Return To Panama

It’s 6am on Thursday 14th February, and as I sit here on deck enjoying the gentle breeze, in the absolute peace and tranquility of the marina, the horror’s of yesterday melt away into the blue, blue yonder…
Wednesday 13th February, it should have been Friday 13th!
My day has not started well, and for once I can’t blame the airlines for the screw up; a screw up that could so easily have been avoided had I taken just a moment to check flight times on line 24 hours prior to flying. So, I arrive at the airport one hour and 45 minutes before my flight, “how strange” I thought “there’s no one in line at the check in desk”. I keyed my information into the monitor only to be told that I had no reservation, I tried again, careful to key in the correct confirmation number, again I was told there was no reservation in my name. I asked one of the airline representatives for help, he keyed in my information only to get the same reply, he then keyed in the flight information and told me that I was too late to get that flight, my confirmation said 7:40 am, but the flight had been changed to 6:20 and as I was checking bags there was no way I would make the flight. I had been so excited at the prospect of arriving in Panama at 1:30 in the afternoon, now it didn’t even look as though I would get there, I didn’t even have a flight!
With much help from one of the airline-ticketing agents I was eventually found another flight, it was of course with a different airline, different terminal and much later that morning… I had 3 extremely heavy bags, that were as awkward as could be, weighing 49.999999 pounds each, I had managed to fill the bags with as much “stuff” as I possibly could. Now I was faced with heaving dragging them all the way to another terminal, well at least I had plenty of time. As I trudged the long open corridors of the airport, struggling under the weight of it all I noticed the weather outside, it was horrible, dark gray skies, fog and heavy rain… Oh lovely!
Having finally reached my new check in desk, sweaty and exhausted I stood at the end of the long line waiting to check in (again). What a relief to finally offload two of my heavy bags. I made my way to one of the restaurants for coffee and breakfast. The coffee was truly disgusting, weak watery dishwater, UCK… The food wasn’t much better, and I got stiffed by the waitress … It was really starting to feel like Friday 13th… I was praying that my flight to San Jose, Costa Rica will be smooth and on time. Sadly the very full flight was 50 minutes late taking off, and I knew I had a tight connection in Costa Rica, Oh crap this wasn’t going to end well. How right I was, the line for immigration was longer than the airport, there must have been five thousand people in line, well, slight exaggeration there, but enough people that it took 90 minutes to reach the desk and miss my connection. I was sent from one desk to the next, one side of the airport to the other, once again dragging my huge heavy bags, no one spoke English, and I couldn’t help but wonder where I would end up. I’m not going to elaborate any further on the frustrations that ensued from my arrival until my eventual departure, but I was close to tears, drenched in sweat and thoroughly frustrated and exhausted, such are the joys of travel today, not helped by being in a third world country. My eventual arrival into Panama was greeted with half the population of South America at immigration, once again the lines snaked around the airport, so it took me another 90 minutes to reach the desk. Once I had cleared immigration, and that wasn’t easy as I had no return ticket, fortunately I had the foresight to carry a copy of the ships papers, and that saved the day. I was then fighting through the crowds of angry passengers attempting to find my bags among the chaos that was “baggage claim”. Outside the taxi cabs lined up and I found myself haggling prices for the two hour trip to Colon. They wanted $120, and I refused to pay more than $100, that refusal on my part created yet another delay in my long, long, day.

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