The hostel called us a taxi at 11pm and we headed to the Tics Bus station, where we arrived about ten minutes later. We were to be travelling executive class on the overnight bus to Panama City, although we would be getting off in David. Just after midnight, the bus departed with passengers and luggage on board. Needless to say, the bus fell asleep as darkness descended and we were only awoken about four and a half hours later by the conductors voice booming over the tannoy in Spanish. As usual we didn't know what he said, but assumed it was like, 'get your passports ready and your receipt to prove you have paid the exit fee of $8.' Not long after that, we pulled over to the Costa Rican immigration building.
And there we were to wait. For. An. Hour. And. A. Half. It was painful. My lonely planet guidebook says the crossing of Paso Canoas is open 24 hours. I think not. The sun began to rise and eventually a few bodies trundled into the building around 6am. We joined the queue and waited to hand over our immigration forms then receive the exit stamp in our passports. Next was a short walk down to the Panama crossing. It was a huge crossing, not just a shack like prior countries. Anyways, we walked up to the border, all prepared with two photocopies of our passports, our actual passports, credit cards and proof of our onward journey. As we got to the window, it was all handed back to us except our passports, fingerprints were taken, entry stamps received and we were waved on. Easy peasy. Don't take our experience as gospel though as several others were asked to produce proof that they can support themselves and counted out wads of dollars, or if your the unlucky Israeli lady infront of us, you got a meeting with an immigration officer. This was the longest border crossing so far, and it was only about to get painful.
We thought we'd got away with not having to take our luggage off. One we wouldn't be that lucky. Once everyone was through immigration, our luggage was taken off and we were herded like cattle into a small room. Here, the grumpy man, I'm guessing head of customs or something, started a roll call. Heaven forbid we'd just raise our hand, no we had to say present in case he didn't look up from the piece of paper. Those who didn't say present, he scolded in Spanish. Then we were handed customs forms to fill out and he went through each question. Having filled out lots of these over the last three months, we filled ours out then proceeded to out our bags on the table, where they'd be searched by hand. Nothing about this process screamed 2017. We handed over our forms and the guy got all narky because we'd put David, Panama as our destination instead of Chiriqui, David. Like a child, he scribbled out Panama and wrote Chiriqui, then he gave us other forms to fill out whilst he searched our bags. In the end we were two of the last four to leave. Finally we got back on the bus, up not before showing our passports again.
Another set of army looking people then boarded the bus to check our passports for about the fiftieth time and the woman took mine away only to hand it back a few minutes later. By this time it was 9am, we'd gone forward an hour and I was getting grumpy. We just wanted to get to the hostel. The guy who rode with us from Tica Bus, who was dressed in smart trouser, a shirt and waistcoat finally revealed his role, as he started to hand out breakfast. Rice and beans and egg. I ate the rice and beans and Nathan ate the egg. It was delicious. Finally, about an hour later we pulled into a bus stop, checked with the driver we were in David, collected our bags and hailed a cab.
Our hostel was a good four to five miles away and it only cost us $2! Cheapest taxi to date! We were even able to check in early too which was so good because we were shattered. I paid $5 for the use of the laundry facilities and we headed to sit by the pool to soak up the sun through the clouds. Do not underestimate the power of the sun through a cloud-filled sky. We only sat outside for two hours yet we got slightly burnt. Note, slightly may be an understatement. We were red. It had been a while so seems on,y fitting the first time we see the sun properly, we should burn. The nice white cotton wool style clouds soon disappeared and made way for the stormy grey clouds. We chucked some clothes on and hailed another cab to take us to TGI Fridays for some good food. Another cheap ride at $2.50 this time. Food was eaten, then we headed over to the ATM and then the Super99 store to stock up on food and drink to keep us full during the storms. We must have been in there about an hour and then as we exited, it was like a different country. A flash flood had and was causing havoc outside. Horns were honking and people were stood wherever they could desperate to not get wet. Thankfully a taxi pulled in not long after we left the store so we could get back to the hostel. The storm didn't let up at all and soon thunder and lightning were lighting up the sky.
Our evening consisted of binge watching 'Shooter,' the TV series, which is awesome. If you haven't watched it, you should start!! As the storm continued to rage outside eventually we fell into a deep sleep. Wednesday arrived and the weather was no better. We couldn't sit by the pool as it was again raining. There was only a small window where it stopped, which allowed us to wander to McDonald's and the shop again. The Super99 shops are wonderful. Their shelves are full, they have great range of products, it's incredibly tidy and there's always staff around the help. Marvellous. We did sound a while in this one though as we got necessities such as beer, pringles, fruit, water and some health and beauty bits and pieces.We had failed at getting laundry done so we got our five bucks back. We didn't fail because we were lazy but because it was always in use! The two days respite in David, gave us time to catch up on things, and research our onward journey into South America. It was two well deserved days after our full on adventure in Costa Rica. Thursday would see us travel down to Panama City. We didn't set an alarm as busses run every hour down to the city, and should in theory take about 7 hours, but we all know that Central American bus time schedules are a load of rubbish. The hostel, which I probably should have mentioned before, Hostel Bambu, called us a taxi and two second later we bundled in and were on our way to the bus terminal. The journey that time cost us $4. We emptied out of the taxi and went to the windows to get our tickets. $15.25 each to get the 10am bus down to Panama City. We only had to wait about ten minutes before we got on and headed down to the city.
The bus was quite comfortable with reclining seats and movies playing throughout the journey. The only weird thing was we couldn't stowe anything above our heads so I sat trying to take out what I needed, the woman in front decided to put her bloody seat back. In the end I told her to pull it up until I had finished, I mean the bus hadn't even started to move yet. Anyhow, we were soon on our way, where yet again we binge watched about five hours worth of Shooter then tried to nap for a bit as we approached the city. From the windows, I could see the canal, Nathan was asleep at this point, which looked awesome and then as we sat in gridlocked traffic, the skyscrapers of the city came into view. It looked magnificent. The traffic literally crawled the whole way into the Albrook bus terminal. As the bus stopped, we realised my phone was missing. Thus began the major, panicked hunt for it. We searched everywhere, the bus drivers too were so incredibly helpful, even unscrewing a compartment under the bus to see if it had dropped down. Alas, the whole operation failed and we came to the conclusion it fell out the netting and someone stole it. Probably the woman in front who never put her seat back in the end. I was distraught. The only saving grace was that I backed my phone up Wednesday night so my photos were on my USB, but I lost all my messages. After checking everything for the thousandth time, we slowly walked out the bus terminal into a taxi costing fifteen dollars. I was in no mood to find another cheaper one.
The journey took about twenty minutes to reach our hostel, Casa Areka. The traffic, despite it now being seven thirty, was still horrendous. All you could hear were horns beeping, yet what they were hoping to achieve I don't know as no one was moving half the time. We eventually got to the hostel, paid the sixty bucks for the next three nights and were shown to our dorm, where we would end up with the last two top bunks. Now, if you've read previous blogs, you'd know I really dislike being on the top bunk. We were in an eight bed dorm which was so cramped there was absolutely nowhere to put anything. In the end we resorted to having our bags on the bed with us. Needless to say it wasn't comfortable. We just dumped our things wherever we could and headed out to find Chilis located about half a mile away. I was still sulking about my phone and wanted a glass of wine. We sat down to order, and our waitress, Wendy, was delightful at explaining everything on the menu. Yes it was our first time in Panama, but certainly not our first time in Chilis. The best news all day was that they had Texas Cheese Fries.
Asking for them without jalapeños was fine. I thought I read the menu perfectly but I seemed to miss the part that says they came with chilli too. Great news for me. Not so much for Nathan. I ordered a glass of wine and Wendy bought me out a glass of white wine. I can't remember the last time I drank white wine, as I'm a die hard red wine drinker, so I was disappointed. Not wanting to be a pain, I reluctantly drank it. Then proceeded to order a glass of red. This time it came as red wine. Oh how I had missed it. We barely touched our wings as our appetites have just disappeared. Once the bill was paid we headed back out into the night. The city was huge. The skyscrapers all lit up it was beautiful. We were right by the Gulf of Panama and what we'd seen so far reminded us of Chicago! Fingers crossed the weather stayed ok so we could enjoy this city.
Back at the hostel we got onto our top bunks. We were sharing the room with a couple of German girls, an old guy from somewhere and an old couple from somewhere else. Having two top bunks was highly annoying as I really don't find climbing up on them fun. Especially when the bed creaks as much as this one did. To make matters worse I was right under the air con unit so I was freezing for most of the night. All in all, Thursday was a pretty disastrous day. Things can only get better. Apologies for the lack of photos in this post, but they were on my phone that someone in Panama City now has…
Until next time…