Panama to Canada: planes trains and automobiles

Trip Start Jun 03, 2004
Trip End ??? ??, 2005

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Saturday, September 10, 2005

Well, I am finally home after a long journey. My last update was from Panama and from there I have travelled overland all the way back to Canada. No planes, 2 trains, 24 buses and 4 boats. I had a bit of a rough start leaving Panama and had to rethink my travel plans. Is taking a bus all the way to Canada a really good idea? Would I ever get there? I got on a bus in Panama City heading for San Jose, Costa Rica. It was a long trip - 15hours overnight - but a big comfy bus. No problem. We got to the Costarican border at about 7pm and got our bags search and sniffer dogged by Panama customs, recieved our exiting stamps from Panama and then walked over to Costarican Customs. They stamped our passports but then informed us that the customs office was closing and we would have to wait until morning to get our bags checked. Until morning? We're travelling on a bus. Needless to say me and my fellow passenger were a little ticked. Led my a 65 year old woman we stormed the customs office and refused to leave until they check our bags. We camped out there while they decided what to do with us. Eventually two police officers arrived and tried to sort things out but really did nothing, they were too intimidated by the 65 year old woman yelling at them. By midnight our bags still hadn't been checked and we were losing hope but still holding out in the customs office. Thats when a van of 15 police officers showed up to kick us out. After much yelling and a little pushing we were evicted and sent to our bus to spend the night there until customs opened at 8am. What a nice welcome to Costa Rica. So the ride ended up being 23hours. That was just the first bus of my trip.
In Costa Rica I stopped back into Tamarindo for 5 more days of surfing. It was great and I met some fun people there. I left Costa Rica and took two days to get back to Honduras where I went back to the village to visit. It was super fun to be back. Everyone was surprised to see me there. I did a little work for CAUSE while I was there, at the cultural center and for Rory. It was great to see everyone again and sad to leave again. I spent about a week there in total. From Honduras I had planned to take a boat directly to Belize but it only sailed one day a week and I missed it so I had to take a bus into Guatemala and a boat from there. Once in Belize I spent one night in a relaxed little town in the south. Belize is a English speaking country full and super layed back. I went straight out to Caye Calker a little island on the barrier reef for some diving. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world (I think). I was held up there for a day due to crappy weather. The diving was amazing. We did a three tank trip to the Blue Hole, a deep dive ending with sharks, and two wall dives on the reef. The first dive was the coolest. We went straight down to 140 feet and swam thru stalactite formations and then ascended into the center of the Blue Hole where all you could see was the deep blue, until the sharks came. First there was just one and then there was a group of 10 circling around us. Kind of creepy really. The biggest ones were about 4 meters long. Really cool. When we got back on the boat they fed the sharks just to show us they were really carivoures. Lots of teeth and blood and thrashing around. From Belize I headed for Flores, Guatemala to see the ruins of Tikal. Really impressive ruins in the jungle. By this point in my trip I was running out of money and time so I was moving pretty quickly. My next stop was San Cristobal de las Casas in the mountains in southern Mexico. It was a beautiful little colonial mountain town with cold nights. Mexico City was next. It is a HUGE city. 18 million people, which I think makes it one of the biggest cities in the world. It was great to be in a big city with lots of diversity. There was tonnes to do there, theaters, art galleries, parks, street entertainment. The food was super yummy, I grazed on street food all day while walking thru the markets. I took the subway for fun one day, its only 10cents to ride anywhere you need to go. From Mexico City I was now on a bit of a push to get home, I was almost out of money, and looking forward to seeing Canada again. My next stop was Puerto Vallarta for two days. Definitely a vacationers spot and not so much a backpacking sort of place. It was beautiful, really quiet and rainy. I took the bus out to Mismaola bay for the day, a pretty little bay with a nice beach and some interesting snorkling. I was served cold beer all day by the very attentive staff of the restaurant where I was parked infront of, I was one of the only people on the beach. After a rainy afternoon and being forced to go to the movie theater and watch the Hilary Duff movie I hopped an overnight bus to Mazatlan a little further north up the coast. Very similar to Puerto Vallarta, tonnes of expensive, massive hotels, resorts and restaurants (even a WalMart). I spent my last beachy day on Deer Island snorkling and swimming. I sailed over on a catamaran and planned to spend the day there, but the boat captain failed to mention that there was no where to buy food on the island. I thought I was going to starve to death. There were people eating everywhere but no one would sell me food, until I found a nice young lad who felt sorry for me and gave me a plate of food and a beer from one of the all inclusive boat tours. Nice. From Mazatlan it was a big push to the border, I took two overnight buses in a row and spent the day in between in Hermosillo a random Mexican town in the middle of the dessert. An interesting place, not really touristy but interesting. I found out they had a zoo so I went to check it out. An excellent zoo for a mexican dessert. THey had lions and tigers and giraffes. Also a collection of animals from places like the Canadian rockies, like black bears, eld, racoons etc. who looked like they were just dying in the 45C heat. After another long night on the bus I ended up in Tijauana. It was actually alot cleaner and nicer than I remembered it. I spent a day walking around the streets looking at all of the overpriced Mexican trinkets while people yelled "Hey lady, I got good junk that you don't need for good price!". Now completely out of money I decided to save and walk across the border to San Diego where I was catching the train. I thought it would be good idea until I saw the line up, it took me about 15min just to walk back to the end of the line, it was about a km long. THen I started to get nervous being the only tourist/backpacker/whitey there. But it was the easiest boarder crossing I had done the whole trip! No baggage search, no questions about where I was going, where I had been, only what I had bought in Mexico. Welcome to the USA. I spent the next day in San Diego at the beach and surfing. There is a considerable temperature difference between the Pacific ocean in say Mazatalan and the Pacific in San Diego. It was icy cold. I couldn't even swim and had to use a wet suit while surfing. The beach there was a scene out of a Bay Watch episode. A beach walk with hippies riding cruiser bikes, rollerbladders in bikinis, good looking lifeguards driving brand new Jeep YJ's in the sand stopping to talk to the girls. It was good to be back in a clean, organized english-speaking place, but a little wierd too. There was such a big change as soon as I walked across the border. Its amazing that we can live so close and be in such different places. The last leg of my trip was a long one. I boarded the Amtrak train at 6:30am wednesday morning. We travelled up the coast to LA where I had a two hour layover at Union Station before boarding the next train that would take me all the way to Seattle. The train was cool. Lots of room, I didn't have a person next to me so I had two seats to myself and tonnes of leg room. It was great to be able to get up a walk to the dining car, sight seeing car and cafe especially when your ride is 40hours. I always imagined that trains travelled really fast, but no, they are SLOW. It was great for seeing the scenery. We travelled along the California coast for a long ways, right on the beach, really cool. By night fall we were heading for the interior of California. The next morning I woke up in the mountains of northern Cali and saw snow for the first time in a long time. All day thursday we made our way thru Oregon then Washington getting off in Seattle at 10pm. Then they loaded all the Canada bound passengers on a bus headed for Vancouver. Finally, I was welcomed at the Canadian border by a 5C icy, breeze, ahhh, back to the cold white north.
So, here ends my journey back to Canada. It was an amazing experience, I met so many amazing people along the way and saw so many amazing things. Amazing really is a great word. In all from Panama to Canada by land, I took; 25 buses, 3 boats, 2 pickup trucks, 1 trolley and 2 trains. Its good to be home.
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