Monday, February 20, 2012

LEGO city (too lazy to write in two languages)

My stay in Panama City has not been what I expected. First of all, I felt like I was in Miami and not in  Central America.  When I was in David some people told me that (proud of it by the way): "Panama City is like Miami". This is my first (and hopefully only) time here but I saw photos before and indeed it really does look like Miami. There are lots of tall buildings. Some are very creative like the one looks like it's turning. And some are not so creative, like the one that looks that the Burj Al Arab.

Even when you are not in the financial or hotel district but some (even sketchy) other area, the city still looks like Miami. I've seen on TV that in some parts of the States when there are lonely and long roads people with fast cars like to test their cars, for this reason the local police has really fast and sporty police cars, i.e. Shelby Mustangs... I've seen those here. Why? I have no idea, there are no motorways and most of the time there are massive traffic jams. So, why use those fast cars. One question that will go into the "unsolved misteries" box.

The main reason why I wouldn't want to come back to Panama City once I leave is because of what happened not long ago. I had to work the night shift but my colleague asked me if I could start earlier. I had no problem with that. About a couple of hours into the shift, the hostel I'm working was robbed. The motherfuckers didn't take anything from guests. Not even my laptop that was on the reception desk (like it is now while I'm writing this) was stolen. 

Anyway, I'm about to leave this country. I had given up with hitchhiking a boat. I didn't have the time to look for a boat. I have to be in Bogota no later than march 22nd at 19:35 when Paula arrives and we start traveling South America. Destination, unknown, it's a big continent. Lana, whom I met last month in Liberia, might have found a sailboat to take us to Cartagena. Work for passage? fine with me! Now, there's even a big possibiliy for me to arrive before "planned". Now I'm looking to the possibilty to go to Venezuela for a stamp as I only get 30 days to stay in Colombia.

Finally I'm going to South America. After postponing the continent for more than a year for this or that, finally I'm going. I'm so close I feel like I'm never getting there. Can't wait to leave. I'm excited. So far I've met a few people in Panama City that I would like to run into again in South America. At the same time, as much I want to discover SA, I also would really like to be back in Europe. That's where my life is. I will be going back to Guatemala to visit my mum and brothers as much as I can, there's no doubt about that. But to live there, that is not happening. 

It's carnival time. Panama has a few cities that have big celebrations. I've heard that in Panama City is not very big, the celebration I mean. It was for me! There's a road that goes along side the ocean, Cinta Costera that is closed to vehicular traffic. There are several stages along the way and two main stages. Full of people, full of drunks (I was one of them but I behaved). 

While I was taking a walk earlier someone saw taking photos and told me that it was a bad idea to walk around (during carnival) with a backpack and a camera. Then someone else told me that alone in a 4-5 street radius, there were around 160 rape victims!! 
Overall my experience in Panama City has been far from what I expected. I can't wait to leave the country and never come back. I would rather go back to Bulgaria than come back here! Oh well, my mum always said that things happens for a reason. 

I'm very happy I will be leaving soon. Get ready South America, I'm going to rock your socks off!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

(How did I get to Boquete and mostly) LEGO city

Hitchhiking through Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua was a breeze. People were really nice. One ride took us from well inside Guatemala to well inside in El Salvador. Waiting for a friend of mine outside of  San Salvador, we ended up having to wait until midnight (and how to get to San Salvador itself!) or no place to sleep at all. A nice family that lived not far from where we were not only gave us a ride, they took us for the night. 
While waiting in the Honduras side of the border I saw a truck with Nicaraguan license plates... we spent the night in the León (Nicaragua) fire department. 
There's a hostel in Los Brasiles, Poneloya (near León). The Surfing Turtle Lodge. Good that I don't surf and I'm not into turtles because you couldn't fine either!
Costa Rica was slower than the rest of the countries when it comes to hitchhiking. Half of the rides there were given by expats. Costa Rica it's too expensive for me. Just after the border I went to a store and a small beer was 2$!!! 
Two nights were enough for me. One in Liberia and one night were spent in Jacó. I thought about looking for a job there but, 5 seconds after getting out of the pickup that drove us there, I immediately changed my mind. 
We left Jacó the next morning. After several short rides we reached the border when it was already dark. Spend the night there under some stairs. 
Next day, ride with a truck driver all the way to David. There is where Yasmin and I went different ways: she stayed in David and I went to Boquete. 
Boquete is a cute little town in the "mountains" of Panama. Didn't see much of it as was volunteering at the owner's house which was in the middle of nowhere. No shops, no nothing nearby. At first I thought I would be volunteering in the hostel but it wasn't like that. Oh well, it was just for a week.

I would had loved to hitchhike from Boquete/David to Panama but if someone offers me a bus ticket, I don't mind. But I also wouldn't had minded to see the Bridge of the Americas. I can still see it from a distance if I go to a certain part of Panama City.

People told me before coming that Panama City was like a small Miami. They weren't joking. I'm not just talking about the financial or hotel district. There are some other parts that they actually look like you were in Miami. Panama City, or as I like to call it after my friend Corinna wrote it, LEGO City. Skyscrappers are lined one beside the other. It's a vertical city. Building competing for the sunlight.  

LEGO city is a city of contrasts. Nice neighborhoods are sorrounded by sketchy areas. The Casco Viejo (Old Town) which is a lovely part of town is sorrounded by definitely not lovely part. There's even an Older Town (Panamá Viejo), but I haven't been there. I actually haven't been sight seeing a lot. And starting this weekend I will have less time as I will be working even more. Starting this weekend I will work 16 hours every weekend. 

One of the good things about working in a hostel is the contacts you can make. When you're working in a place like Panama City you make some really important contacts. This is the place for lots of travelers to look for a boat. Some people have the resources and they want it the easy way so they just book a flight to Bogotá or a boat to Cartagena. Some are more adventurous and want to do it on their own and they can give all the contacts you might need in order to do the same. There is always CSing, you can always ask. I've gotten into some debate not long ago in the CS facebook page. I asked how to cross the cheapest and some wankers turned into a debate to whether or not I should travel almost without money. Wankers. Somewhere a few days ago I read something like "I really started travelling when I left my confort zone". Absolutely true in my case.

At the moment I'm still looking for a cheap way to cross to Colombia. Using the contacts I'm making while working. I'm also scounting the hostel market in a few Colombian towns: Cartagena, Medellín and Bogotá. Personally I would go for Medellín and even more for Bogotá because March 22nd I have to pick up someone very special at the Bogotá airport.

Stay tuned because there will be a complete and thorough entry about how I crossed the damn Darien Gap.