We left off in Episode One with me finally landing in San Jose, but receiving an email, from the farm I was supposed to go to in the morning, asking me to wait to come. I replied that I couldn’t do that and would instead go on to Panama.
Well…I promptly got online, researched the bus schedules and made a reservation at a hostel in Panama City for the next night. I took my laptop down to the receptionist and enlisted her help in calling the bus line to see if I would be able to get a bus ticket first thing in the morning. The answer was yes, so I had dinner and watched a little Spanish language TV until I discovered BBC, and caught up on all the news – unfortunately.
Bright and early – 8 am – I ate breakfast, asked for directions to the bus station from the morning receptionist and headed out. It was only five blocks away so I walked. Only it wasn’t five blocks away and it was nowhere near where she sent me. Eight different people, five more blocks and a complete change in direction later I was ecstatic to find myself at the ticket counter of Tica Bus.
A handsome young Tico named Wagner helped me, talking me through the process until we got to the part where he asked me if I had a return ticket. I said I was going to get a two-way ticket from him. No, he said, an open return will not work. So we set about figuring out a fake date for my return. Then he said. “And you have a return ticket to the US?”
Well, I was flabbergasted. I shook my head, still not believing the question had been asked. He calmly explained that Panama requires a return ticket to your country of origin. What? Panama allows you to stay for six months. How could they be serious about this requirement. Oh, but they are. I didn’t know that until just today when a friend confirmed it, and thought he must be wrong but what the heck. I didn’t want to chance it.
“Granada?” I asked. “No problem,” he answered. So, I bought a ticket to Granada leaving at 12:30 pm that day and rushed back to the hotel, this time by taxi, to cancel my booking in Panama City and find a place to stay in Granada. A short time later, I was good to go and I had a couple of hours to kill. Personal grooming and packing, plus a little Facebook and emailing to let people know what was happening, took care of the extra time.
The bus was very nice, with WiFi, AC and a bathroom onboard, which I didn’t realize meant it would never stop until we got to the border. Thank goodness I’d stuck half my breakfast sandwich in my purse and bought a bottle of water and M&M’s at the bus station. That was my sustenance (except a Coke I bought at the border) for the 8 hours it took to get to Granada.
But here’s the best part – crossing into Nicaragua. Oh…my…goodness! The bus driver’s assistant gathered all our passports and $14 apiece and trotted into the official building while all of the passengers were unloaded, grabbed our baggage to go through customs and then exited the building to a rash of vendors, mostly trying to sell us hammocks, and a few people with chips and cokes etc.
There was no seating provided so we stood around waiting for our bus to return from God only knows where. We waited. It was hot and dark and no one told us anything, but we unhappily waited some more. I made a couple of friends and we waited. There was a curb that some people were crouched on so I went over to sit down, finally, and the bus came. If only I’d thought to sit down earlier!
We rolled into Granada around 9 pm and my new friends were staying at the same hostel I was so we took a cab together and grabbed a nice dinner.
The hostel turned out to be a dump so I found a new one and all is well! Ah! A happy ending after all that! Again, you gotta stay light on your feet!