The longest bus ride

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Friday, October 12, 2007

The trip from Managua to San Jose was really long, mostly because of some kind of traffic jam-road work that made us sit in the road for about 3 hours. The border was also horrendous because Costa Rica makes everyone do their own passport stamping, which is probably a good idea, but makes for a two hour customs adventure. In the rain. Awesome. Also, we got stamped out of Nicaragua and then got on the bus, so it felt like we were all done, but we went across some kind of 15 minute no-man's-land until we got to the Costa Rican passport control. Costa Rica also makes everyone take their luggage out of the bus and line it up for checking, regardless of whether or not they actually check it. Costa Rica is very beautiful, however, with its cloud forests and zillions of little waterfalls that form at least when it rains. I love waterfalls. The US should have more of them.

San Jose was dark when we arrived at about 6 p.m., and the bus to Panama left at 11. We would therefore not need a hotel for the night, which made life a little easier. Travis was standing in line getting our seats on the bus to Panama when the older gentleman dressed head-to-toe in a bright purple Colorado Rockies wind suit asked him a question about where to go for dinner. Travis discovered from the man at the ticket counter that there was a restaurant just around the corner. I couldn't let the man eat alone! This was how we met Frank. Frank was interesting. Originally from Boston, he now owns two houses, one in Panama and the other on an island owned by Columbia, located off the coast of Nicaragua. His wife is Panamanian-Columbian, and he has seven children, the oldest being 36, the youngest being 5. I'll just say that we could have talked to Frank for hours. He ate an entire fish. It was fried and he broke off its head and the eye popped out and he didn't even notice, just went to town munching. It was a little strange, but fun. We liked Frank. Frank has done everything, several times. We asked.

The bus ride to Panama was good. Everyone was dead quiet in the night, a welcome change from the horrid bus ride from Guate to Flores. Everyone except this tiny baby who didn't seem like it could breathe. Tiny baby. Soooo cute. During the day we watched movies in English. Yay! There is nothing more annoying than watching a movie you would actually like to see in a language you cannot understand. Except for when it is a movie you can understand that gets cut off before you get to see the very end. That happened on the first bus. So English movies made Erin happy.

Getting out of Costa Rica was a little easier than getting in, probably in part because we got there at 7 a.m. This time we walked across a really long no-man's-land to get to Panama, which is pretty much the most confusing place in the world. I will explain. We had all our stamps out of Nicaragua and we had filled out our forms to get into Panama. You know, the customs declaration forms. We thought we were set. We were wrong.

We knew that we needed an onward ticket out of Panama in order to get into Panama. The poor American in front of us did not know this, so he had to start all over and get a bus ticket that he probably wasn't going to use. Then we saw that you have to have proof of solvency in cash, as in, 150 dollars cash. Yeah, right. We had 21. But Trav pulled out our credit cards and apparently that wasn't a problem. What was a problem was that we didn't have our tourist card. Say what!? Where were we supposed to get that? The little boy (because there are always little boys who are there to take you places because they apparently don't believe in school), took us to a window that really didn't look like a window, where we had to pay five dollars to get our tourist cards which are actually a piece of paper. These had to get a stamp on them which cost another dollar. Why they couldn't make these two steps one I do not know. Then we got back in line. I took this opportunity to make the little boy take me on a wild goose chase to find breakfast because we had none. Apparently there's a grocery store in no-man's-land. Who knew? So I frantically got granola bars and got back to the line just in time to get stamped and then we got on the bus to find that the Ticabus actually does provide breakfast. Woot. And, other than the poor American, we were pretty much the last people on the bus because we all had to go through the passport line twice. Yay for us.

The rest of the day was pretty slow. Movies and scenery, with a lunch about two hours or so out of Panama City. This was the only bus that feeds you, so don't count on food if you are not on the 18 hour San Jose-Panama bus. We got to the mother of all bus terminals in the afternoon. It was like an airport mixed with a mall. Maybe like airports used to be before 9-11 increased security. There were people everywhere. So we scooted out of there and into the city proper for a cab that cost a grand total of $3. On to Panama!

That makes me think of the palindrome, which I must now share with you:
A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!

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