After unloading the bikes from the Stahlratte the 6 of us who were riders headed from the small port of Carti to Panama City. Ludwig had greased the axles with the immigrations officials and we were classified as crew, and so avoided paying a ludicrous entry fee of just over $100 USD – which doesn’t need to be paid unless you arrive by boat. Bizarre.
We did however have to get our bikes temporarily imported into Panama, so the customs office was our first stop. Which took 4 hours. Good lord the workers there are useless. At least the ride there was absolutely magic, with jungle roads dipping, turning, rising and then suddenly dropping about a foot to become dirt road for 50m before continuing the pavement. Absolutely great fun, and I had a blast riding my last on the BMW.
Once we cleared customs we started making our way to our hostel, close to the centre of Panama City. It was now Friday afternoon though, and traffic was heavy. Ruben, a slightly insane Kiwi riding a tiny 300cc motorbike in shorts and thongs, decided to ram my left luggage rack at one point, knocking it clean off my bike. Barely stopping to recover, he picked it up and balanced it between his arms while we continued to lane split between cars. Insane.
What first struck me upon arriving in Panama City was how western it was. Loads of big (western) name chains, sky scrapers everywhere, casinos, and of course using the U.S. dollar. Add to this the crazy antics of Latin American drivers and you’ve got a very odd mix. Also very expensive compared to the South American countries I’d be in recently, although I had my first taste of Greek Yogurt, fresh (non UHT) milk, and olive-sourdough bread in 8 months! That might not sound like much but damn I’ve missed them.
Look, to be honest not much happened in Panama. I saw a sloth’s back and in 40 minutes it didn’t change position. I also played some BlackJack in Trump Tower (Trump as in Donald Trump), made some money (surprisingly), and was invited to the 63rd level to play further. At which point we discovered there was a open air pool and decided to enjoy the view instead. A complimentary bottle of champagne doesn’t hurt either.
Soon after we were promptly kicked out. Apparently jumping in the pool at 2 am is a bit of a no-no…