The first two days in Panama the road led me along the Caribbean side through dense jungle. I would have loved to continue along these paradisiacal roads. Since the Panamericana, which runs along the Pacific Ocean, is the only connection to Panama City, I had to drive again over the mountains to the south side of the country. As soon as the pass was overcome, it suddenly became dry and the landscape changed completely. My night in “Gualaca” in the west of Panama, located at a great little canyon, was the last highlight on the way to the capital for the time being. From here, it was over 500 km along the Panamericana, which is a busy multi-lane highway here. At least there was a shoulder! But then, unfortunately, it already stopped with the amenities. In sweltering heat and long headwind passages it went partially only in the snail speed ahead. Although I pedaled like crazy, I went only with 8-10 km/h on the level. “What was I being punished for?” At bad karma it could certainly not be…!?
The noise of the traffic rushing by did not improve the situation at all. And so I doubted myself and my adventure more and more just before the halfway point of my plan. With only little restful sleep (during the nights the thermometer did not drop below 35 °C), I had a real sag and no more energy.
The last kilometers to Panama City became challenging again. A 30 km long construction site stretched all the way to the “Bridge of the Americas”, which crosses the Panama Canal and leads directly to Panama City. The unpleasant thing was that the road narrowed, the shoulder was no longer usable and I had to share the road with countless cars and huge trucks. That demanded a lot of self-confidence. I was not allowed to think about what might happen, but pedaled like a madman. Arrived in “Panama City” I was above all mentally totally burned out, very exhausted but incredibly happy to have survived this section unscathed. As often as I always had great adventures on my tour, I realize how dangerous some moments are and how much they push me to my limits.
After I had crossed the Panama Canal and arrived in “Panama City”, I only realized that after almost 11,000 km I had now completed half of my tour. I was incredibly proud of myself!
Since the 1st of August I am on the road with my bike from “Calgary” on the way to Ushuaia. In the last 8.5 months I have experienced and learned so much, especially about myself, that I cannot put it all into words.
I had especially great encounters with wonderful people who took me in like a part of their family.
Things happened to me that I would never have thought possible and somehow everything worked out, even if I would never have expected the turn taken. My biggest learning, some of which continues to challenge me, is “Trust the process and have the courage to fully engage in it.”
“Letting go of control” is the key word, something that was often difficult for me and in some cases continues to be difficult. As soon as I let go of something, unexpected and most fantastic possibilities then usually arise.
“Life is just what happens between the plans”!
In Panama City I spent a few days, tried to plan the crossing to Colombia and drew new strength.
Henk and Antonita, the couple from the Netherlands with whom I had made friends on Baja California, arrived in Panama City two days after me. I saw them for the last time before Christmas and now we cross each other’s paths again several thousand kilometers later. Together we toured the city and drove to Colón to visit the Panama Canal Visitor Center. “Super” Mario, probably the worst cab driver in the world, (even if he completely disagreed), had the most entertainment value that day. Jerking and nodding his head from his uneven use of the gas pedal, we drove from Colón to the Visitor Center. With his Caribbean looseness he said one thing after the other and was very convinced of himself and his “driving skills”.
After a week in “Panama City” and at the end of my Central America tour, a new chapter of my adventure is about to begin!
It is often the case that a match takes a completely new turn after halftime…
I have the same feeling when I think about the second half of my tour and what is waiting for me in South America. Although I don’t know what’s in store, I’m really looking forward to it!