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Playa Lajas and the road to Bocas

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Playa Lajas and the road to Bocas

In this episode, I hold baby sea turtles in my hand, see the Caribbean sea and the Pacific at the same time, and witness a stabbing. Let’s roll!

All images pop up in this window without leaving the page. If you don’t click them, Terry Tate might have to get all Sarah Palin on your ass.


I woke up at 4 AM on today because I fell asleep at 8, so I captured the sunrise. I love the birds that fly through at the end.

The beach is seven kilometers long, and I walked the expanse of it from 4 to 6 AM that morning – just me and the surf for most of two hours and 14K.

There are only so many comments you can make about these pictures.

I would have Kenny Loggins’ “Highway To The Danger Zone” playing over this.

I was taking pictures of the surf for a while as these birds were going by a great deal closer to me than these and since they were coming by every thirty seconds assumed, “Eh, they’ll come by again,” but they never came as close.

I was wondering while I was out here why surfing was a sport with such devoted followers. I came to my own personal colnclusion that it had a lot to do with the interaction with nature and fickleness of the surf. I don’t have the answer figured out for sure yet.

I love Panama. So far, out of the countries that I have visited down here, I have enjoyed Panama the most. It is a combination if the people and the places, but I think it might also have something to do with the easy exchange rate ;-)

I had been having problems with my bike since the crash, and when I got to some road construction, I was forced to slow down, and the my Hercules stalled. The guy in the plaid told me to bring it to the flagger at the other end of the construction about 1KM away because he was an expert at Flagging and the art of motorcycle maintenance. My friend in pink took the flagging duties from the mechanic and he went to work.

In ten minutes, he diagnosed a spent spark plug and a blown fuse and someone else from the crew drove me to get another two of those and a backup spark plug, just in case. He put the parts into the bike and my electric starter was working again (you should see the gashes in my ankle when my foot slipped off the kickstarter in the rain about 40 times). Herc started up and purred like a kitten.

So that rendezvous with the road crew in Lajas saved me a 70KM tow truck ride to the nearest Moto Repuestros, a bunch of cash, and pretty much my whole day. I delivered some cold Gatorade to all the guys on my way back to Lajas from the center of town, and the gravel truck driver was the happiest of all. Getting near that thing in this weather made your entire body start sweating in seconds.

And these guys are all wearing pants . . . Is there something I’m missing here?

There were two Black Labs playing on the beach, so I got them playing. This one is for my mom.

I can’t decide if the bird adds to or takes away from the continuity of this picture.

I mean, really. Could I get any luckier here? I guess the mothers come to the beach once every three or four years and the Colombians are the only people on the beach that would rather save the baby turtles than eat their eggs.
In August of 2008, the Italians saw the mother turtle laying some eggs. Now since the Italians didn´t have an beachfront property, they told the Colombians to dig out the eggs and keep them at their cabana. The son of the owner of the place looked at the eggs each week to see if they were ready to go, and today, they were ready.

These turtles are called Loggerheads. I had just seen Finding Nemo a few days before I did this. Did you know that these things live to be one hundred and fifty, dude?

You’re jealous. Admit it.

Mission complete.

I asked them to wait for me before they released the turtles. They had been flopping around doing laps in those buckets all day, I wondered if there was any energy left in the little guys to beat the surf out into the ocean, but I will never know. They wanted to wait until the evening so they wouldn’t be eaten by the birds and other predators that these guys had, but I don’t know if we didn’t do more harm than good by keeping them so long in the buckets. I was thinking a mild turtle sedative would have done wonders for their stamina when we released them.

Seriously, there is just way better wildlife down here.

I tried the red-eye reduction flash on this little guy with no luck.

I went to sleep after releasing the turtles at about 9:00 PM. I slept in a hammock at the end of the cabana, which was right next to the dinner tables for the restaurant for all three nights I was there.

I guess that isn’t entirely true.

The third night, I had seen some guys at the owner’s table in the corner of the restaurant that I didn´t really like. I don’t know what it was, I just thought these were bad guys. They were hanging around and having some beers, and I went to sleep.

An hour or two later, I woke up to a woman screaming. She was running down the steps in the picture. The air was tinged with smoke, and I assumed that maybe her clothes had caught fire and she was going for water to put them out. Glancing back to the table, one of the muchachos was holding the owner’s son back, and his son was holding a steak knife screaming “PAPA! PAPA!”

At that point in time, the owner comes up the steps covered in blood. Still thinking that this has something to do with burning, a closer examination now looks more like he’s been knifed. He sits down at the table and continues drinking his beer, but he is in really bad shape and is probably doing this to keep up appearances for his family more than to lick his wounds.

The man previously holding the owner’s son now has a knife and he is holding the owner’s daughter back and walking toward me. At this point in time, I am out of my hammock and already walking toward the beach. He exclaims “NO, NO!” as if I was going to listen to him to come back and reason with him through a language barrier, and he won’t tie me up for execution.

I went to the Italiano place, told them the story, and figured that I would stay there for the night while things blew over. They told me that they recognized the trucks going back and forth between the center of town and the Colombian’s place as the German’s trucks.

Turns out that the land the Colombian is on right now was previously owned by the German. The Colombian was renting the place from the German, and at some point in the past, there was an issue, and the government ceded the land to the Colombian. Ever since then, there has been a bit of a land feud. The Italians guessed that these guys were muscle sent by the German to send a message. They told me they’d e-mail to confirm and give me a follow-up on the situation in a few days.

edit: five months later, they still haven’t.

Yeah, sorry. That’s it for the excitement. The rest of the blog is quite good as well.

So after fixing my bike, I started up the mountain to Bocas Del Toro. Someone told me it was a cool place, and I should go there, so I went there. Isn’t that a fun way to live life?

This scenery on the way up was frickin´ magnificent.

OK, this is super irritating. Every so often, I am in one of these internet cafes, and the keyboard changes languages on me. I don´t even know what language the keyboard changed to, but if anyone knows which keyboard uses ñ and ç where my apostrophes are supposed to be, let me know.

Yeah, that is the Pacific. In my opinion, this was far more beautiful than any of the views in Costa Rica so far. Did I mention that I really liked Panama? If you are one fo my contacts, you can see where I took this from on my map. I don´t even know how to look at my map, though, so good luck.

On my way up the mountain, I was praying that there would be a sight like this from somewhere near the top, and there was. I´m sure the contrast would be much more striking on a clear day, but I had to take what I could get. Going up the mountain was very warm on the Pacific side, but I came down through an absolute jungle.

On the way down, I saw this lake formed in the middle of the mountains for about ten minutes and thought it was wicked awesome until I saw the dam and realized that it was only awesome. I was hoping it was some kind of oasis, but it turned out to be manmade.

I wondered for a second why there were no houses around the outside of the lake, but then I realized that it was freezing frickin’ cold and rainy

Washed out, slippery, wet roads the whole way down and me in shorts and a soaked sweatshirt. Waterfalls spilled out onto the road banked by piles of rock, mud and vegetation where the landslides had been cleared from the way.

My bike’s fork bent a little bit to the left which resulted in the tire spraying water and sediment up onto my right leg. Since this is also the leg my scrape is on, that one is taking the longest to heal.

The jeep in the picture was going about 40KM when he hit the water flowing over the road. He noticed the wave he was kicking up and slowed down as not to drench me anymore than I already was.

Love these Panamanians.

This town is in the middle of frickin’ nowhere, Panama. When I drive through these places, I always think about how hard education access is for the kids here. It is impossible for them to get a high school education here.

I was on a pretty major road from the South to the North coast of Panama, yet I am positive that within this picture, based on the map I was looking at, there is likely no human life until after those mountains.

Or something. That’s just my best guess as to what this guy is, but he has his own personalized bathtub. I stil can’t understand why this guy is neck deep in water in the middle of a field.

Some Panamanians were on the side of the road taking this picture already, so I can’t take full credit for discovering him.

I tried to take this shot three times. I ended up having to take it while driving by on my motorcycle, because when I stopped, the cranes flew away.

I can’t imagine my mom would approve of taking pictures from the seat of my motorcycle while driving, but that is a cool photo.

This is the old Chiquita Banana shipping town. When Chiquita left, the whole town went to hell.

Men down here probably have similar stories about falling into a morose, lackadaisical state when their Chiquitas have left.

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