Published: May 31st 2010May 30th 2010
Hello to all from Balboa, Panama
Monday night proved to be very eventful in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Carl went off to bed nice and early and was planning on listening to the rain to fall asleep. As you might have known it is the start of their rainy season in Central America and oh man did it rain. The gravel and dirt roads outside turned into rivers and our hostel was no match for mother nature. Water poured into the kitchen and over the front threshold, also coming in from the back of the building via the bathrooms. All hands on deck, everyone picked up towels, benches and rocks to build temporary walls, and pots & pans to start bailing out the hostel. All the while, Carl slept listening to the sound of the rain, awakening only when people would open his door, where he would hastily insist that they keep the lights off.
After the flood we awoke to another beautiful day on the beaches of this small surf town in Costa Rica. Leaving on a Tuesday morning we pulled away from our hostel not before waving goodbye to all of our new Argentinian and French
friends. Our ride out was calm and enjoyable with thick rain forest and rolling hills around us. All was quite pleasant apart from a couple of surprises from some rogue bulls and cows which was tolerable due to the situation of the herders; as one man had only one leg and another time it was merely a 5 year old boy leading them all. Pressing on, we met back up with the Pan American Highway and were southbound. Looking at the map we realized that there was going to be another time change once we got into Panama so we changed the clocks. We were making good time and the roads were great. We were able to stop at a small town that had an internet cafe and Dane used a phone card to call his dad to wish him a Happy Birthday; something we had quite almost missed to do, because we couldn't quite agree on the time or date. Due to the fact that we have been sleeping in the car and days have seemed to run into one another. Also we found ourselves ahead of our planned schedule and thus the current date was not relevent. We
ended up staying in Costa Rica for the night and planned to drive into Panama the next morning.
"We may have gained an hour but we have lost a day."
Arriving at the Panama border we prepared ourselves for the gang of "helpers" however, this time, they never came. It was great, we started our process of copying and filling out papers. Then, a subtle young man approached us and starting pointing us into the right direction for car permits. We allowed him to do so because most of the people working were on lunch and it was hard to get paper moved around. He even pushed us into the transporting line because we were simply passing through the country and we didn't have to wait in the endless line with the other tourists. In fact, one office for our car permit was still closed for lunch, but he knew what stamp was needed, so he made it happen. It just so happened that this stamp was just on the inside of the window, reaching in he took the stamp and stamped our paper, we were done our paperwork and free to enter Panama. He told us
of a few good spots in Panama to stop, that we were able to reach that day. We thanked him for his help and we were on our way, all before the offices had even re-opened from lunch.
Our goal was, Santa Clara. Santa Clara was privately owned and had white sandy beaches and several houses for rent. There were no hostels around, so in a desperate attempt for lodging we walked on to one private property to conveniently find a group of Germans that pointed us to the reception office. From there we were sent to the man's friends house which he rented to us for $44 a night. Still quite expensive we took it as it was our only option. Staying only 2 night we soaked up the sun and waves just a 4min walk from our house. There was plenty to eat along the beach, however, because it was a tourist destination, and a bit too upper class for us, we decided to go to the super market around the corner and cook our own meals. In fact one of our meals we added a special side dish that we found on a nightly beach walk
by the sides of a rocky peninsula. Hoards of snails! We plucked them off and Dane; having some experience from his time in Ecuador with his host father who use to cook them, decided to take the lead on the cooking process. Boiling them until they were cooked, and then boiling them some more and finally using toothpicks which we found the easiest way to pull the little buggers out, we put them onto a pan. Then with a little bit of garlic and butter our delicious side plate was ready. Our dinner consisted of: sliced beef cooked with onion and garlic, rice, and homemade escargot. Buen aprovecho! Enjoy! Bon appetit!
The next day we left our home in Santa Clara and headed towards Panama City. Carl taking the wheel, we would find ourselves driving over the Panama Canal and minutes away from Panama City. Our destination was Balboa, Panama. This is where the port is located to catch a boat to take ourselves and our car into Colombia (Or so we thought). Arriving on Friday afternoon in Balboa, with no port to be found, we were a little lost (once again). Everyone we talked to said that we
just had to keep going straight, the problem was there wasn't a straight road to be found in this city. Every road at one time or another would branch off into three or loop around onto its self. Finally Carl spoke with one taxi driver and realizing that his directions were way to hard to follow, paided him $7 and followed him to the port of Balboa. We were both really happy we followed him because there were absolutely NO signs what so ever to the port. Once we were there we were able to locate a company and start our search for a boat. We were then referred to another company because the main company only shipped non personal goods. Then we were re-referred from our referral to another company. Long story short, we were still waiting on a few emails from a few companies. We had also met an American during our search for cargo ships, who had been living in Panama City for 5 years he pointed us in the right direction towards the hostels for "young people" / "backpackers". It just so happened however that, the particular "hot spot" was right back into the mess of
streets in Balboa. Following his straight road directions....we somehow found a place to stay. At the time, all that we knew was that we didn't know.
Luna Castle hostel. A very unique and older building with 4 floors, twisty stairs and lots of little hidden rooms here and there. Full to over flowing, we managed to swindle a deal for $10 to sleep in their movie theater as all rooms were full. Hot as hells kitchen we sweated our way to sleep, not before indulging in the happy hour rates of 0.50 cents a beer or $1 mixed drinks. Our time in this hostel has been pokey as we have had no other choice but to spend as little as possible and to wait around for an email from these shipping companies. Our destination is concrete (Ushuaia), our method would seem sound (driving by car), but our current status would suggest otherwise...all we can do now is wait. We wait so that in a days time or so we can rush around and fillout paperwork once again. The small area we are staying in is called Casco Viejo. These few blocks have something new to offer at every corner.
Some rundown old buildings that no one has decided to care for, while others are picture perfect and have not a single defect. But all of these corners have a detinct smell of their own, some more pleasant than others. In what little sight seeing of Panama we have done, we mangaged to take an sunday afternoon walk amongst the rainforest trails of Panama's city National Park (Metropolitano). Our taxi drive to the park had us realize, that no matter where you are in the world no one tends to like the taxis, as they are all crazy and sponantous as ours was, like reversing the wrong way onto a highway on-ramp. Apart from this we found that the locals were helpful and friendly, the young staff at the hostel are doing everything they can to aid us in our search for a boat. The best part about staying in this hostel is that it is overflowing with people. There is well over 50 people in this building. Most hostels we stay in have 10 - 20. Everyone with their own trips and stories, some are riding bicycles from the USA to Argentina, others are country hopping all over Central
and South America. With the aid of our friends at the hostel we have just recieved an email stating that the proccess for our car shippment has begun, and we are closer to finding a boat.
"It is not the times of great peril that shake us the most, but the times that stay quite still, that just barely coast."
We have finally found a computer that will allow us to upload photos. We hope you enjoy them, they are from all the countries we have passed through. We will try our best to upload more as we go along. Enjoy!
Until Colombia... hasta luego
Dane and Carl
There are more photos below