Rohloff hub with worn hub bearings for repair

Bike problem no.1: Sarah's broken Rohloff hub, supposedly the "Rolls Royce" of gear systems for bike touring. With worn hub bearings, it's currently winging its way to Cycle Monkey in California - one of only two places in the world that can repair it. When I write that, it does seem like the most ridiculous choice of bike part ever for touring. Thing is, they're not meant to go wrong...

Seized Rohloff female bayonet connector

Bike problem no.2: my seized Rohloff bayonnet connector, which prevented us from changing a broken shifter cable and forced us into the bus for the last 300km into Panama City. Unsurprisingly, after a trouble-free first year, we're quickly falling out of love with our Rohloffs. Luckily we were in time to get an order in before my brother Ed (aka our kit mule), arrived...

Bag of replacement bike parts

...bearing a lovely pink-spotted Santa's sack of replacement parts and spares. After a year of abuse in all weather, it seems our "kit honyemoon" is well and truly over, with things breaking and wearing out with increasing regularity.

Moody Panama City skyline

Panama City, perched at the end of Central America before the impenetrable jungle of the Darién Gap, is truly a city of contrasts: where a skyline of lego skyscrapers...

Panama City apartment blocks

...meets concrete apartment blocks...

Derelict building Casco Viejo Panama City

...meets Old World charm.

Casco Viejo cat Panama City

We opted for the quieter pace of the Casco Viejo (Old Town), away from the 6-lane motorways and shopping malls. Except it wasn't really that quiet, as the whole area is currently under massive renovation to turn the city into a tourist "destination" in it's own right.

Wooden balcony Casco Viejo Panama City

It reminded us of a mini Havana, Cuba - somewhere between Habana Centro and Habana Vieja, with steakhouses and boutique hotels gradually replacing the gloriously ramshackle wooden apartment buildings and balconies.

Flag on balcony Casco Viejo Panama City

Above the diggers though you could still see signs of the original residents clinging onto their space...

Balcony Casco Viejo Panama City

...and keeping an eye on proceedings below. You have to hope that in the rush to regenerate, the character and soul of the original Casco Viejo is not entirely lost - as we felt it had been in other colonial "gems" such as Antigua, Guatemala and parts of Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Murals Casco Viejo Panama City

Down at street level, these murals by Panamanian artist Rolando de Sedas added a splash of colour...

Mural Casco Viejo Panama City

...and pouting Latina spirit.

Motorbike repairs Panama City

Walking around the Casco Viejo, we bumped into Jorge (with his Mexican wife María) and Jere, both Argentines on epic motorbike trips. Jorge has been on the road for over 10 years...

Rodando por America motorbike

...while Jere is doing the reverse of our trip, heading north from Patagonia up to Alaska.

Fried Corvina fish market Panama City

Our one day whistle-stop tour of Panama City with Ed started of course with food - a delicious lunch of ceviche and fried Corvina (sea bass) at the fish market.

Miraflores Locks Panama Canal

We couldn't visit Panama without visiting its most famous landmark - the Canal, and so we headed out to the Miraflores Locks to catch the afternoon's action. Although sceptical at how excited I could get about some big ships and a lock, it was actually fascinating to watch them line up from the Caribbean side...

Ship entering Miraflores Locks Panama Canal

...move into the lock with the help of some very cool tug trains, and slowly drop as the water level falls.

Miraflores Lock Panama City

Finally the enormous gates opened...

Ship leaving Miraflores Lock Panama Canal

...and they inched their way out towards the Pacific, just 17m lower and their bank account $30,000 lighter.

chat Panama City

Back in the City, it was down to the front for over a year's worth of brotherly catch up...

Stone throwing Panama City

...followed by the first of many editions of the obligatory Butcher "bet you can't hit that" stone throwing game - just to re-establish bragging rights.

Panama City night sky

After taking in the surreal Panama City skyline by night, we called it a day - ready for an early start back over the Cordillera Central to the Caribbean, and the boat that will take us to Colombia and South America.

James

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3 Responses to “Panama City: end of a continent”

  1. Margy Says:

    very late reading this, trying to catch up a bit , am so busy!!!!! Actually I am even going out in the evenings, like busses, nothing for weeks then several nights out all at once!!Photos are great, I am sure the bikes are feeling the strain,they have done a lot of miles!!!
    Glad you had a gd time with Ed, love Margy xx

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  2. Louise Jones Says:

    Hi Sarah, got the details of your blog from the Northumbria Alumni magazine (fame at last!). Sounds like you are having an amazing time, and I’ve got more and more envious flicking through your photos. I love the way you are both smiling all the time despite the steep uphill climbs. Enjoy it for every moment.
    Love from Louise Jones xx

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    Sarah Reply:

    Louise! Great to hear from you…I was just wondering the other day how you’re getting on as we lost touch before I left the UK. Hope all is good there? What are you up to now? Hee hee, yes the magazine appearance was a little moment of fame for me…glad one person read it ;-) We are stopped for a while in Medellín, Colombia and the bikes are enjoying a well earned rest. Colombia is a fabulous country…did you say you were planning to do some travelling in S America or have you already been here? Sorry can’t remember…but if you haven’t already visited Colombia, I couldn’t recommend it more! Take care. Sxxx

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