Bad ceviche, bull riding and border crossings…

Travel is not always beautiful panoramas and fruity drinks. Here is one such tale…

The last time I found myself in Bocas Del Toro, Panama I had arrived by plane from Panama City.

On the return, our flight was canceled 3 times due to “lack of passengers”. Our 10am flight finally left around 6pm. I knew traveling to Bocas could be an adventure, and was prepared for such.

Enter this ceviche.

Leslie started first. Vomiting in the early evening. Feeling fine, I ventured out for some Pepto for her, and a quick dinner for myself – a couple street kebabs. Mmmm…

My troubles started during the night and, sparing the gory details, from the other end.

Neither one of us slept a wink, alternating trips to the pot.

Our bus to the Panama border was scheduled to arrive at 8am. I could feel my dinner still sitting high in my throat and thought it best to “alleviate that pressure” before boarding the bus.

Future disaster averted. Dehydration setting in.

Bus one took us, at break neck speed, through the twists and turns of southeastern Costa Rica en route for the Panama border. It was all we could do to maintain our composure during this ride.

We arrived at the border and our driver, upon seeing the unusually massive line, gave us instructions for dividing and conquering.

I would pay the exit taxes. Leslie would take the bags and stand in the customs line.

The sun is blazing. We are both nauseous.

30 min or so later, taxes paid, I venture up the small hill to the customs shack to meet Leslie.

I arrive to find her doubled over in pain. Weakness from the nights festivities has set in and neither one of us have eaten. We are barely keeping water down at this point, advancing the dehydration.

We wait in the hot sun as the border guards take passports back to their quarters in small groups. 30 min or so later we are off to the immigration desk. But first, the bridge crossing.

Leslie has to stop no less than 3 times during this walk, barely able to keep moving forward.

Another hot line, another 30 min, and off to another bus.

Smaller, our bags are strapped to the top of the bus. Every seat is occupied. Surfboards fill what little room is in the aisle. 60 more min of undulating, twisting torture.

We arrive at Almirante, the sleepy village on the eastern coast of Panama. United Fruit Company all but built this town for the soul purpose of banana trade. This is where we pick up our water taxi. Dozens of these old outboard skiffs taking brave souls across the Caribbean to the various islands that make up Bocas Del Toro.

Bananas. Bananas. Bananas.

30 more minutes in a wave pounding water taxi. Hard plastic seats. Zero energy. No room to reposition.

If the look on these passengers faces, and Leslie’s, don’t sum up this experience – I don’t know what could.

Finally. Bocas! But we aren’t staying in Bocas Town. We are on Playa Bluff, some 30 min northeast. Taxi time.

There are no roads. Just sand hills for driving. A half an hour more of smashing my head against the window, into Leslie, and back again. 30 min of bull riding. Yeehaw!

We arrive hungry, cramping and exhausted. But hey… we did arrive… and in mostly one piece, at least on the outside.

All told 5.5 hours from Puerto Viejo to Playa Bluff. We ordered some plain pizza and some juice to try and get our stomachs moving in the right direction.

Leslie is napping. I’m looking up the cost of charter flights back to Costa, and writing this post.

I’m sure like most vacation stories, someday we’ll look back on this day and laugh. Reliving the day we almost died of dehydration on a Panamanian bridge. Who knows, maybe we will recount the story over a bowl of ceviche….

See you on the journey.

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