Somewhere between David (Dahveed)and Boquete Panama
Well, I noticed my last posting was 11 days ago and my environment certainly has changed since then.
Last Thursday the 26th of November, I decided I needed to get out of San Juan Del Sur and booked a ticket to Panama. Two days in advance for Ejecutivo class and a 24 hour bus ride straight through Costa Rica. I had made some good friends in Nicaragua and just as I was getting a bit too comfortable, I said my goodbyes promising to see them before I left for the north country and so I left some belongings at Tony's to ensure that I would. On Friday, Tony drove me to Granada about 1 1/2 hours from San Juan Del Sur and I sure was surprised at the difference between the sleepy little surfing community and the small c cosmopolitan vibe of Granada.The centre of the city consists of a square, as do most Central American cities and towns.The square was abuzz with artisans selling their wares and people from all over the world plying the immediate streets of this 500 year old colonial city. Surrounding the square was a series of hotels,the Alhambra,the Colonial,the Colone and coming off these streets were a series of lesser streets chock a block full of hostels,smaller hotels and bars and restaurants.I had bought my ticket 2 days earlier to ensure a seat on the bus so after finding the bus stop I proceeded to look for a cheap hotel to spend the night...2 blocks away on Calle le Libertad was the Hostel Samarcanda so for $15 dollars I secured a room for the night. It being a Friday, the city centre was alive with people and things going on. As I was locking my door to go out for a stroll, out walked a young lady from California doing exactly the same thing.I asked her if she wanted to accompany me and we ended up walking all over the city centre then going for dinner at the Coyote Grill.Out in front was a live band playing classic rock covers in Spanish and a group of young boys break dancing on the sidewalk...and I mean break dancing!...these kid were good....Spinning on their heads right on the cement,and feet straight up in the air..... Good enough in fact to be on America's Got Talent!
My dinner companion Maria turned out to be a biologist working with capucine monkeys up in Costa Rica....a fascinating profession and, like so many people living in Costa Rica was in Nicaragua on her 3 day leave to renew her visa. We said our goodbyes after walking back the 5 blocks to the hostel promising to stay in touch. I had my eye on the clock as I had to rise before dawn to take the long bus ride to Panama. Up til now, I hadn't any idea where I was going but before I got on the bus I sent one last email to my friends in Panama not realizing that they lived exactly where I had decided to make my first stop...David.
The trip down to David was uneventful except for the ridiculously long waits at both borders.Off the bus ,take our passports, on the bus ,drive to the next border, off the bus then on again where we were stopped twice by the Costa Rican police within 10 miles of the border and this was just to get into Costa Rica! We had to do the same thing leaving Costa Rica and getting into Panama.I also had a 6 hour layover in San Jose which I neglected to factor into my travel plans...too much information on my ticket ...all in Spanish of course. 1030pm out of San Jose and wait a minute!....arrival 430pm! So I had 6 hours to myself in the Tica Bus Station. Now I had seen a Denny's coming into town and I decided I'd cab it out to this paragon of North American comfort foods. $30 later I was arriving back to the bus station with 3 hours left to go and I'd just about finished my book "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari".So I enquired about an internet cafe and luckily there was one just around the corner and I was able to use up another hour.This turned out to be the longest 6 hours of my life or so it seemed and I finally resolved to just go with the flow, finish my book then just wait patiently for the 1030 out of the absurdly expensive San Jose. My language skills being negligible at this point in my Central American journey made it all the more difficult for me to understand simple directions and coming off the bus in San Jose and not knowing the procedure,not having it explained to me in a language I could understand clearly was frustrating enough and I was tired and...oh well...this is what I signed up for wasn't it? The AC on the night ride was turned up so high that I needed jeans, tshirt, shirt AND jacket. Fortunately I had been forewarned about this and I had changed before I left the bus station. No trying to squeeze in and out of my clothes in a tiny little bus banos. We arrived at the border at 5am - one hour before opening so...3 hours later we pulled out of the Panamanian border for the 1 hour ride to David.
I had prearranged by email to stay the night at the Purple House Hostal and upon arriving I took a taxi for $2 to the this ridiculously Purple abode. The price was right and I was immediately beginning to see how relatively inexpensive Panama was. I had been told ahead of time but you never know until you get there. Turns out Panama is cheap, definitely appealing to my scottish background!
The Purple House had an interesting mix of people and I was the grand old man of the house by 9 years.Richard from Montreal was 50 and he proudly told me he'd visited 34 countries including Iran. Several couples traveling separately were from the UK and we had some inspired conversations around the make shift patio tables.
One of the girls arriving that afternoon was from Victoria and had been volunteering in Granada. At this point I had been in touch with my friends Joe and Betsy only by email and had no idea just how close they lived to where I was at this point in my travels. Monday morning, just 3 days ago I found myself making arrangements by bus to Boquete and meet Joe.Betsy was on a cruise with her mother and Joe was batching it for 2 weeks.
Joe and Betsy were old friends from Victoria who'd spent the last several years in Costa Rica. 6 months ago they moved to Panama after purchasing 5 acres of land midway between David and Boquete.Now David is practically on the Pacific coast.Boquete is 25 miles north and 3600 ft above sea level.Where my friends had built was 1100 ft., 35 miles from the Pacific and 45 miles from the Caribbean and just a little bit cooler than David,especially at night. Boquete however could sometimes be quite cool and sweaters and long pants were often required as they were on Monday when I arrived. The bus ride from David was an old school bus but had a state of the art sound system blasting Salsa music at top volume and only cost $1.45 for the hour long trip! Joe had agreed to meet me at a restaurant called Amigos (!)After lunch Joe invited me back to the Yurt they'd set up on the property...and what a beautiful piece of property it is! As I sit here listening to some music and writing my blog I can here the river outside my window and I 'm looking at a park like setting with palm trees the likes of which I'd never seen live before arriving in Panama. Joe and Betsy have done a great job of hewing a beautiful paradise out of the jungle that was here only 6 months earlier and now they had raised the Yurt and were building a casita or little house underneath making it 2 stories and 2 separate abodes.I have been able to stay here all this week , giving me a chance to rest and catch up with myself as the heat here is relentless. It has also given me a chance to decide that this is where I'm going to stay for the next month or 6 weeks.I checked Craigslist and immediately located a one bedroom condo in a gated 11 condo complex with a pool.
So, for the next month through Christmas and New Years I will remain in David and explore this beautiful stable and relatively safe country.
During my last week I will, have to make my way back to Managua for the long flight home but first I want to see Leon and have one last visit with my friends in SJDS.
I promise there will be lots of pictures on my blog eventually.Once I figure it all out......