We have been in Panama City for the last 10 days, having crossed Panama very quickly to arrive here. Panama is very hot. The locals say it is always like this. The PanAmerican Highway is also very featureless so you have to try to make the effort to get off it if you want anything other than a mind and bum numbing ride. We did not really manage this much as we were keen to make it to Panama City. As it turns out, this was a good move as about 40km outside of Panama City we had a flat tyre.
On further inspection we discovered a complete tyre failure, with the tyre having split badly. This has probably been caused by hitting too many potholes too hard. It is a good job it did not happen in the middle of nowhere. We stood at the side of the busy main road for about 30 minutes trying to flag down taxis and police cars, unsuccessfully. Eventually, and very luckily, a wonderful group of young road workers stopped in their tiny truck. After some deliberation it was decided they would load the bike onto the truck and take us to a nearby tyre vendor.
I just stood back and let the guys take the strain. They then let me sit up front, while they all squeezed onto the back seat and Dave sat with the bike.
Not surprisingly, we could not find anyone who stocked a tyre that would fit our bike, despite our lovely guys driving Dave around to find one, while I waited with the bike and the first tyre man, a lovely young guy from Colombia.
The tyre man replaced the tube and patched the tear and we trundled along the hard shoulder into Panama City at about 20mph hoping it would hold which it did.
On the way, we crossed the Panama Canal which was pretty momentous.
We were very grateful to everyone who helped us out. When we ran out of fuel in California, no one stopped, not even other bikers so this reflects the people of Panama in a very good light (or those in the USA in a bad light).
We had booked the lovely, new Holiday Inn Express for three nights and luxuriated in the facilities, including a brand new, empty gym two doors from our room, a massive bathroom and silent air con. We ate Thai food and stocked up on cartons of hummus.We were unable to source a tyre anywhere so ordered one from the USA and booked into a nearby, cheaper hotel for another week, while we waited for the tyre to arrive. Then out of the blue one of the local motorcycle dealers emailed to say they had a tyre! Dave got it fitted but as we had already paid for a week in the hotel we decided to stay. We have spent the week working on the thesis and other work related things, working out in the gym and not much else except a visit to the cinema to see The Revenant, which we very much enjoyed-oh and doing laundry in an actual washing machine. We have slept a lot, eaten a lot of tofu and hummus (which we have missed in the last few weeks), got a bit fitter and got up to 35,000 words on the thesis (only 15,000 left). We have also booked flights to Hong Kong at the end of May for a transition visit, paid for by my school.
So the return journey begins. We plan to cross Panama and Costa Rica in 4 days and then spend a couple of days mopping up on things we missed in Nicaragua, before hightailing it across Honduras and El Salvador and in Guatemala. It will take a month to get back to California. We are very excited.