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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: one girl's quest to see the world

A Change of Plans: Onward to Panama!

PANAMA | Thursday, 26 June 2008 | Views [581]

Hello dear readers! I write to you from the lovely island of Bocas del Toro just over the border in Panama. I wasn't planning on leaving Puerto Viejo quite so quickly, but a number of things combined to push me to leave this afternoon. First, there were three muggings last night in the stretch of road right before Rocking J's. The hostel is about 400 meters outside of town and it seems some stupid girls thought it was a smart move to walk alone in the dark (after everyone at the hostel and all over Lonely Planet says that is not a good idea). The first two girls were held at knife-point and lost their passports and all of their money/credit cards, then were released. The third girl didn't have her passport or any money on her, so the frustrated punk decided to attempt to rape her. She got away but he managed to stab her hand as she fought him, and it was in pretty bad shape. 

Now for those of you freaking out right now (Mom, Emily) I am totally fine. Why? Because I stayed at the stupid hostel after the sun went down! So simple! Anyway, the muggings were the first bit to make me want to leave a day earlier than planned. The next lovely contribution was a group of five or six backpackers who got rip roaring drunk/drugged and decided to wrestle at 2am in the common area (where the noise was sure to wake up the entire hostel). Then they moved on to telling their life stories at the top of their lungs, followed by drinking games into the wee hours (4:30 was the last I looked at my watch). And yet, the hostel security did nothing to shut them up despite the posted quiet hours of 10pm to 7am. I finally yelled at them from my hammock around 4:30 when I was desperate to get some sleep after nearly three hours of this crap. 

This morning I took a surfing lesson with a girl named Amanda and a guy from Finland (whose name I can't actually spell). Amanda mentioned she was heading to Bocas this afternoon and wondered if the 1:30 bus would get her to the border in time to get across (more on this later). The surfing instructor didn't think so; he said the last sure bet was 12:30. Well I did my little lesson and managed to escape without major injury (though I did incur a bloody nose after my board hit my nose ring after a wipe out). I didn't stand up all the way but I did make it to my feet in a crouching position and coasted through a wave for a good 20 meters. Not going to win any awards, but I had fun trying. 

I made it back to Rocking J's by 12:10 and after seeing that Amanda was going to try to make the bus (along with quite a few other kids from the hostel) I grabbed my things, stuffed them in my bag, and ran to the bus stop with about 90 seconds to spare. We took a bus to the border crossing at Sixaola, then walked across a ghetto suspension bridge (think Indiana Jones bridge with semi trucks crossing it) to the Panama side, where we went through customs. Then a group of us caught a cab to take us about an hour to the water taxi. Five minutes into the ride, however, we get stopped by police and then then held up for 20 minutes after a girl from Denmark didn't have a tourist card (which is not required for citizens of the EU, but somehow the police stationed near the border didn't know that). After a little commotion (and a bit of a bribe), they let us go and we continued on to a gas station, where our taxi driver made us transfer into this 9-passenger bus with another group (altogether there were 15 of us in the bus) to take us the rest of the way to the water taxi.

Forty-five minutes later, we hop on a speed boat and then 30 minutes after that we arrive in Bocas. It was a crazy trip, made all the more enjoyable by the sand in my bikini (in the rush, I didn't have a chance to shower or change post-surfing) and the thought that I'd get to repeat it to return to Costa Rica in a few days. :-)

So Steve, Mette, Amanda, Boo, and I are at the Grand Kahuna here in Bocas and we'll probably stick around until Sunday. I don't fly out until Tuesday, but three days will definitely be enough here and I could use the extra day in San Jose to do laundry, buy a few presents, and just maybe... sleep? Here's hoping the rest of tonight is chill, because I am absolutely exhausted. Ta for now!

Tags: being spontaneous, panama

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