I have been on hiatus for that last months of January and February. I haven’t felt inspired to write, because I was going through an emotionally challenging time. Perhaps, nearly an all time low during my last year (of the tour).
The following is a review of the past events, after I returned to Costa Rica and after I arrived to Panama. Following the photos digresses a bit about why I have not been all too happy.
After celebrating and saying goodbye to 2012, I was back on the road in Costa Rica, with New Years fervor. My promise was to get to Panama in time to meet Paul so that we could celebrate our “one year together” and go to the Jazz festival together.
I was on the road, alone, on my way to meet Paul in Panama. In this photo, I stayed a night on a farm of this lovely family, who happily brought me into their home, listen to my stories, and shared their breakfast with me. I have them listed on my social net contacts and they continue to write to me, asking how I am, and wish me well.
I stayed a couple nights at the house of another family. How did I meet them? I just noticed a Canadian flag outside their home in the mountains, in middle of nowhere. Some of them lived in Canada, and others use to live in Canada. Their kids, were happily together for the holidays and spending their last nights together, before their cousins had to go home. I was warmly invited into their uncles home. Here we are in the entertainment room after watching a hilarious home video the kids made. It was a spoof on a mafia action movie about a mask that made a man crazy and a little Italian spy who was impossible to catch.
I could sense the climate change as I descended from the cool mountains into the tropical lowlands as was heading to Limon.
After a long hot day riding through the lowland jungle, I reached Puerto Limon. Instead of staying the night outside of this “dangerous” city, I got on a bus to go to the next town (said to be much safer), to Puerto Viejo. It saved me a day of riding so I could relax for two day in Viejo.
I made a friend on the bus, who was a Californian, too! John was on a weekend break to study for his English teaching certification. I invited him to hang with me as I was expecting to find a hostel recommended by someone I met. John was fun and we had a nice time sharing our Puerto Viejo vacation. He also gave me some tips about becoming an English teacher, if I ever want to.
I had meet a cyclist on the road to Limon, he told me to contact his brother, Juan Carlos, when I arrive to Viejo. Turns out, Juan Carlos hooked me up with a stay in the dorms of his friends hostel. He was so nice, he showed me and my new friend John a great time around the town. We hung out, shared dinner, and checked out every bar on the strip. Juan Carlos use to cycle until he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed for many years. I really appreciated his hospitality. Gracias Juan Carlos! Nos vemos un dia!
The date of the Jazz festival Panama was drawing near. After a few days in Viejo, I got on a bus to rush to the border of Costa Rica and Panama. From the border, I cycled for a few hours to a small town called Changinola, where I would take another bus direct to the city. It was Sunday, so I had to take two buses to the city, with a layover of 3 hours.
After crossing the border and hours and hours on buses, and a hot midday bike ride, finally, I arrived a bit exhausted, in Panama City! It was before dawn when Paul met me in the Albrook Mall, the behemoth shopping complex of Central America. He took me to the Priti Priti, a greasy spoon diner, for my first authentic plate in Panama.
For our first night together, Paul rented a room overlooking the bay in Panama at the Panamericana. Later that night, we went out to dinner to celebrate our one year since we met.
After the “anniversary dinner”, Paul took me to meet our CS host, Leslie and Seth. They are American expats from Washington deciding if their retirement home will be in Panama. They are wonderful folks, as I discovered over the weeks I stayed in their home. Leslie makes unique jewelry and Seth tells great stories and plays Bluegrass on the guitar. They have many more great qualities. They spent most of their life doing social work, raising 5 adopted children, and are working on traveling the entire world. They lend themselves to be altruistic, very kind people.
The Panama Jazz Festival was a 5 night event, celebrating Panama’s growing Jazz culture. The festival featured some highly acclaimed Jazz artist and local talents. On opening night (in this photo) there was the band of Panamanian school children followed by Herbie Hancock in a breathtaking solo piano performance. The 3rd night next night featured Wayne Shorter. On the weekend Ruben Blades performed jazz, which was a bit different than his signature Salsa repertoire. I never listen to much Jazz, but after hearing these guys, I am hooked!
Turns out there were two other cyclist coming to town. When Leslie described them as 2 Swiss cyclist, we exclaimed “Hey! We know them!” They were our friends, Monika and Robbie, who we met back on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. The house was a bit crowded for a few nights in San Miguelito. We had a great time with them cooking dinners, went to the Ruben Blades show together, and they presented a sideshow of their 8 year bike tour. Yes, these folks have been traveling around the world for EIGHT years, on their bikes. If you don’t believe me, read for yourself. I really loved these guys they were so sweet and humble and they help me by checking out my bike to find the problems. I hope to visit you guys one day in Switzerland on your ranch!
I almost forgot to mention we went out to see the canal. We didn’t stand in line for the museum, nor for the lookout point. Instead we cycled past the guards, pretending we didn’t hear them rebuke us about crossing past the “no-tourist” zone, and watched from the gates a huge cargo ship cross.
We went to Taboga, an island of the coast near Panama city, for a weekend. There were many locals and tourist there for a weekend festival. The island had some nice parts to enjoy. (I think we would have enjoyed it more if we were not in sensitive moods.. but well..) We hiked around a rocky island. We visited Paul’s friend who lives on the island selling crafts. Paul brought him gems from Peru when he went on the trip with his brother.
Back on the ferry, we were on our way to Panama. We were excited for our boat ride across the Caribbean Sea to Columbia.
But things were taking a turn. Paul and I were struggling to find compromise. I was facing some financial strains, and I knew I had to address them. I believe, we really wanted to work things out, but our emotions and attitudes were not in unison. We spent many weeks to decide what was best for us.
We continued to enjoy our time together, whether they were the last or not. We would go out with Leslie and Seth to have lunch and check out cultural events in Panama. Here, we chatted up with some sweet local kids.
Again more friends from SF were in Central America! This time, it was Trent, who was on vacation. Also, my friends Dana and Michiko were in town a week later.
It was decided that Paul would go ahead and sail to Columbia and that I would stay behind. Neither one of us were happy with the decision. It was decided that Paul and I would have to take our separate routes.. We went out to a Chinese restaurant for Paul’s last night in town. It turned out to be Paul’s second-to-last night, because he was hit by a car as he left the house the following day. Thankfully, he was fine but the bike was damaged, and he managed to fix it during the last night.
And after Paul left, I didn’t take anymore pictures, for a while.
At this point, my outlook on life was grim. My finances look like they were dwindling and my love relationship had ended. How did this all happen? I was looking forward to the new year.
I spent many days resting, for the lack of sleep due to stress that taxed all my energy. And then I fell into a period of loss of sleep /appetite/desire to do anything. “Here I am, in Panama, 14 months later, after I began my tour.” ..and what was next? I couldn’t conclude. I really felt lost and vulnerable.
Now, I don’t want to over dramatize this. It was a tough time, and I retracted from communication to look within myself to solve. I recapitulated on what when wrong and what was right. I also has to reassess the goal of my tour. What did I envisioned for in the beginning? How did it change? Sometimes I was proud of how much I convinced myself that I was going to move on successfully.
The low swings of my emotions would come back hitting hard. “should I call it quits and go home? And if so, where would home be?” Many questions were rolling in my head. I questioned the persistent attitude of “I am still going to finish the tour..” I couldn’t help but doubt about how irrational I had became.
Yet, I felt terrible of the thought to not continue cycling to see what changes in the land were ahead. And I dreamed of South America for so long and have been excited over the new places I learned about. I knew I didn’t want to abandon the tour.
I knew my life wasn’t a disaster, and these challenges are solvable. So, now with my time, not figuring out how to manage a love relationship, I had time to think about how I could take care of me. This time was most intense to go into a deep reflection of myself. A few times I had to quiet the voice inside that said, “I hit rock bottom. I crashed and burned.” It could be easy to fall into this trap, but I refused to let it be. I took a quiet time, away from e-mails, and just meditated on the road ahead, resolving to persevere.
So, what is a woman to do?
‘Til the next post, and yes, there will be a next post.