So where does the name "Latitude Fifty Four" come from?
The final destination for this motorcycle adventure was the city of Ushuaia located in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina.
The latitude of this city is 54° 47' South.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Day 97 to Day 101

*** Hi Everyone! Sorry for the delays in posting...We were busy booking flights and arguing with custom officials for a few days (I'll get into that ordeal later), and thereafter we were in some "interesting" places where Internet is not quite as available as elsewhere in the world. Sorry for the novel which follows, but it's been an eventful few days! ***

Day 97 - February 8th, 2006: San Jose, Costa Rica to Neily, Costa Rica

Day 98 - February 9th, 2006: Neily, Costa Rica to Santiago, Panama

Day 99 - Febrauary 10th, 2006: Santiago, Panama to Tocumen, Panama

Day 100 - February 11th, 2006:

Day 101 - February 12th, 2006:

After the bikes were all fixed up it was time to head towards the Panama border. We drove high up in the mountains. It was fairly chilly up there so we stopped for a hot cup of coffee at a small restaurant alongside the road, where the man working there agreed to take our picture. You can see the altitude (3100m) painted on the wall behind us. That evening we stopped in a small town close to the border and stayed in some funky cabinas that had a Chinese restaurant/reception desk combo. Over dinner I had what was supposed to be an authentic Chinese tea which turned out to be lukewarm water with gelatinous looking leaf globs floating in it. At first glance it was hideous, but thankfully it tasted much better than it looked. In our cabina we encountered the scariest looking shower insofar. There was a breaker switch which had exposed wires leading up to a PVC pipe with one metal knob of the kind generally seen only on outside taps. There was no showerhead, so only a solid stream of water came out of the pipe. End result? One very intimidating shower that didn't have hot water in the long run anyways! Thankfully it was fairly hot in that particular area of Costa Rica so the cold shower was bearable.

The next morning we were off to Panama. As per usual the border crossing was a bit of a headache. At this one in particular we had an even more difficult time since the border official was unable to decipher which photocopy of our documents went with which of the original documents, even though he could have simply matched up the names on the papers. He also did not understand that when we gave him two different bike registration papers, two different licences and two different insurance copies that it meant there were two different motorcycles. While my dad was off arguing with the officials a Panamanian police officer approached me and began to ask me questions about the motorcycle. I figured it was more trouble with the paperwork, but he started off with the usual first question of "how fast does the bike go?". The answers that I give never seem to be fast enough so I've gotten into the habit, instead, of just pointing at the speedometer (maxes out at 180km/h) and letting them draw their own conclusions. The second question, of course, is "how big is it?" (I guess size really does matter!) Although 650's are average, or even on the small side for Canada, most motorcycles here are no larger than 250s, including some of the police bikes. After asking a few more questions the police officer was on his way. We had heard that the police could give you trouble in Panama, but the officer was really quite friendly, and even thanked me for talking with him upon departure. When we finalized the papers we had to put our bikes through an insecticide spraying machine, (which resembles the wax part of the drive-through carwash) and drove away from the border reeking like pesticide. The drive through Panama was suprisingly desolate. There was not much after the border aside from a few houses, some gas stations and the occasional restaurant. It was a gorgeous drive, though, and we only had one obstacle along the way. A tree had fallen onto the road blocking the cars from passing. Of course, it only took a volunteer with a chainsaw, a few hands to clear the way, and one good semaritan to act as traffic cop before we were on our way again. In the afternoon we stopped at the only restaurant we had come across in a good couple of hours. We only noticed it after we passed by it, so we had to quickly make a U-turn infront of a no U-turn sign to return to the restaurant, whereby we realized that the car that was approaching was a police officer. He gave us a quick wave and was on his way. Phew! The lady at the restaurant was really friendly. She told us about her family, and also asked us lots of questions about Canada. We showed her a Canadian quarter and she said it was nice that there was a "chivo de navidad" on it (ie a christmas goat). She also seemed to our choice of the pelican on the loonie. She knew a lot about Princess Diana, and asked us our opinion on why Prince Charles would marry an ugly woman. She also told us that the drinking water in Panama was just as good as the bottled water, and gave us some samples to prove it. She was very kind and wouldn't leave our glasses empty after that! She even refilled our water bottles for the road, and we have to admit the gesture was very much appreciated! Shortly after we left the restaurant we noticed some very small shacks alongside the road. They were little more than a few poles, pieces of tin, or some plastic sheeting, but all were actually places that people lived. There are still very many Natives here in Panama. They wear very colorful dresses and intricately beaded collars around their necks. The Native population does not speak Spanish. The lady at the restaurant had explained to us the differences between certain words. We drove a little longer until we hit a very inviting hotel. The La Hacienda was a fairly sizeable and grandeur looking place, but the rate was reasonable by North Amercian standards and they even let us park our bikes up on the main entranceway so they would be safe for the night. Another highlight of the room was of course our 2002 TV which resemebled a giant soccerball and was even designated as the name in "TV for exciting sport". After Santiago we headed towards Tocumen which is where the cargo airport is located. We got a little lost on the way (ie were totally befuddled) and stopped at the Corridor Norte office. A police officer of some sort (there are about a handful of different departments with different functions) escorted us through the city and showed us the fine art of 'traffic weaving', 'cutting people off' and 'ignoring all traffic signals' while a concert of horns took place behind us. After we got to the main toll highway into Tocumen, he pointed us in the right direction and asked for a few bucks for gas. We were more than happy to oblige given we'd probably still be battling our way through the city to this day without his assistance! One thing that struck me when we passed by Panama city was that there seems to be a huge disparity in incomes here. There were giant skyrise buildings with all the amenties, condos and shopping malls, and directly below them just off the side of the highway is a small population of people that I suppose never relocated from the area when it was being built up. They have little hand carved fishing boats and live in little more than shacks. We stayed at the Airport Hotel in Tocumen, since we had a lot of asking around to do regarding shipping our bikes to Quito, Ecaudor, and we figured the location would benefit us even if the hotel wasn't quite worth the price. After we went to the cargo airport on the 11th we had a bit of time to kill so we got our laundry done at a small shack on the side of the road. We sat there for some time watching all the buses go by. All of the buses are painted in wild colours, have tassles hanging from them, and sport interesting names like "Amor Amor", "Siempra Mas", or "The Terminator". We even saw a "Fiddy Cent" bus which drove by blaring music, came complete with a picture of the rapper painted on the back doors and had ever shade of neon imaginable on it. On the 12th we made another trip back to the cargo airport to sort out a few more details, but we had a great part of the day to relax. We stopped for a bit of lunch in Tocumen, and my dad was the attempted victim of a pickpocketing. A man approached us wanting to sell us real Hugo Boos (no, that's not a really was genuine Hugo Boos!). The cologne, of course, is only the first introduction to his scam. He then pulls out the real gold chain, but it is a very secretive bargain so he must show you the necklace on your lap instead of placing it on your hand or the table, making sure to keep his hands moving at all times in hopes he can make a grab for the wallet. When we pushed him away he realized that it wouldn't work, so he tried to sit down beside my dad in hopes to get nice and cozy with him finally getting an opportunity to steal the wallet. Fortunately our scumbag radar was on full alert and the only opportunity we gave him was to walk away empty handed. After our eventful lunch we took a trip to the Panama Canal at Miraflores. We watched a short movie on the making of the canal, toured the museum and watched some very large boats make their way through the canal. The pelicans would sit and wait on the gates so that they could catch all the fish that became disoriented as the gates opened and closed. The Dole banana trucks pics are just for you Wendy. I know you would have laughed at Bobby Banana and his crazy antics. He skateboards, he plays soccer and he dances too! He's a banana of all trades.

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