Ever since my Nexus 5x stopped working, things have been getting stranger and stranger… (skip down to The Hike to read about our beach hike from Panama into Costa Rica)
It started 9 or 10 days ago. I was at Mamallena Hostel in Boquete preparing to leave the next day for Limones, and then onwards to Colombia. I remember being hung over and therefore more exasperated than usual at the malfunction of my device. It was stuck in a boot loop. Powering on and powering off repeatedly until the battery drained.
I left the next day for Limones, a phoneless man. A beatnik vibe on my mind as I strode up to the bus and bumped on down to David and then Armuelles. In Armuelles, it was getting dark. Coincidentally, my headlamp had stopped working too – a day or two before my phone. And so it was that I hopped on bus number 3 of the day, a little collectivo, headed for Limones. Lightless.
I was also directionless. Well, I knew two of my friends were in Limones staying with a local woman named Rosa. I knew approximately where they were on a map. They had not given me an address, but rather had instructed me to ask the local taxi drivers for Senora Rosa – people will know her.
There are only 1,000 people in Limones, a coastline jungle community insulated from the outside world by a dirt road so slow, so windy, and so hilly that it took me and the bus driver 2 hours to go about 10 miles.
Yes, me and the bus driver. As the lone passenger on the last bus to Limones, I had the fortune of commanding his full attention. He was determined to find my Rosa. Luckily, there were plenty of chances to question the locals, as they tended to ride horseback down this dirt road. Horseman after horseman we questioned. Night fell and we bumped along. My driver grew confident that my Rosa was awaiting me in Bella Vista, a tiny village just past Limones. But the bus did not go as far as her house, and he strongly warned me against walking down the road at night without a light. Stepping on a snake could be deadly.
So we decided to go to Rosa’s sister’s house, near the last bus stop. We passed Limones and arrived at Rosa’s sister’s house. Not my Rosa, but a Rosa nonetheless. But I would not figure that out until the next day, and so for this night I was staying with a Rosa’s sister in my tent on her front lawn. As I constructed my tent, more and more females emerged from the house until four women stood watching me build the tent. The mother explained that her husband was out on his horse fetching a tank of gas.
The next day I eventually gave up looking for my friends and hitched a ride with some local oil workers back to Puerto Armuelles. I got a room in a pension. I was approaching the parking lot of the Internet cafe when my friends drove by and scooped me up in a pickup truck full of platanos, papayas, and some other fruit. I only planned to stay a night.
I was living off that fruit for the ensuing 6 days. Coconuts from the deserted beach were my primary source of drinking water. Lemons from the backyard were my afternoon refreshment. It is called Limones after all. And so it was that I found my Rosa. I guess a Rosa by any other name is still a Rosa.
Just kidding. That makes no sense. But I do contend that time actually metaphysically slowed down… bit by bit… until I felt that I might never leave. My friends were behaving like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. High off nature and isolation and newly gained confidence in their survival capabilities. I was starting to feel the pull. We had everything we needed at Rosa’s and it was costing us nothing. I met Rosa the first night but then she was gone visiting her sick sister in Panama City for the remainder of my time. It was just me and the boys, and yes we lacked coed counterparts, but our energy was spent on survival and spiritual connection with the jungle and the ocean. Why was I going to Colombia anyway?
On my final day, I proposed a long walk on the beach. We began walking, and before we knew it, time had escaped us. The sun was setting, and we were hours from home. It was the turning point, time to go back, but then my friend Tonguy said with a smile –
We are definitely sleeping out tonight.
And yes, we walked even farther, until the lajas grew larger and the beach curved farther and farther to the right, and by the time we went to bed around a fire on the beach and drank our coconuts, time was nothing, nothing except maybe for a long swoop of the sun, and we had found a beautiful beautiful place on the Pacific Ocean with not a human in sight, and we were no longer in Panama anymore, we were just on a beautiful black sand beach under a leaning coconut palm. And as a matter of geolographical fact, we were not in Panama anymore. We were in Costa Rica.
That night it rained lightly and we bristled and fed the fire. The next day we walked through John Deere tractors up a boiling hot dirt road through a palm oil farm. No border check points on these jungle roads. Before long we were back in Panama, and I knew this because we were back at the first Rosa’s sister’s house, in Bella Vista, and the grandmother allowed us coconuts as I told her how I had found my friends.
Well, the next morning I forced myself to leave Limones, and 3 bus rides and a taxi cab later I was in Panama City at a hostel. That was last night, and now today I sit at that hostel computer and type this.
This morning, I realized I left my Macbook charger in Limones. And so now I am without laptop and without phone.
I have been doing research on hitchhiking from Panama to Colombia by boat through the San Blas islands. It is possible, and the best part is that if you fail, you still visited San Blas.
I think if I had my phone or laptop, I might be spending more of my day watching Netflix, surfing the web, and of course looking up flights to Colombia. And then I might see a flight and just say fuck it and book it, because deep down I know hitchhiking to Colombia might fail miserably.
But, I do not have my phonelaptop, so the day after tomorrow I will leave Panama City bound for Portobelo, where I will find the local skippers bar, Captain Jacks, and I will talk some shit with some sailors and brandish my ukulele in the hopes of finding a free ride to Colombia.
Next up, hitchhiking by boat from Panam to Colombia. Certain to be a failure or success.