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2017 FEB - PANAMA CITY to THE PACIFIC COAST

We bus to Santa Catalina and lazy away the days.

sunny 30 °C

DAY 9 TUESDAY 14TH FEBRUARY

Needless to say your Valentine flowers and cards did not reach us as we have left town.

The alarm went off at 6am. We got up (it was kinda light outside), had a cup of coffee and tea and were out the door with our luggage by 7am. We had heard Super Mario arrive earlier in his tic tic taxi so we got him to take us to the bus station, as today we are leaving Panama City and heading for a little village on the Pacific Coast. Taxi was just US$4 to get us to the Albrook Mall bus terminal where we purchased the bus tickets last Friday. Traffic was minimal and we arrived at the bus terminal before 7.30am for the 8.20am bus, they requested we be there one hour before departure.

Now we did actually have a slight problem which was one of those times that added to my grey hair collection. When we purchased the tickets last Friday I had inadvertently requested the wrong departure date. Not being able to speak Spanish to the ticket seller I had written our destination on a piece of paper with the date we wanted, but I had written the 11th instead of the 14th. Problem was I did not realize this until late in the night of the 10th so there was no time to do anything about it. I said to Lyn we will just go and show up on the 14th and play stomme!

When we arrived at the terminal a guy yelled out our destination and we were escorted to the correct bus, our luggage loaded down below and we took our seats inside. We were one of the first passengers in the bus as we were early as requested. As time when on the bus started to fill up and my nerves started to relax as I thought we were ok with the ticket that I had doctored from 11th to 14th, very easy to change 11 to 14. So by about 8.10 the bus was full and the ticket collector came around to collect everyone's ticket, taking ours with no problem. Minutes later he returns to the bus yelling out what I presume was a questionable ticket number - our ticket number of course. After no one answered his call of course he goes up to the tourists (us) and wants to see our half of the ticket and of course it matches the one he is questioning. Come with me - he motioned with his hands. I instruct Lyn to stay put and I go off with the guy back to the ticket office. The same crabby guy who sold us the ticket was there again and as soon as he saw me started prattling off in Spanish and I said 'sorry no Spanish'. Next thing he produces the third part of the ticket stub that he had originally written out that of course still has the 11th written on it as there was no way I could have altered this. He was pointing at the date on his portion of the ticket and the date on my portion of the ticket.

Clever me had already thought of a plan and if that did not work we were just going to have to purchase another ticket. Which would not have been the end of the world, just another US$9.70 each. But first I try my plan. I say to the crabby ticket seller, using single words of English instead of sentences and my very best hand gestures - 'Hotel. Telephone. Changed. Date.' hand gestures hotel - head resting on hands in sleeping motion, telephone - little finger to mouth, thumb to ear gesturing telephone, changed - rolling of hands over and over, date - pointing to date on ticket. I thought this guy is going to prattle on again at me in Spanish something about stiff shit, wrong date, buy another ticket. Instead he smiled and said OK. And rattled off to the other guy what I had just explained to him.

So all was good, I returned to the bus just minutes before it pulled out of the terminal on time at 8.20am. Panic over!

The trip from Panama City to Sona was 4 1/2 hours and to tell the truth I did not see much of it as I was watching the Spanish movie on the screen at the front of the bus, being deafened by the volume or dozing. We had a toilet stop at a petrol station at 10.30, where we got out to stretch our legs and at 1pm we arrived in Sona bus station. I was surprised because I had read that this bus trip took 6 hours. Good for us that it was shorter. From Sona we needed to get a smaller mini bus to take us the 1 1/2 hours to Santa Catalina. Thing was everyone in the big bus we just all got out of also wanted to go to Santa Catalina or somewhere enroute, so after everyone's luggage was tied up on the roof and everyone was shoved into this much smaller bus for a very uncomfortable ride. And this much shorter trip cost US$5 which was more than half the cost of the longer journey, But its the old captive audience trick, there is only one way to get there and this is it. We tried hard to see what the locals on the bus paid as there is definitely a local price and a tourist price for most things in this country and that does not depend on whether you speak Spanish or not, its whether your Panamanian or not. But this pricing thing is nothing we can control, it happens in so many different countries its just something we have to live with. Maybe we should introduce this 2 tiered pricing system in Australia and get more money out of our tourists visiting.

Luckily for us the minibus did drop us off directly at our prebooked accommodation, as it is about 1km off the main street and would have been a real bitch having to drag our luggage up the road to a place we weren't sure where it was. So a win, win there, and worth the extra money paid I guess. Young girl at Cabanas Sherlley spoke no English, but did ask 'Cindy?' to confirm it was us, so that was nice. There was no electricity at the accommodation and we later found out none in the main street either, so we sat for a bit then went for a walk to find a cold beer.

There really is not much here in Santa Catalina, a few accommodation and eating options and 2 mini marts with very limited stock. Our accommodation has a mini kitchen so we brought a few supplies with us and are sure we can survive the next few days with what is available here. The minimarts have cold beer for 90cents a can so we are happy with that.

We walked down towards the beach, and well not the best beach in the world. This coast is actually very popular for surfers but the waves seemed almost non existent and the season is December to April, so I guess they are not happy either. The view was nice enough so we stopped to have an sundowner cold beer, which was in fact very cold and only US$2 so with the view of the ocean and a couple of islands you gotta be happy with that.

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Nice stroll back to our cabana, the power was back on and we had a cold shower. Unfortunately, the bathroom (toilet & shower) are a little walk away from our room, so here's hoping we don't need to pee in the middle of the night. Or hoping its not too bright a moon out there for any passersby in the middle of the night otherwise they might be lucky enough to see 2 moons.

Ah yes I did say cold shower, both here and in Panama City have been cold showers, and I can assure you after the first nano second of chill the cold water is very refreshing. Yes, its hot here!

Lyn cooked a pasta meal in our green kitchen, which we ate outside while the air con was cooling down our room. It is very quiet here compared to the noisy street of Casco Viejo, so I am sure we are going to sleep well.

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DAY 10 - 12 WEDNESDAY 15 -FRIDAY 17 FEBRUARY

My laptop has died with no explanation. Working perfect one day, dead the next. I am now attempting to do this blog on Lyn's iPad mini, but will not be able to download any photos.

We had a few relaxing, lazy days here in Santa Catalina. Doing nothing but sitting around reading all day then taking an afternoon walk (about 1km) to the beach to have an afternoon beer. We found a nice little place on the beach with $2 beers and then another place a little bit back from the beach, still with a view with beers for $1.

This is supposed to be a surfers paradise, but the waves looked pretty small to me. Apparently the waves here rival Hawaii at the right time, but I still couldn't see it. Unfortunately the beach was not much for swimming either, with sand being churned up making the water look not very inviting. Big parts of the beach were very rocky and resembled a moon scape. This is what the surfers fall onto in the water.

We were happy to stay cool in our air con room and enjoy an afternoon beverage.

Managed to buy some fresh prawns from a local guy which Lyn cooked up in our very green kitchen.

On our last day we decided to go for a swim so we could say we swam on the pacific side of Panama. Must admit the water was lovely and warm but it's a bit unnerving when you cannot see the bottom.

It was very peaceful and quiet here at Cabanas Shelley, but tomorrow is time for us to move on.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:02 Archived in Panama Tagged santa catalina

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