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Pan-a-ma-ha! PAN-A-MA! Pan-a-Ma-huh-oh-huh-uh-huh! Yeah, Panama is awesome. At least, what I saw of Panama is awesome. Are you ready for another mind-expanding, booty-shaking, face-melting, women’s-thong-wearing edition of the Central American photoblog? I know you are. Let’s go on an adventure together. In this edition of the photoblog, I crash my bike three times and barely make it to my destination. Ready? OK!

All images pop up in this window without leaving the page. If you don’t click them, they are going to cry, and you don’t want that to happen.

I am writing this exactly a week ago to the minute of crashing my bike.

I’d been travelling down the hills and had trouble with the slickness of the road when I was braking for two reasons 1) oil on the road because of the strain the hills were putting on the cars, and 2) the studded tires on my dirtbike are designed for dirt and mud and don’t touch a lot of the road like a regular motorcycle’s tires do and therefore don’t give me a whole lot of grip.

So after taking all those awesome landscape shots, I am behind a slowpoke I passed in an earlier town. I am going around a corner and I decided that was the perfect time to pass the slowpoke again. In hindsight, I am going to have to admit I was wrong. I was only using the front brake and it slid out from under me. I hit the ground with both hands, my bike slid into the ditch with me following closely behind, and we ended up in the rocks in the gulch.

I fucking love this guy. Sometimes expletives are required to let someone know exactly how much you love them. Jose was travelling the road and was determined to get me and my bike back on the road as quickly as possible. I paid him $50 bucks, and he was both my tow truck driver and the mechanic that put my pike back together for me. He picked out the parts that were damaged and replaced them. Seriously, this man was such a blessing. From crash to back on the road again (wait a second, I can check my timestamps and tell you exactly) was 50 minutes. I didn´t even lose an hour because of this guy.

I mean seriously, I love him.

So the guy that I was trying to pass saw me crash and kind of tapped his brakes, but didn’t stop. Maybe he thought I was a punk for trying to pass him or something. Even in Central America where I am still being acclimated to the customs here, I am going to call BS on this one, I just think it’s a matter of human decency.

About twenty cars passed me struggling with the joerb of getting the bike out of the rocks. On the twenty-first car, I was frustrated and yelled for them to help me, and they stopped. I´m sure you have heard of the situations where if you are in a public place, you are less likely to be helped if you are choking or having a heart attack than if you were in a place with only one or two people, so I will refrain from making an assumption about the locals since they´ve been so nice to me the rest of the time.

Still, the guy I was trying to pass and I were the only ones on the road, so I’m not letting him off.

More psychology for you, a guy that worked for the airlines on his way to Jaco to drop off some misplaced luggage was driving the same type of motorcycle I was. He stopped, even though I was out of the ditch and upright already. I saw him again after I was on the road again and he on his return trip. We exchanged 100 KPH pleasantries.

I bought gloves on my way to Volcan Poas and forgot them in Heredia – it cost me dearly. Jose told me I would have a hard time masturbating.

Some gestures know no language barriers.

This one was the most annoying when I was sleeping, but I barely noticed it during the day.

(edit: Six months later and I still have this one teeny area with a scab on both my elbow and my knee. I think that means I needed more serious medical attention)

Didn’t even bother treating this one.

This was the deepest cut of them all, it also bruised pretty seriously, and I’m still a little gimpy on the right leg. The jeans were toast after this, obviously. Blood, grease, and holes aren´t in season down here right now.

This one was by far my favorite injury of the ones I received. All this soon-to-be-dead-skin was covering and protecting the part of my body that was being regenerated. Not only that, but I got to poke it to drain it and the plasma or water or whatever the area filled with sprayed out in this cool little stream. The locals that came to check on how bad my bike was messed up in the next town were puzzled at how amused I was by that as I’m sure you are as you ask youreself the question, “Why is he sharing that with me?”

Did I tell you how much I loved this guy? He was from a diferent country, I think somewhere in the caribbean, and he really loved his business. He had a lot of friends in Orotina, the town he fixed my bike in.

This is the dog of the owner at the motorcycle parts shop and as you can obviously see, Paris ain’t got nothin on this girl. Nail Polish, a gold necklace, earrings. I didn´t check its teeth for a grill, but I don´t know if I would be quite surprised.

Damn, I just noticed the gold bracelet.

You can´t really see the rows of palm trees that well, but these huge palm tree farms were all over the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Oh, I didn´t take any more pictures, because my battery was low, but let me tell you how the rest of my night went after I got my bike “fixed”:

I got to this town called Parrita just as it was getting dark to look for some clear sunglasses to use to both see at night and shield my eyes from the bugs that had been pelting me all day. One especially big one felt like a paintball and left the same kind of welt. That´s beside the point. So I get back onto my mostly fixed bike in order to drive to the next kind of resortish/backpacker town called Quepos and get about 1/4 of the way there before my headlight burns out. It is pitch black and I can´t see a damn thing as I pull over to the side of the road. I hop off the right side of the bike to avoid stepping into traffic, and if you know anything about the side of the road in these countries, you know what happens next.

I fell into the ditch with my bike in tow behind my left leg. The gloves that were purchased at the town I fixed my bike at were helpful; when I finally got somewhere with lights, they were completely ripped up. I tried to get my bike started with the electric start, and that no longer worked, so I tried to kickstart it about ten or twenty times with no results. At that time, my mind begins to wander amongst the stories of gringos caught alone in the dark in Central America and which mangroves my body will be decomposing in. Looking for the solution to the problem of how I am going to get another 30 kilometers to Quepos, the blinker turns on. I give it another couple of tries with the kickstart and she starts up.

So I’m trying to keep it around 70KPH as I get one second of light, one second of abject darkness for the duration of my night. About 10K into that rigamarole, some motorcyclists came up behind me, they recognized my plight and rode with me for 15K, which was a Godsend.

I did almost get hit by a truck overtaking people from the other lane. When it was happening, I threw my hands in the air in the “WTF?” gesture, but then I realized that I was driving a bike in the middle of the night using my blinker as a headlight and I put myself back in place.

You forgot about the palm trees . . . this was the picture of the other side of the street; tens of thousands of saplings.
I stopped in for lunch here and man, what a great view. Peter is a freelance comp sci guy working remotely from here and doing just fine. I don’t think I could do it though; I need more human interaction than what he gets.
At Peter and Mylin’s. I don’t know what to write here, it’s a spider for crissakes and It has been almost three hours since I started writing these descriptions of my trip. I am stuck in this industrial shipping town waiting for my bike to get off a ferry so I can go park it at a hotel in a crappy border town that I don’t want to stay at.

( edit: Sorry about the negativity there. I am thinking that this caption was a reflection on my sexual frustration at this point of the trip)

Yes, I am completely unoriginal, but come on. You’re telling me that the first time you’re there, you’re not going to jog up the steps of the art museum in Philadelphia and turn around with your fists in the air in triumph? Of course you are.

Please, there is no need to adjust the sound settings on your computer. I am still going through puberty.

The second I got to the border, I unwittingly fell into the gringo trap of getting pulled over to the side of the road by a helpful, English-speaking Costa Rican. I was apporached by about five guys all asking me if I needed help. This guy was the closest to me at the time, and I figured I wanted this whole process to go smoothly, so I went along with it. Hamilton got me through the border with a bike registered to someone else in less than two hours . . .

. . . with a price.

I spent $70 at the border to tip my “guide” and pay off the people to look past my paperless bike. The other option was to go back to San Jose to register the bike in my name, and you know that I was definitely not doing that. I was content to get over the border for that price, considering, but I couldn’t help thinking that I had just paid Hamilton $70 to steward me through a process that I would have been able to get through myself by adding an hour.

The next time I was at a computer, I read a motorcycle travel website that said never to talk to these people – so at least I’ve learned my lesson, and it didn’t kill me financially. Of course, I am assuming that these people on the motorcycle trip websites are assuming you have plates and a registration for your bike.

I have never had a bigger hassle at a border before, but I figure that this will teach me a lesson to have more of my stuff in order before I cross the next border, right?

Those are the car washy-type stuctures at each border down here preventing the spread of tire-borne diseases. I didn’t bother to go through them and no one seemed to care. There were no drug dogs and no gates. I could’ve pretty much just driven right through the border if I had wanted to, but if I didn´t know where the police roadblocks were going to be (and I was stopped at two of them in a week), I would be screwed.

As far as getting stuff across the border, it is damn easy to get yourself across each of these borders down here – you have a passport, you’re good to go. I am hoping that when I have proper documentation for my motorcycle, I will have no problem getting that across, but I am not so sure.

I wanted to go to the beach, so I asked some Federales where the beach was. I drew a map of where I wanted to go, and the map was clearly of Boca Chica, but they told me to go to Las Lajas. I have been told that if you show someone a map down here, they are confused.

So the second I got off my motorcycle, I allowed myself to take a video of the beach, just after I got my Panamanian cerveza, of course. This is Playa Lajas on the Pacific coast in Panama. I guess it costs about $400,000 an acre here on the beach, which I thought was a bit much . . . I guess they haven’t yet felt the repurcussions of the economic slowdown, here.

Before I stepped out onto the beach, I had initially wanted to stay for a night and then soldier on to the next locale, but I was lovestruck and stayed for three. It was quite relaxing, save for a snag at the end.

I called him Sam, but I highly doubt that was their nickname for this guy. I had met a girl in Quepos who had never seen and specifically wanted to see a Toucan. This picture is for you, Shiri.

And of course, you have to film them to see what they act like (at least in captivity). I thought the sound that they made was quite interesting. I tried to balance a Guinness on Sam’s beak with horrific, cerveza-wasting results.

This is the sunset on the first night I stayed at the beach.

Playa Lajas has about five places to stay, and they are all run by foriegners. If I wanted to go to get internet, I would go to the Italiano place. I was staying at the Colombian’s place next to the German’s place. I felt like I was living this brain teaser.

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