Thursday, February 18, 2010


When we were in Costa Rica, we heard about this Sendero de los Quetzales, a mountain trail that connects the villages of Cerro Punta and Boquete. It is said to be one of the most beautiful trails in Central America, and it is also famous for the occasional spotting of a local bird, a Resplendent Quetzal. Such a description lured us in, and Cerro Punta became our first stop in Panama.
The trail turned out to be a mostly downhill muddy slide, with huge sections washed out, going through some second-growth cloud forest and wet. No quetzales for us. The best part about hiking that trail was... ready?... a ride in a back of a 4x4 pick-up, down some steepest, narliest gravel road we ever been on. Sometimes it seemed that there is no way this old beaten-up machine can make it up this crazy hill and we had to hold on really tight not to roll out of the box. It was raining too. But the truck made it. On the way down, the driver picked up six other hitch-hikers, local farmers in rubber boots, with machetes slung over the shoulders and a mother with three kids. We were all dropped off at a bus stop, where the paved road began.
A cozy camp sot in an abandoned commercial building and a ride to David the next morning, where the pleasant coolness of the mountains was once again replaced by the unbearable tropical HEAT. After a 3 hour wait in the burning sun, we got one of the shortest rides ever, about a kilometer, which took us to a bridge over a clean, fast running river, on the outskirts of town. We tried hitching again, but the river was too tempting, so we bought a watermelon for a buck and had the rest of the day off, as well as the next day, too. We swam in the river, sat in the shade, did laundry... In this magical spot, we hanged onto the roots over the stream and the water gave our tired bodies an all-over massage. A natural jacuzzi, it was great. So we had ourselves a mini-vacation, if you wish.
The next day hitching was rather slow again, lots of very expensive, brand new SUVs with tinted windows (they even tint the windshield, you can´t see the driver at all) were not interested. Finally, the spell was broken and we got underway. All three rides that day were very quiet, even speachless. The last one brought us to Panama City well after dark. We called our CS host and were soon having a beer with him on his balcony, looking over Avenida Central in a beautiful neighbourhood, Casco Viejo. People say that it resembles the old Havana, with lots of boarded up dilapidated, beautifully ornamented buildings and narrow cobble-stone streets accentuating the colonial glory of the past. Fortunately for us, we arrived right after a big, four day Carnival, a local varietion of Mardi Gras, and we only caught a glimpse of it: the floats being dissasembled, lonely mascots, sitting on the sidewalks, their jobs done, and confetti being swept up by the morning sweepers.
We visited the local marina today and posted out little note there. We will do the same tomorrow in Colon (the other end of the Canal) and patiently wait for the results.


  1. The note says that we are looking to crew over to South America, and/or line handle on boats transiting the Panama Canal. We got across the sea of Cortez the same way: posted a note, met people at the marina...