Daily Archives: May 7, 2009

A look around David

Went down town this morning to look around at what David has to offer. I took a $2 cab ride to the bus terminal first to see where I would need to go to catch the bus to Almirante where you have to go to catch the water taxi out to Bocas del Toro. It’s on an island, you know.The terminal is a pretty good sized place and I thought it would be best to be prepared after having spent two hours in the wrong spot in Santiago my last trip.

I walked around the down town area for about an hour. David is the second (or third depending on which link you click on) city in Panama. Downtown is a bustling place crammed with small shops and large, too, for that matter. On the outskirts of downtown there is a KFC (gasp, choke), a Pizza Hut (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit), a TGI Fridays, a Do It Center (the Panamanian equivilant of Home Depot) and other larger chain stores.

But there’s only so much you can see on foot, so I decided to spend $10 on a taxi to drive me around. I figured an hour would be sufficient to give me a taste of the place and would stretch the limits of my Spanish knowledge if the driver didn’t speak any English. He didn’t.

I was semi in luck.  I asked how much he would charge for an hour of his time. If he said less than $10 I’d be a winner, but that’s exactly how much he said. Since I had decided before hand that that was an acceptable amount, if he thought he got one over on the gringo by asking for ten, then so much the better for both of us.

He drove me all around the downtown area which was a lot larger than I had thought walking around on foot and then we went a bit further afield through nearby neighborhoods and I got to see what the housing was like. Most of what he showed me was middle class, smaller homes that he said could be rented, when they were available, for around $150 to $200 a month. Quite similar to what equivilant housing goes for aroung Chitre and Los Santos.

I only took a couple of pictures downtown.

The fountain in the central park:IMG_0584

Tobacco for sale in the streetStreet Tobacco

There were eight or ten people on one side street selling this tobacco. Each bundle weighs about a half pound and the guy selling this quoted $4 a pound. Since I wasn’t in the market, and didn’t ask any of the other vendors I suspect that was probably a gringo price.

After wandering a bit more and getting a cheap lunch I hailed another cab to bring me back to the hostel. The driver was a young guy who spoke fairly good English. He had lived for about six months in Miami and for three months in Minnesota, working on a dairy farm. “Why,” I asked, “did you want to live in Minnesota?”

“I wanted to see what snow was like. Now I have and I don’t need to see it any more. It got down to 25 degrees below zero one morning. It took me about six months to thaw out when I got back home,” he said.

Across the street from the hostel where I’m staying was this old house. I thought the construction was interesting. It wasn’t typical of the houses in the area which are all modern but I suspect this is what they all looked like years ago:


I also find the flowers and trees down here quite fascinating, too. This is right in front of the hostel. Greg, the owner of the hostel says that all the branches are cut down each year at the end of the rainy season and then they spring back again when the rains start back. Unfortunately he doesn’t know what this tree is called.IMG_0587

Tomorrow I head to Bocas.

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Panama City to David (Dah-VEED)

Got up early, before six a.m. awakened by voices, loud voices, beneath my window of people leaving the building next door heading for work. Got everything packed and lugged my two bags down to the corner at Via Argentina to get a cab out to el Gran Terminal de Transportes (two hummingbirds buzzing around the flowers here at the hostel in David and they’re about three feet away from me as I’m writing this) at Albrook.

The first cab didn’t want to go there. The second guy wanted six bucks for a three buck ride. Then a lady driver, my first in Panama, agreed to the three bucks. I know the route having been there before in a cab and my friend Frank lives out that way, so what happened next wasn’t a rip off. Traffic, which is horrific under normal conditions was nearly at a standstill and I could easily have taken us more than an hour to get out there. And remember, she’d agreed to do this for $3. Also, there’s road construction going on around that area as well.

Her Spanish was rapid-fire, but I got the gist of what she was saying which was that if I’d pay the ninety cent toll she could get me out there in next to no time taking the expressway.  I agreed and so what if I paid $4 instead of $3. At least she was honest with me, and from my time of driving with the limo service I had  done the same thing myself. I would also, then, when picking someone up from Fort Lauderdale airport and having to deliver them to Boca Raton during rush hour, tell them we were going to go up A1A instead of that River of Death I-95. Sometimes they’d look askance at the suggestion but I’d tell them, “sit back and enjoy the scenery. I’d rather be driving along steadily at 35 mph on A1A than to be at a dead stop or crawling along at five or ten miles an hour because of an accident.

Anyway, I used my Pensionado at the ticket counter and paid $8.80 for the six and a half hour ride to David. Nice, huge Mercedes Benz bus. Air conditioned, comfortable reclining seats, television screens on which they showed two movies along the way (10,000 BC and The Last Samurai, in Spanish, of course). And it’s not a free for all boarding, either. You’re assigned a seat when you buy your ticket. Fortunately I had a window seat so I could watch the country side pass by.

The bus left promptly at 9:30 and instead of  going over the Bridge of the Americas:


We went over the New Millenneum Bridge:


The big difference between now and my trip down here in March is that the rainy season has commenced. Before everything was dry, dusty and brown. Now, though the rain hasn’t done anything to clean up the litter along the side of the road, everything is bright, vibrant green all the way to the tops of the mountains. And mountains there are. It is the Continental Divide.

We stopped off for lunch in Santiago for a half hour and then on for another two and a half hours to David. The scenery was beautiful going through the mountains.The indians shacks along the way were the first real indication of poverty here in the country. And a lot of these were shacks, indeed.

Probably the most depressing thing about Panama is that it seems their national passtime is throwing trash to the side of the road. It is one long, continuous line of crap for hundreds of kilometers on both sides of the road accentuated here and there by large piles of trash and garbage. It’s a shame, and if you take your eyes away from the distant beauty of the mountains and take a closer look you will see a national shame.


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