Dominical to the border

My hostel’s balcony-thing, Costa Ricans
(and I) love the “Pura vida” thing.

The schedule said 10:30, but the bus out of Dominical showed up at 10:00. I had a bus leave early before on this trip, and didn’t want to miss this one, so I went running out of the hostel, shirtless, bag bouncing on my back, for the second time this trip. I gotta stop doing that.

I got to the bus to find the driver behind it, legs splayed wide, taking a gigantic piss. Oops, sorry, I’ll wait. After finishing he sorta peered at me shyly from behind the bus, then told me he didn’t leave until 10:45.

It was already about 213 degrees, so I went back upstairs to the hostel loft to wait. Mr. Driver got back on the bus and took off a fair percentage of his clothing. About 10:55 he honked, I walked sedately down and we left (he was dressed again).

Another long hot bus ride, so crowded it was almost Nicaraguan, with the back of my shirt absolutely soaked with sweat, which made me a tad self conscious when I stood up to give that old lady my seat. Then of course the other old lady who’d been sitting on the aisle next to me wouldn’t move over, so the standing lady couldn’t sit anyway, and we all just stood stupidly in the aisle, even more crushed than before.

Shopping area in Dominical. The Costa Rican flag, the
pride flag, and Bob Marley? My kinda place.

Finally a young mother passed one of her kids over to the seat, though the lass immediately started sobbing “mommie!” and I got to see the irritation bordering on fury of a young mother, looks the same in Spanish as in English. The daughter sat down, sideways, not quite in the seat, and went to sleep,

I stood for an hour or so, pinned between (forgive me my insensitivity, but it’s merely descriptive) a hippo of a woman and the incredibly knotty arm of the ancient spider who wouldn’t move over. I felt crushed between a rock and a squishy place.

Finally a bunch of folks got off and I sat again, now next to a solid young fella with a sort of Costa Rican skater thing going on. A vendor climbed on selling fried somethings out of a bucket and since I was getting mighty hungry I asked how much they were. Surprisingly they were a tad much, and I wanted to save my last bill for the border, so I had to say no.

A second later the skater boy is handing me one, then nodding when I said “oh, thank you, but I don’t have enough.” He bought me one! Oh, skater boy, you beefy sweetheart! Costa Ricans are awesome.

My last Costa Rican beach. Basically unrelated to the
post, but hey, why not?

Just as I couldn’t stay awake anymore we got to Neily, the jumping off point for the Panamanian border, despite its utterly non-Spanish name. From there it was another short busride to Paso Canoas and I found myself walking around the inexplicable chaos of a third world border.

I genuinely do not understand these borders. I am increasingly convinced they are extremely clever, because there is no logical reason why they should be so disorganized. A very clever and experienced mind has designed an arcane system that will maximize opportunity for tourist extortion and enable just the right amount of smuggling. I really think I could have just walked through without talking to anybody if I’d really tried, but that is bound to be a problem later on.

Finally I had my exit stamp from Costa Rica from the little shack well behind where it should be, then walked through the shifting semi trucks to the Panamanian immigration, where the guy told me at impressively inaudible volume that I needed proof of onward travel.

Forgive my French, but I fucking hate this.

A few years ago there was a change in international travel. Some utter dimwit who has never traveled and/or has relatives who work for the airlines, decided that requiring travelers to have a ticket out of the country will stop illegal immigration.

This of course makes no sense whatsoever. If someone wants to stay in a country illegally, ignoring a return ticket will not be much of a challenge. I am not a vengeful or sadistic person, but whatever mid-level bureaucrat came up with this requirement (and you know it was an American) should be taken onstage in a city square and publicly electrocuted.

Not to death, I’m not crazy. Just until my sense of justice is satisfied.

Luckily I printed my ticket from Ecuador to Curacao for later this year (did I tell you I’m going to Curacao?) but unluckily this did not satisfy the expressionless fellow in immigration. He informed me that I had to go buy a return ticket to San Jose, Costa Rica.

I explained that I am not going back to Costa Rica, and that they cannot require proof of onward travel when one cannot travel onward through Panama by normal means. The eastern half of the country belongs to the guerrilla armies and drug traffickers, and cannot be crossed by outsiders. Instead, one must either fly from Panama City to Colombia, or, as I intend to try, go to the coast and try to find a boat sailing for Cartagena and finagle your way onboard.

The success and details of said boat trip are of course dependent on what boats happen to be in the harbor, which precludes advance purchase, which precludes satisfaction of aforementioned ridiculous requirement. I tried to respectfully explain this to the border guy. His logical response “You need to buy a ticket to San Jose.”

For the second time this trip (the first was in Germany) I was tearing my hair out and wanting to punch someone in the jaw over this requirement. Again, whoever made up this requirement was clearly NOT a traveler. The bastard has made vagabonding much more difficult, and deserves a public spanking before the electrocution commences.

We finally found the alternative possibility, proving my financial independence. Apparently they are worried I am going to stay in Panama and take advantage of the luxurious social care network. Apparently they know the state of America’s healthcare system, so realize this is in fact not such a bad idea.

Luckily, a friend warned me in advance of this possibility, and advised me to bring $1000 in traveler’s checks, which I promptly produced and counted for him. “Next time buy a return ticket” and I was through.

Thank fucking god.

(While buying the traveler’s checks the guy at the bank said it was the last month they were selling them. I may have to hold onto these things for the rest of my life…)

Well hello Panama, how you doin’?