June 30, 2006 GMT
Swallows and Amazons

Sigh. Can't be avoided. The amazingly elongated yells of GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL (I timed one at 32 seconds) reverberate through the streets and shopping malls - there are tellies absolutely everywhere.

Most Panamanians support either Argentina or Brazil (and some apparently both, presumably to maximise piss-up opportunities); and according to some of the expats I've met here, a Brazil-Argentina final will probably start WWIII right here in South America as they really, really hate each other.

I've pointed out on a few occasions that our team is actually called David Beckham (of whom I'd never heard until I asked John who this bloke was whose face was all over the souks in Iran in 2000) and thus we have little chance of making it any further; but the locals seem convinced we have a chance.

Anyway, we (that is Luis, Hector and I) now have all the bits (and information) we need for the bike so reassembly proceeds apace. We're still a bit flummoxed, though, as the big-end and main bearings appear to be perfectly OK despite the rather appalling damage to the oil pump. We've replaced the big-ends, anyway, as they're easy and cheap. As an incidental, one of the rocker needle bearing cages waqs starting to disintegrate (no bits actually missing though), thanks heavens) so I had loads of fun with a 20-ton press removing the old ones and fitting the new ones. We'll just have to see what the pressure gauge says when it's all back together again.

There's been some pretty extraordinary weather here, by the way: a couple of really, really heavy hailstorms (golf ball sized hailstones) in a temperature in the high 20s C is more than a little bizarre. Trees uprooted, roofs flying around, flooding (but the street drainage, in common with much of South America, is totally inadequate) and multitudes of wrecked brollies.

So I may be on t he road again after the weekend, although I've had an invitation to a beach villa at Playa Coronado so may be a little delayed :-)

Incidentally, a few people have asked why we (The Old Dear and I) flew here from BogotÓ, as on some maps there appears to be a road from Colombia to PanamÓ. Well, there isn't. There's a 100-mile gap in the Via Panamericana, known as the Darien Gap, across the border and through the jungle. There isn't really even a track. There's certainly no border post. And most people who attempt the crossing are shot, kidnapped, or both. So call me a wet and a weed, but I decided to do it the way most others do - the customs chap in BogotÓ said he clears three or four bikes a *week* for the flight to PanamÓ. There may be Peaks in Darien for all I know, but the kids in the Swallows and Amazons books never elaborated.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at June 30, 2006 08:50 PM GMT

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