I somehow found my way to the old part of the city, Casco Viejo, and after asking a couple of street vendors for Luna's Castle, I rolled up outside just after dark. I checked in, parked up, unloaded, e.mailed Tak's friend who lived in Panama City, and rinsed the sweat and dust off me in a cold shower.
I got back to my computer to see that I had a message waiting already form Tak's mate, George, telling me to meet him in Hooters in 30 minutes if I wanted to go to a killer party. Hmm, Hooters..killer party...I thought about it for about 2 seconds, and then started rushing to get ready to go out. I wasn't going to miss this!
It turned out that George, together with his partner, Hector, owned Hooters, and another club called the Roof. We had a beer at Hooters, and left to go to the party which was at the roof.
We turned up, skipped the queue, got ushered into the VIP bar, and got settled at a table with a bottle of Absolut and a load of mixers, and told to help myself!
I was introduced to a bunch of people, made a few drink for some of the ladies, then got into some dancing!
I was mistaken for the lead singer of Anthrax and asked to sign the Absolut guitar, posed with some of the Rock n Roll lookalikes who were there for the Absolut Rocks party.
I stayed a while at the party, but fatigue got to me, and I headed back to the hostel at around 3am.
The next day I suffered. I had caught a cold somewhere, probably in my last ride in Costa Rica when I got rained on all day. My nose was leaking like an old Triumph, and I felt terrible. It took all my strength just to get downtown and buy some medicine, but fortunately the next day I was back on form and went out for a walk round the city.
Panama, a city of contrasts, the shiny modern high rises dwarf the crumbling former glory of the colonial days
The staff at the hostel told me where the areas to avoid were, so I headed straight there. I always find that the no go areas are generally the coolest to explore.
I had no money on me, only my camera and some cigarettes, and as I walked around, the locals approached me, asking what I was doing there. “Mucho peligro”-much danger, they all said. I hung out with the barbers in their shop shooting the breeze as the clippered away at their clients, including a two-year-old boy who, it seemed, really did not to be in the barber’s chair.
Again they said the same to me;this area is not for tourists, much danger, don’t go round this corner, don’t walk down this street and so on. Finally I decided I might just be pushing my luck and started to head back to the safer area around the hostel. I hadn’t felt threatened at all, but with all the warnings, I gave in and headed back up the hill. I got back to the hostel and took my bike out for a ride over the bridge so I could see what it looked like in daylight. I rode down to Veracruz beach on the other side of the bridge and ate lunch in one of the Palapas on the beach, before riding back to the city.
Panama was a city of two distinct sides. There was the fading glory of Casco Viejo, the old city, with once majestic colonial buildings crumbling away standing next to beautifully restored old houses, narrow streets and dilapidated tenement buildings, and then there was the 4 lane highway leading to the high rises, skyscrapers and shopping malls of the new city. There were slum type buildings on the waterfront, with tin roofs and piles of garbage all around. Children would run around playing in the squalor wearing underwear, and directly behind these slums, were the shiny new office blocks and condos. It was a city of huge contrasts.
Brightly painted chicken busses raced through the city, dropping off passengers by slowing down a little, but rarely coming to a complete stop.
I dropped into my new favorite place in Panama, Hooters, to meet George for lunch, and we arranged to meet up again for bike night, which Hooters hosted every Tuesday night. I was introduced to Oscar, the President of the Panama Chapter of the Big Boss MC, and he asked if I would like to go for a little spin with him and a few of his mates round the city. A half a dozen of us got on our bikes and rode out the city to the new bridge over the canal, and we parked up at the top of a hill, overlooking Panama City and smoked. We hung out a while before heading back once more to Hooters. Oscar invited me to meet up with his club members at their clubhouse from where we would all ride through the city back to Hooters for their bike night the next day.
The Big Boss MC Members at the Club House
Bike night rolled along, and I rode up to the Big Boss Club house, at the back of one of the city’s many sports bars, and was introduced to the gang.
Posted by Dan Shell at October 06, 2009 01:57 AM GMT
I sat in on their meeting, in which they discussed the pros and cons of leaving for their rides earlier in the mornings, and went through he details of their upcoming ride to Costa Rica. At the end of the meeting, I was presented with an “official” Big Boss MC cap and T-shirt, and welcomed as an honorary member of the club.
Photos were taken, and I gave Oscar my Harley Davidson of Florida T-shirt as a reciprocal gift, I had nothing else to give!
We finished off our beers and all saddled up and the dozen or so members of the club and I rode through the city, arriving to Hooters where another twenty or so bikes were already parked.
I had e-mailed the other 3 bikers who were going to cross on the boat to Colombia with me, and they had also come on their bikes to the bike night. The local bikers were all keen to find out as much as they could about our respective trips. I had heard this a few times before from bikers, “You are living my dream” and “I wish I could do what you are doing”, and the usual questions , they always wanted to know if I had a problem with people trying to rob me, steal the bike, damage the bike and so on.
We all told these guys the same thing. Just book it, pack, and go, it’s as easy as that. We had so far had no problems at all with the bike, other than me sometimes not being able to lift it off its stand. I figured that the Harley was a much harder bike to steal than a KLR or a smaller bike. It's like the sign said in the kitchen at Luna's CAstle which read, "FAT PEOPLE ARE HARDER TO KIDNAP!"
We talked bikes, roads, borders, police and roads and routes with the Panamian bikers, swapped e-mails and gave out blog addresses, ate burgers and sank a few beers before the bikes dispersed and us intrepid traveling bikers rode back to our hostels.
I had one day of running round the city in preparation for the next part of the trip, the sailboat from San Blas to Cartagena, Colombia.