The bus ride from San Jose to Panama City was the longest, coldest bus ride I have ever been on. When I got to the ticket office they told me all buses were booked until next week because it is “temporada alta” high season. Fortunately, I got on the waiting list and managed to jump on the first bus out, unfortunately, that bus arrived in Panama City at 4am. Awesome. Arriving in the middle of an unknown city in the dark without a plan. Okay, so I procrastinated my planning, well, I didn’t really have a plan at all, I was going to wing it. I knew these two things: I had to get out of Costa Rica because of my visa, and my dad would be in Cartagena, Colombia on business. So I headed for Panamá and from there I would get to Colombia.
My idea was to get to Panama City, bus to a port city and take a boat to Cartagena. I dropped in to a hostel (Hostel Mamallena) where I was informed that all boats to Colombia are booked for the month and they are package deals on sailboats that take you on 5-day trips around the islands on the coast for $500. I found out the next day that all the trips are actually canceled until Christmas because of all the rain, the coast is being battered. Awesome.
Plan B: fly to Colombia. There is no other way to get there from Panamá because of the dense jungle known as the Darien Gap which borders the two countries. So there was a moment of panic, well, a morning of panic where I had to figure out how to get to Cartagena. All flights were booked so I had to change plans once more and get a flight to Bogotá, the capital.
Meanwhile, the hostel I’m mooching internet off of is booked up! But I begged to stay the night there, I begged for anything they had, a sofa, a hammock, whatever. I ended up sleeping on a mattress out on the balcony for $5! Perfect! It wasn’t cold, didn’t rain and the balcony had a door I could close and it was like having a private outdoor room.
It all worked out in the end. I bought a plane ticket to Bogotá for the next day and hung out in Panama City for a few hours. 30 hours total. Just enough time to eat some Panamanian street food: fried pork, bananas, oranges, rice and beans and take a bus through the city. I’m not at all upset about how quickly I passed through the country; now I get to see my dad!!