Monday, July 6, 2009

The road to nowhere.

The time had come to leave Bocas. With the weather sucking, we wanted to leave with a good memory and, the shark was as good as it was going to get (as scary as it was). Our next stop was David about half way to Panama City. David was Panama’s second biggest city but the big attraction was outside of town in the mountain cloud forest. However, we’d already done the cloud forest in Costa Rica, and were a bit lost for what we were going to do there. But it was the halfway point between Bocas and Panama City and that was good enough for now.

Of course the day we decided to give up on Bocas, the sun threatened to make an appearance. For the first time in 4 days we actually saw a bit of blue between the clouds. Go figure. But it wasn’t enough to make us stick around. The improved weather meant that the boat ride was smooth and easy. From the dock we caught a taxi to the bus stop just outside of town on the highway. The bus was actually a mini van but comfortable and good thing too because the roads through the mountains were pretty twisty and turny.

In David we were let off at the bus station and had to flag down a cab (no really, we weren’t swarmed for the first time in, well, ever). And the price was so good I expected to be baited and switched once we arrived at the hostel. But no. It was $3 and stayed $3. Hmm. Panama was starting to look up.

The hostel was located in a residential area and actually looked like a house, well a student house. But our room had a private bath, tv and air conditioning which is better than any room I had when I was a student. The hostel also offered tours, well on paper, however, it was low season so they gave us a tour company pamphlet instead. We took it with us to McDonalds which Adrian demanded we eat at since spotting it during the cab ride in. Doctor Adrian convinced me to go by telling me that if anything was going to clog up my stomach, it would McDonald’s. So we joined the hundred’s of locals and their families for Sunday dinner at McDonald’s and studied our tour choices. There was lots of choice with most of the tours involving some combination of horse or jeeps, hot springs, hikes and coffee farms. We decided to do the cheapest option which was $35 for just the hot springs. And booked it before going to bed.

The next morning, another hostel employee, changed my mind. He told me I was crazy to do the tour to the hot springs when it was super easy to get there on our own and a whole lot cheaper – in fact free. Well, free is something I like. So once I prodded Adrian awake we decided to cancel the tour. The other employee didn’t seem to pleased but I told him to take it up with his co-worker. We were off to soak in some hot springs.

Of course, the bus company had another plan. The bus to the hot springs was supposed to leave every hour. But we’d either just missed one or the schedule had changed because we waited for an hour and a half. No worries; there were cages of cute chicks to amuse us until the bus to Caldera eventually arrived and we got on. However, the trip was an hour and half (not 45 minutes Lonely Planet) which was beginning to eat into our hot springs time. Still no worries. When we got to the turn off, the bus driver signaled to us and we got off. Before we walked off a little voice told me to double check when the last bus was back to David. In an hour and a half the driver replied as he closed the door and drove away to double check. Now this should have been no worries too, except the hot springs were at least a 30 minute hike away, which would leave us very little time for the hot springs. We started the hike down the hot, dusty, deserted side road through some very pretty countryside. After 20 minutes we found ourselves on a huge construction site where some sort of aqueduct and bridge was being built. We found our way around it and after another 15 minutes of hiking up and down hills we spotted another sign (photo above) just over a bridge. The hot springs were another 500 metres away. Uphill. That was it. Our desire for the hot springs was gone, replaced by a need to catch the last bus to town and an extreme thirst.

The only witnesses to our failed attempt were the hundreds of cows that lined the road. So when I finally had to give in to my bladder, I chose a small rock by the side of the road and asked Adrian to keep a look at for cars. Of course as soon as I start to pee, Adrian screamed "Car!" a little too late. I’m pretty sure I gave the car load of construction workers a good show. Oh well. I’m glad someone had a good laugh.

We got back to the highway with 10 minutes to spare – good thing we didn’t try to get to the hot springs. But it was good that we were early because with a crack of thunder, it began to pour. There was a deserted store with an overhang and a step where we waited for the bus joined by a couple of stray dogs and some chickens all trying to keep dry too. No worries, the dry bus would be here soon. Or not. It was another hour until the bus finally pulled up. Which meant we could have enjoyed the hot springs after all. Although we would have been drenched on the walk back. But rather than admit our defeat, we gave the hot springs a thumbs up to the staff of the hostel. There was no need for everyone to know about our trip on the road to nowhere (except you guys, of course).

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