My Name is Andy Irvine and I have been to some great places and seen some amazing things.
There is no road going through the Darien Gap, which is the lawless jungle area that separates Colombia and Panama. from Cartagena i could not ride over to Panama so
On Tuesday 19th March I took a flight to the North American country of Panama. The airport I landed at in Panama was a former USA military Air base, and quite small. I dragged my luggage through the various checks etc, and at the final one was asked to open up my bike box. There was no cocaine (or powdered milk) in there, so everyone was happy. As I was still in an air conditioned part of the airport I thought, “Great, I’ll build my bike up in here, instead of in the hot and humid car park outside
However after about 2 minutes, a military type chap brandishing an Uzi submachine gun, told me to rather do that outside. Tip number 1 in, “The Team Pie Top Tips For Travellers Guide Book,” says: “Never piss off a man who is waving a machine gun in your face,” so I practiced what I preach, and relocated to the hot and humid car park outside
Once my bicycle was rebuilt and loaded up, I cycled the 20km to the hostal I would stay at for my first 2 nights in Panama, called
The Tourist Center of Certified Guided Tours of Panama Hostal in Vacamonte Panama.
The perfect location to be able to explore Panama with their guided tours
their wounderfull cook prepared some delishist menu and met some wonderfull people visiting the Hostel some for a second time as this Renaund New York Painter Artist David Sloan
The host there was Ernesto
A Certified National Guide with 15 Years of experience exploring Panama. and though born and raised in the USA, He kindly offered to take me on a city tour, with the first stop being the Panama Canal and Musesum.
When my dad left school at the age of 15, he immediately joined the Royal Navy. At that time Great Britain was still actually a bit Great, and still had a bit of an Empire. My dad spent 10 years travelling the world in Naval ships, and getting drunk in many portside taverns in venues such as Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Valpariso – all of which I’ve visited on this tour. He also sailed through the Panama Canal several times, so this little pilgrimage will be the last** visit to one of my dad’s old Naval stomping grounds I’ll get to on this particular tour (**he also visited Hawaii, but unless some big sponsor pulls in to buy me an air ticket, I won’t be going there…
Me in the Panama Canal control room Typically a large ship is charged between US $300,000 – $500,000 to pass through the canal, depending on its size. Smaller vessels obviously get charged less, in fact one adventurous fellow swam the entire length of canal, and was charged only 35c
I was totally impressed with the canal and museum. I learnt that it was the French who initially tried to build a canal across the width of Panama. However, not for the first time in their history (and certainly not the last) as soon as the going got tough, they raised the white flag and surrendered . The problem was they tried to build flat across the 80km (50mile) distance, ie straight through the mountains without any locks. Yellow fever, malaria and mud slides killed about 21,000 workers before they threw in the towel. When the Americans built the canal a few years later, they included locks to lift ships over the mountains. On completion they then imposed a 5mile exclusion zone on each side of the canal. Locals could only enter it with permits if they were maids or something for Americans. I suppose it was a bit like apartheid South Africa
Second stop The Metropolitan park
We hiked the trails of the Metropolitan park in Panama City, Panama. It is the only wildlife refuge in the city. Wildlife found in the park include bird species and Geoffroy’s tamarin. The park was first proposed in 1974 and was inaugurated on June 5, 1988.
stop 3 Ancon Hill ( Cerro Ancon )
We hiked the highest point of the Panama City called The Ancon Hill
( Cerro Ancon )
Ancon Hill is a 654-foot hill that overlooks Panama City, Panama, adjacent to the township of Ancón. Ancón Hill is an area in Panama that was used for administration of the Panama Canal. It was under U.S. jurisdiction as part of the Panama Canal Zone until being returned to Panama in 1977
and last but not leat we went to a local beach
Called Veracruz is a corregimiento in Arraiján District, Panamá Oeste Province, Panama with a population of 18,589 as of 2010. Its population as of 1990 was 8,224; its population as of 2000 was 16,748 to watch the sunset and even walked on a sand bar that leads to an Island we were able to go 3/4 of the way as it was getting dark
and the owner there Ernesto, has just sent me this amazing video he took when I was on their city tour
Thanks so much Ernesto
Here’s a few Panama City pics
the next day i washed, tune and packed the bike to proceed my jorney
my next stop for the night was in San Carlos
I spent 2 nights at a beach spot called Las Lajos, Panama. Just after I arrived, a couple of bicycle tourists from Spain and Mexico also checked in. Alex and Adelina had cycled from their home in Mexico City, and I really enjoyed the few days we spent together. Travel safe my friends
They also gave me some good advice on routes and places to visit as I head to where they’ve just ridden from.
The hostal we were staying at was called Johnny Fiestas and one of the features was that guests could paint a mural on the walls there. Lena from Switzerland drew a really neat goldfish
I chose to do an abstract representation of how I spent most of my time there
I could (but won’t) mention one or two ladies I know, who also drink like a fish
(in fact thinking about it, I know way more than one or two…
Once back on the PanAm Highway I was glad to see I was now riding through a region where there were no snipers
The next night I camped and as I was setting up my tent, the sight owner asked if my tent was fully mesh lined to prevent mosquitos etc from getting in? (It is). The next morning he asked if I heard any animals in the night? I said no, and I slept fine. “Oh good” he says, “We get scorpions and stuff here, in fact just last week there was a 4metre (13ft) boa constrictor in the road outside” “Thanks for telling me that in the morning, and not last night before I slept”
My initial plan was to ride over the central hills of Panama, and onto the Caribbean Coast. However as I was riding I felt the gear change on my bicycle getting tighter. On inspection, I saw the gear change cable was beginning to fray, and would soon snap so decided to instead ride on to Panama’s second city called David, and get it changed.
I found a hostel to stay where my abode would actually be in a tree house
Also staying here, and wandering around the garden was this little lady
I’m constantly on the look out for different sports to experience while I’m on tour, and was pleased to find out that a baseball match was taking place in David on my first night there
Perforated sheet metal cladding all around the Estadio Kenny Serracn baseball stadium in David, Panama
To be very honest I’m not actually a fan of the “traditional American sports” of baseball, basketball and American football. Several hundred years ago the British took the time and effort to create all the great sports team sports, ie football, cricket, rugby and darts. Then they took the time to sail around the world and introduce these sports to everyone else (and later get beaten and humiliated by these very nations at these very sports ). While peasants from Bangladesh to Bulawayo could grasp, and took to these sports, our friends across the pond in America found them too hard to understand, so simplified and spoiled them, to create the games they play today. That being said, baseball is the most popular sport in Panama, so I was keen to go and check it out
For me it was still a great experience and I’m glad I went. Even though I did feel a bit of a wimp sat there on my own, nibbling on my two cornbeef and HP sauce sandwiches, and sipping from my flask of Bovril that I’d brought from the hostal . The game of baseball itself is just like rounders that I used to play at Bywell Middle School when I was about 8 years old. Except in baseball you use a bigger bat.
Boxer, Roberto Duran is probably the most famous sportsman ever to come from Panama
Even the local coffee is named after him
While relaxing on a hammock on my final afternoon in David, my new friend came to see me and say an emotional goodbye
Fallow the rest of my Jorney at
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