Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The time we left the old crotchety woman at the rest stop. (Also known as a thigh-to-thigh ride on a tiny bus.)

In writing about my vacation, I am tempted to do it chronologically (just like I upload my photographs). It makes a lot of sense that way, and ideally it will allow me to recap the highlights of our fabulous vacation. Honestly? That will be boring to nearly everyone (aside from the people who want to know exactly what I was doing last Sunday evening...in a tent, sleeping, thanks for asking).

In planning our vacation, we quickly became overwhelmed. A whole country, albiet a small one, is a rather daunting task for nine days. As an aside, nine days is a great American vacation. Sadly, after meeting numerous Australians, Europeans and even a South African, nine days is shit. These people were on months-long and even YEAR-long trips to Central America. I think they're jerks. Well, I don't really think they were jokes. Most were quite nice, actually. However the idea of being able to really and truly explore an area of the world and then return to your stable job is so very appealing.

So, we had nine days in Panama. We chose to split it up among Panama City, Boquete and Bocas del Toro. We would get a little urban exposure in Panama City, some beautiful mountain scenery and outdoor adventure in Boquete and spend our last few days island-hopping and getting some sun in Bocas. Clearly, it was not long enough. As I waited for the el this morning, I couldn't help but feel as if I hadn't left at all.

Enough asides, on with the stories!

From Boquete, we had to take two buses to get to Bocas del Toro. We had to first take an American school bus back to David, then get on another bus to Almirante. In total, we were looking at a minimum of five hours in various buses. We made our bus to David on time (in fact, we had enough time for P.I.C. to order us coffee. IN SPANISH. I'm so proud of his new language skills.) We had left early, not wanting to waste the entire day sleeping in our hostel. If we were going to sleep, it would be by the pool at our island resort, naturally. In any event, we made it to David just before 8:00 a.m. We hopped on the tiny bus, they strapped our backpacks to the top of the bus and we waited. 8:00 a.m. came and went. So did 8:30 a.m. More and more people crowded onto the bus after 8:30. The seats were tiny, P.I.C. and I were pressed thigh to thigh and my butt was STILL hanging out into the aisle. Lucky for me, this meant that every person passing me would whack into me in some fashion. This would not have been that big of a deal until I realized that they were going to stop on the sides of mountains and let more and more people on the bus.

We were still sitting at the bus terminal in David when an elderly lady came up with several large bags. She started shouting at the driver and his assistant that she wanted on the bus. (Now, this is where you can be impressed wiht MY language skills. By this time, I was able to understand nearly everything she was saying, which made it much more fun for me.) The bus driver told her that there was no more room, but she insisted that she would climb all the way and take that LAST SEAT. Then she yelled at them to put her bags up on the top of the bus. It was actually quite hysterical until she got on the bus with a cane and whacked me not only with her cane, but also her ample booty. At that moment, her bossiness began to irritate me, and I lose my sense of humor. (What can I say, I'd been sitting on the bus for 45 minutes thigh to thigh with P.I.C. I was uncomfortable already!)

Our bus ride started off around 9:00 a.m. We were completely full when we left. There was a driver and then there was a younger guy that would stand by the back door. He kept the door open for the most part and then would kind of hang out it as we went by groups of people on the road to see if they wanted to hop on. Yes, at much of the time, I had people's butts in my face. And my thigh was still snugly against P.I.C.'s. Off we went, thigh to thigh, the occasional butt in my face winding up and down the mountains at break-neck speeds. Well, once we were up in the mountains, it was as if our bus was the "Little Engine that Could," going "CHUG-A-CHUG-A-CHUG."

After two hours, we pulled over into a rest stop. I had been curbing my liquids so I could make it all the way without having to stop. I mean, rest areas are terrifying in the U.S., and I had a scary hover-toilet experience at the Albrook Airport, so I stayed on the bus. Additionally, P.I.C. had to use the facilities, so I figured I would stay on in the event he wasn't back timely. We had fifteen minutes. Nearly the entire bus emptied out to either use the restrooms or buy some lunch. Of course, lady with a cane pushed her way out to be one of the first people out of the bus. In so doing, she whacked me really good once again with her cane. Honestly, I don't know why she had the cane because she moved really quickly. I suspect it was a weapon of sorts. (That's just my opinion though.) P.I.C. made it back on the bus along with seemingly everyone else. He assured me that the rest stop was just as horrifying as I had imagined.

I don't think the bus actually stopped for fifteen minutes. Soon, the bus driver and his helper were shouting out the window, "CHANGUINOLA! CHANGUINOLA!" Once again, we were off.

I was trying to enjoy the ride, snapping a few photos out the bus window.

The scenery was really quite beautiful.

About twenty minutes after we left the rest area, P.I.C. begins craning his neck to look at the back of the bus.

P.I.C. "Um, guess what? I don't think that old lady with the cane got back on the bus."

Of course, my head immediately swivels back and notices the same thing. That "ultimo" seat she had demanded to sit in? Empty. Lady with the cane was most definitely not on the bus.

I turn back to P.I.C. with my eyes wide open, trying not to start laughing, only to see him laughing so hard he was crying. Then the floodgates opened. Thigh to thigh, we sat there for a good twenty minutes in silent, tearful laughter, imagining that crabby hustling out of the rest area to find her bus and her luggage long gone.

We're not the best people in the world. I know this. But laughter that makes your whole body ache is just that: a really, really good laugh.

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