6/17/10 Crossing into Panama
Thursday, June 17th, 2010
This is the first day of my adventure. I’m up early and eager to go. I start at the top of the map, where it says home, drive to the border crossing at Sixoala and go through customs. Bringing a car out of the country and into another can be bit complicated, but I know what to do. I have to first, park my car and walk through the Costa Rican side of customs to get my passport stamped. Since I am leaving a week before my ninety days is up, that will be no problem. Next I go to the other office and show the papers I have to take the car out of the country. Previous to this I had to go to the closest big city, Puerto Limon, to get special papers showing that I do indeed own the car. The papers are good until the 27th, so that will work out just fine also. After that I’ll go get my car and drive the rickety bridge over the Sixaola river.
On the other side the first thing that happens is the car is sprayed. As soon as you come off the bridge you drive through the spray area. there is no forewarning. If your windows are open you are S.O.L. Then they rush you out of your car and spray the inside. This is where my border challenge will occur. I do not want the inside of my car sprayed with that nasty stuff. It’s made from toxic chemicals, which kill bugs. I have no bugs and I don’t want to be exposed to it. So here’s the idea. Before I drive across I find the guy that I “over bribed” last time to help me get across. There are guys who work the borders, guiding people through – independent contractors, you might say. The firs time I took my car through, I was overwhelmed. This guy helped me out a lot. I’ll find him this morning and see if he can give five bucks to the guy who sprays, to make him pass me by. Of course he’ll get five, too. But it will be worth ten dollars not to be toxified.
On the Panama side I’ll have to pay for the entry of my car. Then I drive down off the bridge road to a little shop where I must buy car insurance for fifteen dollars. I leave my car there, go back up to customs, get my passport stamped in one office and pay my tourist fee in another. Finally I’ll be free to be on my way.
I’ll be driving from the border crossing to Changuinola, where I’ll stop to pick up a few things. Changuinola is a bustling little merchant town where many people cross from Costa Rica to get a better deal on just about everything. Cars, buses and taxis, shoppers, venders and dogs in the street and a million junky stores with music blaring from every direction are all crowded into about six blocks. It is a typical third world city.
All along the drive are banana plantations. They go on for miles. As far as you can see.
The blue bag protects the bananas from birds and bugs.
I will continue on my journey, straight down the yellow line on the map, to David. On my map it looks like a straight shot, but in reality I’ll be driving up 7000′ windy, mountain roads and across the Cordillera de Talamanca. This is the high mountain spine that runs through the center of Central America. I expect to reach the city of David by dinner time, where my friends will be waiting for me.