Boquete to Panama City
10. May: Today would be a long day, with the first half of the day doing our biking trip and the second getting to Panama City. We were determined to start biking at 7:00, but eventually it is 8:00 till we've packed everything and reach the 'Gringo' store. The price for the bikes is 10$ pp plus a deposit and we're off! The path starts upwards and continues upwards for the best part of two hours or so. Painfully so at times! The bikes were not very good, mine had a problem with the larger gears, and I discovered that the large gearwheel was bent. This meant that it took a lot of effort to complete the uphill part. AT times the road got so steep that I just got off and walked. We consumed large amounts of water and Coke while pedaling. It was good that Boquete was not as hot as Bocas due to it's elevation, otherwise we would collapsed due to overheating! Wow, I was sweating very profusely along the way. It always seemed that soon the road would flatten out and continue downwards but biking past each corner brought up another stretch of uphill road! We're through with the drinks at the end.
The scenery along the road is not spectacular, we had expected much more. There were views of the valley to be seen from above, but we'd so much on our trip already that this was not really exciting. Right at the highest point of the road there is a nice sight of three peaks to be seen. When we actually started biking down it was fast and furious! (and we weren't even wearing helmets) Actually, Boquete is situated near a large volcano, but due to the low clouds we never saw it.
Along the way down there we supposedly a number of sights to be seen, but they were rather disappointing: The 'castle' was a larger house under renovation (there was just the shell of a house to be seen) with some small tower-like structures; the 'waterfall' was actually one, but nothing large nor beautiful, At the waterfall we meet the German couple who are on foot walking in the other direction. What a coincidence! We give them our small map of Boquete so they could see where they were. Annewien's suddenly developed a terrible headache and is feeling miserable. She's not receptive to anything, she just wants to get back to the room, poor girl. Well, we do so, and I continue to the shops to find some Coke and other stuff. After I return, I lie down as well. Annewien wakes up at about 14:00, feeling somewhat better. It must have been the exertion and heat of our bike tour that caused the headache.
We slowly pack our bags, pay the bill, leave our luggage at the hotel and go to return our bikes. The Frenchman's daughters (?) take them but don't even bother to inspect them. For lunch, we go to the same place on the main road as the previous day, menu del dia has bistec, which turns out to be pretty hard. The orange juice is as fresh and marvelous as yesterday, though!
We stop a taxi to take us to David and it's strange that he has people in it already. But he puts them off one by one along the way, having stopped to pick up our bags at our hotel first. Annewien tells him we must be at the airport by 15:30 and he actually puts up so much speed that we do make it on time. The trip costs us 15$.
Our reserved seats are available, but Annewien is called 'Martha Virdi' on the flight ticket. The check-in-woman is unfriendly and wants a surcharge for our few kilos overweight luggage. Security is much tighter on this flight that from Bocas. The flight is ok but long and eventually we land in Panama City, flying over the Canal. We fly with a 'Shorts SD3-60' aircraft.
We decide to take a taxi to the pre-booked Holiday Inn, but I've no idea what they would charge. LP said that taxis would be cheap so I decide to try to haggle a bit to test what the current acceptable prices were. The driver of the first taxi is aggressive and I haggle him to 3$, which is ok by me, but Annewien doesn't like the look of him and wants to take a different taxi. We walk away to another and the first taxi driver attacks the driver of the second after a lengthy discussion, since he's mad that we'd walked away. I'm nervous that one of them might pull out a weapon so I go into the airport and fetch the police. We'd changed taxis about 5 times or so by now, it seems that the 2nd taxi driver is not authorized to service the airport. The fare is 2$ and I tip him 50ñ. The Holiday Inn is very nice, and surprise, they've given us a suite with two rooms, kitchenette, two TV's (one in each room) and all sorts of goodies! Wow!
We get the news that they've just had riots in Panama City on that day due to a 25ñ bus-fare increase, and since it's dark by now, we decide not to leave the hotel this evening. The hotel Internet is 10$ per hour, so that isn't an option either. We retire to the bar, which has some good snacks and sandwiches. They also have good beer, but it's expensive at 4$.