Saturday, May 30, 2020

Gulfito, Costa Rico 1978

Not much going on around here the heat is going down a little bit. Only 99 today! But it is going down because the wind is picking up again, gusts up to 45 mph. Our AC now comes on about 8 o'clock in the a.m instead on around noon.
I'm also sleeping later and later in the morning. Why get up? I know bad attitude. Getting tired of puzzles - still working on the 1000 piece one.  And beading - though I am going to finish the necklace I'm working on.
Since the gardener cut back the Palo Verde the bushes that were under it are really blooming. Guess they like the sunlight.

Because I don't have anything else to write about I thought I share a little from our book and our trip to Argentina. We were trying to get into Panama from Costa Rica and ran in to a little problem. 

Gulfito, Costa Rica
We continued down the mountain heading for the Costa Rica/Panama border without further incident. Passing trough nice little towns, most of the buildings are of wood with galvanized roofs. The last town before the border, Villa Neily had several stores and hotels and an Esso station. A couple more miles and we were at the border.
We pulled up to the Costa Rican border station and stopped. It was a fairly modern building with a café and tourist office. Bill went inside with all the paperwork. He was gone for a while then came back out looking like he wanted to chew someone up.
He pulled open the screen and came in - no one said anything. He glanced around, tossed the paperwork on the table, pulled the door shut and slid into his seat.  A few choice Spanish words came out of his mouth as he started the engine.
“We have to go back to Golfito,” he said. “We can’t get into Panama without visas and to get them we have to go to Golfito.”
“Where’s Golfito?” I asked.
“Back about 10 miles, then 12 miles down another road to the coast. We have to see the Panamanian Counsel to get the visas, and then we have to get back here before the border closes.”
“Oh,” Was my bright reply as I was hunting on the map for the road to Golfito and the Pacific.
He drove around the building and we were on our way North into Costa Rica again. We found the road okay and started towards the ocean.   We were going through banana plantations. Around a curve and Bill hit the brakes. In front of us was a stream that the road crossed.
“Oh my God,” I exclaimed as I saw the bridge we had to go over. Gil got up from the front seat and ran to the back saying he didn’t want to see us go in the river.  The bridge was one-lane wide (kind of), made of wood planks and it didn’t have any guard rails. We sat there contemplating it, knowing we had to get to Golfito.  Bill, Randy and John Mc got out and walked across it. John Mc jumped up and down a few times in the middle, I swear I could see the planks sag. Just as they got back on our side came a little red car zooming up the road. He didn’t even slow down while crossing the bridge. Probably was afraid he would not make it if he did. This time we could see the planks bounce with the weight of the car.
Well there was nothing to do but continue, after all Golfito was a port town and trucks used this road all the time.
Slowly we crossed. We made it. But there was an awful lot of creaking and groaning under us.  So on into town, over more streams, up a hill and then we could see the water. We drove past the waterfront through the town looking for the Consulate building. There it was - a  white building off to the left.
Bill found a place where he could pull over and stop. He and I got out of the motorhome and walked up to the door. It was locked with a sign on it saying “Closed until 3:00.”  Siesta had struck again.
We traipsed back to the motorhome, fixed and ate lunch all the while muttering about siesta. Then we walked around the harbor for a while watching the banana ships being loaded.  While roaming around the town we met two men also waiting for siesta to be over. They were Maynard, a young, good looking blond who had been born in the U.S. but grew up in Sweden. With him was Pascal (yep that was his name), who  was French. For the rest of the journey we called him “Frenchie.”  He looked like I imagined a Frenchman would look - dark hair and eyes and a short beard. Both were slender and well dressed.  They were on their way to Bolivia driving a new blue Volvo that they planned on selling there. This would be their second trip to sell a car.  We talked with them a while about the road ahead and found out about a nice campground in Panama City.
About 3:30 the Official returned and opened his office.  All of us went in.  He was a short pudgy older man dressed in a wrinkled tan cotton suit.  He took off his jacket and his blue shirt had sweat circles under his arms. What hair he had left was kind of yellow blond and combed over his bald spot. He loosened his tie, sat down behind his scarred metal desk and looked up at Bill - waiting for him to speak.
Bill told him we were driving to Panama and had been sent back to Golfito to get our visas. He handed over all of our passports and the paperwork for the motorhome and the motorcycle. 
The official placed the papers to one side and stacked the passports neatly. He picked one up it was Gils. He thumbed through it looking at all the stamps already in it, and then he turned to the picture and studied it for a few seconds. He looked up to locate the person in the picture. We were all standing in a row watching him.  When he saw Gil he nodded to himself, put the passport down and picked up the next one. As he went through all seven passports he never said a word. Just kept nodding. As he finished looking through them the passports sat in a neat stack on his desk.  After finishing the passports he picked up the paperwork for the vehicles - he asked Bill where they were he needed to see them.  Bill opened the door and started to walk outside. The official half rose out of his chair and leaning to one side glanced out the door.  Nodding he motioned to Bill to come back inside. Stamp, stamp - the paperwork for the vehicles was done.
Smiling he picked up the passports, “It will cost $5.50 for each person for a visa for Panama,” he said.
“$5.50 -  Colón (Costa Rican) or Balboa (Panamanian)?” asked Bill.
“Oh no, $5.50 US,” replied the official.
“$5.50 US each? That’s a lot of money. Why does it cost so much to go to Panama? It hasn’t cost us that much for all the countries we’ve been through. What’s so special about Panama?”
“Panama is a beautiful country,” was the reply. Then he added, “It's after hours that's why it was $5.50 but if we wanted to wait until Monday at 7 a.m. it wouldn’t cost us anything.” Of course we didn’t want to wait. 
Now the discussion began to deteriorate rapidly. It also morphed into Spanish.  The kids and I just stood there quietly hoping we would get out of there soon.
What the heck - now Disneyland was brought up. Disneyland?
Suddenly Bill turned to me and said go get the money - he wants $38.50 for the visas. I left and returned with it. Bill handed it to him; he returned our paperwork for the vehicles and very slowly stamped each passport and called the name of the person it belonged to. Each and every one of us had to walk up to his desk to get our passport.
Maynard and Pascal were coming up the walk just as we were leaving. Bill was still fuming about the price and he mentioned it to them. They nodded and said they had paid it before and the amount would change with the nationality of the person needing it. They also said they had heard he closed down every day so he could spend time with his girlfriend. Later Pascal told us it cost him $10 for his visa.
Once we were back in the motorhome I asked Bill what was said about Disneyland. He laughed and said, “Well, I was saying that the price was pretty high just to cross a border and what made Panama so expensive. He repeated that Panama was a beautiful and interesting country. And that it had the beautiful “Bridge of the Americas.”  I said something like “Not that interesting.”  And he replied that after all we charged $8.00 to go to Disneyland. I said there was more to do there. He said the $5 was for a whole country.  He was getting mad, that’s when I sent you after the money.”
Well, I guess we were lucky to get the visas. Now we had to drive back to the Highway then to the border before it closed for the weekend.  Back across the “Oh my God” bridge.  We made it by 8 o’clock just before closing time. And it cost us another $16 to get OUT of Costa Rica. So far the most expensive transition from one country to another.  Also lost another hour because we crossed into another time zone.

No comments: