Do you wanna be in my gang?

This trip was always going to contain a number of firsts, but my first sunburnt scalp wasn't one I had anticipated.

If this 34-year-old didn't feel old already then I did standing in the shower of the Hostel Mamallena in Boquete as the water stung my head.

Cycling in the midday Panamanian sun is not advised without a hat or sunscreen, and certainly not when you remain in denial about your thinning hairline.

So how did I get to this small window of depression?

Having left the ski slopes of Colorado behind us - via Boulder and the Rocky Mountains - our departure from Denver airport was not without event.

Standing in departures we see a number of US servicemen and a group of Americans in leather waistcoats carrying flagpoles adorned with the Stars & Stripes.

Approaching one - Sid Thompson - we ask what it was all about and he tells us the men with flags are from the Patriot Guard Riders.

They are a group of civilians, established in 2005, who attend the funerals of fallen soldiers to protect grieving families from recent hate attacks by the Westboro Baptist Church.

In this instance they are welcoming back to Denver a party of World War 2 veterans from an 'honour flight' to Washington DC.

And before I know it we are granted honorary membership, handed US flags and invited to stand in line - along with around 200 other people in the airport - to honour their men.

Proud people are these Yanks and, having fought on the same side, we see no problem in representing Britain in showing our respect.

A relatively short flight away is Costa Rica where we stop in San José for an hour or so to get a connecting flight to Panama City.

Which is largely where we came in.

Panama City in early wet season is, well, WET.

A trip of to the Canal is well worth braving the local transport system with our limited Spanish, even if it does mean a brief encounter with the wrong part of town.

A delayed boat trip to Colombia allows us an unexpected week in Panama and we are certainly not going to spend it City-bound, so we are soon heading to Boquete in the western hills.

The eight hour bus trip isn't without its hiccups. A roadblock on the Panama Highway (this country's M1) in protest against a hydroelectric power station that would flood swathes of jungle, is a highlight.

If you can overlook the American retirees that have moved to the area, Boquete is paradise.

Rafting, rainforest canopy trekking, hot springs and animal sanctuaries are among the attractions, but we settle for a lung busting bike ride - with a 1:2 gradient - to a waterfall.

The return trip without brakes is an eye opening experience.

A white water ride down Chiriqui river is an ideal sign off before heading to Bocas Del Toro and its surrounding islands a further six hours away.

The Caribbean flavoured, barely inhabited Isla Bastimentos is the last stop for now.........

*Who are you and where are you going?

The people we've met along the way.

Jeff - Well-travelled, soon-to-be retired business studies teacher from Cannock. Travelling in Panama for 10 days ahead of the summer term.

Martin - Swedish nutcase. A young 20-something, who is currently learning to white water raft and is taken with the idea of a cobra bite being the ultimate natural high, if you survive.

Craig - Canadian marketing graduate who quit his job unloading cars from cargo ships in Nova Scotia (after a hellish stint as a lobster fisherman) to travel the world designing, making and selling custom t-shirts.

Colin - An agnostic ordained minister, who left his home in California to travel to the carnival in Brazil only to reach central America before realising he didn't have enough money to complete the trip. Now working to get enough cash to get to Rio for the next one.

Miguel - Colin's boss at the Hostel Mamallena in Boquete. Spent six years in London working for the Panama diplomatic service, but has returned to his homeland for the time being. Not sure what the next move is.

Carsten and Iris - German couple who got married on September 11 last year, because it was the only free date they could find - funny that. In Panama for a belated honeymoon.

Dara - Uxbridge salesman, who has been travelling the world since landing a £35,000 redundancy package two years ago. Heading to Costa Rica before finally flying home, although not convinced office life is the way forward.

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