Sunday, July 12, 2009

Had a blast in San Blas.

Our final morning in paradise was unfortunately far from paradise. The wind was howling and the sea was nothing but whitecaps after another stormy night. This did not bode well for our boat ride back to the mainland. Adrian and I momentarily considered staying another night but a quick feel of my hair changes my mind. It’s sticky with sea salt and probably looks even worse. Paradise was lovely but a shower and dry bed was more enticing. Plus, we didn’t have enough money left in our wallets to pay for the night.

It was 6am when we got up. As predicted Nick and Arianne were still sleeping but Britt and Gunn were ready and packed and just as worried about the weather. None of us was looking forward to riding that tiny boat across those big waves. But we had no time to rethink our plan when Negro arrived just after 7.

The boat ride was better than any of us expected. Negro piloted the boat slowly and managed to avoid all of the big waves and unlike our experience in Bocas the boat never went airborne or felt like it would topple. We stopped to pick up others on the way, including 3 American girls one of whom spent the entire ride throwing up. I assumed it was the ocean but when we got to the shore, they admitted they had all partied too hard the night before. Oh great I hope Puky Brewster isn’t in our van back to Panama City.

When we got on shore, we discovered other travelers but no 4x4 SUVs to take us away. Negro chatted with some locals and then explained that the river had flooded in last night’s storm and none of the vehicles could cross it to meet us. So we would had to go up river and meet them instead. Negro began to say goodbye but not Britt and I reminded him that we needed our change. It was obvious Ricardo hadn’t told him about this so he made a call and then opened his wallet to give us the couple of bucks we were owed. Good thing because we needed to pay an extra $2 for the extra boat ride up the shallow river (photo above).

When we finally got to the SUVs down the river, we were greeted by crazy Judy and her brother. Just two SUVs and there were 15 of us to take back to Panama City. Judy apologized but said that with the bad conditions, some of the drivers hadn’t shown up. I was pretty sure the real story was that they only had enough people coming out this morning for two SUVs and hoped that all of us leaving would fit in the two vehicles in order to save themselves the cost of paying for another driver. Britt, Gun, Adrian and I were piled into Judy’s brother’s jeep, followed by the 3 American girls (yes, Puky Brewster was sitting right next to me). I thought we had a full load but then 4 Israeli’s were shoved in the back and one in the front next to Adrian. With 13 of us packed in like sardines, the brother started up the jeep and took off through the mountains again. He was as crazy a driver as Judy was. But it still took almost 3 hours to reach the highway.

Once on the highway I was looking forward to a fast ride back in to town. But we had to stop at a passport control office to get checked back into Panama. What? We didn’t do this when we went out. Apparently, we should have. My heart was pounding, hoping that we weren’t going to be in trouble. But my heart wasn’t pounding as hard as Britt’s. When she reached into her bag to get her passport, she discovered Frank (or Frankie, or Francesca, etc) had stowed away. She let out a scream and Adrian grabbed her bag and tossed Frank to the curb while Gunn and I laughed hysterically. Bye, bye Frank, can’t say I’ll miss you, but thanks for the entertainment. Then it was time to deal with Adrian and I’s passport problem. Actually it was a non-problem, as the official didn’t seem too bothered that we weren’t in the system and waved us through.

We got to Panama City quickly but only the Israeli’s and Adrian and I had reservations at a hostel. Britt and Gunn were going to try the hotel Nick and Arianne had recommended. It was nearby Mamallena (but supposedly cheaper and nicer). But the American girls had no plan of attack. Our driver drove to a couple of hostels to try to find them a room but there was no space. The Israeli passengers got quite annoyed at this and demanded the driver just drop the Americans somewhere and take the to their hostel. I don’t know why they were so impatient – I was the one sitting beside the puking girl. They obviously didn’t believe in travel karma. I told the American girls to get out at our hostel. While they didn’t have room, but they did have super nice staff who would help them find a room in the neighbourhood, most likely at the same hotel the Norwegian Girls were going to. With that we said goodbye to Britt and Gunn. We had been really lucky that we were stranded on a deserted island with them and Nick and Arianne, and, of course, Frank.

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