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South America 2015

The wheels on the bus go round and ... Oh wait

PANAMA | Sunday, 12 July 2015 | Views [312]

The wheels on the bus go round and ... Oh wait

An early 5am rise and we were on the water taxi from Bocas Del Toro islands, then a normal taxi to the bus station, well, the shed where the bus stops. We'd packed some supplies for the 10-12 hour bus journey to Panama City. And just as well, the bus was an hour away still so we sat back and had museli bars for breakfast and chatted with a kiwi couple.  Eventually we were off through the mountains and hills and ups and downs and round and rounds along the edge of cliffs and ravines, and well, I've never been seasick on land but we were green. Two hours in to the trip and at the first stop we pulled out our bags from the luggage hold and dug out the travel sickness pills. At least 8 of the 20 people on the bus had already spewed and plastic bags were being handed out left right and centre. The driver said the worst was over but more bags were handed out as we moved along.
So it's about 10am and the travel sickness pills are working wonders through the rollercoaster ride when we approach a small village and the bus comes to a stop. Fifteen minutes later we see police lights, 10 minutes more and an ambulance passes, an accident ahead ? No such luck. The local villagers had decided that they didn't like the traffic through town and wanted a bridge built across the valley, the best way to get said bridge was to sit down in the middle of the only road through the mountains in protest, until the government agreed to a bridge. Literally we were 4 vehicles from the front, a minute earlier in the traffic and we would never have seen them. Now we weren't going anywhere fast. 
Eventually we were allowed off the bus and spoke to a few people and some locals about what was going on. The one police car on site did nothing but make a few phone calls, and the villagers just sat in the middle of the road. Now this wasn't actually in town, but at the intersection where the bridge road would be built, so no shops, no toilets, no water, nothing nearby. 
We reclined in our chairs and watched last week's footy game downloaded on the ipad. Had museli bars for lunch and a little snooze. It was now 1pm and folks were getting restless from the three hour wait. Another police car turned up with some official looking uniforms, Yay. But yet again they just stood around and made phone calls, one officer spoke to the protestors for a few minutes and got back in the car for a nap. 
At 3pm there was talk that the protestors would move off the road at 6pm. We were due to arrive in Panama City at 5pm. Sigh. Eventually at just before said due time the police and villagers came to an agreement and they stepped aside to allow the traffic through. We had been stationery on the road for nearly 7 hours, eaten a box and a half of museli bars and nearly run out of battery on all devices, patience was thin but we were on our way. 
The driver decided he could make up the 7 hour delay with erratic driving and a lot of speeding. More travel sickness pills, more spew bags, more people spewing, this was not fun. 
Eventually we stopped at a roadhouse for dinner around 11pm. If we saw another museli bar at this stage heads would have rolled. Three day old (a conservative guess) bain marie deep fried empanadas were our other option so we crunched our way through and got back on the bus for the last leg, arriving at Panama city around 1:30am, nine hours late on top of the early start and the 10 hour journey. Nice. We do hope they got their bridge for it.
Luckily our hostel had 24 hour reception and hadn't given away our room as we had feared. The night receptionist was grumpy but we didn't care, it was bed time finally. Just another day backpacking. Original title we came up with for this story was aptly 'just build a bridge and get the f¥^k over it'.


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