A month after first arriving in Panama City, we are still in Panama City. This has to do with three things: Our recent trip to California, the Darien Gap shipping process, and The Dog.
To be fair, Milo has not really cost us a ton of money so far on this trip. He eats what we eat, and vet visits have been pretty inexpensive (or free). There seems to be a lot of misinformation about taking the dog into Panama, but we were not asked for a bribe. We did have to wait a while for a vet to show up, but that whole thing cost us about $12 total.
This month, however, Milo has proven to have quite expensive needs. We were unable to find a boat to take him to Colombia, so we have to fly him. We had to purchase a ticket ($180). We had to have special paperwork in order to fly him ($225!). He required a cage for his flight ($75). None of this was a very big surprise. The worst part is that dogs are unable to fly between July 15 and August 15 due to fears of extreme heat. Dogs are also unable to fly Friday-Sunday. This means that after (finally!) getting the van into a container in Colón, we have to hang around Panama City until Monday. It’s a good thing we didn’t arrive on July 15 hoping to get to Colombia!
This would not be a big deal, but we have been in Panama City for something like two weeks already. And this would not be a big deal either, except Panama City just happens to be one of our least favorite cities. It is hot. The people have largely been unfriendly or outright rude. We were already not feeling the love of this city when I was pickpocketed during one of our hell walks around the city, surrounded by people who just couldn’t care less. The only thing he got was my decoy wallet (the change purse) and I actually caught him in the act–but it was a crappy experience nonetheless. I have visited something like 30 countries in my 33 years and I have never been pickpocketed before. We also returned to Panama to face some car problems–i.e., the van died several times in Panama City traffic in not very convenient locations–and we found the Panamanians the least helpful of all. Even the recommended mechanics–usually a good bet–turned out to be duds.
Panama City is also one of the least pedestrian-friendly cities I have ever visited (the least of all being Las Vegas). The malecón here saves the city. It is beautiful and well-maintained and there are police everywhere. But other than along the malecón, walking is impossible between the different neighborhoods. The city is cut up by highways and construction. Sidewalks randomly end and suddenly you’re on a highway onramp or on a major road, in traffic. I had to take this photo of Juan as we walked back from the shopping mall just because the only way to walk back was along the highway in the grass. I mean, it looks idyllic, right? Well, it wasn’t. At the end, the grass got taller and we were climbing over technological waste. I kept thinking we were going to stumble upon a body.
People without dogs always ask us if it’s hard to travel with a dog. I suppose that is sort of like asking someone with children if having kids is worth the extra expense. Milo has been a complete joy and, with the exception of this month, has cost us very little money and brought us endless joy. Neither of us can imagine being on this trip without him. If we had to wait it out in Panama City all year for him, we would.
More photos from Panama at limpire.