(March 29 – written by Dave)
Starting at the end of the day again today because that’s how we explain the name of the blog. Paco is a 2 month old puppy at Campamento La Buena Esperanza where we are staying with Erika and Jaime. They are Warmshowers hosts, originally from Switzerland but have lived in Panama for 30+ years. They run a Christian camp here but it is only busy in January and February. Their camp has become a bit of a “must stop” for Pan-Am cyclists. Several people that we know of have been here in the last few days.
Paco is the newcomer to the camp but he clearly steals all the limelight. So long as you keep an eye on your sandals and don’t mind him running up and nipping on your feet (or your arms or elbows, if you are sitting down), he’s really a great little dog. The camp has a bunch of cabins and a large pavilion. All of their water is potable and you can swim in their lake. There are pine trees as well as mango trees, and you can only hear the wind whistling through the trees – no traffic noise to speak of even though we are only about 500 meters off the Pan-Am highway. We are camping next to the pavilion – getting the tent out for the first time in a long while. It is actually pleasant in the shade with the breeze – which is surprising given how hot it was in the sun riding today.
There are two Argentinean brothers staying here as well. They are heading north via hitchhiking. They got connected to the camp via another cyclist who is ahead of us. Nice young men actually, taking a gap year before they head off to college. Thanks to Erika and Jaime for hosting us. You really do have a lovely spot here in the woods of Panama.
Back to the day. We were up early as we knew we had a long and hilly day ahead of us. We left the hotel before sunrise, just catching the sun coming up as we rode back out to Highway 1. Highway 1 continued much as it was yesterday – massive shoulder, occasionally full of rocks, but overall very pleasant to ride. The countryside remained much the same. Distant views out to the ranges and lots of small roadside jungle patches.
And the hills.. Yes, today was a climbing day. We climbed close to 5,000 feet and it was pretty hot out for this kind of effort. Other than first couple hours, our computers were stuck north of 40c and the humidity was probably close to 90%. We were dripping.
We made a couple stops for cold drinks. In fact, we stopped just about every chance to get cold drinks that we could. There are stores about every 10k but they are not all open. It’s kind of odd that almost all of the larger stores are run by Chinese folks. Well, at least they look Chinese and sound Chinese when they talk to each other. When they talk to locals you’d never know that they weren’t “native”. Perhaps they are. It’s not clear when they would have arrived here but to speak both languages fluently is an interesting mix. If you think about it, they could probably communicate to a very high percentage of the people on the planet. I think Chinese might be the most common language, with English and Spanish neck and neck for second place – someone Google that for us…
Our progress was slow today, due in large part to the hills. We toyed with riding onwards to Santiago but pulled the plug at the store just 2k from the camp. We had a headwind and the heat – and almost 100k on the clock – good enough. And the camp has turned out to be such an oasis, we are glad we stopped. We spent a good part of the afternoon sitting on the veranda of Erika and Jaime’s house looking out over their lake and playing with our new best friend Paco.
If you are reading this today, that means that we got our phone and its hotspot to work. Needless to say, the camp does not have internet. We are just now getting ready to cook dinner out here in the pavilion. We are hoping the light breeze now blowing stays the course so that our laundry dries and the tent is not overly stuffy. I told Nancy out on the road today that the rain-fly was not going on the tent tonight. She likes her privacy but relented and will go (tent) topless tonight. We are the only guests on the lawn area so I’m sure it will be fine.
Tomorrow we have a bit shorter day, planning 85k or so to a larger town called Aguadulce. We are now smack in the middle of the Easter holiday so hopefully we will find a spare hotel room somewhere along the way… My senor editor is worried more than me – haha.