Ever since I’ve seen the map in grade school I’ve wanted to do this. It’s such an insignificant strip of land between these two huge oceans, how can anyone resist walking these 50 miles?
Shyamachandra gave us a ride to Colon on his way to work. Dropping us near the beach he warned, “Colon can be dangerous, don’t spend much time downtown, and keep an eye on your things.” Narayan and I touched the Atlantic Ocean and headed southeast to the Pacific.
The residents of Colon that we had been warned of were starting to awaken. The walkway became crowded with people saying things to us that we didn’t understand, sometimes laughing, and sometimes threatening. “Just keep walking and show no fear.” I coached Narayan. We made it through the downtown unscathed.
Three days later, in Panama City, we walked through the lobby of the $400 million dollar Trump
Hotel to reach the Pacific Ocean.
|We each drank more than a gallon of water the first day.|
We hadn’t walked the entire route as planned. The first day we covered 17 miles on the noisy and rough roadside. There was no shade, no peace, not exactly something you want to do on your day off. In the dismal heat of the day we watched a crew working on power poles. One rope for his left thigh, another for his right foot, the lineman worked his way up.
His helper below conversed in perfect English and accepted a book from us about Karma.”How can we say, ‘we’re walking from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans?” I asked. He wrote,”NOSOTROS CAMINAMOS DEL ATLANTICO AL PACIFICO"
|Former Pole Climber?|
I practiced saying ‘nosotros caminamos….’as we continued the walk. Narayan was skeptical, “What if he was playing a trick on us and it means something really weird in Spanish.”
“Well there’s only one way to find out.”, I tried the phrase while we took a break in the shade. The recipient didn’t laugh at us or get angry, rather he appeared impressed and surprised. He said something about tres dias and I agreed that it will most likely take three days.
We made it as far as a small place called El Valle. You won’t find it on any map, but that’s where we’ll resume our walk if we ever try again. We heard rumors that someday a nice trail will be made from coast to coast. Walking on a hot, noisy road is not particularly pleasant. We opted to take a couple rides to reach our destination; one of the rides was in the notorious diablo rojo buses. These had been roaring past us all day, spewing fumes, sounding their air horn anytime they sighted a woman younger than 60.
Upon boarding the bus we were disoriented by the flashing disco lights and loud music. The seats were all taken as well as most of the standing room. Much of the windshield had been painted with elaborate designs so we couldn’t see where we were going. My primitive Spanish must appear like Tarzan talk to these people, “Villa Zaita where? Big distance? How many? Thank you.”
We’re riding the Tumba Muerto bus. A loose translation means, ‘the tomb of death’, which the driver announces at all stops, calling out ,”TUMBA MUERTO, TUMBA MUERTO, TUMBA MUERTO !”, so passengers will know this bus will take them to the tomb of death.
I wonder how such a happy name has come about. No one seems to know or care. That’s just the name it is. Every road has several names, and you have to know all of them and assess the age of the person you are speaking to in order to guess which name he will know the road by. No one has been able to change the Tumba Muerto name, which is fine with me, I’m glad our stop is on this well-known and easy to find road.