Saturday, October 08, 2005

Still Here

Saturday, October 8, 2005 2:00 a.m.

Panama City. I hate this place, but I can't seem to leave it! Awoke to gray skies and rain. "This wasn't in the plan. I'm supposed to be driving to Colon today to investigate shipping connections to Colombia."

Too tired, and the rain, something I wasn't ready to contend with. David called, and he sounded as depressed as I was. While Anne is off arranging to fly her bike to Colombia, we stubbornly persist in the belief that you can hire a boat to take you down there.

I just don't want to get on an airplane. It doesn't sound adventurous. The idea of crossing the Darien Gap keeps popping up, but that's not going to happen either. Not at my age. Not with the behemoth motorcycle I'm riding.

David has done a bit of digging and his guide book also lists a contact or two for shipping bikes by boat. We agreed to meet and go see a "Captain Newball(sp?)" mentioned in his "Footprint" guidebook. The "Captain's" office is two blocks from my hotel. He explained to us that his company no longer does that sort of thing. And he cleared up some confusion about the purported Colon-to-Colombia ferry. "There used to be one, but it stopped about five years ago." He said they are trying to start it up again, but he doesn't expect any results for probably two years.

He gave us a couple of leads to follow: container shipping companies. We decided to drive over to "Seaboard Container". When we ended up on a wrong fork in the road, David compensated by driving a couple hundred yards on the shoulder against traffic to get back to the right street. I declined to follow, figuring I would just follow the correct traffic pattern and find a route back to catch up with him. I became lost and frustrated, and finally just wrote off trying to hook up with him.

The traffic in this city is horrendous during the daytime, and dangerous. Not the kind of place you just go cruising around. I was making my way back to the hotel when I made an illegal turn. I was tired of dealing with the vagaries of their one-way streets and chaotic traffic flow. A policeman directing traffic at the next corner, pointed to me as I approached (and to two other drivers who had made the same turn.) He collected all our licenses and, while still trying to direct traffic, wrote out three citations. "Crap!" Of course, I'm looking at this thing and thinking I can just tear it up and forget about it, but then there's the chance that when I pass through again in six months, there could be some record out there that pops up when I go through immigration.

David called me at the hotel and reported that the Seaboard outfit wouldn't deal with bikes. I told him that I had decided to stay in the city one more day, and that with the rest of the afternoon, I was going to focus on something that should be (but hasn't been) simple: trying to get a haircut. I would wait to deal with Colon and the shipping of my bike.

But nothing is simple in this city. I drove out to the Albrook Mall, in hopes of finding a cheaper hair salon (no laughter, please). The one at Multi Plaza wanted $20 to do my hairs. A huge traffic jam at the mall. It serves as a city bus hub as well as a shopping center. An interesting concept. But I found a salon that would only charge $7. As they say, you get what you pay for. I'll be having to do a little clean-up work on my beard after this "procedure".

Anne and I had been exchanging e-mails about trying to connect for dinner. When I returned to the hotel, I found one saying she was going to a restaurant "Manzana" in front of "the cathedral". I forwarded it on to David, suggesting he join us there. Tried to figure out where it was. The hotel staff couldn't help much, but thought it might be in Casco Antiguo. I went back out on the bike and hunted and asked around the barrio, to no avail. Gave up and settled for dinner at "Mi Ranchito", a pleasant open-air cantina out on the causeway, that has a great view of the city. It may have been my imagination, but it seems the female staff members were concerned at seeing a gentleman dining alone. They kept checking in on me. Either that or the haircut was REALLY bad.

Returned to the hotel to find a message waiting: David was at the "Apple" restaurant in Casco Antiguo, wondering where I was. But I was tired of missed connections, and fruitless searches. There was a reason (at least one!) that I set out on this journey alone.

Another late night, past 2:00 a.m., but for only the second time on this journey, I'm "kind of caught up" in the blogging area.

As you will notice, there have been few photos posted lately, and those that have been posted are generally "long shots". Missing are the photos of the crowds, congestion and chaos that are such a part of life here. For capturing these scenes, my particular camera is a bit awkward, being very "high profile" (just like the motorcycle I'm driving.) It draws an uncomfortable amount of attention to my (relative) affluence, and potentially makes me more of a target. But I hope I'll become more comfortable using it as I move on down the line.

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