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.