A DAY IN THE LIFE: After the vastness of those South American countries we’re struggling to adjust to the size of Panama. I step on the accelerator and…crikey!!…by the time I’ve stamped on the brake we’ve already slithered to the other side of the country. And slithered is the word, because it rains a lot (more than usual, everybody is saying) and so all is green and lush and floating. With all this rain I’ve gained some new skill sets, like how to cross the mud without having my flip-flops sucked off, and how to unravel toilet paper in a plastic bag. Still, this smallness is quite handy for dashing between the steamy coastline and the cool mountain air. You can dip your toe in the Caribbean, an hour later plunge into the Pacific. You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty cool. Today is Christine’s birthday and I’m at a loss as to how to mark it. ‘We’ll go down to the beach,’ I say, though I haven’t a clue which beach, nor what we shall do there…in all this rain. By now she’s quite used to a bit of rain on her birthday, though it would be nice to break the pattern.Two years ago we celebrated it in Argentina, with a bottle of Torrontes, in a cow field, watching our shoes bobbing on the floodwaters. Last year we were in Chile, in a campsite outside La Serena, downing Pisco Sour as the deluge thudded on the bonnet. So, where will we be this year? I really haven’t a clue. We’ll see what the day brings, because we’ve got some thrilling things to do. First, we go to the gas plant to refill our two domestic gas bottles. At this point the sun is shining – it’s looking promising. Secondly, we visit a tyre technician to change the tyre on the spare wheel for the one on the roof. Then we go to Toyota to book a service for the car. As Christine haggles over the price for a replacement windscreen, a fellow approaches me and asks, ‘Are you an Australian?’ For a moment or two I’m nonplussed, for I’m normally accused of being a German ( though for the life of me I don’t know why). But an Australian – now this is quite refreshing, and then I realise I’m wearing a T-shirt with AUSTRALIA boldly printed across the chest. Geoff and Caroline, expat Australians living down the road, are also booking their car in for a service at Toyota. ‘You must come and stay with us,’ Geoff offers. ‘We have a great view of the ocean.’ And Caroline adds, ‘I’ve already got dinner prepared for tonight.’ I can’t believe my ears – saved by the kangaroo on my T-shirt. In the evening we dine on the terrace in Geoff and Caroline’s garden, to convivial conversation and the sound of the ocean waves. And it doesn’t rain….YES!! (Thanks a lot Geoff and Caroline)
TO BOQUETE: Boquete lies at 1200 metres. It’s where everyone goes to escape the clammy heat and get a decent night’s sleep. It’s a splendid place. I could show you photos of green hills, tumbling streams, coffee plantations and the summit of Baru volcano towering 3,400 metres above us…except I won’t, because at Hostal Topas, where we parked on the lawn, there was something far more interesting going on. The owner of Hostal Topas is a classic British motorcycle enthusiast – which is, of course, extremely exciting. We can gawp at a plant and a tree pretty much whenever we like but it’s not often you can feast your eyes on such a sensuous collection of metal, glass and rubber. Every time the sun came out I dashed forward to take another photo, and the sun shone quite a lot in Boquete. The bikes were for sale and I was already dreaming of which one I might complete the trip on. The proprietor of the hostel and the bikes, a German (who couldn’t possibly be confused as an Australian) gave me a commentary on their condition and history. There was no doubt how he loved them, an extension of his family and quite clearly selling them was not sitting easily with him. ‘This BSA 500 I wanted to ride to Timbuktu,’ he said. ‘Except I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.’ He shrugged rather mournfully at what could have been. On Sunday morning, as the church bells pealed in the town, he rolled out the BSA 500, a faraway look in his eyes. It took two attempts to kick her over and then she thundered into life, a sound no choir of angels could ever compete with. Aaaah…motorcycle heaven.