Category Archives: Panama

Panama, Panama, Panama

Bee Says: We arrived into Panama City on a tidal wave of adrenaline. Fresh from our 8-seater aeroplane landing, and filled with relief that we had finally MADE it, that we had (just) survived the most uncertain and adventurous section of our trip and successfully made it from Colombia to Panama. Checking in to our hostel, Mamallena – the sister hostel of the one we spent Christmas at Cartagena in, we noticed helicopters regularly swooping out over the Panama City canal, costing a few hundred dollars a pop, and basked in the thought we had just got the exact same view for a fraction of the price. We had a much deserved beer and fell asleep. The next morning I woke up and couldn’t stop physically shaking… I have never experienced anything like it before. I had a gnawing anxious feeling and could barely brush my teeth because my hands were quivering so much. Nick was shaky too, he looked completely wan and pale, and his back was still so sore he could only comfortably lay on the floor. It didn’t take me long to Google diagnose that we were actually both suffering from some sort of shock reaction to our ordeal. The whole time we’d been on the border crossing journey, we had to stay focused and tough it out… now we were safely ensconced in Panama everything had hit us like a wall. I think I felt particularly floored by it, as I’d had to be strong for both of us, carry our backpacks etc, and at the same time felt entirely responsible for Nick and his health and worried sick about whether he would get better. It was time to call in the big guns and so first I rang my parents who instantly ordered me to go out and buy ice creams, hot chocolate and any manner of treats to cheer us up and induce a sugar high! I then skyped my sister Jess. She sat through about an hour of my recounting the story, snivelling, ugly crying and bawling about the situation, and wailing “even my backpack has become infested with giant aaaaannnts” before she announced that was it. She was booking us into a hotel for a few nights. It was time to get somewhere comfortable for Nick, where he didn’t have to walk 5 minutes to a communal (cold) shower and somewhere we could be looked after, rather than having to make a million decisions a day.

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I think by that stage we just needed someone wonderful with an outside perspective to point out how much we needed just a little luxury! We tend to get so fixated on our shoestring budget that we hadn’t even considered something as decadent as a HOTEL especially over the busy New Years Ever period. By that night, my sister had found an incredible deal (only about $20 a night more than our hostel!) at the Double Tree Hilton. On the morning of New Years Eve we woke up in our hostel room, which to put things in perspective, was about a third of the size of our bathroom at the Hilton!, and I made us DIY pancake breakfast. Mamallena is a great hostel and any time usually it would have suited us ideally, but another reason we were glad to escape is that before we could even manage a mouthful of syrupy goodness, we were being interrogated on our thoughts on Scottish Independence. We had attracted the attentions of a well-meaning but incredibly intense Venezuelan guy who loved nothing more than to chat world-politics at high octane pace and volume. The day before, as we physically couldn’t leave the hostel with Nick still broken, he’d cornered us for hours. And this is the type of person who even if you have headphones on and your nose wedged in a book, will still natter away! He was sweet but as we were already pretty frayed at the edges, we were very relieved to be hopping in a taxi away from all that. He helpfully  told Nick he may never get full-mobility back and may lose use of his legs (!) as we checked out!

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Ahhh our Hilton hotel self-inflicted prison, it was DREAMY. Panama City is hot hot hot, peaking at 40 degrees, and it was glorious to enter our air conditioned piece of paradise. We had huge baths, we snuggled up in our fluffy toweling robes and chomped on the homemade cookies that are presented to you upon your arrival. We had great fun creating our own mini-bar of exported America snacks from a supermarket over the road. We certainly weren’t backpacking anymore!

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Nick Says: Reeling from the damage to my back, Jess’s kind gesture was the perfect thing we needed. We had done over 3 months constantly on the road, with little to no home comforts. On my last big trip, which was 9 months, it was broken up every few months by living in an apartment for an extended period of time. We’d had nothing like that, and in addition to hitting the traditional 3 month wall (after 3 months of fast paced travel we were feeling the burn) we were obviously in physical and emotional shock. So being given a free delicious cookie every day and taking three baths (it was for my back, honest) was the perfect antidote. Now, I hear Panama City is one of the destinations to go this year. It may be amazing, but what we saw of it over our time there was basically just a big modern city with no real notable differences from hundreds of other cities. It was novel for us as we’d not been in a big Western style city for a looong time, but as a place to go I wouldn’t be hurrying back. If you know different though, please let us know!

However, it was our choice of destination for NYE, and we wanted to make the most of it. When originally planning on where’d we be, we had imagined Latin American street fiestas, dancing in the streets, fire works over the canal, and all night parties. Realising we had to adapt to our current situation, we decided to downgrade a bit. We’d read there was a rooftop bar on our hotel, so we fixed to go up there and watch the fireworks with a cocktail in hand. Except for the fact there was no rooftop bar, it was the perfect plan. So instead we went up to the roof with beers and chatted to a nice French-Canadian guy called Seb. But then I got pretty tired from all the painkillers I was on, so went down to the room to find that the Indiana Jones trilogy (let’s all just ignore the 4th one) was on cable. So next thing I knew I was in bed watching it, then I was asleep. At about 10pm apparently. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Our next few days in Panama City followed the same basic pattern, relaxing, bathing, taking small walks to get me mobile again, and going to this incredible Greek restaurant called Athens we’d had recommended to us. We’ve become pizza connoisseurs of a sort on this trip, and this bad boy was one of the very best. Coupled with the laid-back atmosphere, and friendly staff, and this place was a gem. However, all good things must come to an end, and so it was we decided to move on and see some more of Panama. Our chosen destination was Boquete, a highland town in the north. Declared one of the best places to live by Time magazine several years ago, it’s now THE destination for Americans to retire to. You cannot move there for the silver haired crowd. It’s a stunningly beautiful destination though, so you can see why.

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Hiking, rafting, zip-lining, and horse-riding are the order of the day in Boquete. So that meant I couldn’t really do much. My back had got worse after the 8 hours of travel, and I was getting pretty down to be honest. Maybe the crazy Venezuelan guy was right?! Luckily though, Bee had booked us into one of the best guest-houses we’ve been too – Valle Primavera. Run by the frankly saintly Nevys, it really felt like we were back at home being looked after. Sadly crutch bound after damaging her ankle, once she learnt about my back she wasted no time in recommending me an American chiropractor who lived nearby. With the average age of the residents, he must be doing a roaring trade.

Dr Dru kindly fitted us in for the next day, which was a Sunday (I got the feeling it was a massive favour to Nevys). While Bee went for a much needed massage with Dr Dru’s wife, I went into the good doctors operating room. He was not what I expected at all. Young and super friendly, he chatted away about his and his wife Jasmine’s last few years of backpacking through Central America, including running a hostel on the Corn Islands, where we hope to be in a few weeks. He was full of great advice, and also seemed to get straight to the root of my back problem. Using Soviet lasers to help heal the muscles (he did explain this properly to me, but all I took away from it is that the commies developed it in the 80s for their athletes) I started to think positive thoughts again. it was also surprisingly pain free, which was not what I expected. But how mistaken I could be. As he lulled me with travel talk, he was manipulating my back (which he later confided to me was in a horrific way) and then suddenly pushed down on my vertebrae, hard. I screamed and almost fainted.

Bee Says: I was having a great time with Jasmine, who reassured me that despite the gruelling effect travel has on your back (heavy bag, cramped buses, hours of hammock lazing) mine was in reasonable shape, probably because I have kept up my yoga. I was just starting to nod off when a huge roar from downstairs had me startled into a sitting position! The only only time I had heard that noise from Nick was when he originally hurt his back on the boat. Luckily, five minutes later I could hear him laughing, so knew that I didn’t have to go and beat Dr Dru up and carry Nick out over my shoulder. Our appointments ended and back at Valle Primavera I could already see a marked improvement in Nick’s posture and a decidedly less amount of wincing as he moved around. Thanksfully, this has only improved and little by little, he is resembling his usual fit self and less the crinkly American retiree residents of Boquete.

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Even without being able to hike into the mountains, we could still appreciate the beautiful cool air, the lush green trees and the clouds that clung to the town like cotton wool. We did plenty of walks… but they mainly were to and from two places. The first was sugar and spice, home of the most incredible baked muffins and good wifi, so we could download the latest episode of Sherlock. Joy! The second was Mikes International Grill, which was always showing American sports, one night we got to watch the Super Bowl qualifier amongst rowdy fans. This was obviously the local spot for most Americans, and served up fantastic BBQ and cheap beers. One night as I sat munching Buffalo wings and Nick chowed down on The Hog (pulled pork), two gentlemen sat down next to us. Almost immediately we overheard one of them say the conversation was too confidential to have at the bar (…so you chose to come and have it next to two nosy blog-writing Brits?!) and they then proceeded to have the shadiest chat we have ever heard. There were code words, there were meaningful nods and eyerolls, there were squeezes of the shoulder. We have since become convinced they were organising a hit man, but perhaps they were just attempting to swap retired-person rose-gardening tips without losing their macho cool?

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We arrived in Boquete a little bit broken. We had definitely lost our travel mojo and a giant question mark still hung over the rest of our trip, as Nick needed to be a) reasonably active and b) able to carry his backpack before we proceeded too far with our itinerary. It really was Neyvs and her mum (mamalita la bonita!) who got us back on our feet and ready for action once more! They were the Michael Caine Alfred to our Christian Bale Batman. Serving us breakfast on their little porch, helping me create regular ice packs for Nick, helping us plan our route to Costa Rica, nothing was too much trouble for them. One day as we sat chatting an English-Spanish mixture on the porch, mamalita asked if she could sing to us! About 30 cm from our faces she burst out in perfect Spanish opera and sang about four numbers before taking a little bow. It was surreal, but so special! Then she announced to Nick “You are very nice”. (he is, you know).

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We were sad to leave Boquete, but really felt like Panama had been our recovery room, and we desperately needed to get back into the travelling properly and start making the most of every day again. What better place to zing us back to life that Costa Rica… with its Disney-movie wildlife, cloud forests and paradise beaches. With a 5am start, a near-miss with waiting at the wrong bus stop, we were finally zooming away from Boquete in an old yellow American school bus. Next stop… San Jose!

 

 

 

Colombia to Panama Overland – Does Cheaper Mean Better?

Bee Says: As you may have guessed from our wildly ambitious 6 month schedule and the breakneck pace we have ploughed through South America: a driving force in our travel decisions has been to try as much as possible and to always opt for the off-the-beaten-track and less well travelled routes. This was the main reason behind a decision that we made early on regarding our pivotal crossing from Colombia to Panama (and therefore South America to Central America). The options to cross from Colombia to Panama are as follows:

1. Fly from one of the major Colombia cities to Panama City: Appx $300 per person.

2. Travel on a sailboat, taking a 4 day tour via the idyllic San Blas islands: Appx $400-550 per person.

3. The “newly safe” route via Capurgana (the Lonely Planet only declared it safe in September 2013, and have a full page spread in the latest South America on a Shoestring recommending it) that we opted for which consists of:

  • Travel to Turbo, a seedy town in the Golfo de Uraba in the north of Colombia. You will need to spend the night, in order to be at the dock bright and early the next morning to catch…
  • A lancha / panga (speed boat) that travels 3 hours to Capuragana, a beautiful Caribbean coastal resort. Another night here, and then…
  • A second speed boat 45 minutes into the first town in Panama: Puerto Obaldia where you will go through a lengthy customs search and interview, due to the fact this route is still occasionally used by drug smugglers.
  • In Puerto Obaldia you can link up to the 3-times-a-week Air Panama flights to Panama City (which you MUST book a seat on in advance, Puerto Obaldia is only reachable by boat or plane and as it´s sat in the middle of the Darien Gap… is not a place you want to find yourself stranded in!)
  • This route cost us (including all travel/accomodation) $147 per person.

On this trip, I have learnt that backpacking is a constant balancing act between budget, comfort and safety. There is a constant responsibility to stay within your financial means, but without cutting so many corners you endanger yourself. As you can see, taking the adventurous #3 route above was half the price of any other route and with the Lonely Planet heralding it as safe, we decided to take the plunge.

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We had been so excited to test out the new route and then to log on here and recommend it to our fellow travellers. Unfortunately, we are here to do the exact opposite. By reading our story you can make up your own mind, but I would advise everyone to AVOID this route at all costs and suggest that Lonely Planet on this occasion have woefully under-researched the journey. Safe is certainly not a word that springs to mind when I shudderingly re-live the experience.

Nick Says: On paper this trip sounded perfect – not very well travelled, lots of adventure, and a chance to save some mega bucks. It seemed like the type of trip I had enjoyed taking in the past, and got us off the luxury buses and flights we’d been taking recently. In fact, it was nice to have to think for ourselves again! We started nice and early on Boxing Day, getting to Cartagena bus station and finding transport for Monteria (there’s no direct route to Turbo, the destination of the day, meaning we had to do it in two stages). Once crammed aboard our tiny little bus, we set off on the supposedly 4 hour journey. A word to the wise, set off as EARLY as possible if you ever find yourself on this route. It takes forever! 5 hours later we were nowhere near Monteria, and the bus pulled into a nameless station. We were then all booted off and piled onto an even more smaller bus, where the previous 2 inches of leg-room felt like a luxury from a Shah’s royal palace. Bee took the opportunity to go to the loo, leaving me with a Spanish phrase to make sure they waited for her. Obviously cue the bus engine roaring into life, and me desperately repeating the phrase as they drove off with Bee still at the station! For some reason, the driver wanted to park the other side of the road. Slightly agitated now, I looked over in no small relief as a clearly bemused Bee was led by a guy I’d never seen onto our bus and back to me. I’m still none the wiser why it couldn’t just wait for her!

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A bumpy and dusty hour later we were finally in Monteria, and in the waiting arms of the bus touts. I didn’t think it was possible, but somehow these guys had found an even smaller bus to cram us onto for our next 4 hour ride – this time to Turbo itself. 6 more bumpy and dusty hours later, we arrived in darkness to our destination. Kindly dropping us at the hotel we wanted to stay at (which we’d been unable to contact before getting there) we set on our way, 12 hours after leaving our Cartagena hostel. We quickly found our hotel, bounded up the stairs, and found there were no rooms available. Dang. So we went back into the delightful streets of Turbo, but this time the guy behind reception came with us in order to show us another potential hotel. After pointing us in the right direction, we got there and found… no rooms. Hmmm. Turbo is not really the place you want to be stuck in at night with nowhere to go… We quickly walked back to the main drag praying something would turn up, and luckily the travel gods listened to us. I’ve found on almost every trip I’ve ever been on that if you place yourself entirely on the mercy of human kindness, you’ll never go wrong. Most people will genuinely want to go out of their way to make sure you’re ok. And so it was with Ron, the first hotel’s reception guy. He had followed us to the second hotel to make sure we were alright, and then spent the next 20 minutes personally escorting us around Turbo to find accommodation, even picking up another lost traveller en-route. Once he had completed his quest and safely deposited us (at a delightful hotel that possibly charged by the hour), he gave us a cheerful wave and was on his way. A true Christmas miracle.

Bee Says: We slept fitfully on our plastic sheeted bed, waking up at 6am and desperately keen for a shower. Only… this wasnt just an Aguas Caliente lie, this was an Agua in GENERAL lie, and we found the shower could only muster a few drops of dribble before giving up entirely. Therefore, as we trundled down to the dock, the main concern on my mind was how smelly I might appear to our fellow passangers. This soon took a major nosedive in terms of things to worry about! We had researched a few blogs prior to the trip, and the consistant piece of advice was to sit near the back of the boat, as the crossing is notoriously choppy. To be fair to Lonely Planet, they had hinted at this… claiming the ride was so bumpy “if you still have your teeth intact at the end of it, itll be a journey you never forget”. For this reason we were sat at the dock, names first and second on the passenger list, 3 hours before we departed therefore feeling confident about our chances at the back row. Sadly when the time arrived to embark, locals with ID cards were called to the boat first and snapped up the luxury back seats, leaving us and a couple of other travellers with the misfortune of foreign passports to be herded onto the dreaded front row.

Within moments of setting off, we had the sinking feeling we’d made a terrible mistake. The main problem was that it was a flimsy 30-seater power boat that had 3 whopping engines attached to the back (legal…?) and so once we set off the power was so strong that the front where we sat, was almost vertical! The ocean had a 3 metre swell  and storm clouds were swirling in, yet it soon became clear that the captain (in his waterproof mac and ski goggles) didn’t care about anything other than gunning the engine, getting us as fast as possible over that crossing and pocketing the money. This meant that every wave we hit, we were launched into the air and would come crashing back onto the wooden seats with a crack. This happened over and over. Locals were crying, people were screaming in pain, it was absolutely traumatising and a waking nightmare of collective fear. Waves came from every direction and every few minutes we would be launched so high off our seats that you’d have this sickening few seconds of total awareness before you landed of just knowing how much pain was about to course through your body… but there was nothing you could do to stop it. I have certainly never felt anything like it, and before long I was hunched over with every nerve ending from my head to the base of my spine shrieking. 

Because Nick is constantly putting my needs above his own, when he realised how wounded I was feeling, he twisted round to comfort me. He spent ten minutes just lifting me out of the seat to try and absorb the shock impacts himself. He sang little made up songs in my ear and whispered how brave I was being. It was at this moment that we got smashed by the hugest wave yet, sending Nick in his twisted position back into his seat with a crunch, swiftly followed by his agonising screams. Something was very wrong. We had a terrifying few minutes thinking he had broken his back or slipped a disc, and we were in the middle of nowhere with an hour left on this hellish journey. There was a small glimmer of fortune in that shortly after we pulled into a small fishing village to refuel, and at least we could check that Nick could stand and hobble, reassuring us slightly that he hadn’t broken anything. It wasnt reassuring really though, as he was white as a sheet and murmering in pain. As we boarded to set back off, we pleaded with the locals, but no one would give up their back seat for injured Nick (I dont blame them) so he had to take a seat next to the captain. He found the back less bumpy, but was absolutely drenched for the duration alongside his i-pod (sorry, k-pod) and Casio watch. Which do you think survived? Good old Apple! I remained upfront and had an agonising hour of being apart from Nick and having horrific imaginings that he was in so much pain he might faint and fall overboard, and generally fretting none stop that I couldnt comfort him or even see him.

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After what felt like forEVER we docked in Capurgana. The stories we began to hear from locals who noted Nick´s condition were fast-flowing and harrowing; ranging from the uncomfirmed reports that two weeks earlier 14 people were thrown overboard and some were left out at sea, the numbers of people who arrive with smashed teeth, ruptured spleens… oh and that days previously a Taiwanese lady was so injured, the military had to airlift her out (as the worst part is that Capurgana is so isolated it can only be reached by boat or plane – no roads) Take the tales with a pinch of salt, but it was shocking to hear that even the hostel owners and tourism officials raging so publicly about this cowboy operation!

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Nick Says: Now I’ve had my fair share of incidents while travelling – ribs broken by a Thai boxer, a night in the Darwin A&E dept, chased by wild dogs, attacked by Indian jungle bees, and a mishap with a pot-hole in Albania. But this was the most scary and painful of all. The pain was sickening, and coupled with the genuine terror that I might have done something permanent! So I almost wept with relief when I discovered I could still walk. i just couldn’t do much else. Seizing up and with limited mobility, we got ashore at Capurgana. Luckily my reservations I had fired off hopefully into the void several days earlier (and never heard back from) came good, and we were soon ensconced in Luz del Oriente, a fantastic hotel right by the dock in Capurgana. After settling into one of their Lord of the Rings themed rooms (ours was Gandalph. No explanation or apparent reason at all why this Caribbean resort had produced this small tribute to Tolkien), the owner provided us with ice for my back and the advice that I should get myself to the clinic for ‘the injection’. The fact that there’s a well known injection for people in my position and pain says it all really. So we hobbled into the ramshackle health hut, where a lovely Colombian lady doctor made sure nothing too bad had happened, and then invited in a nurse. Who proceeded to pull down my board shorts and stick a needle into my bum. So this was ‘the injection’. After handing over $20 for that privilege, I then received a prescription for lots of amazing drugs designed to help me, and settled onto the floor for two days of recovering before the next part of the trip.

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In any other context, Capurgana would have been a potential trip highlight. It’s a remote, unspoilt, Caribbean gem. The water looks lovely (and is apparently warm), the people are super friendly, and there a ton of activities to do. But not for me or Bee, who spent our time recovering from the trauma of our crossing. Unable to even dress myself, Bee had to become my carer. I could hobble down to dinner (where the table had to be dragged over to me, as I waited whimpering for food) but that was about the extent of my adventures. In fact the only good thing about my stay in Capurgana was that I was able to get an amazing hat with a crab on it to replace my poor Panama hat, which was another victim of the Turbo boat. When I had bought it we had jokingly put a bet on how long it would last. Neither of us expected a mere 4 days! He burned brightly and briefly.

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After what seemed like an instant, it was time to leave South America behind and enter Central America. It wasn’t really the way I had anticipated doing it, but it was dramatic. Using previously unsuspected strength, Bee managed to haul both our bags, both daypacks, and me down to the dock, where we got in a tiny motor-boat destined for Panama. What a difference a captain (and lack of three super-charged engines) make. Despite even larger waves, we skillfully weaved our way through the ocean with barely a bump. I think we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was even ready to let him off the fact he may be smuggling Class A’s along with us and our luggage. Within 45 minutes we were putting ashore in the tiny town of Puerto Obaldia, the first major settlment in Panama. Although there was really nothing major about it. I remember thinking that I couldn’t see where the airport would be, which was a worry considering Bee’s dislike of tiny aeroplanes… But these thoughts were quickly chased out of my head as we waded onto dry land (no docks here) and trudged into customs. Luckily we were prepared for how thorough they would be, otherwise it would have been a shock after the light-touch ways of the South American borders. We had to unpack everything we owned and show them to a stern looking man (cue confusion over what Bee’s contraceptive pill was. She finally explained in Spanish that it was for ‘no baby’ causing much hilarity for the woman queuing behind) who would flick through everything. It was a good opportunity to see just how much tat we’ve gathered up so far. I NEED that wooden ludo set dammit! Then we set on our way to the border control. What a difference a passport makes. We had travelled over with some Colombian tourists, and they had to provide print-outs of bank statements, $500 in cash, and answer quite a lot of questions. One look at our EU passport, and we were waved through without a care in the world. The Colombians were quite rightly a bit miffed, and asked why, which just made the official demand even less of us. I might have well have saved myself 50 quid on the Yellow Fever vaccination for all the good it’s done us here. Anyway, once through that gauntlet we could finally check in. Except it was hard to find the Air Panama office, There was this shack down a road with an Air Panama sticker on it, but that couldn’t be it could it? Well, obviously it was.

Bee Says: I like flying. I dont like small spaces. Get me on a standard Boeing jobby, the type we have zoomed around from the Galapagos, and I am a happy sky soarer. However, the thought of the teeny tiny propeller planes has always turned my stomach, to the point that we didn´t bother with the Nasca lines as I wasnt sure I had the guts to get in one. We had booked our flight to Panama City online and with Air Panama. We had been told the flights get busy, so I had assumed we would be getting a standard big plane that would be packed with passangers. The first hint that this might not be the case, was when we headed to the Air Panama shack, to check in our backpacks. They were weighed, and we turned to leave, when the local man (who turned out to do EVERY air related job single handedly, from check in, to baggage handling to donning a flurescent tabard and waving the plane in…) tapped me on the shoulder and explained that I needed to be weighed too. I laughed in his face! I thought it was a joke! From his frosty face I swiftly realised it was not a joke, and sheepishly stood on the scales whilst making horror-movie faces at Nick over my shoulder and saying through gritted teeth “JUST how SMALL is this plane if they need to weigh ME??”

Like good air travellers, we had given ourselves two hours to “get through” the airport. Turns out, in this case, the airport was an empty room with a fan in it, next to a landing strip. Oh and gaurded chummy Panamanian military man, who chatted away to us in Spanish whilst gesticulating wildly about the varying temperatures in North Panama. This would be great, except he regularly used his huge rifle to gesticulate with. Right at us. As we waited, a plane landed and out hopped a comically large number of soldiers from the tiny 20 seater vehicle. I looked at Nick and shook my head sadly. “No way can I get on that”. As it turned out, I should have begged them to let me in it, clinging to the wing and refusing to let go… because suddenly a tiny Hummingbird flew into view. Oh I’m sorry, an aeroplane disguised as a bird. It was SO SMALL. I didnt have time to freak out, as the pilot herded me into one of the EIGHT SEATS.

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We were lucky enough to be seated right next to the pilots, who both looked about 19, and spent the majority of the flight rotating between huge arm stretching yawns or rummaging around on the floor for a lost pen. Despite my doubts, I actually enjoyed alot of the flight. The views were incredible. Unluckily we hit a ton of thick cloud turbulance 30 minutes in, and I was the only female onboard to make it through the few-hundred-feet-drops without crying! Note how the man next to me is also weeping, leaving Nick to comfort his teenage daughter who was in a real state by this point. It is times like this that my Spanish homework really pays back, as I knew how to say to her “you are so brave” and I hope she believed it.

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The bumps werent fun, but I have to admit, the rest of the flight actually was! The most rewarding part was seeing Panama City suddenly jut out of dense jungle, and our pilots gave us a real sight seeing treat as they landed us with mindblowing views of the Panama Canal. By the time we landed I was on the biggest adrenaline high of my life and just gobsmacked that I had spent an hour in that tiny tincan of terror and hadn’t had a nervous breakdown, especially as I was still quite jittery after the boat of doom and fretting about Nick’s back! In fact, I would get in one again (maybe on a clearer day)… just maybe not for a few weeks. We have had quite enough excitement for a little while.

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Nick Says: We had been warned that getting through customs once at the airport in Panama City could take upwards of 4 hours. And so it was with only a little enthusiasm I greeted the announcement that we had to go into the special police offices behind a little door in arrivals. Luckily for us though, but unluckily for them, it was our Colombian travel buddies they were interested in. While they were both hauled in for lengthy interviews with a man with a gun, me & Bee sat around for half an hour, answered a question about when I was born (which I didn’t even understand) and then skipped on our merry way. After 4 days of travel, a near disastrous boat journey, and an adrenaline pumping fall through the skies in a tiny tin can, we had made it to Panama. We were in Central America.

Was it worth it? Well I guess we’re several hundred dollars better off and we’ll have a story we can tell forever (if we had flown the blog may have been a bit shorter), but overall I don’t think I’ll be repeating this particular trip. While not scared to get back in another speed boat, I’ve definitely got a healthy respect for them now, and will be demanding to sit at the back! Getting soaked is preferable to permanent back injury. We’ve also been told horror stories about the sail boats, although also some tales which made me want to do it too. So for ease of use, and most importantly safety, we would recommend you fly from Colombia to Panama (or vice-versa). I love pushing myself, and love travel adventures, but at the moment this trip is too dangerous for us in good conscience to say go for it. I hope they sort the boats out between Turbo and Capurgana, and I really hope nothing bad happens anytime soon there. Although I think it already may be.

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