After finally stamping out of Costa Rica for the third time it was time to cross back over the Divide. A back route alternative was hard to find. I was told of a hiking route but no biking route; that’s not to say there isn’t one.
Staying in towns costs money. This spot 100 metres from the road. A local assured me it was safe.
Huge areas of wilderness in Panama seem to be uninhabited, but they’re also hard to access.
The road climbs (not quite this steeply)
It rained loads
I was heading to Boquete and keen to get off the highway. A friend had suggested that Google satellite map shows an off road route to Boquete via Caldera. After chatting to a local, with a difficult to understand accent, on his way to work, I got the impression from the few words I did understand that indeed it was possible to take the dirt road by the hut on the north side on the dam. I took the gamble, it would be costly to come back since the road dropped away steeply.
It was a great route but also VERY steep in places. This section possibly makeable with less kit, I had to push some of it.
Then it headed down again
With river crossings
Then after going through a couple closed gates (possibly private property) back up this IMMENSELY steep hill.
Looking back down it (no, not a cliff)
And then it headed down, STEEPLY. Such a pity to waste the height gain with the brakes almost fully on but the technical challenge was fun.
These cows followed me for a while which was uncomfortable.
After another short VERY steep up, some more STEEP downhill.
Looking back from where I'd come over those mountains. It looked almost impossible!
And then this happened to the cheap tyre I had bought in Limon (Costa Rica). Whilst repairing another puncture I damaged the tyre bead trying to get the undersized tyre onto my oversized Rhyno Lite wheel rim. I limped to Caldera once the dirt track finally hit a quiet (hilly!) paved section. There I bought another cheap tyre in a Chinese supermarket and struggled for hours to get it on in the boiling sun. It took so long I had to stay in Caldera, cursing the design of Rhyno Lite and cheap Central American tyres.
After being delayed so much in Caldera, it was time to make the climb up to touristy Boquete. It was arduous work. The road appeared flat so the slow progress I made up the hill was tough psychologically and I felt a certain amount of despair in the hot sun.
Once in Boquete, it was time to hike the well trodden path up to Volcán Baru. A four wheel track all the way to the top, this could be a possible but TOUGH hike a bike route. I believe they have a downhill only race here each year. In hindsight I would have taken my bike.
I camped with the antennae sharing the fly of my one man MSR hubba tent with a companion I met in the hostel. The stars and views; it was a peaceful and surreal feeling to be up there at night. Most people climb all night for the sunrise. So we had the night alone but a crowded peak in the morning.
Heading back down. A bike now would be awesome...