Friday 1 February 2013.
Highlights: Long Border Crossing, 50th country visited, Boat ride to our Island.
At 8 am we all assembled on time for our bus ride to the Panama border. Unfortunately the rain started at the same time we walked to the bus stop. Liza got me to ride with the bags in a taxi and I unloaded them and attempted to keep them all dry with some success.
There are no assigned seats on this bus so you just try to find something fast. A few locals ended up standing as we picked up more people along the way. James gave up his seat at one point and I offered mine to a young mother but she got a better offer at the same time.
The border crossing in Panama took a long time. Apparently there was an important soccer on which slowed down the crossing. After clearing the Costa Rican side you walk over this old bridge to Panama and try not to fall though some of the broken walkways. An interesting way to enter a country to be sure.
The entrance fee was $3 in either Panama or USA currency as the currencies are fixed together and either is fine to use. The border official claimed to not have change for my $5 USD but I feel that this might be a good way to keep the extra money.
Our private van on the Panama side had to wait a long time for us to get though, I think it was close to 3 hours from start to finish. The van ride than took about 40 minutes before we came to a town to change to a water taxi to our island for the next 3 days. The water taxi, which was a fun ride, took another 30-40 minutes. The hotel we were booked in had overbooked so a few of us including myself were moved to somewhere better overlooking the sea – nice!
There is an hour time zone difference going into Panama, this and the border delay meant we officially had lunch between 5 and 6 pm local time. In these circumstances dinner become a small snack to avoid overeating.
Border bridge crossing