7 Days Across Panama on a Motorcycle – Part 3

This is a third installment in a series about a motorcycle trip that my friend and I took in January of 2016. Here is Part 1.

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Day 3

So far we’ve stayed within 60 miles from Panama City. We saw some nature, lots of city but we felt like the real Panama is still out there waiting to be discovered. After an 8-hour $120 stay at the Holiday Inn it was time to get on the road that would take us cross-country.

We were headed to the town of Almirante where you can catch a ferry to the island of Colon. It’s a 9-hour 400-mile drive, on a good day, in a car. We decided it might be wise to break up this motorcycle journey with an overnight stop somewhere cool.  

Browsing through airbnb listings along the way we found one in Las Lajas that looked promising. After exchanging a couple of emails with the owners over breakfast we left the Miraflores Locks Holiday Inn with a more enjoyable 6-hour itinerary ahead of us.

The fastest way to cross Panama is via the Pan-American highway. We were trying to come up with a more scenic route but it was adding hours to our trip and since we wanted to go all the way to Bocas Del Toro, the Pan-American highway was really our only choice.

It was not as bad as we thought. Pan-American highway was nothing like a typical highway in the US. Potholes, construction, small towns provide all the excitement one needs to not fall asleep. The farther we got from Panama City the better the scenery became. Greenery, mountains and an endless parade of locals just going about their daily lives kept us entertained. We stopped a couple of times to stretch out and once to get lunch in a town of Santiago. First of many arroz con pollo to follow.

But it sure was a lot of this…

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When we finally got to the town of Las Lajas we were greeted by a wonderful couple that runs La Pepita de Maranon airbnb – Erica and Fabio. They are from Italy which apparently has a special arrangement with Panama allowing any Italians to come and stay without a visa for as long as they want. Las Lajas has a thriving Italian expat community, meaning there was an authentic pizza place! Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the place but it was off the main road the goes to the beach across from a supermarket. Best pizza I’ve had since Italy for sure!

The sun was starting to go down so we got back on our bikes for a 10-minute ride to the beach.

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Once we got there the first thing that really jumped out was how beautiful and dirty this place was at the same time! Trash was everywhere. Our hosts assured us that all of it was going to be cleaned up by the morning. Locals go to the beach over the weekend and litter but it all gets picked up on Monday. At the same time, there was not a single trash can to be found anywhere we looked. Hmm, I wonder if there is a connection?

Here is my bike parked by the beach. I didn’t zoom out because the frame would be filled with trash. I try not to judge, especially when travelling, but it was sad to see such a beautiful place trashed to such an extent!

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Luckily the South Pacific water was warm and clean. It really is one of the best feelings to soak a bit after a long ride.

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Next morning during breakfast we’d start questioning what is it that we are really doing with our lives…