Crossing the boarder between Costa Rica and Panama wasn’t without a little drama and hassle. When leaving Costa Rica we had to pay an exit tax before receiving our exit stamp. Rather than conveniently locating the tax office next to the Migration office they located the tax office about 200m away down a small hill. To make matters even more confusing the tax office had no signage to say what it was. It was around 1pm and the temperature was getting hot and sticky. We paid our tax, got our exit stamp then spent our last remaining Colones on a coke and a couple of ice blocks. Outside the supermarket some of the locals were well on their way to drinking themselves into a stupor. We decided to take our refreshments a little further down the road away from this small group. When we passed back by the supermarket a brawl had broken out between the drunks. One had removed his shirt in that international sign of “I want to fight you”. With that last impression of Costa Rica we decided it was time to get going.
We entered Panama without any hassles. The smooth wide road we had been riding along in Costa Rica turned into a goat track which we didn’t mind at all. A couple of locals tried to tell us we were riding the wrong way, but the map said the road went through and we enjoyed the fact the only other road users were cyclists and pedestrians.
Our first Panamanian road….
…complete with tricky bridges to negotiate.
The road improved but was still not of the standard of the smooth roads in Costa Rica. This part of Panama was noticeably poorer. We really felt like we had stepped back in time. On the Caribbean side of the divide there weren’t many towns and the only thing between towns was plenty of jungle dispersed with the odd shack. It was very hot and humid too. We rode over the divide in a monster day of 122km and 4000m in climbing in what felt like 99 percent humidity. Every time we stopped I would take off my gloves and wring the moisture out of them. Once we crossed the divide it became much drier and a little less sticky. We finished riding in a city called David. From there we took a bus to Panama City. Already we could tell the Pacific side of the divide appeared to be more affluent than the Caribbean side.
For you horsey types out there. We saw this set up for transporting your horse around when we arrived in David. The horse was so chilled about the whole thing and we were both amazed by it.
We arrived in Panama City at night and were dazzled by its bright lights. The next day we got on our bikes and did a bit of a tiki tour around the waterfront and out to the Panama Canal. Panama City is very modern, and it is clear to us where all the money in Panama is as the photos below show:
And the Panama Canal was pretty cool too…
The original Panama Canal. The highest price tag for a ship to pass through is USD 450,000. The lowest price was 36 cents by American Richard Halliburton who swam the Panama Canal in 1928.
Panama built a new canal alongside the old one. In this photo we saw a large container ship passing through with a likely passage fee of around USD 1.2 million!
Panama has set itself up as the ‘Switzerland’ of the Americas with many large international corporations locating their headquarters in Panama. This is the countries largest income earner followed by the Panama Canal, then tourism. This will be why Panama City is so affluent, but we were disappointed to not see that money filtered to the rest of the country.
After our day out on the bikes it was time for us to pack up and wait for a flight back to the States for Tony and home for me. During this time we had a bit of time to reflect on the last 11 months. We both agreed the biggest highlight of our journey was meeting really wonderful people from diverse backgrounds and experiencing new cultures. That was followed by seeing some amazing scenery, particularly in Canada (Rockies), Montana, Utah and Baja. Our favourite food was Mexican by far – mmmmmmmm.
As we continue to adventure at home and abroad the blogs here at thethingswedoforfun.com will continue, so please keep following us…