Friday, January 4, 2013
To Panama City and Back Again
It's an incongruent feeling to wake up in the morning and take a ten-mile ride over choppy seas in a dugout canoe and then be in a place like the above photo by 2:00 p.m. Literally, I had not seen a large building since Cancun, and Panama City is chocked full of them, a metropolis of astounding proportions when the most people you've seen recently was watching the school band practice on Nargana.
As I've mentioned previously, staying in the San Blas meant that we would have to take a trip back to somewhere with a grocery store, and after weighing our options we decided that Panama City made the most sense. And I have to say the whole experience was pretty darn fun. We got the aforementioned dugout canoe ride, then an awesome jeep ride through the rainforest on washed out roads with a driver who, while slow and cautious, also listened to a strange mix of soft rock that made me reminiscent of awkward middle school dances (Bryan Adams??? On a jungle jeep ride???). And then we were dropped off in the middle of downtown Panama City somewhere near the place we were staying, a cruisers hostel of sorts, but with no real idea of how to get there because one of Panama City's planners forgot to add street addresses and no one has ever bothered to correct the problem.
But we had yet another secret weapon. Roger. My little brother described Roger as the guy who makes the entire city of Panama run, and I think I have to second that motion. We hired him at $10 bucks an hour, and he took to get our crew visas sorted out. (A moment for bureaucracy: when entering Panama, you get a 6-month visa. Then you have to leave the country for 72 hours. Cruising permits, however, last for one year, and cruisers are able to tie their visas to their boats. Last year, the price for this was $10. This year, it is $105. It was the cheaper than us going to Costa Rica, but still.) He then took us to a marine store and drove us to PriceSmart - the Central American version of Costco - where we restocked on everything and bought cheese, glorious cheese!
We popped into some other grocery stores and then as quickly as it started, our trip to the big city was over. We reversed the process - jeep ride at 4:00 a.m. and the same dugout canoe laden with all of our stuff and finally back to our boat, which some great cruiser friends watched for us while we were gone.
In case anyone is curious, Roger's phone number is 507-6717-6745. The cruisers hostel we stayed at was very nice, cheap and centrally located. Plus, it had a deep freeze and a huge fridge, which is really helpful if you're provisioning. The person who runs it is Deborah, and her number is 507-6153-2089.