Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The End of the Line

Saturday

Leaving the RV park, we started off down the Pan-American Highway towards the canal. As we got closer, it began to rain profusely. After the large suspension bridge, the rain tapered off and stopped. So much so that when we arrived at our destination, Parque Nacional Soberanía headquarters, it had yet to rain. However, as we tried to enter, we found the placed locked up (probably out to lunch) and the clouds ready to let forth their burdens, so we decided to wait out the rain in the van with lunch. When the rain had mostly stopped, we went inside to determine where we could camp and get a map for the path. They suggested camping there at headquarters where they had bathroom facilities and were welcome to use their kitchen if needed. They were quite friendly and helpful.

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We decided to wait out the rest of the day in the van. I wanted to hit up el Camino del Oleoducto (Pipeline Road) in the morning when there would more likely be wildlife to spot. When Jonathan climbed up top to read, he spotted a litter of kittens in the abandoned park vehicle next to us. They were adorable!

DSC04395 There are 5 of them, but it was so hard to get a pic of them all together as they would run when they saw us. I had to sneak out of the van and around the vehicle to get this.

Sunday

We rose early with aim of being on the road by 6:30am. True to form, we didn’t get on the road until about about 7am. With the signs, we found the trail/road easily enough. This pipeline road is supposed to have a high population of birds, with up to 535 known species. We walked along the path listening to the sounds of the jungle: the whirring of cicadas, the triple thunk of a woodpecker, the varying chirps of many different bird species. Unfortunately, it was difficult to spot any of the birds through the leaf cover, especially without binoculars.

DSC04397 There were some crazy looking spiders along the trail and near our campsite. That picture of him is only slightly enlarged. I would say it was 3” toe-to-toe.

With Jonathan’s sharp eyes, we did find some interesting creatures, including a large, beautiful butterfly that was colored blue from above and dark (maybe brown) from below. I wasn’t any good at getting pictures of them, though (too fast).

DSC04406He is the dark spot in the center.   

After our trek, we officially began our return through Central America! It has been a fascinating trip where both of us have learned and seen a lot. It is not over yet, but has reached its peak. 

On the way back over the canal, we pulled over on the northern side of the canal to take pictures of it and the bridge. The northbound traffic lanes were closed along the entire length of the bridge, so we were able to walk down them to explore and get good views of the canal.

DSC04428 These things looked a bit like sails from a distance.

DSC04433 The Panamá Canal.

While we were in the middle of the bridge, I spotted the carcasses of these HUGE beetles. Boy, was I glad they weren’t alive!

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Monday

Don’t you hate it when you get flustered in a situation and forget all the things you were supposed to do? And manage to accomplish the opposite of what you wanted to?  That is what happened to us today. It started out innocently enough.

We woke up with a message from Linda and Aron, who were stuck in Santiago with van problems, desiring Jonathan’s advice. We were only 2 hours from Santiago and were going that way anyway today, so we decided to stop by.

After an hour of traveling, we entered Aguadulce area. As we pulled into the metro area, there was a cop in the oncoming traffic with its lights flashing. We watched it turn into a retorno (turn-around) and sit there with its lights flashing as we approached. Many people just ignored it and kept going. We pulled to the far lane and went slow and kept going like everyone else. However, when we passed it, the driver stuck his arm out and waved at us at what looked liked they wanted us to pull over. There were other vehicles around us, though, so we hoped it was one of them. They pulled out of the retorno and pulled up next to us and signaled we should pull off. So far, nothing too unusual. We had been pulled over before.

This time, the guy came up and wanted to give us a ticket for not stopping. He was very hard to understand, but what I got out of it was that he wanted is to follow him to the police station to give and pay for a ticket. Well this was new and started to get me flustered. So Jonathan followed him. He immediately proceeded speeding down the road at a pace that was difficult to follow. Then he pulls off on the side of the road just outside of town. This should have been a warning flag. He then proceeds to tell us that we had been speeding: 82km/h in a 60 km/h area. Jonathan wanted to know where. At this point, the second officer comes up and says that another officer down the road called it in. (Another warning flag here.) He says the ticket will be $75. The second officer then goes back to the car. The original officer begins explaining the rules of the road with speed limits, etc. That we would have to go to Santiago to pay the ticket, etc. He said it would be $100, but for $50 he would not give us a ticket. Wow. Our first bribe actually offered. I talked with Jonathan. I didn’t want to pay a bribe. It isn’t honest; I don’t want to fuel the market. He agreed, so I tried to ask for the ticket by saying I would pay in Santiago. The officer says that for us, he would accept $40. Apparently he isn’t listening to me and I am getting flustered. I try to tell him we don’t have much. That we will go to Santiago. He still doesn’t accept it. I guess at this point, I was just ready to pay the money and started grabbing for the money. Jonathan stops me. We talk about it and decide to offer $20 and get it done with.

Ugh.  Shortly after he left, I remember all the things I should have done. I should have said, “We want the ticket.” “We will go to Santiago.”  I should have asked for his name and badge #. I should have asked for the name and badge # of the officer who called us in. I should have never paid the bribe. Above all, remain CALM!!! Ugh, I hate it when I let the circumstances get me flustered and I do what I don’t want to do. I hope that should this happen again (I hope not), I will do better and not give in.

We made it safely the rest of the way to Santiago and found the hotel Aron and Linda were staying. Within minutes, the guys were tearing into the wheel to find the issue. Turns out it was a bad wheel bearing, as they had thought. Fortunately for them, Jonathan had a spare we could give them. Otherwise they would have had to hunt around for one.

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We said our goodbyes and wished them well on their journeys. Fortunately, we made it to our next stop at Las Lajas beach without any more excitement.

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