Up at 4:30 am to catch a 5:30 am bus from Quepos to San Isidro. If we missed the first bus, no getting to Panama in time to kayak the next day.
Costa Rica immigration was easy, we got our exit stamp – no fees – and continued on our way. Upon reaching Panamanian immigration we were accosted, truly that is the only word to describe it. One man grabbed my passport, put in a sticker and demanded $1. No explanation. The immigration official on the other side of the glass, who had Jillian’s passport merely nodded and told her she needed the same. Another ayudante (helper in spanish, but they generally are anything but) grabbed my hand and told me I needed to go to the tourism office. There we were provided tourists cards and asked for $5 each, the fee we had expected to pay, and were told that we did need to give this other man a dollar for the sticker in our passport. Pushed back out the door to immigration we stood in line waiting to get our passports stamped. Next up, Customs.
Lets keep in mind that we’d been up since 3:30 a.m (time change!) and hadn’t eaten.
Our first customs inspection of the trip. The bus pulled up and we all got our stuff out and brought it to a little room. While the others on the bus merely had to open their suitcases for a cursory check, we, the backpackers, had to empty our packs of their entire contents, open all of our small bags and cases and submit to a full inspection of our toiletries, dirty clothes and even medications. Ugh. I wanted to tell him that drugs move from the south to the USA, not the other way around. Why use a dog to search for drugs when you can go through a persons underwear…should have kept the really dirty stuff on top!? After making us declare our computer (my shoe inserts are more valuable) and asking us numerous times how much money we carried, he finally let us go. Oh the joys….TSA doesn’t even go through these lengths with backpacks…
Pulling our bags back to the bus we got more than a few sympathy looks from our fellow passengers and continued on our way.