive to Carti on the Caribbean coast, load our bikes and gear aboard, and spend 5 days on the Stahlratte sailing through the San Blas Islands and on to Cartagena, Colombia. We're excited about the trip, and anxious about the next phase of the trip... South America! Will the climbs kill us? Will we be kidnapped by terrorists (probably not)? Do we have another year of travel and another 10,000 miles in us? Stay tuned...

Info on Sailing from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia, and other options

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The Stahlratte, the boat we sailed to Cartagena
The Stahlratte, the boat we sailed to Cartagena (View on flickr)

There is no road from Panama to Colombia, so many cyclists choose to find sea transportation, probably out of a purist desire to avoid an airplane. It is nice to have the continuity of traveling on the earth, although not necessarily cheaper or better.


It does turn out that while there are not regularly scheduled services to Cartagena, you can probably get there just fine. Trying to get there for free on a yacht from Colon is probably possible, but won't work for most people. However, there are a number of boats that make the trip, charging US$275 to $350, and there are hostels that arrange the connections. So if you really want to sail, you can probably do it.


Caveats: The trip is rough, and most people are seasick. Some boats do not provide food, so you need to provide your own. Some boats are disreputable or poorly run and you might get a scare or something worse. Some boats charge extra for the immigration paperwork in Colombia. Know what your payment covers.


In Panama City, the hostel that seems to do all the arranging is Zuly´s.

In Cartagena, the hostel doing the arranging is Casa Viena.

   read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Panama to Cartagena, Colombia

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on the way to the ship
on the way to the ship (View on flickr)

Muddy road from Panama City to Carti, Panama on the way to the San Blas Islands
Muddy road from Panama City to Carti, Panama on the way to the San Blas Islands (View on flickr)

Here is the story of our trip from Panama City to Cartagena, Columbia – starting in a 4x4 vehicle from Panama City to Carti, Panama and then taking the 100´ sailboat the Stahlratte to Cartagena.

We got picked up at at the Hotel California in Panama City at 5:15 in the morning and threw our bikes and gear up on the roof rack and squeezed in the back with 7 other passengers, all who were going on the same sailing trip from Panama to Columbia. I, more than Randy, thought it would be great fun to take a long sailing trip. I have always thought I should try it to see if I might want to sail around the world after I finish biking half way around the world.

As we rode in the back of the jeep I was very grateful to be in the truck and not trying to ride, push or throw my bike along this route. The road was flat at first and paved until the turn off at El Llano, but that’s where the real road started. Other cyclists before us have ridden this and described this section as having 100 hills and many 20% grades. It was very impressive and I think I would have died trying to ride it. It had been raining the night before and the rain carved eroded mud-lined tracks that zigzag down the steepest parts. The truck would slide from side to side trying to find a hold in the red mush we sloshed through. Other trucks ahead and behind us also had moments of uncontrolled maneuvering. One 4x4 vehicle we passed parked at the creast of a hill was overheating from the taxing travels through the Kuna jungle. After we arrived at the end of the road, a trip which took about 4 hours, I was very happy with our decision not to have ridden this ride. Our newly cleaned bikes appreciated it too.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

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