Panama City Travel Blog› entry 65 of 71 › view all entries
January 13. Due to my revised itinerary (I changed flights mid-trip to return to California a bit early to allow for some recovery time), I leave South America today, headed north to Panama today, and then to California on Thursday.
That's it. Sabbatical over.
I set both my alarms this morning because I wanted to make sure I didn't miss my 10am bus to the airport. It worked. I woke up. I made the bus. And I made my flight.
I arrived in Panama at 5pm with pretty much no hassles.
Uncle Bruce wasn't going to pick me up this time, since I was arriving at rush hour. It would be impossible traffic for him. But I did follow a trick he shared with me.
After picking up my bag at baggage claim, instead heading directly outside to catch a standard, official $20-$25 cab into the city, I headed UPSTAIRS to the drop-off platform. Here, according to Bruce, I could possibly snag a cab who had just dropped off people and pay $15 to go to city. (The driver would obviously rather have $!5 than drive back to the city alone.) The catch was that this practice was theorectially "illegal" or at least a no-no as it eroded the airport taxi business. Nonetheless, I gave it a go.
I headed upstairs and pretended to be on the cell phone as I looked around for taxis dropping off people. Within a few minutes, a cab cruised by me rather slowly - and the driver waved me in. He didn't open the trunk - hell, he didn't even really slow down - I opened the rear passenger door, jammed my big backpack, little backpack, and trash sack holding my prized leather jacket into the back seat, and leaped in on top of everything, slamming the door behind me. He sped off, as I nervously asked - ok, so how much $ to the city? I quickly answered for him, proposing $15 - he said "Si". (That's yes for you ultra-gringos).
Turns out, my driver's name was Salusiano - and he was a very nice man. I didn't mention it in the above paragraph, but there was another passenger in the front passenger seat - his teenage son! Maybe the son was visiting from Panama's interior and just riding along with papa, not sure. Anyway, Salusiano and I chatted in espanol on the way into the city. I told him I leave on Thursday morning and would need a ride into the airport. He said he'd do it. Even if it meant a 5:45am drive (which it did).
Salusiano and son dropped me off at Hotel Marbella - where I had stayed 2 months earlier. I paid him $20 for the ride, not $15, since he had paid the $2 for tolls along the way. The other $3 would be considered a very good tip. He gave me his number and promised to be at Marbella at 5:45am on Thursday morning. I believed him.
At Hotel Marbella, I checked into room #417 and then traded emails with Uncle Bruce to let him know I arrived, and to set plans for the evening.
Our plans were simple. We'd meet at La Terraza bar at 8pm for a snack and beer. And that's basically what we did.