This festival happens once a year, a few days long. I don’t know exactly what they’re celebrating, but there’s a black Jesus and a bunch of people crawl down the only two-lane road on their hands and knees. That effectively blocks all traffic, down the lonely road upon which there is access to Panama City. This interferes with my plans, and therefore makes this particular religious holiday especially dumb.
Since I couldn’t just leave Josh in Panama City with over 250 pounds of oversized baggage, I took the opportunity to jump in a taxi and have a local navigate this festival. Then I arranged for Josh to be picked up at Tocumen Airport and dropped off at a ratty (but cheap) hotel in Panama City – where I’d be waiting. Done.
I arrived a night before Josh. I had a couple of things set up with local friends. All of these things involved a bar. So, when I woke up the next morning a little hungover I was hardly surprised. But I only realized the extent of my adventures the previous evening, when I walked downstairs and the front desk attendant and bag-boy gave me some sheepish looks. Apparently, it had been a good night.
Josh arrived. Turns out he’s a young dude, ex-military, with long blonde hair and tattoos. We have some stuff in common. After the standard small talk we went and grabbed a beer. We both share a distinct distaste for the state of Western Civilization. I call it White Picket Death. White Picket Hell might be a little more accurate. You get the point.
The next day I’d arranged a taxi to pick me up and squire me about town on the hunt for solar panels, 15 new batteries, marine wiring, and a host of other hard-to-find boat parts. The taxi I’d arranged bailed. He set up someone else to pick me up. She was horrible.
This remarkably unpleasant lady agreed to $15/hour. Assured us it would be less than $100 per day. Then she proceeded to explain that she needed to do many family errands. We were done by 5PM, but it was a long day. When she dropped us off at the hotel – she told us she needed $180. Bullshit, says I. No chance.
She threatens to call the cops.
I tell her my room number, ask her to call the cops and send them to my room – I’m tired.
After dropping off all the day’s trophies (boat parts) in the room, I headed back downstairs. The cabbie is still there, yelling Spanish into her phone. I tell her I’m headed to the bar – she can send the police there, but I need a beer and some food. I’m long past stressing out when people try to rip me off.
After all of her shenanigans, she agreed to $80. I made sure that she wouldn’t get any more gringo business. Another example of the constant fight against the Gringo Tax.
The next day I had another taxi driver (with a pickup truck) arranged to drive us back to Puerto Lindo. That was a fair drive. Especially considering the poor guy would be hauling 15 oversize batteries, 4 large solar panels, 250 pounds of dive gear, and two gringos.
He picked us up from the hotel expecting to drive straight to Puerto Lindo. But we needed to pick up those batteries. And those solar panels. So we did. He was a little stressed, but we made it out of the city before noon. That’s success.
We made it more than halfway without issue. I was feeling pretty good about things. We didn’t accomplish all of the goals – but we managed to get the big-ticket stuff; I had my new crew and his bags, we had the solar panels/batteries, and we were almost home.
Then I heard our cab driver curse in a couple of languages. Shit. He ruined his clutch. We tried to get him to his house in Colon, but halfway up a hill his truck completely crapped-out. No bueno. We couldn’t push with nearly a ton of gear (literally) in the back of his truck.
Long story short (after the long story, of course): we transferred all the gear/parts out of the broken truck to another taxi. Then we pulled the broken taxi to the taxi-driver’s house. Then we continued to Puerto Lindo. Then we unloaded all the crap into a launcha (panga, if you’re more familiar to the Mexican terminology). Then we unloaded it all onto my catamaran. The additional weight dropped S/V NOMAD an inch in the water. Christo Negro.
Then we found that my dinghy’s gas tank had been stolen. It doesn’t take them long to steal your stuff around here. And it’s a great reminder that I need to leave this thieving little village sometime soon. Luckily I had a spare onboard, so we weren’t completely stranded.
We ate and drank at Han’s little restraunt/bar. Rob and Laurie invited us for drinks. I finished off the Scotch onboard. Then had a cigar. In this States, this could have qualified as a disaster of a trip. In Panama, it was an epic success. Josh got settled in and found a thousand different places to sleep onboard. We had a good night.
Of course, the real work had only just begun.