After unloading the bikes we were able to head straight onto the road since immigration had been handled on the islands and customs/insurance for the bikes had to wait until Panama City. These 2 step situations make me nervous since I always expect some ‘enterprising’ police officer to post himself between the two places in order to extract ‘fines’ for being on the road without the correct paperwork. Usually everything works out fine and Panama was no exception. So far so good.
Panama City was a bit of a shock. I can’t really say what I was expecting, but something ‘Central Americany’ would be accurate. Instead, I found a city filled with modern skyscrapers, working and obeyed traffic lights, good roads- the works. The numerous glitzy shopping malls featured well known stores and free Wi-Fi abounded. Admittedly the heavily armed and armoured motorcycle cops fit into my image, but that was about it. Customs and insurance even followed the North American pattern. The government run customs was a labyrinth of surly officials intent on guarding their own little fiefdoms, while the private insurance office was friendly and polite while you kept your wallet open.
All and all it was a good, if somewhat confusing, place to stop- great overlander hostel with other motorized travelers and friendly expats happy to show us around. Lots of food options and shops to stock up in, and no sign of corruption… No hint of Central America really.
After a couple of days it was time to get back on the road. HP2 had arranged for us to stay with some friends of friends that were also friends of another rider I’d met back in Germany. They sounded like a cool couple- years ago they had met while the Spanish guy was riding a motorcycle through South America and the Brazilian woman was riding a bicycle around the world. Neither finished their trip and they decided to settle on the end of a peninsula close to Bocas del Toro on Panamas Caribbean coast. It was going to be an easy day and half ride on tar roads- perfect for getting back in gear after the crossing The Gap.
Then it was an easy and pleasant ride to the equally easy and pleasant city of David. Even the bursts of tropical rain did little to dampen our spirits- they were warm and tended not to last terribly long. You never knew what to expect since the bursts were very localized and many times small bends in the road would take you in and out of their path. While passing over hills, patchy views of bright sunlight and torrential rain were common.
And GSguy saw every thing that he had ridden, and, behold, it was very good.