Our last days in Panama were relatively low-key. After all of the adrenaline and adventures, we spent time on the beaches of Isla Colón. Unfortunately, many of the less-crowded beaches good for relaxing were a ways away from our lodge, and we didn’t much feel like venturing out too far with our limited Spanish. Instead, we made do with the narrow beaches by our lodge, and spent some time at Scully’s up the road. It appeared to be a surfer hostel and haven, but we enjoyed reading on the beach and soaking up some sun. We explored some of the tide pools on the way back, but I didn’t dare venture too far out since the rocks were painful on bare feet. It wasn’t really a swimming kind of area, and in any case, the waves were gnarly just a few meters out. We tried to work off the multiple dinners of burritos in the tree house pool, but only ended up working up an appetite for another delectable burrito that night. We washed it down with some chocolate tea, a surprisingly delicious alternative to dessert. Almost. Our hosts offered brownie sundaes, and how could you say no to that?
We woke up well before dawn the morning of our check out. We sleepily grabbed our bags and left the key on the front counter, going down the steps to meet our pre-arranged taxi. We piled in and our driver took us down the muddy hill and out onto the beach road. The tide must have been in at this time, because more often than not our tires were driving in the ocean itself. We bounced over the sand, and I nauseously watched our driver’s crucifix dance from his rear view mirror. Suddenly, he turned up the radio and began mumble-singing along to the Panamanian national anthem.
Soon enough we were in town, the first in line to wait for the first water taxi of the day. The receptionist begrudgingly left off flirting with her boyfriend to open up the stand and take our tickets. We boarded the first boat out, and dealt with the harsh bouncing over waves once again. I was beginning to think that suspension was something I made up, something from a previous life. Our boat was accompanied by a large boat of folks who looked like they were from the national guard, and I watched their smooth ride not without a little envy. We docked back in Almirante, and miracle of miracles, our parking lot attendant was at the front gate, smoking a cigarette and chatting with a friend. We had been worried the night before, having no way to contact the parking lot we’d left our car with and see when it was open. Luck was with us, and we easily got our car back for the agreed upon price without any hassle.
Unfortunately, the town was still asleep that early in the morning, and no coffee or breakfast was to be had. We headed out-of-town, and almost immediately were greeted with a checkpoint. Clayton was driving at this point, and alas, he mistook the wave of the policeman as “carry on”, rather than “stop here”. He drove right by. My heart dropped through my stomach as the policeman raced after us, yelling “Stop! Stop, friend!”. Giving Clayton a murderous side-eye, believing that this would be how we ended up in a Panamanian jail, I handed him his papers. But the guard just asked where we were headed, took a look at us, and waved us on through. Big sigh of relief.
Our drive across all of Panama that day was no easy feat, as outlined in my post on driving in Panama. Not finding a place to eat or get coffee until past 1pm didn’t help either, but despite all, we made it back to Panama City that night to a warm welcome from Zach and Christine. Our rental car was returned with no fuss, and we bid Panama good night for the last time.
As I think back to us jostling down that beachy road at 5:30am in the morning, hearing the splash of our tires rolling through the waves and listening to our fiercely proud driver’s off-key mumbling, I realize that there is never any way to truly describe a place or experience and how it can make you feel. How can I convey Panama, the color of the culture, the richness of the landscape, and all the quirks in-between to someone who has never been? And the understanding It was a truly incredible adventure from start to finish, and although I want to share as much as I can through words, there is no replacement for experiencing the world on your own. Voyage without fear, friends!