The night bus experience.

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Panama  ,
Monday, January 23, 2012

Panama City.  Hats, a canal and a tailor.  That's all I've heard anyway.  Actually I'm sure the Man from Del Monte hailed from these parts as well, but that could just be because of his headgear.  I won't be buying a hat.  I don't suit hats.  Especially baseball caps.  And they're everywhere.  On backwards, forwards, sideways, half on, half off.  It's hardly original.  The last time I tried on a baseball cap was in 1999.  Someone said I looked like I had Spina Bifida.  I've never worn one since.

If I was going to buy a hat, it would be something similar to a Panama one.  Perhaps in later life when I want to look distinguished and well traveled.  Like a wizened Max Von Sydow.  Or Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama, which, coincidentally enough, is set in 1999 when America handed the canal over to the Panamanians.  A tenuous link, but a link nonetheless.

I sit abored a night bus from Bocas to Panama.  This is no spelling error, I'm trying to be clever with words.  It's utter tedium.  I can't sleep, because aside from being on the aisle seat and having my elbow nailed by passing folk every five minutes, I have a rather large lady crushing my left hand side, and despite a guitar and a ruck sack between my legs, the Argentinian girl in front of me has smashed her seat back as far as it can go.  She sheepishly grins an apology, to which I stammer a very Englishy; "it's quite alright." This has something to do with the fact she was totally gorgeous, and in those brief seconds, totally nothing to do with my own comfort for the next ten hours.

Added to this horrific state of affairs, I'm sat below the air conditioning.  Now ordinarily I would be relieved at this, but not in the middle of the night, and not while noting everyone else is wearing hooded tops, shoes and huddled under blankets.  I'm wearing shorts, a T-shirt and my flip flops.  How can I keep failing to get this right?  I am such a tourist.

So I sit shivering for the distance, with snatches of sleep, punctuated by a lot of thought.

It's funny when you have nothing to occupy your mind and allow it to wander.  I find myself jumping from working through the plot of LA Confidential, to cutting my foot on a stone when I was four, to a specific moment in high school when I drew a penis in a thank you card.  I could go on, but there is no tangible explanation for how the mind jumps around when left to its own devices.  Mostly my thoughts turn to the last few days and hours with my parents.  More of that perhaps later, when I can focus on writing a decent chapter to accompany those experiences.  One for the book, and not for the blog.

Incidentally I got a detention for drawing the penis.  I felt I was hard done by.  I'm sure everyone goaded me into doing it, and  I'm sure I wasn't the only one with the marker in hand.  Yet when the push came to shove and the fingers were pointed, there was my fine hairy balls artwork for all to see, and I had the egg on my face.  Another case of wrong place, wrong time.  Laugh and the class laughs with you, but you stay after school.

We arrive around 5am and sleepily stoat around looking for room at the inn.  This we find in a ridiculously overpriced lodging in Casco Viejo.  For those still looking for the travel part of these musings, it's call Hotel Casco Antiquo.  It's alright I suppose, but for $38 for a twin room with no air con, a cold shower, two horrible beds and a window overlooking what sounds like a building site, I wish I had another choice.  I need sleep though, so I throw the readies over the counter and electrocute myself with the bathroom light.

It's still on.  I actually refuse to try to turn it off.  Such was the surge of pain I received when trying to flick the switch in the early hours, I've decided not to risk it.  It forced me to collapse on the floor and shake in bed for an eon afterwards.  It was just a fantastic end to a very memorable day.  For all the dangers in coming to Central and South America, one man gets electrocuted in a en suite bathroom in a crap Panama hotel.  The downside to that would have been I couldn't have finished my blog for you all to laugh about it.

I'm in the city.  I'm not near a beach.  Columbia edges ever closer.  Although the index finger of my right hand is glowing, I manage both a smile and finally sleep; even with the bathroom light still on.









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