Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
Trip End Jan 27, 2004

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Sunday, November 16, 2003

Bocas del Toro, Panama City

Things are really starting to wind down now. We lose some of our group in Panama City but gain 12 more new people in Quito. A feeling of anticipation and excitement is with myself, Andrew and Jo (they are both coming on with me to SA). What are the new people going to be like? What will our new truck be like? Apparently more space than the mini bus we have been living in for 4 months. But the trip itself will get harder. We have been spoilt with great hotels and beaches for the last month and we are about to hit much colder temperatures and a huge amount of camping! The party is over!

Bocas del Toro was technically my last part of this tour (having now flown on early to Panama City for some R&R and missed out two days driving and a coffee plantation tour in Boquete). Another really nice island with wooden hotels that float on the edge of the water. No beaches but I got to get up in the morning, walking out of my room onto the deck and jump straight into the ocean beneath me. My god, how sweet does life get?

When we arrived there was a fiesta taking place in the main plaza and street as Panama are celebrating 100 years of independence (I think itīs independence/or it could be existence - I think I will find out). So the atmosphere was charged and the drumming was with us again. More standing in the streets with the locals soaking up the party atmosphere. Great fun.

We were due to sail on a catamaran the next day and do some snorkeling but another storm hit during the night which stayed on during the day. We were once again held hostage in internet cafes, and on our decks playing cards and watching the rain fall over the sea into the distance where the mountains were sleeping.

The following day (Tuesday of this week) Andrew and I boarded a tiny 12 seater plane on the island and flew to Panama City. Sweet flight, just two pilots (who we could see flying the plane) and us passengers. We arrived in PC late afternoon to more rain and checked into the hotel. Had a near miss run in with the police that night when, having just got into a cab outside our restaurant, they pulled us over looking for an excuse to get some money from us. They looked the car up and down and when they asked us for our passports, which we had left at the hotel, told us it was illegal to be out on the streets without ID.

We kept schtum and said we didnīt speak Spanish but our passports were at our hotel. We were sorry, we had only be in Panama City for 4 hours and did not know the rule. It was a bit hairy for a while and we imagined either a hefty fine being demanded of us, or even worse a visit to the station or confiscation of our passports. We have seen how the Mexican police behave so we werenīt taking any chances.

The policeman told the taxi driver that we should take our passports to the police station in the morning. Needless to say we didnīt in fear of being stung for 100 bucks in return for our passports. They know where our hotel is so they can come and find us if they want but we also know that they were just trying their luck. Boy, how we have hardened up, taking on the Panamanian police like that. Just you try!

And that brings me up to date. Wow!

So, the rest of my group that we left in Bocas arrive here tomorrow afternoon. Then we have until 2:30 in the morning to re-pack our backpacks for the flight (we have stuff all over the van), have our goodbye meal and there is not point in going to bed but at the same time we canīt really go out and get lashed. Our flight is at 5 something in the morning then we are collected at the other end and taken to a hotel. At some point over the next few days, no one has been told when, we will be joined by Jim Youngblood our English tour guide, his co-driver, an expedition truck and anything up to 15 new travellers. Then we start South America. That is all I know. We will be given an itinerary when in the new group but until then I know as much as you.

So out with the old, in with the new and countdown to the end of January. I feel a whole new experience about to take over me. Watch this space.

Peace & Love
T xxx
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