We have arrived! After 8 months, 17 days, 19 hours and 15 minutes of dreaming, planning, researching, writing, questioning, scheming, working, designing, bundling, selling and packing, we have arrived in Boquete, Panama. What an accomplishment for us! What a dream fulfilled. When people say “live the dream”, I am. When people say “follow your bliss”, I am. When people say “do it now, life is short”, I am.
Whew. I thought I would do what I usually do after a big push: collapse in bed with the flu. That would be my body telling me it is paying me back for all the stress and sleepless nights I gave it. But for some reason, that is not happening. I feel healthy and am still not sleeping. New bed, new night sounds, etc.
But all that is beside the point. I want to bring you up to date on the happenings.
We left Los Angeles right on time at 1 am on Wednesday, February 16th. John had scored two aisle seats on the exit row, which meant more leg room. But, as we found out, the seats didn’t recline. Hmmm, a bit hard for this diva to get her beauty sleep sitting up. A girlfriend had given me a Samsonite neck rest, which allowed me to put it in any position I needed to get comfortable. The flight was uneventful and, as weariness prevailed, I even managed to sleep a little bit.
We landed and came through customs with no problems. Upon exiting customs, we were met by a Panamanian woman holding up a sign with our name on it. We had contracted with Jose and Lupe Hidalgo (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get us and our luggage across town to the local regional airport – Allbrook – for $30. They are not the cheapest, but they are prompt, are very very good and they speak English with a great sense of humor. It was a 45 minute drive interrupted by sheets of rain, extremely unusual for February.
We knew the weight restrictions on the one hour flight from Allbrook to David were tighter than an intercontinental flight, so we discussed sending everything but one overnight bag each to Boquete via ground shipping. Lupe and Jose directed us to Fletes Chevale, S.A., a cargo ground transport company. (BTW, this diversion from the route added $5 to the bill. That was okay with us, because it also added 30 minutes to the total time of the trip.)
Fletes Chevale told us they would get our three big suitcases across the country to Boquete by 1 pm the next day and would do it for $16.80? That’s a crazy low price! We would have paid almost $75 to $90 in baggage fees if we flew them. John wanted to go for it. I held my breath and told John if they get lost (or stolen), we’ll need to replace every item of clothing in those bags PLUS the suitcases.
We went for it. Paid our $16.80, tucked the receipt in our wallet and got back in Lupe’s taxi. On to the Allbrook Airport where we faced a 4-hour stretch of time before our flight.
Lupe got us to the airport with no problems. Using my iPhone, I took a great photo of her and John together and would have loved to show it to you, but the one casualty of our trip was that damn phone. Because it was a small jet, EVERYTHING had to go in the upper compartments, even purses. Which is where my iPhone saw its chance to escape. Somewhere, flying over Panama is an iPhone with no service, rattling around an upper storage bin. ‘Course by now, it’s in someone’s pocket. With a picture of John and Lupe on it. And the rest of my 293 photos. And my contact list. And my notes on Panama with names and numbers we need. (sigh…hmm, will have to check my computer. Maybe all the syncing I did saved a lot of that info…..)
We made it to the David Tocumen Airport safe and sound. Nice, soft landing. Once inside we were corralled to one room where we had to wait until our luggage arrived. Here’s a clue you’re not in Orange County, California: the luggage disbursement system consists of two guys throwing your luggage through a hole in the wall into the waiting area. Okay, “throwing” is a bit strong. “Roughly placing it quickly” through a hole in the wall is a bit closer to the truth. And my suitcase was the second one through the wall. Yay!!
John’s however, was the second to last. By now, almost everyone had retrieved their luggage and had left the room. John and I were among the last. As we walked through the doors, I saw a face I had only seen online. Jeff S. lives in Boquete and we had beome acquainted through the boquete.ning web site. He and his wife had agreed to come down to David and drive us back to Boquete. I had only seen his profile pic on Facebook and he had only seen mine. But we recognized one another and immediately hugged. What a great feeling for John and I to be met by new friends in a strange country!
Okay, friends, that’s all for now. It’s 9 am on our third day here and we’re off to buy a car. I’ll catch you up on the rest of our journey here later on in the day. Will we get up the hill safe and sound? Did our luggage get to Boquete the next day? How much did we pay for a filet mignon dinner our first night here? Stay tuned for answers to these exciting questions and more! Much more! (oh, gag me now…)