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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mildly Melancholic Musings From Panama

Panama to Venao (Playa Venado)
Interesting how things change.  In my last post I was high on life and travels, and in amazing/positive spirits.  This post reflects a bit of the opposite.  I'm currently doing just fine, lazily sitting in a hammock enjoying a nice breeze in Venao (Playa Venado).  However, the past few days I wasn't doing so great.  Let me start from the beginning...

I left David (Daveed) and made it to the city in Panama in record time.  As referenced in the last post, I found a nice hostel called Siriri.  It is located in Marbella, close to the Multicentro shopping mall, and in a safe area of the city.  Pablo, the owner, and the staff were all nice enough, and they let me park the bike directly in the entrance hallway, which was nice.  However, after a few days in the city things started to go slightly awry.  

First, I ended up going out that first night with several people from the hostel, but forgot how expensive the city can be.  The last time I was there was in 2012 during a trip with the ex.  We stayed at Le Meridien, danced salsa at Havana Club, sailed through San Blas, and painted the town red together.  Since I had a job waiting when I returned, money wasn't a concern.  This trip is obviously different.  I don't have a job waiting, and Hostel Siriri, while nice, is a far cry from Le Meridien.  I ended up going way over my budget that night, which pissed me off, and everywhere I looked I was reminded of the trip w/ the ex.  We kept driving by Le Meridien, the guys wanted me to take them to Havana Club, then we ended up at a lounge in Casco Viejo (old town) that the ex and I had been to.  It wasn't the reminders of the relationship that bothered me, but reminders of my past life.  While I'm immensely enjoying the ways things are currently, it is a bit of a struggle to travel with a completely different mindset and on a completely different monetary budget.  Not a bad thing, but the city was a friendly reminder that I'm certainly on a budget and can't do everything I want.  

So after my quick realization that the city would be challenging due to budget constraints, I actually became a bit bored.  Since I'd been there before, there wasn't much left that I hadn't already explored.  I did take some nice runs up and down the boardwalk, visited the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, explored several different/new areas of the city in search of cheap eats, and tried to find various other things to fill my time.  The majority of the people at Siriri ended up just hanging at the hostel most of the day and night.  While sitting around doing nothing on occasion is nice, I found myself bored and with a feeling that I was wasting days waiting for March 3rd, when the boat departs for Colombia.  I'm not sure why, but a feeling of depression started to creep in.  I know that not every stop during my journey will provide epic adventure and fun, but spending several days cooped up in a crowded hostel just didn't feel right.  I finally slapped myself and decided that I'd leave to meet up with a friend in Venao/Playa Venado to spend a few days lounging on the beach, which is where I am now.

The third blow came after a few nights in Panama.  I had booked a flight with miles for my new friend Sarah (the girl I met in Puerto Escondido) to come meet me in Cartagena.  We were both looking forward to getting to know each other better, and spending time together in Cartagena and farther up the coast in Santa Marta.  I had organized a nice hotel for a few nights and started planning the agenda for our week.  However, Sarah informed me that unfortunately she wouldn't be able to make it.  She had been interviewing for months for a dream job, and they offered it to her.  She felt like it would be the wrong decision to delay the start date, thus couldn't make the trip to Colombia.  She asked if I thought she should just scrap it and come to Colombia, but I said it was ultimately her decision, and that I'd hate to be the reason that she didn't get a job that meant so much to her.  In the end, it kind of pissed me off since I'd put a lot of time, effort, and money into planning, and was really looking forward to seeing her, but you gotta do what'chu gotta do right?  

Blow numero cuatro came after speaking to another friend, Dorothy from San Francisco.  She and I have been communicating on and off about her potentially coming down to meet me in Ecuador.  However, shortly after plans fell through with Sarah, Dorothy informed me that she wouldn't be able to make it to Ecuador either due to an already planned trip to Vietnam, and now a destination bachelorette party that has sprung up for one of her best friends.  Again, I was really looking forward to spending time together to get to know her better, and it would have been great to explore the beaches and towns of Ecuador together on the motorbike, as I've never been.  Alas, we'll have to make it happen some other time.  It is lonely traveling alone at times, so I was looking forward to having two visitors along the way.  The combination of both cancelations sent me further into a funk.  

And the last thing that contributed to my melancholy...  My father was going to help with my taxes, but due to some complex issues (divorce, sale of home, etc, etc, etc), we decided to file for an extension, which means that I'll need to be home and done with my taxes before October.  He has helped tremendously while I've been away with a ton of things, but this task is just too much.  After filing the extension, the realization that there is an end in sight for my adventure depressed me.  I may end up finding a place along the way in the near future where I can safely leave the bike, which will give me an opportunity to fly home temporarily to knock out the taxes with an accountant, then fly back down to continue the adventure.  We'll see about that option.  

Ok sorry, there is one additional negative thing bothering me.  I very rarely get sick, but I think all my time traveling, the vicious heat, burning the candle at both ends, and staying in crowded hostels has finally caught up with me.  Somewhere along the way in the city, I started to feel a tickle in my throat.  It kept getting worse and worse, and today I'm actually fully ill.  The good news is that I wanted to chill for a few days in Venao and do absolutely nothing, so this gives me a good excuse to do just that.  My only hope is that I'm 100% in a few days for the boat trip to Colombia.  It would be a huge bummer if I was ill on a rocking boat laying out chum lines through what should be fun filled paradise.  My plan is to chill here, get plenty of rest, drink a TON of water, and nurse myself back to health by the time I return to the city on the 1st.  Cross your fingers for me that it passes quickly.

All that said, and sorry for the venting, I am doing well now.  Even though I feel like garbage, I'm enjoying my time away from the city on a beautiful beach.  My buddy Paul should be here shortly, so it will be good to hang with him.  We're staying at a nice little spot called La Choza Playa Venao.  You can set up a tent for $8, the dorms are $13, and they have privates for $40.  I opted for the dorm, but may end up throwing up my tent the next couple of nights to save some money and get a bit more privacy.  The dorm, although hot, isn't too shabby.  Five out of the six beds are filled with beautiful girls from Argentina and Spain.  :)  

Regarding my melancholic mood, I feel like a right hypocrite since I'm the one that's been saying "you can't have the good without the bad".  However, the combo of all those things did a number on me.  Like I said, I'm doing much better now, and know that five days on the boat will surely cure what ails me.  It is always interesting though when you travel to have any sort of negative feelings and/or emotions.  When planning trips and adventures like this, it's all roses and adventures in theory.  Turns out, it's still real life.  It feels good to write about it though and get it out, so thanks for reading/listening.  

Ok, I'm going to get off my complaining arse and figure out what to do next.  On the ride down to Venao yesterday, I managed a few detours to check out some random beaches.  Some were on the map, and some weren't.  Aside from the last picture, which is of Venao, the beach photos above were from one I stumbled upon accidentally.  A smooth winding road (resembled a supermoto course) led all the way down to Playa Destiladeros.  The road ends and the desolate beach begins.  There is only one hotel there called Villa Camilla Suites.  It is one of the most isolated beautiful beaches I've ever seen, certainly the best I've seen on this trip.  I may shoot back east today to go lounge on the beach there with my book.  The bike always puts me in a good mood anyway, so a spirited ride to Destiladeros may be in order.  I might, out of curiosity, look at a few properties for sale around the area.  I find it hard to believe that the area won't be growing very soon, so it would be a nice investment IMO.  Even if that takes time, it would be an amazing place to own property regardless.  

That's all for now...  I'll try to get a post up prior to our departure on the 3rd.  If not, there will be a fairly long delay due to the five day trip on The Stahlratte (two days through San Blas, three days open water to Cartagena).  

Ciao for now...  ~ D

PS...  One tip for people doing a similar trip.  The Panamericana in Panama sucks!  It is FILLED with moto cops radar-gunning everyone.  I told you in a previous post about getting popped, but getting off with a warning.  Since then, I've been diligent about looking out for them.  Yesterday shortly after leaving the city, I noticed a car coming the opposite direction flash his lights at me.  I immediately started looking out and sure enough, about a mile up, there was a guy on my side locked and loaded with his trusty radar gun.  The posted speed limit was 80k, so I made sure to slow down to just under that.  I know for a fact that I was slowed far enough in advance for him to have nothing on me.  However, he came calmly walking out into the highway to wave me over.  Now if I do something wrong, I have no problem taking my punishment.  But, if he just wants to pull me over to be an ass or hassle me, then he can stuff it.  His waves got more and more animated as I got closer.  As I was passing him he looked pissed.  I waved back at him and kept on going.  After cruising a mile or so ahead, I rolled hard on the throttle and sped out of there.  Nothing came of it, and about 15 miles or so I stopped for lunch.  So for what it's worth, if you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe claim 'gringo stupidity' and run right through the checkpoints and traffic stops with the explanation if you get pulled over, "Lo siento, I thought you just liked motorcycles and were waving hello".  :)  

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