Splashing Around, Funfairs and Car Shows. A Joyus and Way too Short Evening – David, Panama

Our bus journey to David was long and uncomfortable – the bus itself was nice enough (typical big coach), but alas there was no air conditioning and it was an absolutely sweltering day. It was supposed to be a 10 hour journey to start with, but road works on the Costa Rica leg meant that we were sat there moving maybe an inch every ten minutes in the traffic, in the scorching heat for a few hours. Opening the window was no use when the bus wasn’t moving as the air outside was just as hot, and even though we could step off the bus while it was stuck if we wanted, that was pointless too as it was just SO HOT. It was a horrible, restless bit of the trip  – we tried to get some sleep but couldn’t due to the stifling heat and being soaked through with sweat. Finally we passed the road works and got moving again and the open windows offered us a slightly cooler (but still pretty warm) breeze.  We really wished we’d managed to get onto that night bus!

Thankfully there was a stop at a little service station (well, there was a little shop/restaurant with lots of food on hot plates that looked nice but we couldn’t face hot food in the heat so just grabbed ourselves several cold beers (for now and for the bus), and had to hide the bus beers as the driver had been glaring at us and shaking his head when we came out of the shop with our arms full of bottles, so we assumed that you weren’t allowed to drink on the bus.

The weather had been getting closer and more humid as we approached the Panama border, and as our coach pulled in the heavens opened with lovely fat rain. We danced around in it for a bit, thoroughly enjoying refreshing downpour as we had been feeling so horrible and sticky from the sweaty bus ride, before getting stuck into the administrational nightmare that is the Costa Rica-Panama border. We had to join the end of a massive queue to get to a tiny window with one person on it (despite about 5 more coachfuls landing at the same time as ours) to fill in some forms, then go to join the back of the next massive queue for another window to do the next bit, then another to get your baggage searched, and so on… Jill had to hide behind lorries across the road as you weren’t allowed to smoke ANYWHERE, despite most of it being outside (she told the little old man with one leg who had alerted her to the back of lorry hiding place about not being able to smoke on the roof terrace in San Jose, and he shrugged and said it was even worse in Panama!).  The whole ordeal was incredibly frustrating and during the couple of ours we spent hanging around in queues, we came up with all the systems and administrational solutions to streamline the border control and made a note to ourselves when we got home to write to the Panamanian/Costa Rican government with our proposal and see if they would employ us to come over and improve their efficiency.  Heading back to get on what we thought was our bus, we realised the buses had changed over and our bus was going back to San Jose and we had to get on another one to go to David. Jill realised she’d left her trusty Delta Airlines blanket on the original bus (we brought them on as all the other “posh” coaches we’ve got have had the air conditioning turned up to “Siberia” and we’ve spent most of the journey shivering. At least this wasn’t a problem here) and dashed on to get it, only to find a little old woman curled up in her chair asleep in it and she didn’t have the heart to wake her up and demand it back. We got on the right bus at last and headed off, via some sort of car wash type thing that blasted the bus with what we thought was water but when some of it started to come in through seal of the sun roof and drip onto people, the little conductor fella jumped up and shouted “NO! MOVE! IS POISON!!” while ineffectively flapping around a man (who seemed quite indifferent to getting soaked in what we can only imagine was some kind of disinfectant or pesticide – he was most likely pleased to finally get rid of his scalp aphids) with a napkin.

We finally made it to David and got a taxi to our hostel. We were staying at the Bambu hostel that we were very excited about as it had a SWIMMING POOL.  It was surrounded by lovely gardens and along with said pool, had a little bar and seating area that only sold beer or rum (both $1.50 each) which suited us just fine! We were staying in the backpackers treehouse which was great! After a bit splash around in the pool to freshen up, we sat at the bar talking rubbish to the owner, staff and various residents that came and went over the early part of the evening. Despite the cheap booze, we managed to run out of cash and as we asked the barman where the nearest ATM was, he said “aren’t you guys going to the feria tonight?”
“Yes, it’s like a funfair!”
Well who doesn’t love a good funfair? We immediately got changed out of our wet clothes and got the hostel to order us a taxi to the feria (via the ATM).

The Feria Internacional David was huge! There were tons of stalls outside before you even went through the turnstile to get into the actual event, selling drinks and delicious looking barbequed meat on sticks. We paid our money to get in and at the other side of the turnstile were confronted by what looked like a load of car showrooms and not a dodgem in sight! We decided we might as well have a walk about and see if the fairground was at the other side of all the showrooms.  It wasn’t too much of a chore, since there were beer stalls everywhere (all selling only rum or beer for $1- and the rum and cokes were SO STRONG we had to drink some out of it and ask the man to top us up with more coke, which him and his mate found hilarious but cheerily obliged! ), various stages with DJs on and people dancing, lots of tractors to have a beer on and we were the only gringas there so ended up being approached by loads of people for a chat, a hug and a toast of rum. We managed to find the Nissan “showroom”, which had its own dance floor and DJ, and took a load of photos of Jill sitting on the bonnet of Qashqais swigging beer and dancing in the showroom with Panamanian boys – she works for Nissan and they frequently have photo competitions (usually with a theme of something like “capture how Nissan excites you” and that kind of bollocks) and we figured that pictures of us being drunk nobs on some cars in Panama would steal the show to be sure so!

Eventually after wandering the motor show for a good hour or so, we found another turnstile at the back that lead to the field where all the rides were (and we had to pay to get in – turned out we’d only asked for admission to the motorshow! ) and we went on several daft rides (including one crazy kids ride called “Mama’s House” or something that was a little pink house that spun around in the air and another one that straps you in and throws you around – when who turned up but that rapscallion Mandible again! Concluding in the most hilarious picture of all time that to this day Susan just has to flash at Jill for her to collapse in a puddle of wii and giggles), challenged the locals on the dodgems and treated everyone to some sexy breakdancing that ended up us covered from head to foot in dust and straw from rolling around on the floor like nobs. We got a standing ovation though, so it was worth it.  Jill was getting grumpy because she had no beer left and there didn’t seem to be any booze stalls in the fairground bit, and Susan was starving (there wasn’t really any vegetarian food on sale anywhere and she was being tormented by having to watch Jill feast upon all the tasty $1 meat on sticks) so we headed back to the stalls in front of the turnstiles to get some drinks and hopefully find Susan some food she could eat.  The drinks were no problem, but things were getting quite desperate in the vegetarian food department and Susan was getting very irritable. After a little tiff (“All there is that I can eat here is chips! I don’t want chips!!”, “well that’s all there is so what do you want to do?”, “I don’t know I’m so hungry I can’t think!!”, “Well if you’re that hungry, EAT SOME FLIPPING CHIPS WOMAN!”) Susan admitted defeat and got herself some chips and we decided to jump in one of the passing taxis and head back to the hostel as we had quite an early flight the next day and it was already about 2am.  An absolutely fabulous night (apart from the lack of vegetarian food) – we loved David and yet again we wished we had “just one more day” to properly explore the town and meet more of the fantastic people!

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