Some admin in the morning results in us not getting back to the airport as early as we’d like. Which nearly ends in disaster as there are huge queues everywhere!!! It takes us an age to get through to the departure lounge with little time to find brekkie (it’s nearly lunchtime when we do). Boo hoo!
Arriving in Panama around 3pm local, we’ve just gone back another hour (now 5 hours behind UK) we wonder what immigration will be like here. We have no onward travel plans fixed and the guidebooks all say a return flight or onward travel doc is essential or you need to pay a bond or similar to get in. We have an email from Bob and Elaine saying we’re meeting them but it’s not explicit that we will be leaving the country with them on their boat. It can’t be as we haven’t even met them yet and no decision will be made till we’ve done the 10day San Blas cruise with them. Hhmm… As it turns out we have little trouble going through. We put on the forms we’d like to stay 60 days. They didn’t even bat an eyelid. Not even quizing us about our plans or exit strategy!! Oh well, maybe we just don’t look like we’re the sort to just bum about in their country being a burden on their society… or we just got a guy on a desk who was in a good mood. Who knows. The transfer contact to take us to our hostel is out in arrivals as advised and quickly we are whizzing down the motorway to Panama city centre. Skyscrapers everywhere. A pretty fantastic welcome. Now is when we realise we should have been doing a bit more spanish learning before arrival. Oops! Usual rules will have to apply … i.e a bit of spanlish, a bit of pointing and lots of being embarrassed!!
We get to the Hotel Costa Inn, home for the nest few days, our room is basic but pretty cool. The whole building is really old, a kinda hotel/hostel cross really, with lots of character. After checking in we drag ourselves out for a walk before it gets dark – need water and a few beers at the very least. We’re blown away by how hot and humid it is here. We’re now at 9deg north, so a tad close to the equator. There’s a rooftop terrace and pool which we also check out, with our tinnies in hand. There are 4 local beers here – Panama, Atlas, Balboa, and something else… -we’re on Balboa. It’s reasonable at 4.8%.
As is our nature, it’s not long before we get talking to another couple who also wander about looking lost, taking in the view from the roof, a dead giveaway that they’ve also just arrived. Nathan and Donna. They are also Canadians. How spooky. And also from Vancouver!! Nathan works for the Canadian coastguards and Donna is a nurse. We get chatting and half make a plan to hook up tomorrow and see in the NY with them. Nathan’s bag didn’t arrive and they thunk it’s a return trip to the airport in the morning to collect it. Ouch! And as it’s holiday time, we want to go to town in the morning as we gather most places will be shut from lunchtime till Monday. They’ve had their dinner in the cafeteria downstairs and recommend the food so we reckon that’s as good a place as any to have our 1st taste of panamanian food.