The Calm Before the Storm
With shipping the truck heavy on our minds, we booked it to Panama. The border was about three hours away from where we were staying so we woke up early to get a head start- but not before stopping at Soda Nanyoa in Dominical for a top off of our coffee mugs for the ride.
The ride to the border went smoothly. We arrived around 9am and checked out of Costa Rica in a matter of fifteen minutes. We made our way to “no-man’s land” where we planned on exchanging our remaining colones. I walked up to the bank and stood in line behind ten people before being let in the door by the security guard. Once through the doors, I felt the blast of air conditioning- ahhhh it felt so nice after camping in the heat for the past week. I made my way over to the money exchanging line. I stood there for about five minutes enjoying the cool, crisp air before I realized that the line seemed extremely long. I actually counted 37 people in front of me. And the line wasn’t moving fast. Poor Nate was sitting outside in the truck in the beating sun waiting for me. I debated whether to skip it and suffer with a pocketful of useless colones to save Nate from heat exhaustion or wait it out, completely enjoying myself and never tell Nate that it was air conditioned. Unfortunately for me, my conscience got the better of me and I forced my way out of line and through the doors to save him from melting into a puddle on Truck’s floor.
It took us a about an hour and a half to get through the Panama side of the border. Once we finished all the paperwork, we hopped into the truck and headed towards the military checkpoint on the four lane highway. Lucky for us, our destination for the night was only about an hour away from the border.
We arrived in Boquete that evening and were looking forward to enjoying the cool mountain air. We stopped at a gas station to buy a six pack of beer and the man behind the counter asked for $3.70. Thinking I heard him wrong, I handed over a ten dollar bill just in case. I received $6.30 back- oh snap!! We both walked out the the store with the biggest grins on our faces, giggling like school children and Nate glanced at me and said, “That’s going to be dangerous!”
We ended up spending five nights in Boquete. It is a quaint little town with lots of little stores and restaurants. We found a great little Mexican restaurant called Antijotos which had excellent tortilla soup.
We even found a temporary stand-in for Brady while we were there. Meet Noriega. Noriega is the perfect balance between Brady and our friend Kellee and Jamie’s dog Reina. She is fun loving, goofy and always ready to play. I even taught her how to play fetch 🙂
Feeling the pressure to get the ball rolling on the shipping process, we emailed about four different shipping agents. We were looking for someone to ship our truck with in order to share the shipping costs and the headache that comes with the shipping process 🙂 We heard back from Tea first and she told us that she had a shipping partner for us and we would start the shipping process in four days. Having just crossed the border into Panama, that felt a little rushed so we asked if she could find us someone for the following week instead and boy are we glad we did! She told us that she could set us up with a Belgian couple for the following week, who are also driving to Argentina! Perfect!
Feeling better that we had an actual shipping partner and date to ship, we decided to scour Boquete for something fun to do. We had heard of a set of waterfalls that are located just outside of town. We packed some water and snacks and hit the road. We found our way up through the mountains to The Lost Waterfalls- a series of three waterfalls which are located on a trail that winds itself between people’s homes and yards and up through the Chiriqui mountains.
We had three nights to get to Panama City, so we tore ourselves away from our comfortable life in Boquete and continued South. Our first stop was Las Lajas. We had read that it was a beautiful, white sand beach with waves perfect for beginners. Excited, we pulled down the dirt path to the town to be greeted by one resort and a bunch of run down businesses. We continued down the path and stumbled upon a soggy, wooden sign that said “cabanas and camping.” Sounds good to us! We immediately threw on our bathing suits and hopped in the water to cool off. No surfing for us, but we had a blast body surfing through the waves. We had veggie burritos for dinner and fell asleep to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore.
The next morning, we packed up and headed to our next destination, Santa Clara. While on the way, Nate and I were keeping an eye out for hardware/auto parts stores in order to buy a ball joint press. We stopped at more stores than I can count on my own two hands. Each time we went in, we would describe the problem and ask for the tool, in our best Spanish we could think of. Too many times, we would be followed outside by an employee so we could show him where the problem was on the truck and use hand gestures to describe the press we needed. After figuring out the proper way to ask for the press, we continued our search. We were given many confusing looks with a head shake side to side. Crap.
Finally, we spotted a fairly large mechanic shop about halfway to Santa Clara. After about ten minutes, the mechanics insisted on “taking a look” to see if they could just do it for us since they didn’t actually sell the tool. We had the new ball joints but not the tool. Before we knew it, they had completely taken the tire off and were diving head first into fixing the problem. We thought they would only take a look and give us an estimate, but it looked like they planned on just fixing the problem right then and there. Nate paced back and forth in the parking lot, sweat dripping from his forehead.
He spent the next 45 minutes watching the mechanic’s every move and checking in with him. Then the banging began. I panically looked at Nate and asked him what the mechanic was doing. Nate was nervous. After a few minutes, Nate strolled over and realized the mechanic actually didn’t know what he was doing. The mechanic’s way to complete something he didn’t know how to do was to bang on everything with all of his might, with a sledgehammer. Since Nate normally does all the work on the truck, he knew exactly what to do but didn’t want to step on the guy’s toes. He also didn’t want to leave with more problems than we went there with, so he stepped in and told the guy how to take the hub off. Between the two of them working together, he got the ball joints loose and began pressing the new one in. The mechanic was able to put the truck back together much quicker than when he took it apart and sent us on our way. It took a total of about four hours, and in the end, it only cost us $45!
With the ball joint problem behind us, we found a nice restaurant to camp at for the night in Santa Clara. We took showers outside in the thunder and lightning storm and ran back to the truck to watch a movie before bed. We spent the next day splashing around in the waves and tanning our pasty white skin before heading up into the mountains towards El Valle.
We pulled into El Valle after a steep, windy drive not knowing where we were going to camp for the night. There was a festival in the center of town and the road was full of people. After pushing through the crowds, we made our way to the other side and spotted a sign that said camping. We followed the signs and ended up at Potosi Cabanas where we ended up getting a room for the night because it was completely down pouring. We had been camping in the down pouring rain for two weeks now and needed a break. Everything in the truck was wet and smelly and we felt that we needed a roof over our heads for the night. We got a good night’s rest and woke up early the next morning to hike through the jungle where we were told we would find the only square trees in the world! Next stop…Panama City!