Day 5, Friday, January 5
Early next morning the bikes get kicked to life in the lobby and we head for the Panama border control. Very unfortunate for us, the stamps in our passports are yesterday's - which means another trip to Costa Rica, all our tales about „being just too tired to drive“, and couldn't they please turn a blind ojo – futile. So we go get new rubber stamps, and this time there's no problema – NOT. There are quite a few funcionarios who need to give consent to our entry: Migración, aduana, policía técnica (some kind of tech inspector, who's cool though). Policía tráfico. Last, but not least, Señor Fumador – who's less interested in what you smoke – he's here to smoke you and keep those little critters from entering the country.
After cutting our way across all that red tape we make for David/Panama, where we rent a Toyota Landcruiser, to carry the extensive photographic equipment and the fourth rider. Its slow going to PanamaCity, there's a lot of congestion, and 10 km outside the city limits everything comes to a grinding stop
The sun heated roads are steaming between the showers, and the chaos doubles and triples. Ancient american made buses without tail pipes race head to head, squashing everyone not quick enough to get out of the way. Overloaded semis and countless taxis are trying to occupy the same stretch of road at the same time. Not a very fun place to be, if you are riding a bike. If you had the time, you could notice that the invention of traffic signs hasn't been heard of hereabouts.
So it's a lot of left turns, right turns and straights, and before you know, they are in Panama Viejo. What sounds like a quaint Old Town bus tour, quickly develops into a short trip through a ghetto from hell. The Bronx looks like a childrens playground compared to this. After a lengthy slalom around security with shotguns and groups of heavily armed police the Four decide to check into the next hotel to come along. The rooms, let's call them modest, are populated by cockroaches having a welcome party for us.Which goes by largely unnoticed, 'cos we're a mite tired. So we just crash on the „beds“, which haven't seen fresh linen for at least three generations of desperado landlords. A good dose of Baygon sorts the cuccarachas out. The best part of the evening are a coupla bottles of Panama beer, that roll down our parched throats to produce enthusiastic „Aaaahs“ and „Ooohs“.