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Sunday, November 3, 2013

GETTING THERE IS NOT HALF THE FUN

APOLOGY

Sorry if this is a little choppy but that's what happens when a) I get off a boat after a week  b) I've had no access to wifi to publish the blog in two weeks with things actually happening  c) I'm feeling really funky.



JOURNEY TO PANAMA

Blowing through Panama and Costa Rica.  Gosh, I'm glad I sped through these countries.  They look like a slightly (20%?) cheaper and much much shitter version of the USA.  Beware when you see 'Outback Steakhouse' and such - means you are in an expensive zone.

Like the bus to Costa Rica, the bus to Panama makes no stops.  This makes for a slightly shorter and much more hellish trip.

Even if the bus is late, it may not affect your arrival if crossing the border.  The border is - believe it or not - closed during the night.  Why this is, I do not know.  Why the bus speeds there to make people stand around for a couple hours waiting for it to open is also a mystery.

While we were at a border, I managed to pass off a dollar I'd picked up somewhere that had some random markings on it.  Stained or done by some idiot with a pen or a stamp.  The guy selling drinks didn't want to take it but when I told him 'no problemo' and offered the drink back he found it in his heart to accept the bill.  Remember, the higher denomination of bill, the harder it is to pass along an imperfect one.  This is because uneducated people think perfect bills are less likely to be forgeries.  Sad.

Found out the 'executive seat' (ie first class) I'd bought was on a bus that offered nothing but.  When they are all 'first class', none are.

At around midnight, I had to do a foray to the bathroom.  Playing the 'cowboy game' (peeing standing up just hoping to get some in the toilet) is even harder while breaking and accelerating wildly as well as random swerves side to side.  How do you win this game?  By not peeing on yourself.  Or being a woman who has to sit on the toilet.

If some huge cereal crusher ever grabs me by the throat, slams me into a brick wall and growls into my face "Have you ever been in a small box shaken harder than a 6.0 earthquake while trying to pee into a small hole?"  I can stare that big brute in the eye and say "Yes I have."  And when he screams into my face with breath that can bleach bricks "And did you hit that hole?"  I can smile and say "Only by accident."

Of course we'd been told 'pee pee only' on this extremely long (either 12 or 24 hour - can't remember) bus ride as the toilet was broken.

That's luxury bus rides for you...

Panama style.



ENTRY INTO PANAMA

Getting into Panama is no joke.

For some reason I can't figure out, they think people will want to stay there.

My e-mail confirming my sea journey in the most preemptive and basic way was closely scrutinized.  They then asked for proof I had 500 USD.  Rather than making myself a target for a later mugging followed by rape followed by having my throat slit followed by having my corpse violated in unspeakable ways, I just held up my debit card.

The border guard then asked if I had my account statement.

His superior caught me giving his lackey the 'are you fucking nuts' look and came over and told his lackey to let me pass.

In terms of time spent at a border crossing, this was one of the worst.

But wait - there's more!

Everyone from the bus was then taken into a room with tables in a circle.  We were told to place our luggage upon the tables.  The guy who looked like a teacher then locked the door and did...roll call.

You'd better believe it.

It was the most tedious thing ever - especially since many of my fellow passengers seemed to have forgotten the fake name they were traveling under.

Eventually, the roll call was complete and then the bags were searched.

Well, actually, just by the teacher guy who did the roll call.  The other guys, including the one I had just ticked off the bags and told us to go out the other door.

I felt a bit bad for the people who had the teacher madly going through their bags in the most inefficient search I've seen in a bit.

Sad.

Eventually, I got dropped off on some street in Panama City.

A cab driver named Michael, fearing I would have all of my gear stolen picked me up and took me on the most expensive cab ride I've ever had - $55.  To be fair, it was hours of driving.  With a stop for food.

Eventually, we got to 'Hostel Wunderbar'.  Way, way out in the fucking middle of nowhere.  Really, extremely 'what the hell am I doing here' remote.

For the last couple days, I've stayed in 'Hostel Wunderbar'.  It's not.  This is one of those kind of places that has to trick people into staying there.  They aren't located near anything you want to do or see nor even close to where the boats leave - despite what they tell you.  And it's a noisy refurbished 1970's shithole.  With no wifi.  Despite them having a web page and answering e-mails.  Only the owners computer is allowed to touch the connection.  No, you can't touch the computer as you will cause evil spirits in the form of little understood 'viruses' to enter and destroy the computer.

Hell, I had to walk a couple hours to get wifi.  Not good.  Yes, I'll put a review on trip adviser about this later.  Like as soon as I get my passport back.  More on that later.

The choices you have for a room are $20 for one with mosquito netting next to a pool table or an uncomfortable 1970's style roomwith AC for $30.

Not only are they doing renovations on the building (ever ongoing) but they have a shop for doing work on boats.  You will get woken up at 7AM by machine shop crap.

One of the rough things is when an ATM tells you "Transaction cancelled by your bank" and then it tells your bank "Yeah, he got the money".  Oh, that is happy fun time when you have no easy access to wifi.  Skype saved the day, however.

People who want to 'get away from it all' either have it too rough where they're at or no fucking clue what that means.

The owners have an attitude that you are bothering them by staying there.  Why folks like this have a hostel is one of the great mysteries of life.

While there, I met up with two Swiss guys who were going to be taking the same boat as I.  Due to being lied to by the owners of Hostel Wunderbar, they thought it was going out a day sooner than it was but whatever.

So, we banded together and left that wretched place and went to Captain Jacks in Portobello Panama.

Captain Jacks is a decent though pricey hostel.  Their beers cost $2 each and a bed in the dorm about $13 or $15.  It is not great but not horrible either.  The food is very expensive ranging from $9 to $18.  This place is frequented by some fairly outlandish characters.

Fortunately, we (the two Swiss guys, I and an American we met at the hostel) got to meet our captain in the flesh here.  It turns out the boat was leaving from the town Captain Jacks is in, not the Hostel Wunderbar one hour away we'd been led to believe.

The next day, we would be starting our sea voyage!

Next blog entry, "Logan goes to sea".



CENTRAL AMERICA WRAP UP

Overall, I didn't really enjoy my time in Central America.  Most of it seems pretty trashy and it's priced way beyond what you get for your money.  Before you say "Oh Logan" I'd like to point out that many other tourists have echoed this.  So piss off.

I can't foresee any circumstances that would bring me back to Central America but now at least I can make an informed decision not to go there.



SEASIDE PHILOSOPHY

There seems to be a correlation between how trashy places are and how close they are to the sea or ocean.  This can only be overcome through grossly overpaying.



KINDLE PHILOSOPHY

It's weird because you can put every book you want to read - perhaps even will read on an easy to store Kindle.  People seem to have a lot of resistance to them.  "I just like the feel of paper." they tell me.  I'm wondering if another generation or two needs to die before people start to 'get it' - like with those people who were too suspicious of computers to ever use one.  We'll see.



VIDEOS

Pouring rain



JOKE

"How do you take your coffee?"

"By force, if necessary..."



COSTS

Tica Bus station:  For a small cup of coffee and a hot dog preserved from antiquity, 3.50 USD.  You can also rent a hotel room at the bus station for 30 USD per night.

3 comments:

  1. You got a brass sack Logan. I was in Panama in the 90's via the US military, I had 2 buddies both Hispanic, fluent Spanish speakers,

    Very informative posts, keep up the adventure.

    ReplyDelete
  2. After your South American escapade are you looking at Africa and the middle east perhaps? what about some of the remote island country destinations?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks OgreV. I've got nearly 100 words in Spanish which does put it above my Indonesian. Woohoo! Honestly though, it is not as dangerous down here as people (and the internet) say. I've been in ghettos and if you can survive in one this is not that big of deal. I'm glad you are enjoying the posts. Sorry that I don't put up more stuff but only do when something is going on. Otherwise, you'd read a lot of "Logan sat in his room playing video games. Again."

    Jeremie: Yes, I am looking at Africa (again, third time lucky?) and middle east. No plans yet but it may be possible to fly at a reasonable expense (450 BPS) from Brazil to S Africa. Not sure. The problems with islands are: a) if you don't like where you are at, you can't jump on a cheap bus and zoom to somewhere better. Boats cost more and are more complicated (due to tides, incompetency and so on) to use. b) everything costs more in an island environment. Lots more - it all has to be shipped in. Unless its a really big island like Australia. Which is still expensive as hell. c) everything is more shabby and crappier on an island (look how nice the ocean is) unless you multiply the cost up. So dubious about islands at the moment.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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