We spent three weeks in Panama, which was two more than planned, I got my brain scanned by mistake, my shock absorber broke and we were so very lucky to stay with lovely Rocio who must have one of the biggest hearts on earth.
The first stop in Panama was the city David which is the second largest city in Panama with about 145 000 inhibitions. Though it is a big city it still has its small town feeling. We found a hostel named The Purple House Hostel and it was just…. er purple. There was a ‘gestapo’ woman who worked there or maybe she was the owner of the place. She wasn’t unfriendly at all, but just a bit weird and a total control freak.
The first night at the hostel I woke up with a severe pain in my stomach. In the morning when Anders woke up it was really bad so Anders decided that it was time for me to see a doctor again… Anders booked a taxi, though the hospital was just a few blocks away but there was no chance that I could walk there as I had problem just to get into the taxi.
When we arrived at the hospital they took me in straight away and the doctor came after just a few minutes. He explained that he couldn’t give me any pain relief before they knew what was wrong with me. At this time my tears were rolling down my chin because of the pain. A lot of tests were taken and after a while that felt very long I, at last, got Morphine, straight into my vein, and my god that was just AWESOME… Honestly I could feel the relief as soon as it mixed with my blood. I just wanted to stay in this state forever. However, after that, they took me to a specialist who seemed to be very professional. His diagnose was that I had some sort of infection. He prescribed two different antibiotics and some other stuff. I also got antibiotics intravenous.
I got my head scanned by mistake…
The day after I was still shaky but not in pain and stubborn as I am, I wanted to leave and head for Panama City as we only had three days until we were going to sail to Colombia. However half way to Panama City I got worse again. We called the doctor, yes the doctor had given us his private mobile number, how kind wasn’t that? The doctor arranged for me to come and see another doctor in Panama City that very same day. It took us three hours to get to the hospital on bad roads with one roadwork after another. When we arrived at the hospital more tests were taken and I had my brain scanned…. Yes you read correct, a had my brain scanned. I was supposed to have a scan of my stomach but something went wrong and the woman at the X-ray department scanned my head instead…. I told the woman that “I don’t have any problem with my head, as far as I know, and that it was my stomach that should be scanned.” But she just continued to scan my head. Of course I should have walked away but it’s easier said than done when you are in a hospital in another country, can’t speak that language and not feeling well. Anyway after a discussion with the doctor it was sorted and I got my stomach scanned. This time they found a kidney stone that could be the reason for the pain. This doctor also thought I had an infection so when I walked out from the hospital I had more antibiotic plus a lot of other stuff. With all this medicine I wouldn’t need any food for a while really 😉
For the first time I really wanted to go back home
The day after I got pain in my chest and high fever. For the first time I really felt that I wanted to go back home…wherever that is. The fever got worse and when we talked to the doctor he said we had to go to hospital again. F**CK this is unbelievable. Central America has not been good to me as I have been poorly on and off since Guatemala when I got the parasite. This time they thought I had pneumonia so they scanned my lungs… and this time they they scanned the right part :). Luckily the lungs were fine. I was in bed for a week with high fever so unfortunately we had to cancel the sail boat to Colombia. However, we were lucky to meet Rocio in Panama City who let us stay at her place. It turned out that Rocio had a very nice and big house and a heart that was even bigger than the house.
When I, at last, started to feel better we did some touristy things in Panama City. The first was to visit Panama Canal to see the Miraflores Lock. At the Miraflores Lock visitor centre we could watch the operation and movements of the lock when the big ships passage through the canal. We also went to see a 3D movie that described the history of the Panama Canal from its beginning to the present.
Info about the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a 77.1-kilometre (48 miles) ship canal in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. France began work on the canal in 1881, but had to stop because of engineering problems and high mortality due to disease. The United States took over the project in 1904, and it took a decade to complete the canal. This is one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America. In 2007 they started a project by expanding the canal and now eight years and $5.2 billion later, the expansion project is nearing completion. (http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/06/expanding-the-panama-canal/396716/)
The following day Rocio took us up to Ancon Hill from where we could see the whole Panama City with its incredible skyscrapers. On the way back we came a cross the largest shopping centre in Central America. When walking through the doors into the shopping centre we felt the wonderful cool air from the air conditioning and it felt like heaven, God bless air conditioning. We ended up staying there for hours and had fast food for dinner and at that moment we loved it.
Anton Valley (El Valle de Antón)
To escape the incredible heat in Panama City we decided to ride up to the mountain. The road from Panama City to Anton Valley started off as a very boring highway but the last 30 km took us through some beautiful scenery on winding roads. As soon as we got on higher altitude we could feel the fresh and cool air. We found a hostel where they let us pitch the tent. They wanted 20 dollars, which we first thought was far too much but when we realised that it included breakfast, swimming pool and hot showers it felt OK.
One day we went for a hike to the Sleeping Indian Girl which is on the edge of a sleeping volcano that from certain viewpoint looks like a girl lying on her back gazing at the skies. It was very steep climb uphill and at some places quite challenging. Next day my legs were very sore.
Rear shock-absorber leaking oil
When we left Anton Valley to ride back to Panama City I noticed that my bike was very jumpy and jelly-like or swaying ‘guyngy’. I also noticed that oil was leaking from my rear shock-absorber… more problems. After some discussions on Facebook, where friends assured us that I could ride the bike but had to be careful, we went back to Panama City. At this time I was luckily unaware of that I was going to ride the bike with a broken shock-absorber for about 2500 km.
Our friend Rocio in Panama City was away for a few days but luckily she had given us a key to her house so we stayed there for a few more days.
At last, after about two weeks, we left Panama City for Portobelo which was the town from where we should take a sailboat, Wild Card, to Colombia. We stopped one night in Colon, which Lonely Planet has described as the city Panama forgot and when riding into the city I was eager to agree to that statement. The town is in a very poor condition and is known for its high crime rate.
The sailing from Portobello to Cartagena
At last it was time to catch the sailboat to Colombia, which we had been longing for quite a while. When we started this trip we thought that we could ride the whole way from Alaska to Argentina. We had never heard of Darien Gap, which is a place where there are no roads and the only way to cross overland is by trekking through the dense, jungle. It is about 150 km stretch of land located on the Panama-Colombia border, which is the missing link in the about 46,670 km long Pan-American Highway. As we were told there is not only no road and dense jungle but also malaria mosquitoes and drug cartels, kidnapping etc., that you will have to try to survive. However, we thought it would be better to take a boat to Colombia and leave the Darien Gap for the ‘real adventurers’.
When arriving to Portobelo, we saw the small sailboat, Wild Card, and we where both thinking how the hell are we going to get the bikes on to the boat. It turned out to be ‘very easy’. We only had to lift the bike, one at a time, into a boat not much bigger than a rowing boat and then take it out to the sail boat and lift it up to that one…. Easy peasy!!!!
Well on board Wild Card it felt very nice and cosy…. until the boat set off over ‘open water’ to Cartagena in Colombia… bloody hell, seasickness is not fun at all. Both me and Anders were sick for two days.. Yuk.
The third day we felt ok and we really enjoyed the sailing. It even made us thinking of sailing around the world… oh well we have to finish this trip first.
It felt good that we at last had reached Colombia and we were both very excited of what was awaiting us. Getting the bikes off the boat was nearly more nerve-racking than getting them on. First we had to get them from the sailboat onto a very little boat and if the bikes had been a few more centimetres they wouldn’t have fit. Anyway it went well and the bikes touched the ground in Cartagena in Colombia and we were over the moon with happiness. The captain on the boat had told us that we could sort out the temporary import before we picked up the passport from the integration office. I kind of knew that that wouldn’t be possible….. After hours of waiting riding to different offices it had started to get dark. But at last we, hungry, thirsty and very tired could get to a hostel. Though rather exhausted, we couldn’t wait for next day to appear as this was a new country, new culture, different food etc., etc.. Yeah!!!