Over one million boats have passed through here, one of the greatest feats of engineering knowen to man. I wasn’t leaving Panama without seeing it. We crossed over the canal the night before in the dark on the bus ride, that wasn’t enough for us, I wished we could of seen it as we drove over. I think I may have been fast asleep on that horrid bus. We catch a taxi out to the Miraflores Locks. The cannel is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year. I loved the museum, with many small boat replicas, and the rich and also tragic history of the cannel. I noticed when we first arrived in Panama that there was a wide verity of races, from Asian to Afro American. Then reading in the museum people came from all over to help build this cannel. Hundreds of thousands of people, join together in the construction. Many died from malaria and yellow fever, until the epidemic was under control. France began work on the canal in 1881, but had to stop because of engineering problems and high death rate due to disease. The United States took over the project in 1904, and took a decade to complete the canal, it was officially opened on August 15, 1914. Now they are almost finished creating larger lochs for larger ships to pass through the canal. Many boat that expect to go through the canal are with the the specks to fit perfectly through. Some 300 million ships have passed through to date. I’m glad we took the time to go and see this, i just think it is so fascinating
The immigration office was a pill. They wanted us each to have $500 in cash on us when we crossed the border. If you have ever counted out $1000 at a border crossing you know how unsafe you feel. Also to prove when we would be departing the country. We have scheduled a sail boat ride through the Caribbean from Panama to Colombia. We have a confirmation email, it doesn’t look super official but we printed the series of emails anyways. Finally they approve us to enter the country with a strong push because we were riding on the TicaBus. Again we didn’t get our bags searched because we were at the end of the line from our bus, or our bags just look too difficult to look through. We are about 6 hours in now only ten more to go and we will have covered almost half of Panama. We find ourselves in Panama City at 5 am! Well, the rickety ride got us to the bus station at 1:30am instead of 5am. It felt like our bus had no shocks at all, when using the restroom feels dangerous you just avoid it. The bus wasn’t packed so I tried sleeping on a row across from Mateo. More than once I nearly fell from the seat on to the ground from the turning and stopping. There was not a single person in sight when we stepped off the bus. This station is like no other we have been dropped off at, it’s clean and feels safe. There were security guards roaming around, they kicked us off the stairs quickly while we were reading our guide book. The vultures were out, taxi drivers, staring at us offering us a ride. We were not getting on to a taxi. It is too late to catch a taxi to a hostel and hotels would be more expensive and we would only be there a couple hours. We finally found a location to sleep in the bus terminal. An air conditioned waiting area. I was scolded for laying on the seats, I guess only up right sleeping is allowed in this area.
Managed to fall in and out of sleep all morning. At least I’m not sweating, that is always a plus. About 7:30am we both are awake and decide to start figuring out how to get ourselves to the hostel. We head over the walkway that gets us over the freeway, and it gets us to the subway system. Not where we want to be. With this much exhaustion in our bones we fold and take a taxi to the hostel. Feeling more spry than at 1:40am when we got off the bus. Yet still groggy, we walk up to the hostel. Mamallena is a hostel with no rules there was no fine tuned sermon given when we enter about cleaning up after yourself or what time the lights go out. This is unusual for a hostel, normally there are rules at least a few, ahhh but yes we are all adults and are adult enough to travel the world and are still alive. Every one is really relaxed, the guide book spoke of this hostel as unfriendly, more so I think it is not the hostels responsibility to hold our hands as travelers. Isn’t travel about growing? It is for me at least at this point in my life. To get an education through the world and experiencing that world.
Our beds were open and ready for us to sleep and restart our day not in a bus station. Oh the beds here are not full of springs and do not have bent bed frames from large people, the ac gets turned on from eight to eight. It is nice to wear my pjs at night and not the more exposed modest sleep wear I have because of the heat. We both sleep a couple hours and wake up at noon, the time has changed by one hour, traveling through time zones is strange when it’s done by land. When you get on a plane it is like time travel backward or forwards. I was looking at places to eat in our travel book and quickly found a New York Bagel shop. Mateo said he wanted bagels the other day and rice and beans will not be making the cut this morning. From what I have seen in the bus station, Panamanians don’t eat gallo pinto for breakfast anyways instead they eat this condensed form of stew. We make our way to the the bagel shop, guide book in hand. It is a healthy hike away and we zone out on our phones after we eat our bagel breakfast. Mateo swears that this normal breakfast of bagels, country potatoes, and eggs makes him feel 100% again, he wasn’t looking good when I poked and proded him out of bed at noon. We search around the internet for what activities to do in Panama City. We found a park that is a nature preserve on the lonely planet web page. That’s when the rain started, the down pour session lasted at least an hour. It’s so hot here in Panama we were in shorts an sandals, the bagel shop was a good place to wait out the rain, how long could we wait, the park closes at 6pm.
We ventured out eventually and found a pharmacy that sold umbrellas. That will have to do, we are from Seattle it rains all the time. We catch a taxi to the entrance of the park. I read that we may see this creature I have been waiting on, the sloth. I’m not convinced they really exist, I have been told so many times you may see a sloth. No sloth, one of my favorite animals. I like the weird ugly animals that have strange character. As we begin our hike my glasses soon fog up, this is unhelpful in the sloth sighting experience. Every moment we stop the mosquitos invade our skin and we are attacked from every angle. I’ll be lucky to make it out of this jungle trail hike without feeling like I donated blood to the Red Cross. This is the mosquitos perfect breeding ground, warm wet covered by trees. We are their thanksgiving dinner. We arrive at the top, how amazingly beautiful it is. We get to see Panama City skyline framed by the rain forest. Eight degrees from the equator. The rain has only been at a drizzle this whole time. I mostly use the umbrella to hit away or kill landing Mosquitos.
We catch a taxi back to town, he kicks us out early and doesn’t charge us, but he leaves us with a big smile. We assume because where our hostel is located there is heavy traffic all times of the day. So we get out and start walking without rain, after locating a supermarket we go there and pick up all the snacking things we will need on the boat, this supermarket is like America town, everything is over priced and imported. Not Mateo and Emily friendly. On the boat they provide water and three meals a day. Snacks are on us, Mateo doesn’t like fish much so we get extra snacks, and our hostel has a kitchen. I have been craving a grilled cheese sando and some tomato soup. We get just that and get back to the hostel to make ourselves long awaited comfort food on the cheap.
We had arranged with Laura to meet her in Costa Rica if we could while she was there visiting her mom. We met up with her, her sister and Inara. Ate some cheap and tasty lunch and then went and toured around the university. I brought my bracket making string with me, I wanted Laura to teach me a more complex knot with 12 strands instead of 6. I have been making a lot of bracelets, with the long hours on the bus and my incapability to sleep, bracelets have been my addiction. I also like the challenge of figuring out new knotting techniques and color combinations. I have started making bracelets for people back home, they are compact and what an awesome souvenir to bring someone than something that I made myself.
San Jose became our time to just hang out in the city. We don’t spend much time getting to know an area. With our hostel being so cheap, clean and safe we may stay longer than expected. Tomorrow we plan to go up to the Volcano Poás, we can take the city bus all the way to the entrance of the park. No tour guide, hooray!
We were up early to navigate our selves to the right buses. We arrived in the town of Alajuela where we would catch our next bus up to the volcano, the bus driver informed us that the volcano may be closed for emergency situation drills. We could take our chances and go anyway, a guy on the bus told us it was a beautiful drive up and there maybe a chance that it was open. We got on the bus. Not many of our plans have gone awry so we would just stick to it and go anyway. This is when I realized that my thought process has been faulty, that if I continue to think this is what is going to happen and not have any flexibility in my “plans” I’m likely to be disappointed when things change. Much of life is this way, I think end goals are good but flexibility above all is best. I don’t normally think myself through thoughts like this. For some reason today it is really striking me. We get to a small town, we have the option to hike up the road to the entrance of park, the police are not letting vehicles go to the park. So everyone from the bus starts hiking up, it’s a 10 kilometers hike up, about 6 miles. We all have nothing better to do until our bus leaves at 2:30 to got back to Alajuala. Mateo and I stop for lunch about 4 kilometers away from the park. Local cars were driving around, hitch hiking was unsuccessful. After eating lunch at cute little dinner I was walking out of the bath room just in time to catch a glimpse of our bus going up the road. We missed it, the bus surely would have picked us up if it would of seen us walking. So we continue out hike up. We could hear thunder and lighting for the majority of the walk up the road to the park but no rain. I wanted to just start walking down the hill. My calves were still sore from the extra long hike at the other volcano, Arenal. We didn’t even know if the park was open for people or if our bus was just allowed to go get the riders that had hiked up. This was not a motivating factor for me. What was motivating for me was Mateo, the views, and the coolness in the air. I was so happy it was not hot and sunny out. Finally I was convinced that my goal should be just to get to the bus, we made it to the park, the road was gracious in the park and even went down hill a little. The park rangers would not let us go to the bus that was
parked inside of the park. It was a $10 entry fee, we waited outside under the cover of the pay booth. It had just begun raining right as we were arriving to the park, what a relief for the rain to hold off until we were close to cover. We would not be seeing the volcano or the crater with the lake. That was okay with me, we did make it to the top and almost in though.
Tica bus race…
Once we were back in San Jose, it was 4:30 and the TicaBus agency was going to close at 5pm. We went darting off the bus, the GPS said we were 19 minutes away walking. So if we run/walk as fast as we can we may get there to buy our tickets for the Monday bus that goes to Panama. I didn’t have much hope in the agency being open on Sunday either. The last time we showed up to buy our tickets we were 6 minutes late, and the online site is down, not sure it ever worked. We finished our day with Papa Johns in the park, that was fun.
Our time in San Jose has been full of walking and touring the city. We went and saw the Pre-Columbian Gold/Currency Museum. We learned about currency and the processing of gold, it was a great place to learn about the history of Costa Rica. On Saturdays and Sunday the city comes alive with farmers markets and carnivals in the main parks. We have met some really awesome people at our hostels as well and can fully say after so long of traveling that party hostels aren’t our style and having somewhere safe and quite to come back to is important after a long day of adventuring/bussing around. Once in a while they are fun, but don’t compare to a better kept hostel and quietness.
One thing with tours is that you really have to know what you’re getting into. Yesterday morning we singed up for this jeep boat jeep tour, sounded romantic, taking a rugged jeep, and then going across the lake, and getting on to another jeep. Then looking into it further we both realized that the first jeep would take us on to the north side of the lake, we were already on the south side, then hop a boat across the lake, and then end 25 kilometers from where we were currently, and it was $60. We woke up early, packed our tent up, hiked to the hostel and informed the hostel guy that we would need to cancel, I felt embarrassed. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling to cancel the morning of 2 hours before the shuttle was to show up and take us to the jeep, but Mateo and I saw it as reasonable to not spent the money and to only finish 25 kilometers away from where we started. We drank coffee and caught a different shuttle in to La Fortuna, ate cheap breakfast at a recommended location, had the best orange juice of my life, and went in search for a black tank top for me or a swim suite. I didn’t find either, to save room in my pack I normally swim in a black sports bra and matching black bottoms. I’m starting to want a swim suit so I hope to find one by the time we reach Panama, it would be great to get rid of some of my shirts as well. They all are a bit worn out after almost three months of travel and a lot of hard work. What we did find was a hair cut. Mateo wants to avoid looking too scruffy, and he has decided too keep his beard until the end of the trip, so keeping up on his hair helps with the heat and him looking not so scruffy. We get on on our connecting bus to the capital, San Jose! Mateo and I have developed this way of getting on the bus so we sit with each other, I take the small bags and what ever snacks we have, find us a double seat and he gets the bags put under the bus. It works well. It should have taken us four and a half hours to get to San Jose. It always seems to be a bit longer than what the schedule states, the bus is making several stops along the way, picking up and dropping off people. Then the bus stops for several minutes and people start getting off, it seams like all the foreigners are staying on the bus. We have heard stories of busses catching on fire and this French guy not knowing a thing about it because he was sleeping and listening to music. Then one of the girls getting off the bus says in English the bus broke down or something. That’s when we all start to pile off and get our bags from under the bus and find a cozy rock to sit on until the backup bus comes to pick us up. Many people who were on the bus call their friends to come and pick them up. I spent the time trying to convince Mateo that we should hitch hike, we had good luck last time. He was convincing me to be patient. Patience is not my strong suit, after 30 minutes another bus arrived and we continued south to San Jose. We arrived in San Jose several hours later. It was dark out yet the city was alive and kicking. I haven’t been in a city where the streets are clean and with no dogs for a while. We walked to our hostel Mateo had booked the night before. It was in the historic district close to the University. Wow! This is the nicest hostel we have been in to-date, the one in Matagalpa was nice but this hostel was once a old mansion and now a hostel. Really beautiful. It also has an awesome kitchen so I’ll be making use of it! I have really missed cooking for myself, out side of the expense of going out to eat, I like to cook, it relaxing and fun for me.