Today I was so far outside my comfort zone I don’t even remember what comfort looks like. Wow. We drove to Bocas today. Sounds very simple but nothing is ever simple here. I said a few days ago that I hoped to avoid driving. Spoke too soon. Candace and Robert (Smith) learned a few days ago that their driver’s licences expired today. You’d think that’s not a big deal but it is. There are routinely police check points and if they find your license is expired they take your car right then and there. That would have been a very inconvenient piece of our little vacation.
So Dan drove the Smith’s car with Robert and Haley and Cyril while Candace and I chatted the whole way along with Ashley, Zoe (they bonded over very large stuffed dogs) and Melanie in the rental car.
We got lost. Multiple times. But getting lost allowed us to find a really cool watering hole (on the list to return to), get some very good milkshakes (redeemed from the bad one a few days ago) and see some lovely parts of Panama.
Once we got on the right road the comfort ended. It was a nail biter. Very curvy, only two lanes, very few passing opportunities (but we did it anyway – you kinda have to) and we went through hills, pouring rain, fog and did I mention the curves? Wow. It was tough but we all made it in one piece. And we didn’t even hit any dogs or one of the many humans walking alongside the road. LOTS of humans walking.
We get to the small town of Almirante, which is the jumping off point on the mainland. We were clearly lost gringos because a guy on a bike signaled we were going the wrong way, had us follow him to a parking lot (probably his cousin’s) and we were shuffled out of the car quick-like and told that we had to hurry to catch the last water taxi to Isla Colon, where we are staying. The water taxi is essentially a boat with a motor. They threw on all our suitcases (we looked so gringo with wheelie suitcases where wheels clearly are no advantage) and they took great care to arrange the 9 of us so the weight was distributed correctly. Life jackets for everyone and we were off in no time.
This is where Zoe freaked out. She has never been a big fan of boats, especially not small rocking ones in open water. And especially not when they hit another boat’s wake. She spent the first 15 minutes sobbing and squeezing my hand. It probably didn’t help that I told her the boat ride would be “a few minutes” but it was actually more than 30. But thankfully after about 15 minutes she ran out of steam for crying and just muddled through (common theme here in Panama, lots of muddling) and she perked up for the last half of our ride. We are now talking about doing another boat ride tomorrow to go island hopping and she’s good with that.
We get off the taxi, get to our Bed and Breakfast and had a nice dinner out. The BnB recommended a restaurant that turned out to be a little too fancy for the kids. We had to tell Haley that mahi mahi was a kind of Panamanian chicken so she would eat it (she believed us, she ate it and she liked it. Then when we told her the truth she stopped speaking to us.) We are staying in a lovely BnB with air conditioning (only in our room. Sorry, Smiths!) and enjoying the sound of the waves.
Candace was a great car-mate. While I drove she worked some magic and managed to find a house for us to rent in Pedasi, get a friend to go look at it for us, get pictures sent to us to review, negotiate a lower rate and now we are ready to submit the deposit and first month’s rent. It was a very productive car ride. She makes my efficiency look like a sloth.
We don’t know our exact plan yet for tomorrow but we expect it will involve sun, surf, perhaps some starfish and maybe maybe some actual sloths. We can only hope. You’ll be the first to know!