We’re finally in the last stretch and headed towards Panama City to take care of shipping details. There are all sorts of things buzzing around in our heads, which is I suppose why I fell for the ole’ speed trap.
I did notice that the speed limit signs on the Panamerican Highway were all over the place. 100 km/hr, 40 km/hr, 80 km/hr, 60 km/hr, 30 km/hr (!)
Up down, up down.
Eventually I got snagged doing 80 km/hr in a 60. This is the first radar gun I’ve seen since the states.
These guys were just parked in the shade at the bottom of a hill and were already waving me over as soon as I peaked the top of the hill. They asked me to get out and showed me the radar.
There’s always a pair, and these guys immediately fell into the good cop / bad cop routine. The one told me I was in big trouble and would get a ticket and a big fine. He would then ask me “Problema?” Of course I said I was sorry and went on and on about how I was trying to go slow. The bad cop would repeat the whole offense again and tell me about the ticket and asked “Problema?”
The routine here was clear. Force me to either tell him that I wanted a ticket or tell him I did not want a ticket and therefore agree to a bribe. I did my best to be noncommittal and acted like I didn’t know what was going on.
We did this about 4 more times until the good cop wrote $40 on his hand with a pen and showed it to me. As if to say, “dumb gringo… do you understand this?” The two of them started to argue as the bad cop wanted far more money.
Still thinking about getting the car out of the country, I relented and agreed to the $40 bribe. The bad cop insisted I keep everything quiet and not tell anyone. Sure. Our little secret.
I should have just agreed to take the ticket and they probably would have tired of working me over and let me go.
Oh well, if I can make it through all of Central America paying for only one “traffic violation” then I suppose I’ve done pretty well. There’s always next time.
A bit farther down the road we passed a French couple on a bike trip around the globe. They left from France and have already done Europe, Asia and the U.S. Everyone doing some sort of big trip seems to go through Panama. It’s inevitable.
After chatting a while, he noted that spending even $1 USD on a place to stay the night was impossible on their budget. Camping in the ditch was more like it. It was clear this was not really a pleasure trip – they were just grinding out their trip almost out of stubbornness.
I gave them something to drink and wished them well.
We finally made it to a camp in Santa Clara – a well known stop on the gringo overlander trail. Happy to finally not be camping in the sand, we unloaded all our stuff and spread out.