Alone Like a Rolling Stone

Arrested! - C'est la vie

Due to the World ARC, our passage through the Panama Canal has been delayed a bit. After I pointed out to the agent who was supposed to get us the appointment that our three-month residence permit was expiring, we got the appointment before it expired. The day after our crossing it was windless, so we preferred to stay one more day in the anchorage, near Isla Flamenco. For the next day, moderate winds were forecast and we decided to tackle the 40 nautical miles, to San Carlos. Here is the Vista Mar Marina, where we want to prepare our onward journey.

Anchorage Isla Flamenco, Panama

As usual, the weather forecast is only partly correct and with twenty to twenty-two knots the wind blows quite hard. Clearly reefed we arrive in Vista Mar, around noon. Since the costs for the Galapagos Islands are very high, we have decided, already very early, against a visit. The plan is now to sail via Ecuador to the Gambier Islands. But also for the mainland of Ecuador some fees are charged. Even if officially an agent is no longer necessary, the entry by boat, in Ecuador, is handled by an agent. For this, US$350 is charged. The marina takes another 180US$ for their services plus 300US$ mooring fees at a mooring buoy. For the pilot we have to take on board, another 25US$ are due. That's 855US$ for a 14 days stay with about 60 US$ per day. Therefore we say "C'est la vie", go to Ecuador who wants. But for us this means a non-stop distance of about 4000 nautical miles. Gulp, quite steep, but as already said "C'est la vie".

Vista Mar Marina, Panama

But at the moment there is a completely different problem. Our residence permit expired yesterday. We plan to go to Costa Rica and stay there for a few days. When we re-enter the country we will have a residence permit for three months again. I take the bus to Panama City to pick up a reserved rental car. Unfortunately, the car rental company Alamo Panama does not rent cars abroad. But since I have reserved the car, I have to pay a US$110 cancellation fee. Unfulfilled, I return from Panama City. Since our passport problem is not solved with it, we stand the next day at the road and try to reach the 450 kilometer distant border by bus. After initial difficulties, an old school bus, which was rented by a whole family, finally stops and gives us a ride. The vehicle is called "Red Devil" and the name could not be more appropriate. If the vehicle has any shock absorbers at all, they are now completely non-functional. The steering is also violently worn out, so that the driver turns the steering wheel wildly. In Penonomé we change to a regular bus and reach Santiago de Veraguas later that morning. Here we get off at the bus terminal, which makes the onward journey much easier. The next stage is David. The bus connections are so closely timed that you practically always have an immediate connection. So we get on the bus and shortly before David we come to a police or customs check. A young official checks my passport and finds out that the three months residence time had expired yesterday. The fact that it is only one day and we are on the way to the border does not count for the official. We have to get off the bus and are arrested.

Arrested during a roadside check, David, Panama

At a bus stop we wait for our transport to the immigration office in David. The office is located in a large shopping center. Since it is Sunday, the fine cannot be collected here and they want to lock us away for one night. Only after we assure that we have enough cash with us to pay the fines, they put us into a minibus and take us to the border to Costa Rica. Here, through a complicated procedure, the fine is collected. At least we assume that the procedure must be complicated, because it takes almost two hours until we can sign the papers and give our fingerprints, old style, with ink pads. After that, each of us pays US$55 and we have to leave the country immediately. Ten minutes later we have the exit stamp in our passport and are standing, in Paso Canoas, Costa Rica on the street. Since it has become very late in the meantime and we are very hungry and thirsty, we start looking for a place to stay. Paso Canoas is full of these accommodations and we decide for the hotel "Casa Amarilla". In Germany we would say Absteige, but even Gaby doesn't care and in the nearby restaurant we get something to eat. The mood lifts until we get to the immigration to Costa Rica the next day.

Paso Canoas, Costa Rica

Where our exit ticket would be, is the first question of the official. In order to enter Costa Rica, you have to prove that you have left the country. By the way, the same applies to Panama. In a nearby ticket counter, we buy a bus ticket from San Jose to David. We will never use it, but it serves as proof that we want to leave the country. Reinhold from the SY Mare, who is also traveling with us, is the first to get his entry stamp after showing the bus ticket. Next is Gaby's turn. Arrested! The exit stamp from Panama is from yesterday. Of course, this is not possible at all. We were in Costa Rica illegally for one day. The passports are confiscated. One and a half hours waiting time until all forms are filled out and then we go back to Panama. Our stamps are cancelled again and we have to leave Panama once more. Now we can enter Costa Rica. It is quite a race, because the two customs offices are about 400 meters apart. We buy another bus ticket to Golfito, where we want to stay a few days to finally enter Panama again.

Golfito, Costa Rico

Golfito Bay is a beautiful and protected bay with a marina. The prices are comparable to those of Panama. A national park joins behind the coastal road and the colorful parrots come up to the settlements. But not only parrots but also numerous other forest dwellers, such as sloths, can be admired in the park. Costa Rica makes a very clean impression on us. Plastic bottles and the general plastic waste, one finds here only very rarely. The tide is enormous with almost four meters and so we find the Bay of Golfito, the next day almost without water. As in all of Central America we experience, also in Costa Rica, the people as very friendly and open-minded. The nature and wildlife is simply phenomenal. We have not seen much in the short time, but what we have seen, we liked very much.

Parrots in Golfito, Costa Rica

A bit nervous we board the bus from Golfito to Paso Canoas. After our experiences a few days earlier, we are curious to see what awaits us today. In Paso Canoas, all three of us give each other another pep talk and take the first hurdle, leaving Costa Rica. The customs officer tells us that we have to pay a handling fee of 8US$. We can pay this fee online via cell phone or at a bank. Since our Tigo card does not work in Costa Rica, we have no network. So we need a bank. However, you can't get into a bank in Costa Rica that easily. Bag check, face check and questions about the request, must be answered. A lady who speaks a little English is assigned to us. She leads us to a machine, in which we must enter name, passport number etc.. Afterwards, we are asked to put our credit card on the machine and pay by hand. This works the first time, but when I want to pay the second amount, the card refuses to work. Also the second credit card does not work today. Reinhold comes to my rescue with his card, and lo and behold, the amount is charged. However, Reinhold has the same problem, namely that the amount he has to pay for his departure is refused by the machine. Gaby pulls out her two credit cards, but they don't want to either. Only when Reinhold lifts his card to the card reader a second time does the red button turn green.

Golfito, Costa Rica

Although the counter room is clearly cooled down by an air conditioner, we already have beads of sweat on our foreheads again. We make our way again to the exit point, passing a flattened iguana lying on the side of the road. The road is dusty and the air is shimmering with heat, like in the movie  Once Upon a Time in the West. But finally we get our stamps and are out of Costa Rica. When we enter Panama we are lucky. We meet the young official who took us out of the bus before David and to whom we told our story during the waiting time. He is happy to see us again and the entry to Panama works without any problems. We are back in the country for three months. Relief spreads and we all take a load off our minds. We get on the bus to David and start our journey home to our boats.

Destroyed immigration building complex in David, Panama

In David, the building of the shopping center that housed the immigration office is no longer standing. Or rather, the entire building complex has collapsed. Police and firefighters are present to save what can be saved. Light clouds of smoke are still rising into the sky. It was not us! At the time of the accident, we were verifiably in Costa Rica. It's hard to imagine what would have happened if we had actually had to spend the night in a cell at immigration due to our arrest and the building had collapsed two days earlier. We hope that the whole thing happened at night and no people were harmed. But that's life or as the French say "C'est la vie". What we are doing in Panama, you can read again next week at this place. Until then, we wish you always fair and keep a stiff upper lip.

Bus tour to Costa Rica