Friday, April 15, 2011

4/10/11 - San Jose, CR- Panama City, PA. 550 miles, 20 hours, 2 days.

FUCK, erased a long post on accident, so here I go again....

San Jose was cool for a couple of days. The city is compact enough to walk around and see pretty much everything that is worth seeing. Women here are really attractive as well. Saw the cathedral, National theater, etc. Went to the Museum of Gold (boring), Museum of Jade (also boring) and the Numismatic museum, which was pretty cool. Went and saw The American in an air conditioned movie theater in a modern mall. I had seen it already, but it was called something else in Spanish, so I had no idea. At least its a cool movie. On Gabe's last night in San Jose before flying out, we decided to go out drinking and all that. We end up in a casino which is jumping. The reason for this we immediately realize, is that it is packed to the brim with a ton of Colombian and Costa Rican hookers and creepy ass middle aged American ex-pats. I get pretty wasted on several rum and cokes, and win a tiny bit on roulette. The vibe starts getting a little too much for us (more Gabe than me, Im having a great time!) and we head out. After an hour of stumbling back to the guesthouse and a lot of drunk philosophising , I pass out after a pretty good night.

Gabe leaves the next morning and I stay an extra day in the city. Get some work done on my bike (again, always) by a cool ass couple of dudes who own a bike-customization shop, specializing in rally bikes. See a few more sights and then head to the guesthouse relatively early. I know its time to leave when Steve, (boyfriend of Katrina, the owner) starts asking me about whores and what I have done with them in San Jose, and that it is perfectly cool to bring them back to Katrina's guesthouse, and that he has only known her a week and that before that, he was bringing girls back to the place, and, and, and. OK man, nice conversation. San Jose has been cool, but time to go.

Its 500 or so miles to Panama City, from San Jose, and I plan on splitting the drive up into 2 days, Hopefully crossing the border today and then going the rest of the way the following day. I get a late start and head up into the central highlands of CR. I stop for a 2 dollar lunch and when I get back on the bike, it gets really foggy and begins to rain. Im wet and cold after a while, and as I keep heading up, I become really soaked and freezing cold, and start to curse in my helmet. I know that when I hit the coastal highway, it will at least be warmer, but it is a couple of hours before I am finally there. Thankful for the dry, warnmer weather and with the Pacific peeking out on my right side, I opt to head for a remote border crossing at Rio Sereno a bit further north, to avoid the hectic main crossing and Paso Canoas. I got so slowed down by the rain though, I know I will have to spend the night on the CR side, so I aim for San Vito, the largest town close to where I am headed. I follow a large, lazy river through indigenous territory for a couple of hours, and by the time the sun goes down I am on a bad dirt road and 30 miles from San Vito. The fog gets so thick I can only go about 15 mph for a stretch, but pop into San Vito at 8 and get a surprisingly clean and comfortable room for 14 bucks. Clean up and head out for some chicken and rice, and coffee and a pastry afterwards at a little cafe. Back in the room, I watch Man v Food for an hour, and then some show about these 2 douchebag fashion photographers living in NYC which makes me hate humanity for a bit. Looking forwards to crossing the border early and being in a new country in the morning.

Head to the border in the morning, supposedly only 20 minutes away, but the complete lack of signage and unmarked dirt roads leading to it stretch the ride to 90 minutes. The border is also a bit confusing, and I end up trying to check into Panama before I check out of CR. I manage to get it right, getting paperwork straight, insurance for Panama, etc. It is a slow and tiny border which is what I wanted, but it also has the effect of everyone being slow and taking their time and I end up being here for a while, even though I am the only person there. After the customs guy gets my paperwork straight ( in a tiny little shack with an old typewriter), my bike gets fumigated, and then surprisingly, and for the first time on the trip, I am asked to open all my stuff for a search. The cop finds my cache of pictures from the kids at the orphanage and proceeds to go through almost every one of them ( like 100 pics) and ask about everyone in them, many of whom I don't know. It gets kind of weird, and I am pretty sure he is trying to figure out if I am a child molester or not. He finally gets bored after 15 minutes, and doesn't make me open the rest of my bags, and Im out of there.

The ride from the border, from the highlands to the lowlands is pretty spectacular. Nice sunny weather, green mountains, rivers, farms everywhere and most importantly, great smooth asphalt. I am 100 miles or so into Panama and I pull over to take a pic. Behind me, a KTM supermoto pulls up and I meet Shaun from Quebec, by way of the Bay Area,, who has been trying to catch up to me for the past hour. He tells me that he now lives in Panama City and has just opened a place and a company called Panama Passage which gives motorcycle and 4x4 travellers a place to stay and sort out the crossing into Colombia (only possible by air or sea from Panama with a vehicle). I had read about this place on ADVrider and was stoked at the coincidence. To make things even cooler, Shaun's partner Christian pulls up in a modifird Toyota Land Cruiser soon after, with "Expedition Portal" written on the side. Expedition Portal is a website that I have slowly become addicted to, about and for folks who modify 4x4's especially Land Cruisers and Land Rovers for expedition travel. Its probably going to be my next thing. Oh yeah, and Christian is the president of the company! I marvel for a bit at meeting these 2 guys out here on the side of the road in Panama, and we agree to meet up at the next town, Santiago, about 90 minutes away. We hit the road together and at Santiago, Christian and Shaun decide to get dinner, while I opt to keep riding in as much daylight as possible, to get to Panama City before its really late. Shaun lets us know he is going to stay the night there, and Christian will head to PC after dinner. ( They are both coming from Bocas del Toro, an archipelago near the CR border on the Carribean side, where I will be headed in a week or so). The already good road turns into a nice 4 lane highway, straight, and I am not bored at all, instead enjoying the fast, smooth ride. I stop and fuel up the bike and eat. Its dark now, and my stop has allowed Christian to catch up to me in his Toyota. We cross the Bridge of the Americas and he leads me to Luna's Castle, a large and funky hostel where I aim to save a few bucks. We agree to meet for drinks with Shaun and some others at the bar downstairs the next day and Christian heads off. I plan on staying at Panama Passage for a few days as well, especially since Shaun and Christian have offered me a nice deal for a longer term stay. As I settle into my cramped and hot dungeon-like room, I immediately wish I had just gone to Panama Passage. Oh well, for a couple of days I can deal with it, and the location in the heart of the old city is pretty sweet. The saving grace of the room is a beautiful French- Moroccan girl I'll call "A", who is leaving the next night. We have a long conversation and agree to hang out the next day in town, checking out the sights and such. I head out myself and walk around the old city at night. It is mostly restored and very nice, and the view across the bay to the modern skyline of Panama City at night is pretty stunning. Its the first metropolis I have been in since Mexico City, many months ago, and the only city like it in Central America. I hit the sack eager to explore PC and also to ride to the end of the Pan Am highway in Yaviza, a few hundred kms away and just 30 miles from the Colombian border.

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