We just returned from Golfito, Costa Rica. We left yesterday at about 10:00 A.M. - walked about a mile to the main highway and caught a bus to Concepcion - caught another bus to Frontera, which is the Panama/Costa Rica border. Praise here for Joy; If it were not for her adequate knowledge of Spanish, bus travel, border crossings, etc. would be difficult if not impossible.
This was the first time we had been to the border crossing on the Pan-American highway. You may recall our frightening experiences with the crossing at Rio Sereno two years ago. We mistakingly thought the crossing here on the big highway would be different. Truthfully it was better, but still did not meet our expectations. It was totally un-organized, and anyone could easily just walk through un-documented. After we exited the bus we had to ask where to go next. We were pointed to a tall building about a block away and then saw the cars and big rigs lines up. We chose to get in a line to the "Salida" window. While standing there a man came up and asked for our passports. He put a little stamp on each and said "dos dolares". After getting to the window and having our passports checked and stamped we proceeded to the other end of the building. Not seeing anything that said Costa Rica, we asked, and were pointed to another building about 3 blocks away. When there we could not see much but finally saw a "Entrada" sign and stood in that line.
After having our passports checked and stamped, we had to ask where to catch the bus to go to Golfito. We were pointed to a spot but after waiting for about 30 minutes we walked back toward Panama, in what appeared to be 'no-mans land', to look for a bus station. We found a sign at the curb and a bus with a sign in the front reading "Golfito". We boarded, asking and being assured of the destination. The whole border crossing thing had taken nearly 2 hours. Except for not having "Colones", the currency of Costa Rica, the trip was uneventful. We were able to pay the bus fare with our U.S. dollars, and even exchanged a $5.00 bill for 2500 colones, not having any idea if that was close to the correct exchange rate. The whole trip, 3 buses, cost $4.50 a piece.
Joy had picked Golfita off a map, not knowing anything about it. When the driver's helper asked where we wanted off in Golfita, we didn't have a clue. Town didn't look like much. It was a fishing town on the Pacific with a main street paralleling the good looking harbor. We deboarded somewhere about the middle of the business district and proceeded to walk and gawk looking for a hotel or cabina. After about a mile Joy went into a little dress shop and inquired about hotels. At about the same time we saw a sign for a motel one more mile down the road, so we continued the walk and gawk. There was a long pier with a large tanker and a large sailing ship docked, as well as other small boats in the cove. We stopped along the way to see crabs scurrying in and out of their holes. They were brilliantly colored, red and yellow, and fast! There were also huge lizards with fins running down their back and tail. They could be so absolutely still that if you didn't see them move before they saw you, you would never know they were there.
We stopped at a little outdoor cafe connected to a large hospital and shared a hamburger. As we walked on there was evidence that this had been, years ago, a large military base. If anyone has some history on Golfito, Costa Rico, please share!
We came upon a large duty-free mall just before we found the hotel. The next morning we checked it out. The motel we found was very nice; a fishing resort and casino. This morning we had breakfast at a little sidewalk cafe, walked through the mall, then walked back toward town to find a bus stop. the border crossing back was a little easier but had an additional stop to buy Panama tourist cards ($5.00 each).
The reason for this trip was to renew our tourist visa. We, after 90 days, had to leave the country overnight. When we came back into Panama there was a bulletin posted at the border changing that requirement to 30 days. We had been putting off trying to get a 'Pensionado' visa, that would be more permanent, but we will have to find out about this new law, and get it in gear.
When we returned to downtown Volcan we splurged and took a taxi home ($1.25). Mainly because Joy was having some kidney pain. She has been tolerating a stone for over a week now. We have tried several home remedies, both U.S. and Panamanian, but no success yet. She is supposed to see the local doctor tomorrow to prepare for a referral to the hospital at David, if and when the stone blocks her urinary tract. Stay tuned.
Sorry I have been so lax in writing. Busy times. I had an interesting story about our taxi rides in Panama City last week, but maybe later. We had one driver that "crossed himself" three times on the way from the bus terminal to the hotel, but later...
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