We’re in David, close to the Costa Rica border. We love it here but travel to the US is difficult. There has been talk about direct flights from David to the US for a long time. The airport is ready and I’ve heard rumors about a couple airlines looking at the possibilities, so hopefully something will change. It would be a lot easier.
We recently returned from Santa Rosa, California, and wanted to make the trip home in one day. Our son in law convinced us that he should drive us to San Francisco on Friday night. A hotel there didn’t cost much more than the bus fare we would have paid, and we didn’t have to go in the middle of the night to make our early flight. So, we slept in until 5AM (ha!) so we could get some breakfast and get on the 6AM van to the airport.
We made it through the check in process with a comfortable amount of spare time before our 8:30 flight. After a four hour flight, now 2:15 with the time change, we were in Houston. There was the 3 mile dash to the other end of the airport, four more hours in a plane, and we were in Panama City – 7:15 PM.
We took a taxi across town to the bus terminal. The terminal was nuts! There were long lines at every window, and the line for the non express bus stretched all the way down the hall, and looked like enough people to fill two buses. The line for the express bus was much shorter but wasn’t moving. We were told that the staff was outside waiting for the arrival of another bus. It was only a little after 8 PM, but when ticket sales resumed the 9:30 bus was full and we were sold tickets for the 10:30 bus. People in line told us that it’s payday in Panama and that’s why there were so many people traveling.
But, typical of Panama, we made new friends while we waited. The lady behind me had three kids including a darling but active 3 yr old boy, and we chatted about her kids, travel, and life in general. The guy in front of us is an aspiring singer and musician, and now I have one of his CD’s. He hopes to make a living as a singer, and maybe give concerts in the US as well.
The rumors you hear about the express buses being cold are true, and I was happy for my sweater with a hood, and my husband’s extra shirt which he draped over both of us. The bus was so cold that the windows were covered with condensation and you could hardly see out. If I fell asleep a drop of cold condensation from above would land on me, or the lights would come back on for something – the assistant helping someone to the bathroom, a stop, the assistant putting in another CD, etc. The seats were as comfortable as a bus can be and reclined way back, but I’m just not good at sleeping in seats so it wasn’t the restful journey we hoped for.
There was a stop in Santiago at a cafeteria, but a smaller one, not the one I remember from other stops. It was good to get out and stretch though and have a snack. The bus stopped at the checkpoint but unlike other times, the officials didn’t even board the bus or detain it for more than a couple minutes. Finally, we arrived in David at about 5:30 AM, though we hardly recognized the unfamiliar section of the terminal through the fogged windows. Thankfully, our musician friend was watching out for us and made sure we got off at our destination.
It’s surprising how many people were out and about before dawn. Thankfully, some of them were taxi’s so we had no trouble getting one to take us to the house. It felt so good to finally be home! I was tired though. I generally don’t sleep well in my normal waking hours, but I slept almost straight through until 2 PM, and I was pretty worthless for the rest of the day.
Would I do it like this again? Maybe. We saved the expense of a hotel in Panama City and got home quicker. I think I would try to avoid payday though, and the express bus. I noticed some of the more experienced travelers had winter type jackets on, so the cold must be expected on the express buses.
I’m not going to think about more travels at the moment though. It’s time to settle in at home for a while, and do some things around here. Later, I will work on arrangements for our August trip to the US!