Monday, October 11, 2010

Where to begin!

To my defense, we have not had access to WiFi. But, since we have our own satellite, that is not really an excuse. I am sorry we worried our family especially Tom's mom (at 80 something! your children have no right to make you anxious), our children ( who having just visited us were not as concerned about our travels as they once were) and my sister and brother in law (who were ready to contact the State Dept). Everything is good. We spent our last few days in Costa Rica on the beach relaxing and had decided to cross the border to Panama at Paso Canoas on Sunday, thinking there would be less traffic (trucks). We had become complacent. Up until now the border crossings were almost identical. Check in to exit, get the temporary vehicle permit, our passports and Winstons health cert. stamped. Then do almost the duplicate for our new country. We checked out of Costa Rica with no issues and unlike some borders, Panama is just a block away. We had no problem at immigration but when we came to get our vehicle permit we were told to process Winston first. It was then that we found out that Panama needs to have the pet physically inspected by a vet and the vet is only available Monday though Fridays. "It's Sunday" we say to the official. "Come back tomorrow, Monday" we were told. All well and good but right now we had exited Costa Rica and were in no mans land. Looking confused and perplexed sometimes works in your favor. In addition to the official from Quarantine there was also a couple of customs officials available to check out the motor home and we told them about our problem with Winston. There was sympathy but everyone agreed that nothing could be done until Monday and we were directed to two areas that we could park until the on-site vet office opened. In the meantime they agreed to process the RV but kept stressing to us the importance of waiting to get Winston's paperwork in order. It turns out that we could have left the border without taking care of it but when we would leave the country there would be a $150.00 fine. I do not want a problem in Colon at the airport with Winston's paperwork and for an overnight pit stop with a $6.00 charge to the vet, it was worth it to us to take care of business. Come Monday we knew all of the officials and they knew us, so it was with smiles and waves that we finally entered Panama. Our first stop was to be the city of David (da-veed) to get groceries and money. We see a supermarket and a HSBC bank in the same center. Tom heads over to get money at the ATM. DECLINED! He comes back. "Our card got turned down" he says. Maybe the ATM. He grabs his passport and heads into the bank. After seeing a teller and several attampts later, our Visa card is still getting turned down. At that point, frantically we get out the satellite to contact our bank. Several button pushing and persons later, we finally find out that Visa does not honor transactions in Panama because of credit card fraud. After much negotiation with our bank, they agree to honor the card providing we let them know the minute we leave Panama. In all of our travels to date, we have not had this problem. We go into the market and shop. At the checkout, what do you know, our card is declined again. Tom is fuming. I go to the RV and pull some of our emergency dollars to get us out of the store with some dignity intact. We again contact the bank. Now, it turns out that after 10 uses (attempts) per day the card shuts down. We are assured that tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be able to use it. Thank God that we travel with emergency money in a safe. We had decided our first stop was going to be in the mountains at a small village called Boquette (Bo-kett-eh), which is only about 30 miles from David. We had read that there was street parking but on arrival we find out that Boquette is a busy, thriving town with narrow streets and seemingly nowhere for the RV. After touring the streets we stop by the bus depot to assess our predicament. Next to the depot is a mechanic shop and the owner Nick came over, curious and wanting to chat. We told him about our problem. "No problem", he said, "I am closing, just park in front of my shop. A guard will be here and you willl be safe.". We offered him money but he scornfully turned us down. "I just want to help, you don't have to pay me" he said. An hour or so later, Nick's son (Noel) showed up with the guard. They both knew about us and said that they would be in the next house all night if we needed anything. After situating the RV, we walked into town with Winston to explore. It was busy with lots of restaurants and tourist souvenir type shops. This is a coffee growing region of Panama and there are quite a few plantations. We decided to forgo the restaurants and just have a simple meal in the RV. The day had been taxing and we were tired from the whole ordeal between the border and the banking. Hopefully tomorrow we can get money!

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