Sunday, February 22, 2009
PANAMA PART 2 "On Your Own in BriBri"
So the bus gets to Bri Bri...a small town about 6 miles from the border...named after the indigenous Bri Bri Indian tribe. The driver says "that's it...no further". WHAT???? A local taxi driver shows up with a helping hand...a hand turned up, into which you are supposed to place large quantities of American dollars. The remnants of tourists pile back on the bus to go back to Limon. However, Maria, my adopted little German sweetie companion, and I, and three other stalwarts board the taxi and give the smiling driver a 20 dollar bill. We go 5 miles. The driver says "that's it...no further". WHAT??? We get out of the taxi (and, keep in mind, that it has NOT ONCE stopped pouring ). Some twenty yards down the road from where the taxi stopped is a raging river. Wait! That's not a river...that's the road. Make that "where the road used to be". The three stalwart (sissies) got back in the taxi.
Maria looked at me. I looked at Maria. We both looked at a little boat at the edge of the road with a guy waving for us to come on. Now I have a tendency to exaggerate, but in this case I'm not. The boat appeared to be constructed from what you might find in Home Depot's trash dumpster. It was powered by something that looked like it spent the best years of its life attached to a lawnmower. But the worst part was that it already had 20 people in it and appeared to be taking in water very rapidly. I might add that 2 friendly Costa Rican Policia were standing nearby in yellow slickers, enjoying the amusement, and telling us that this was the last boat. Period.
Maria looked at me. I looked at Maria. We both looked at the taxi down the road on its way back to Bri Bri. In gallant fashion, I told Maria, "Oh Shucks...Why Not". Inside me, a little voice was crying out "I Want My Mommy". So I gave the boatman a twenty (10 for me and 10 for Maria, because she was now out of funds without an ATM in sight) and I asked the Boatman if his name wasn't Charon and if this was the river Styx. He told us to get in the boat and muttered something like "Loco Gringo".
Maria and I have the front seat of the "boat" and try to look nonchalant as the water in the boat gradually rises over our ankles. Not to be overly dramatic, but it is still pouring and darkness is beginning to descend. The twenty minute meandering ride through the flooded landscape brought to mind images of being endlessly lost in the Amazon basis...Bogey and Hepburn in "The African Queen"...piranhas and leeches. Always having my sense of humor in my pocket, I turned to Maria and said "Boy, you sure don't get this at DisneyWorld!" She put her head on my shoulder, hugged me and convulsed. To this day, I don't know if she was laughing or crying.
The "boat" finally made landfall and there was, quite naturally, a "Jesse James" there to help us. At the border there are always more than a few fellows who are very eager to assist you to lighten your load...mainly the weight of your wallet. And, for some reason, they all seem to be named "Jesse James". I knew this Jesse James (Willie) from past trips and he grabbed my overnighter and told us to "Hurry..the border closes at 5". I told him it's only 5 to 4 and he reminded me it's Panama time (East Coast) now, Mon. Duh...dat's right...I knew dat. So the race to the border begins. And this chapter ends. Stay tuned for Part Three.
OH....and I posted a picture of Maria up top, so you can kinda identify.