In a handful of hours, Sam, Chrystel, and I will be in the air flying between Panama and Colombia. Yes, in the end, we finally gave in and decided to take a plane, rather than a boat. It was not without an enormous amount of effort, though. We trekked all over Panama — and I quite literally mean all over — looking for a boat to take us into Colombia. Last you heard, we were headed to Colón, which is over on the east corner of the country. Once we got there we met a friendly guy who took us all over the city, from port to port, searching for a vessel. The only one we could find was a cargo ship, which couldn’t take us legally because there was no immigration there for us to do the paper work. Never mind that the captain offered to do it himself for an extra $1500.
Nope. Sorry sir. I’d like to stay out of jail, thank you.
Therefore, we took the long bus ride all the way back to the terminal in Panama City. We decided to spend the night there, rather than go to a hostel again. It seemed like a splendid idea at first, to save money and all; but we found out that it’s against the rules to lie down, whether to sleep or otherwise. Needless to say, therefore, it was a long, uncomfortable night.
Finally though, morning did come to the rescue.
Somebody told us to go to a little island off the shore called Amador. It was connected by a land bridge, so we took a taxi. It turned out to just be a harbour full of rich people yachts. Not so much our type.
So we were then redirected to the fishing market on the edge of the city. There were heaps and heaps of boats there; but of course none of them were leaving that day because it was a weekend. Once again, we asked if there was any other place we might be able to find a boat, and we were directed towards Darien, which is on the other corner of Panama — the complete other side from where we’d gone the previous day.
So we readjusted the straps on our backpacks and made our way back to the bus terminal and caught one heading towards Darien, also easily known as the middle of nowhere.
After about seven hours of time on the bus, we finally got there, late in the afternoon. Yes, there was a boat; but no, we couldn’t board it. It turns out that we needed a special permission document to travel into Colombia by sea; and of course, the only place to acquire it was back in Panama city. Makes perfect sense.
Oh yeah, not only that, but at that point we also realised we’d lost one of our bags, which had my only pair of shoes, aside from the flipflops I was wearing. I’d left it on the bus that had dropped us off that afternoon. It was distressing. However, at the hostel where we decided to stay that night, we actually found it again, because that very same bus driver had decided to spend the night there too.
We spent part of the night in Darien, then took a bus at four in the morning all the way back to the terminal in the City. Seven hours, if you remember correctly. The terminal by that time had practically become our home. After eating our daily peanut butter and honey sandwiches; we set ourselves to trying to find YWAM Panama City — or YWAM Good Luck Trying to Find Us, as Sam so accurately termed it. Literally all day, all over the city, we searched and searched to no avail. At the end of the day, we finally went to the airport and bought tickets. (One hundred seventy dollars each ticket. I could not have been more proud.) At that point, though, we finally got in contact with the base. So we grabbed another taxi and again set out to find them. Naturally, of course, we had a taxi driver with no cell phone, and he had no clue where we were going. Let’s just say that we spent quite a few hours roaming the mountains, stopping at a pay phone every chance we got to get directions and reconfirm how far off track we were. We made it in the end, though, and spent a pleasant night at the base, before leaving again the next day and returning to the airport early because I’d accidentally made a mistake on one of our tickets; so we figured we’d come to the ticket counter, but they were closed. Now, we’re sprawled out on the floor making the best of our time til the counter opens at four tomorrow, to fix my error, and then depart at six in the morning.
I gripe a little about the blunders and difficulties just for fun and humour though. In all honesty, throughout it all, in the past five days we’ve had a spectacular time. Sure, we’re exhausted more often than not; but we’ve gotten to see so many different places; and we’ve met heaps of great people all along the way: We shared stories with other backpackers. We followed a feisty lady around the city for a while, we laughed and joked with taxi drivers and friendly strangers at the bus stops. We prayed for a few people here and there, and already we’ve seen actual miracles and supernatural healings. I’ll be sharing a few of those as I go along, most likely. All in all, it’s been fantastic; and despite the fact that it’s only barely been a week, all three of us have already recognised the difference this has made in each of us, which will now undeniably change us for the rest of our lives.
In any case, our next step is to arrive in Bogota, where I have an old friend waiting for us, whom I met three years ago in Argentina. We’ll start off there, then see where we wander off to next.