I am tight in my stomach when I get up this morning. J&D have their car, but I have to return to the Aduana in the morning to get my keys and have an custodian with me in the car to make sure I leave the country today. `
I take Lola for a walk, after which the four of us have a quick breakfast in J&D’s room because the hotel breakfast wouldn’t be ready until 7:30, and we need to leave by 7:15 to get to the Aduana by 8:00, our appointment time. We are packed and stuffed (their car is mini-mini; they have luggage and camping equipment, Lola, me, and two backbacks) in the car by 7:15. We have a little trouble getting our coordinates on our i-phones for the GPS (bad sign—I’m looking at signs now), but Daria gets hers working and we are off.
J&D are friends and true Christians. They are generous enough to hang with me until I get my car, when I know they both need to be back in San Jose CR three days ago. But they know what could happen with the Aduana with my less than perfect Spanish and the tricks the Panamanian Land Pirates (Jeff’s phrase—thank you, Jeff) might have up their sleeves: like we don’t make it by 8 sharp, so they have to fine us another $300.
We get there by 8:10. Since I had paid them $500 for essentially nothing (and J&D, $500, and Noah, $5000), the customs people are reasonably efficient. By 10:00, they have printed out the necessary papers, all three of them, we have signed them, they have found my keys, and that more or less is the end of Panama—you can bet I’m never going back, unless I can drop into Boquete by parachute.
For these two hours plus, Daria sticks with me, while Jeff walks Lola up and down the street. She had become stressed as soon as she had seen the sign for the Aduana. (This is one smart dog).
So by 10:30, we are ready to leave. J&D and I and Lola say good-bye. This is sad. We have known each other for only four days—but we have known each other in adversity and shared a lot. They have done so much for me. I think Jeff is hoping I might convert within this time, but his mind is expansive, and I think he is Ok that I bow my head and say amen (and really mean it). We are now friends forever. Their USA home is only an hour away from Black Mountain, the home of my close friends, Myron and Ginny. When I go to Black Mountain, I’ll hang a left and visit them for a couple of days.
So Martin (my custodian) and I take off for the border. I use this as an opportunity to practice my Spanish, and within a short time, I find out that he is on his third wife, has four children, and has gotten an 18-year-old girl from Panama City pregnant, expecting in December, and that there have been many conversations and tears shed over this problem.
After a few more private conversations, which I think I should not discuss (vaguely concerning potency, because Martin is 58 and having some problems with his 18-year-old girlfriend), we hit the border. Martin had secretly (he thought), communicated with one of the border rats named John, who is there to meet at the border. Martin takes me through the Panama exit side by showing his badge (lesson; create an infraction; get fined; pay $500; get escorted; have the escort run interference on the home frontero side), and then John takes over.
John’s a big guy, 6-2 or so, unshaven, about 280. He doesn’t speak English, but my Spanish at this point is moving along, so we do all right until we hit the animal problem. The official couldn’t find the right stamp for my exit coming down from Nicaragua to Panama (it was on another document because the Nicaraguan people had a problem with my official document). I finally understood what their 45 minute problem was and dug up the missing document. Then everything seemed to be settled, and we walked back toward the Costa Rica customs. On the way there, John says he needs 20 to pay off the bribe for the animal guy and 25 for him. After some initial haggling, I give him 40 and get into the Costa Rican customs line—which was, by the way, confusing—Central American lines don’t operate like British queues.
The final step goes more or less smoothly, slow, but smoothly. The customs official is cool and patient. There is some back and forth about a stamp for Lola, but he finally decides to forget it (maybe someone told him the bribe was in), and so I am off. I was sooooo glad to say good-bye to Panama.
This southern part of Costa Rica is beautiful. I LOVED driving—the love accentuated by how the pirates had imprisoned me. Suddenly free is more than free.
I dricv slowly to treasure the driving. I get into the driving zone (going slow, a bit of a reverse from Neal Cassidy). I stop at 11:30 at a hotel in Neilly, where I had stayed on my way down. I had struck up a friendship with Patricia Alverez, who works there. While at Cocoloche, I had been chatting in Spanish with her using hangout in order to improve my Spanish. I think about staying at the hotel again and visiting Patricia for a couple of hours, but I REALLY want to be on the road. So I back up and get on the road.
That is a wager. My friend’s hotel is very nice, Lola friendly, and $20.00, but I am in the traveling mode. It is too early to quit driving. I am betting I will find another good hotel on my way to San Jose. I want to drive until about 3:00 and then I will start looking for hotels con perros.
This drive is lovely. I drive through mountains, canyons, rainstorms, places I had never been. I hit an intersection at about two that is a hotel/cabin zone in a canyon. There are several hotels or cabins that would be pet-friendly but I just can’t quit driving.
So three comes—lovely driving but in the middle of nowhere. Nooooo hotels. I’m into my usual narrative: Lola and I can always sleep in the car. At about four, I’m getting serious. I’m looking for flat land spots and wondering whether I can ask someone whether I could camp there.
At five, I hit San Isidro. On the main street, this is one ugly town, signs, signs, signs. Seriously ugly, like an anal perspective of Las Vegas. I stop at a Casino hotel (guards, gates) and ask the guard for a hotel que permite perros. He points me toward one tres kilometers on. I go tres kilometres, no hotel; ask again in a construction site. Un hombre points me to a different hotel directo, y al derreccha,. It takes me a few more stops and questions to find the hotel, but I find it. The desk clerk (as always) is polite, pero no hay habitacionnes porque hay un grande conferencia in town. He says, not a good idea to keep on toward San Jose, 2.5 hours away. No hotels. He says go to la playa, 45 minutes. Muchos hoteles alla.
Well, this is a bit of a side track. I could have taken the playa (beach) road some time back and saved me an hour. But I listen to him and head for la playa. Lovely road. Twisting. I see a hotel. I stop and ask, No, lo siento, No hay habitacionnes.
After about twenty minutes out of town, I see an advertisement for a restaurant and cabanas. I pull over and ask, hay habitacionnes?
I love this little cabin. Lola does too. It is beautiful, high and overlooking the town and mountains.
We might stay for another day.
As always, I don’t know what to make of this. Jeff would say the Lord’s watching over me. I think I’m putting myself out there, and life snaps back.
Goto Day 7: Gathering Events