After my three months in Guatemala were up Melody came to see me, and to visit the orphanage near San Jose Pinula. It was grand to take her around to all my favorite spots in the city and eat all the food. She'd also been to both places before, so she already knew a bunch of the good spots herself.
We flew out of Guatemala City about a week later to go to Panama to stay with Daniel and Janel, where they were renting a house to the north of the country, about a 8-10 hour bus ride from Panama City. The flight itself only took 2-3 hours, and before I knew it we were circling over the ocean to land. I feel one of the most interesting things about flying is coming close to your destination and observing the topography.
To get to the station for our bus to David we had to take a half hour taxi ride from the airport to the Albrook station, where we had to wait a grand total of eight hours for the midnight bus. We got bored. Very bored. After the mall closed we also got hot because there was no A/C in the station. Ice cream helped, for a little while.
Here you can see snippets of the progressive boredom. ^ >
I have ice cream on my chin. ^
The bus ride, once we got on, was an entirely new experience. I fancy Melody and I have both traveled uncomfortably before, but this was taken to a whole new level. Let me just tell you, if you ever travel coach in Central America wear layers: long sleeves! Sweaters! Hats! Jeans! They have one level for the A/C: freezing. Ironic, because the bus station was anything but cooled. I had brought my sweater in my bag (the luggage was stored below) but poor Melody had not and I ended up pulling random articles of clothes out for her to stay at least kind of warm. I think it was things like an extra shirt and maxi skirt.
I remember thinking that were it possible to generate a way to wrap myself within myself I would do. No doubt delusional by that point, but it felt as if we would never be warm or comfortable again.
But such things usually end, and this was no exception. At dawn we transferred at David for Boquete and arrived at the cusp of a hill, with this view just below us. Boquete is called "Little Switzerland" with good reason.
Up until this trip in Central America I was the sort of traveler that takes along massive amounts of luggage. I laugh now at how I traveled then, because I took along some ridiculous things. I wanted to read while I was in school, so I dragged along a heavy book of Jane Austen's collection, too many clothes and shoes, notebooks, cosmetics for three months, and basically, half of the things I didn't at all need. All this accumulated in a 50# suitcase I was lugging around, as well as a backpack.
It is at this point I looked at the hill with my approximately 70# of luggage and groaned, because it had to be hauled allll the way up.
But, I made it! It was so good to see Daniel, Janel and Natasha again, and they quickly installed us as temporary members of the apartment and this delightful back yard. It was fringed with pines and one of the most beautiful memories I have of Panama is the wind sweeping through them driving sparkly mists across the sunlit spaces. Oh, it was beautiful.
We had so much fun there. We walked to markets, squished into taxis and vans, ate plantain all we could get, experimented with passion fruit desserts, chatted until late at night, watched the first season of Downton Abbey, visited gardens, made Scotch eggs, drew and read in the backyard garden, walked all over, and so many others things.
With all that walking we welcomed places to sit.
One of the most beautiful places we visited was Alto Quiel, or something like that. We hiked way back in where we saw a Quetzal, waited to hear monkeys and didn't, but came instead to this fairy-like waterfall.
Some of the best memories and strongest friendships I have made are in times when a group of us friends spent concentrated amounts of time together traveling, or in this case staying put in one place abroad. The meals, the walks, the day trips, the talks, recipe planning by foodies, and the everyday life we lived together there was a part of the foundation for an enduring friendship. Daniel, Janel, (and Co) and Melody, I sure hope I can travel with y'all again someday.
Panama, it was a pleasure.