After our cheeky holiday in the Corn Islands it was time to get back to the serious business of cycling. We headed south, passing huge cattle ranches and battling the heavy winds which sweep across the flat Nicaraguan landscape. Despite these cooling gusts, the midday sun still took its toll and I was a big fan of regular breaks, especially if there was a large shady tree to hang out in, like this one:
The next country was Costa Rica, known for its jaw-dropping wildlife. It definitely didn’t disappoint. Scarlet macaws soared from tree tops whilst inquisitive iguanas peered out from roadside bushes. Stopping on one bridge we noticed enormous crocodiles bathing metres below us. This abundance of creatures draws in the tourists and Costa Rica was certainly a lot more expensive than previous countries. It’s hard to resent spending money which is as pretty as this though:
We haven’t camped that much in Central America. This is partly because we thought it might be too unsafe in some countries, but, if we’re honest, it was mainly because the idea of both slithering into a tiny tent at the end of a sweaty day’s cycling through humid, 30 plus degree climates was just too disgusting. However, last week, a lack of any kind of hotel, motel or hostel meant camping it was. We picked a lush grass covered bit of Panamanian jungle and set up camp. Initially it was a dream. Fireflies danced around the campsite as we ate dinner and both Jupiter and Venus sparkled brightly in the star studded sky. A warm breeze blew against our faces and I contentedly stretched my aching limbs.
Then it was time to climb into the tent. The canvas abruptly stopped the gentle drafts and inside it was like being in a smoggy damp oven. I strongly considered sleeping outside but the memory of the especially large dead snake we had seen the day before won over my need to escape Nick’s smelly socks.
The wildlife in Panama was just as exotic and in one hostel we met this little Snookum bear. She charmed us with her irresistible cuteness before stealing our food. I couldn’t even be mad at her when she bit my shoulder.
We had some long days in the saddle to reach Panama City and a hill climb on the last day almost finished us off. It was all worth it though once we made it to the top and found Nick’s most favourite of signs:
Batido means milkshake in Spanish and Nick has a serious Batido addiction. I found out recently that some whale calves drink over 500 litres of milk a day. I’m pretty sure Nick is a baby whale in disguise.
Night had fallen by the time we reached Panama city and a beautiful full moon lit up the sky as we rode over the Panama canal. I was so excited to see this massive feat of engineering which brings in a lot of revenue to Panama. Ships pay to use it according to their weight: A cruise ship paid the most (376,000 dollars) in 2010, whilst Richard Halliburton paid the least (0.36 dollars) in 1928 when he swam through it.
We stayed in Casco Viejo, the old colonial area which is a gorgeous mixture of crumbling buildings, little alleys and funky street graffiti, all backed by sweeping views of the sky scrapers in the new part of town. We spent our time tracking down bike boxes for the plane and, of course, doing some obligatory Panama hat shopping. Luckily there was space for all these new hats as the launderette which was washing our spare clothes, closed unexpectedly early and didn’t open again before we had to go to the airport…
We decided to make Panama City our final destination in the Americas and so now rice and beans are being replaced with Guinness as we head to the Emerald Isle. We don’t have a route planned yet but we have learnt all the words to the Rattlin’ Bog so, you know, I think the essentials for Ireland are covered.