A wheel disaster and sleeping in a fire station

So today I left Panama City and set out on my last 280+km run to the end of the Central American stretch of the Pan American Highway. My intention was to do 42km and end up in a small town I thought was bound to have a small cheap hotel.

I packed up and left the hostel in the old town part of Panama City. The first 4 km were beautiful and followed an immaculately kept path that arched round the bay to the modern section of the city, with its skyscrapers reaching for the sky. When the path ran out I moved on to the streets and started a complicated process of meandering through the maze that would eventually spit me out at the airport.

After an hour of running I arrived at Panama Veijo, which is where the original Spanish settlement was. Unlike the Panama Canal, this tourist attraction was devoid of tourists and apart from a few casual visitors I pretty much had the place to myself. The main focal point is the ruin of the original cathedral tower. It has been well renovated and there is a wooden staircase that lets you climb up and get a brilliant view of Panama. The rest of the site is well presented with interesting panels describing what the town would have been like. I didn’t have time to visit the museum but it was interesting that there was no mention of the fact that the town was blown apart by a British pirate called Henry Morgan!

I hit the road again and after a mere km or so I had a slight disaster. As I was moving onto the pavement there was a snap and then the front wheel of my stroller fell off. After a quick investigation it became apparent that the axel the goes through the wheel had snapped. With no bike shops close by and in need of a very specific piece a terminal disaster was looming. I limped the stroller to supermarket to ask for direction to a bike mechanic. Luckily I stumbled over two taxi drivers that directed me to a soldering mechanic around the corner. When I arrived the chap looked at the problem and then disappeared into his workshop. About 15 minutes later he returned with a new axel that he had just created by soldering on a new piece of metal with an identical thread and all he charged me was $5.

Happy to be mobile again I celebrated with a donut, which to my delight was filled with dulce leche! I set off down the road and after a few hours arrived at my proposed end spot. The only problem was there were no hotels or camping spots…. I spoke to some taxi drivers and it transpired that my option were twofold. Run back 8km or forward 20+km. Obviously, being the fool I am, I set off in a forward direction. Thankfully the scenery changed from depressing industrial units to tree lined roads with cows grazing in lush green fields.

A couple of hours and a police check later I arrived in Chepo. I had been informed there was a small place to stay but when jogging in I noticed a fire station. I had heard from others that it was possible to stay there so in a walked. It turned out that there was no room in the new station but there was another on the other side of town.

And here I am in the old accommodation of the fireman writing my blog. The facilities are pretty basic. For instance there was a mouse on cooker and the showers have no light. But it is dry and secure and for me that is more than enough. Good sleep needed tonight as want to get about 40km tomorrow to what I hope are beautiful lakes.

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