After visiting ‘Rocking J’s Crazy Ark’ in Puerto Viejo in the South East of Costa Rica, we headed for the next hotspot on the traveler route, the idyllic archipelago Bocas Del Toro . To get there we had to cross the Costa Rica / Panama border on foot, which turned out to be one of those memorable experiences for all the wrong reasons.
When we arrived at the border, we had our passports stamped by a bunch of jovial Ticas, who then sent us on our way to Panama. After a few hundred yards we came to a huge steel bridge over a ravine, which to put it politely, was in very poor condition. The cars were driving along wooden planks that had been laid in the middle of the bridge to help cover the holes, whilst those on foot had to walk on a separate path… without wooden planks to cover the holes! The hand rail was missing and there were gaping holes in the rusty sheet metal beneath our feet. The 40 meter drop turned our stomachs as we jumped over each hole hoping that the bridge would take our weight. All we could see below us was mud, trees and the odd wild pig, the total opposite of the Panamanian paradise we’d been told about.
After tackling the ‘bridge of doom’ we arrived at the Panamanian border control. We had been warned that we were required to show a bus/plane ticket out of the country before they would let us enter (just in case we’d planned to build a mud hut and stay forever). And obviously, with our travel plans being as solid as Leeds United’s defense, we didn’t have any proof of our onward travel plans. This being a common occurrence among western travelers, there were several locals hanging around waiting to pounce, clutching tickets they were more than happy to sell you.. at a highly inflated price. Luckily we possessed a secret weapon… Beth’s blond hair and blue eyes. The men of Central American are fond of European girls, their eyes lit up each time a blonde girl walked by and were always quick to compliment Beth’s blue eyes. A quick gaze into the deep blue, both our passports were stamped and we were being led to the best bus driver in town, whilst the poor American lad behind us was forced to buy a bus ticket he didn’t need.
Onward to Bocas Del Toro…