Three men, no plan, a canal — Panama!
Our next day riding took us to the crossing of the Panama Canal. We were halfway over the bridge, walking our bikes along the sidewalk when we were stopped by the police and told that bikes were not permitted across the bridge. They said we would be arrested if we tried to cross, and the only solution was to go back and hire a taxi. This marked the fourth time in two days that we had been stopped and questioned by Panamanian law enforcement. The second time we had been informed that bikes were not permitted to pass, contrary to any indication otherwise. We were not happy campers as we spent the next hour trying to hitch a ride across the bridge.
Eventually, we were picked up by two Spaniards in a small mobile home. We piled our bikes in and chatted as we drove over the Panama Canal. When they dropped us off, we asked why they had helped us. They left us with the moving answer: “Help is the greatest coin in the world.”
We have found this to be true again and again over the last seven months. It is a truth that transcends all divisions. The act of giving help when you can is a gift anyone can give. It is an important truth to remember as we face a world becoming more and more divided by differences.
The Pan American highway stretched ahead of us and we rode. Through traffic, dirt shoulders verging on ditches, and sweltering heat we rode on, the kilometers dropping away as we put in long hours. We thought we had experienced rain before, but the rainy season in Panama took things to a new level. The daily downpours came in sheets of water that turned the shoulder of the road into a literal stream. The soaking storms came as a relief to the dripping heat and humidity. Our days were spent half drenched in sweat and half in rain.
After a few days of rinse, wash and repeat, we took a lovely rest day camping on the beach. At Playa Las Lajas we enjoyed the sun and practiced surfing on the gentle waves. We watched beautiful sunsets and felt like we got to see a different side to Panama than what the highway had to offer. Our ride to and from the beach was rolling farmland and lush jungle. An escape from the rushing shipping lane of the Pan American.
NEXT PAGE>> One of the wildest places on Earth