Considering Val + I were confined to a small bed, we slept respectably well, + then breakfasted downstairs in a café. We presented the lady there with all our remaining Costa Rican cash, + asked for 2 breakfasts to that value (tho’ I have to confess we deducted 2 colones at the end when we didn’t think we’d received good value.) And then, the crossing from CR into Panama.
Stage 1 was leaving CR, + to do that we had to walk back a hundred yards or so. The bus had come straight thro’, dumping everyone in what was effectively no man’s land (tho’ still being a part of CR.) There were no hassles, tho’ we did have to pay $2 each as an exit tax – it would have been half as much if we could have paid in colones. And then, to enter Panama. We had heard all sorts of stories about how they wouldn’t let you in without an onward ticket, but we had no trouble at all – they didn’t even require us to show any money, + we had to find someone who would check our bags over at customs. I did drop my new glasses, + managed to chip a chunk off one of the lenses, but fortunately they’re still perfectly wearable.
We changed some money, + then took a local bus to David, the first town of any size. There, we were horrified to discover it cost $15 each for a bus on to Panama City, + resolved at least to try hitching. Quite a little walk out of town, + it was very hot, but fortunately were given a short lift then by a French guy out to a police control post, where everyone had to stop, + so where chances of a lift were better. A long wait under a very hot sun before a lift tho’, with a farmer with 6 huge Brahmin bulls in the back of his pick-up. Not a very long lift, but, being a farmer, he kept stopping for various errands – 8 times in all, so it took a while. (Mind you, he also stopped where we could buy kerosene, + he did let us out at a truck stop.)
From there, quite a long ride, in a pick-up, Val in the cab, me sitting in the back. I really enjoyed it – warm but airy, plenty of room to stretch, great views. It was dark when they dropped us, but found a good nearby café where we ate well, + then they let us camp out the back, for free! Even better. A good day.
A good day presumably meaning one in which things seemed to work out in our favour, even the customs and immigration turning out to be far less problematic than we had been told. But that was always the trouble with information gleaned from other travellers (and whatever source we could find): it was rarely reliable.
Pamela J Blair
But isn’t that how we traveled back then? Travelers going in the opposite direction had stories of what they’d encountered. No cell phones to do all the work, as they do these days. How less interesting (and easier) it must be now, except, of course, for the drug cartels, the wars, the steady flow of refugees moving for reasons of hunger and war. It’s a different world now than when we were traveling. Many of the places I went in the Middle East and Africa no longer exist.