Paco day – Las Lajas to Church camp (95/13,268k)

(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 2

Paco the star

Paco and Nancy

Paco and Nancy

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.

Our pavilion

Great spot for tea

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.



Scenes of the day 3

View from the road

Scenes of the day 2

Typical view of the day

Scenes of the day 1

View of the day

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.

Look out behind you Nancy 2

Don’t look now Nancy, someone may be gaining on you

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…

Chinese gorcery 2

Hard to tell, this is one of the Chinese run grocery stores

Bird nests 1

Seen later in the day.  Big black birds with bright yellow tails flew out as we stopped.  Sorry, they were too quick for me.

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.

Nancy and XXX

Nancy and Erika

Bird at lake

Lucky shot of an egret taking off

The lake

Afternoon spent here

Paco 1

Who could resist one more Paco shot?

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.

10 thoughts on “Paco day – Las Lajas to Church camp (95/13,268k)

  1. That puppy is adorable! Riding in that heat sounds sticky and uncomfortable. I’m enjoying our 70 degree weather here! Do you still have to worry about crocs or alligators?

    • We never really worried about crocs. We only saw them on the one river where they were being fed. Our guide in the mangrove swam told us that they are rarely seen and never go after humans here. They are much smaller than the Aussie crocs.

  2. Hi,
    How are you folks surviving the blazing equatorial sunshine? I presume by wearing a lot of SPF100+ sunscreen. Is it easily available down there? 5000 feet of elevation gain. Wow and I thought the 800′ I did today was plenty! BTW the temp here is Torrance was a breezy 62F.


    • SPF 50+ is the most we can find here, we lather up everyday. Plug out to Banana Boat as it really is less greasy. We also try to finish riding by noon, so as to avoid the sun between 12:00 and 3:00. Longer days, this is not possible. The worst is probably the water in our bottles almost boiling. We stop more and more as the day warms, just to get cold drinks.

  3. Hi Nancy and Dave! This is Nancy’s cousin Mary. I’ve been following your blog for years. You guys are total rock stars! We’re going to take a year off next year and stay in Europe and then road trip US/Canada. I wonder what you guys do about health insurance while travelling? I love following your travels–you’re an inspiration to all of us!

    • Hi Mary – Nancy is psyched that her super cool older cousin thinks that she is a rock star. How good is that!!!

      As Australians, we would never travel internationally without travel insurance. Every Aussie knows that their primary insurance is void when you are overseas. Of course people from other countries can purchase travel insurance as well. In general, we’ve found that is designed to take care of something that happens on the trip, and in the worst case get you home where your primary insurance probably takes over. You have to read the details of the PDS.

      Most companies selling insurance charge more for people travelling to the USA because the cost of medicine is higher there. So your mixed country travel costs may reflect that you’ll be in the USA part of the time.

      We use Worldcare and have used them on before. We’ve never made a claim so we can’t comment on their service. They may only sell to Aussies.

      We’ve heard of people using Worldnomads as well, but can’t comment on their service either. But I was able to get a quote from their website (saying I was from California).

  4. interesting trivia… according to Wikipedia as per below table… but there is contention (of course).. does the Hindi language have 2 dialects? Some pages have Hindi in position 2… more of a population based stat?
    Language Native speakers (M) %WorldPop
    1 Mandarin (entire branch) 935 (955) 14.1%
    2 Spanish 390 (405) 5.85%
    3 English 365 (360) 5.52%
    4 Hindi[a] 295 (310) 4.46%
    5 Arabic 280 (295) 4.23%
    knees in the breeze and rubber side down 🙂

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