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We're Not There Yet

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Panama-bound (Days 225-227) – Alajuela, Costa Rica to David, Panama | We're Not There Yet

We had planned one last destination to the small town of Sarchi, renown for it’s local handicrafts and ‘I’d Rather Be in Costa Rica’ beer cozies. But then Nuri came down with Dengue fever. Of course, we didn’t know what had stricken her yet, but she was in no shape to travel so we spent our final day just hanging out in Alajuela before her flight home the next morning. We all took off first thing the next morning: Nuri back to the States and us on a bus for Panama.

We had thought about riding to the border but we were now in the final crunch to get to Panama City in time for our flight to New Zealand on Christmas Day. We were a little bummed that we were skipping a whole country of cycling, but the truth is that the roads are not super safe for cyclists (fast traffic, and lots of it, with no shoulder and plenty of hills). Besides, we were ready to get to Panama already! And so we did. Really late.

We arrived at the border crossing at about 9pm. We were planning to ride into David the next morning, so we just found ourselves a typically overpriced hotel room, then went to bed with no dinner. We got up bright and early the next day and popped into the restaurant next door for our last Tican breakfast. The menu was pretty underwhelming, but we just wanted to get on the road. About 45 torturous minutes later, our greasy eggs and white bread landed on our table. It was a fitting end to our stay in Costa Rica: overpriced, inconvenient, and kind of gross. I’ve got to say that we did some amazing things and saw some really beautiful sights, but we were not sad to leave Costa Rica behind.

We were told that the line at the border crossing was typically lengthy, but we were in no way prepared for what we found there. We waited for over 3 hours in the blazing sun in a line that never seemed to shorten, even as it moved position. By some miracle, we made it under the awning of the building just as a rainstorm that can only be described as torrential unleashed on the line of people. There was a lot of pushing, a lot of cursing- all on my part, as umbrellas held at eyeball height kept lunging at me unnoticed by their wielders below. Finally, we made it through. There was a bit of discussion over whether or not to ride. I argued that it was wet and I was cranky from the double whammy of a foul breakfast and a ludicrously long wait in the elements. R countered that he wanted to ride. We rode.

This was the the backdrop of our many-hour wait to make a run for the border.

It was actually a lovely ride once I got over the wet part. But our bags were relatively well protected and there was a nice, wide shoulder and a ton of thumbs ups from passing truck drivers, which always lifts my spirits. We made it about 15km away from David, which was only 50km away in the first place, before we were overtaken by some friendly Americans in a van. We met Daniel in line at the border crossing where we had hours to chat and get to know each other. Daniel and his wife were just about midway into their road trip from their home in Arizona to Patagonia in their awesome campervan. Despite it’s awesomeness, the van cost them another hour and a half in line with the border officials. I would have been maniacal after a wait like that, but these two were in good enough spirits to pull over and offer us a ride into David. After some creative loading of the bikes, we found ourselves dry and comfy as the rain let loose outside.

Guess why it’s called the Purple House.

They dropped us off at The Purple Hostel, an old standby in David, where we snagged the last two bunk beds in the place. Dorm rooms are never my first choice, but we were out of options and had a tiring day, so I just went with it and focused on having our first meal in Panama. We took a walking tour of town and found a lot of fried chicken, a few fast food joints, and a Chinese restaurant that ended up winning out. I don’t usually go in for Chinese food, especially not when we’re trying to eat local in a country that is not China, but Panama does have a long history of Chinese immigration and a thriving Chinese community, so it was, you know, kind of local.

Despite the rain, a Christmas parade soldiered on in all it’s honr-honking and neon glory. It seemed like the whole town came down to check it out, but we were tuckered from our long day and headed in early, stopping only to ogle the shiny, clean and impeccably well-stocked supermarket along the way (a special kinf od tourism that cyclists seem to indulge in quite a bit).

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