Saturday, April 23, 2011

Segment 34: Davíd, Panamá to Panamá City, Panamá (March 25 - April 4, 2011)

From Davíd, Jeff faced a daunting task: nearly 450 km of paved Pan-American Highway all the way to Panamá City, a rather unreasonable and certainly uninviting stretch of riding.  This is the unfortunate aspect of central America: as one heads south, it keeps getting narrower and narrower until finally in Panamá there isn´t too much land anymore, and all roads, tourists, etc. get funnelled into one tight corridor.  Once in Panamá City, Jeff would reunite with Katie, and also with Jason and Sonia (having travelled from Nicaragua and Costa Rica). 

coming from hot Davíd, Panamá City seemed a long ways away

 butterfly seen on the shoulder of the Pan-Am

and you wonder why Panamá seems so Americanized

... these unfortunate birds (parakeet above, parrot below) were seen at a highway fruit stand.  It seems the trade in illegal pet birds is quite rampant in Panamá... Playa Santa Clara, getting closer to Panamá City; on a Sunday afternoon it got crowded with lots of folks coming from the city, blaring loud reggaeton and trailer-partying along the beach:

turning a bend in the highway, this marvel confronts any cyclist heading into Panamá City from the west: Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas)

it remains one of the most frightening things Jeff has ever cycled.  No pedestrian lane, fast roaring traffic, huge trucks, pieces of metal lumped in the right side of the right lane, some potholes; the trick is to cycle over as fast as possible and pray you don't get a flat tire or worse!

this surreal vision is what one encounters on the other side, once in Panamá City.  Incredible unlike any other central American capital city... the longer one stays here the more of an anomaly it seems...

... the crumbling colonial architecture of Casco Viejo, the former center of the city (a long time ago): now being rapidly gentrified...

this plaza represents a memorial to the 22,000 (mostly) Afro-Caribbeans and Frenchmen who died from malaria and yellow fever in the first attempts to build the nearby Panama Canal, between 1881-9.
this graffiti reads: "Morality is a shirt that we put on in order to deceive others"

Only a few km from Panamá City is Summit Botanical Gardens.  The main attraction is the harpy eagle exhibit.  The harpy eagle is Panamá's national bird, an amazing species in and of itself, symbolic of wildlands and lowland jungle, and highly endangered.

...male harpy eagle (in captivity) seen at Summit... this bird is 50 years old!

... above, harpy eagle chicks seen in a photograph, and below, relative size of bald eagle, human, and harpy eagle:

unfortunate roadkill near Summit: a caiman.

The entrance to the Pipeline Trail in Soberania National Park north of Panamá City.  This site is famous for its birdwatching: it has the highest concentration of bird species recorded for a 24-hour period, in the world: over 500 species.

Katie trying to find some

howler monkeys

our best sighting that day: Rufous Motmot

Long-Tailed Hermit

Now at Miraflores Locks on the Panamá Canal

Container ship passing through the locks, assisted by stabilizing locomotives which guide the ships with cables.  Most of the income from canal ships is from container ships. 

another look at the specialized locomotives.  The canal directly supplies 8% of Panama's economy, and indirectly 48%!
the Canal has been operating non-stop since 1914 and an average of 35 ships pass per day

At this point, Katie left Panamá bound for Ecuador, and the same night Jason and Sonia showed up fresh after an epic hitchhiking adventure from Nicaragua.
getting street food in Panamá City

playing dominoes for money on the street corner in the neighborhood of Calidonia

Punta Paitilla.  The huge building fourth from the right is the new Trump building, another monument to money. 

rush hour in Panamá City

... sunset from La Calzada, a causeway south of the city that used to link US military bases, and nighttime view of the skyline from La Calzada:

getting lunch at a Dominican-run comedor in Calidonia

our next destination was the impressive Parque Natural Metropolitano, smack in the middle of Panamá City.  We learned that the park was a former US military training area.  (Like most of Panamá City, the US had their hands everywhere.)  In this case a true gem, lowland tropical forest, managed for its wildness.

view from the park

...Geoffrey´s Tamarin monkeys...

pair of Slate-Tailed Trogons (female left, male right)

male trogon feeding

Blue-Crowned Motmot

artful vines

Jason and Sonia checking out the scene

impressive spiral bank building

... a photo record of Panamá City's astonishing public transport buses...

this one was a favorite for the irony of Obama and Chavez side-by-side; other buses featured airbrushed versions of Jenifer Lopez, Roberto Duran, amongst others, in this space

wouldn't be complete without the epic space/Tolkien- inspired artwork

woman cop near Plaza 5 de Mayo

... scenes from El Peatonal, the pedestrian thoroughfare in the city...

... the brightly-attired women are indigenous Kuna Yala, from the Comarca Kuna Yala.  We will be passing there shortly on our way to Colombia...

a common sight in downtown Panamá: endless shopping lines

buying beer... for a baseball game:
nearly empty National Stadium, for a Panamá Metros-Bocas del Toro game.  Clearly not the same ambience as a Nicaraguan game.

the Bocas mascot was the most exciting thing happening on a night where we counted only about 350 spectators in a stadium with 29000 capacity.

Sonia and Jason in the crowded bleacher seats

papayas and plantains growing behind the center field fence


Anonymous said...

Another great blog Jeff. What a journey and so well documented
Maureen x

mike said...

Still living through "the looking glass" or your blog. I think a book is in order, or at least a "how to travel by bike" great job people, your blog takes my mind off the 50 clients who want work done yesterday.
LOVE IT! surfer mike from madera....I'll keep the beer cold for you.............peace