Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stories from Panama: Of high peaks and deep potholes

As time in Panama is flying and there still is tons of places we haven't seen here, we decided to leave the capital for a weekend to get some fresh mountain air. Our destination was Boquete, a small but fairly touristy town on the foot of Panama's highest peak, Vulcán Barú.

 The plan was following:
We (three interns and one Ph.D.-student, all working at Naos Laboratories) would rent a cheap car, start heading towards the mountains right after work on a friday afternoon and then arrive in Boquete late at night. We would have all saturday and the first half of sunday before getting back in the car and driving back to Panama city.

So Friday comes up and things start a little different than expected. For some reason our reserved car isn't waiting for us, so we have to deal with the whole process of getting a vehicle all over again. And things like that can be very, very slow in Panama. But we get it all fixed and finally end up with a cute, tiny Kia Picanto waiting for us.
That's the first mistake we make. But you always know it better afterwards....

At 4pm we are all ready to leave and start driving. The mood is great and everyone is excited for a weekend full of new experiences, delicious food and a lot of fun.
Then, after driving for quite some time, the Picanto suddenly hits a pothole. Not the biggest surprise on a panamanian road, but we probably choose one of the deepest potholes you can find.

 By now it is already dark outside and we are in the middle of nowhere. We stop the car and notice that both of our rims on the driver's side of the car are damaged. Plus the front wheel is totally flat. The fact is, that none of us has ever changed a tire before. But at least we have headlights with us. And no other change than trying it.

In the trunk we find the spare tire and all the tools we need so we start working. I don't know how long it actually takes us, but it is way easier than I thought it would be and after some time the Picanto is ready to go again. We start again, slowly, with one wheel still damaged, the tiniest spare tire you can imagine and a road which has so many holes in it that it's impossible to avoid them. After the most stressful ride of my entire time here (and traffic in Panama is not really relaxing, believe me), we finally find small garage that is specialized in tire repairs and is still open although it's already after midnight.

We are happy but also a little bit worried since (second mistake we made:), we didn't get the optional tire and windshield insurance and have to cover all the upcoming costs by ourselves.
But then, at the same time as Panama has a lot of unexpected bad things to offer, there also always is the good ones: our tires aren't damaged, only the rims are bent, fixed within minutes and we end up paying only 10 dollars in total!

 We arrive in Boquete at 2.30am. Only a couple hours later than expected.
The rest of the weekend is simply amazing! We find the best bakery in town (Sugar&Spice, make sure to stop by when in town!), spent some hours at a coffee farm and finally climb up Vulcán Barú at night to get the unique view of two different oceans from one peak at sunrise.
I have so many unforgettable memories of that short and sleepless weekend and there is a lot more stories that could be told. Maybe some other time, but these pictures kinda speak for themselves:

As much as I miss winter at the moment, I will for sure miss this crazy country,  Naos Lab with all the snails and the amazing people I got to know here! I hope I'll be back one day!

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