Saturday, January 23, 2016

Our Adventure Continues From Medellin To Panama......

Yesterday was our last day in Medellin as we headed to the lobby for breakfast around 8am and our taxi driver was already waiting for us.  We only know that he was the driver because when Clyde went over to remind the desk clerk that we needed a ride to the airport ay 9 a man sitting nearby spoke up saying that he was that driver.

Good Bye Medellin!

We arrived early at the airport with two hours or more from our departure time of 12:50.  But we checked in and grabbed some well needed coffee from a Juan Valdez café, since not much else was around.  It was nice to discover from our Colombian taxi driver a few days prior that Juan Valdez coffee is NOT what the locals choose to drink.  It's much higher priced and not as tasty as the cheaper brands he told us.

Our Old Friend, Juan Valdez

After relaxing at the airport for a while we met up with Mary Lou and Bill, our friends from Panama who took the same flight.  They were nice enough to buy us hotdogs for lunch since they had Colombian pesos to use up before departing the country.  Actually Clyde and I shared one hotdog, chips and a soda and they did the same. Copa Airlines always gives passengers a snack onboard even with a flight of this short duration so we didn't want to eat too much. 

Medellin Airport Terminal

One we settled onto the plane since we were seated in the exit row seats, a flight attendant came over asking us if we spoke Spanish.  We said yes and he rapidly explained a bunch of stuff to us in Spanish, perhaps trying to challenge us to see IF we really understood the language which we DID.  You see on Spanish speaking airlines like Copa passengers must be able to speak Spanish if they choose to sit in the exit rows.  This is just in case they need to assist passengers off of the plane in the event of an emergency.

Yes, We Flew Copa

Our short 50 minute flight from Colombia to Panama went by quickly as they served us a snack to occupy our time.   Our snack was round slices of processed, fake looking chicken stuff with ham in the middle, along with a few grapes and a roll.  While Copa's snacks in the past have always been good, this one was not.  I ate the dry roll and grapes along with a drink.  Clyde passed on all of the food but did enjoy a free rum and coke since on Copa alcohol is free.

Clyde's Favorite!
Ron Abuelo y Coca Cola

Upon landing the temperature in Panama was a coolish 24 Celsius, according to the pilot which in Fahrenheit is around 75. Quickly we made our way through customs and immigration since we're residents here and out of the airport.  The airport taxi drivers were like a swarm of bees all over us offering their services for tons of money.  We know the trick anywhere in the world is to walk away from the airport taxi's who pay to sit in that prime location, so we walked. After that it was the regular yellow taxi drivers that were after us offering to take us to the bus station at Albrook Mall for $25.  We declined them as well and headed for the bus stop which was our other option, to take a bus from the airport to the bus station.  Then I noticed a Panamanian couple who also seemed interested in getting a taxi ride but kept turning them down as well.  So I had an idea!  How about IF we ask that local couple where they're going so we did and they too were going to the bus station.  So we asked them IF they'd like to share a taxi......each paying $10 instead of $20......another benefit of speaking Spanish!  The other man was sitting in front with the driver and they were chatting in Spanish.  I heard the driver say something about Panamanians instead of tourists and I assumed he was referring to us.......thinking we were tourists.  It was after that when we piped up and began chatting in Spanish that we'd been living here for over four years and have learned the language.

While in route we chatted with the couple and found out that they were also in Medellin for a week on vacation. Each of us shared stories about the places we'd gone while there and the other women even showed us photos on her phone. So we had a brief encounter with locals and yet another chance to improve our Spanish.

After making our way to Albrook bus terminal we headed into the mall to find something to eat before boarding a bus from home.  We shared a cheap pizza from Leonardo's a local chain for around $5 which included a drink.  As we purchased tickets for the bus, another whopping $5 for both, we later learned that they were the last TWO tickets for that particular bus.  At the bus station the seats are carefully counted and planned out, making sure that everyone on the bus has a seat.

This Is Where You Buy Your Tickets
NOT For The Faint Hearted!

The bus took off and quickly was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in the city.  Along the way other people got on the bus which was now at standing room only but kept getting worse.  Families of ten or more would board the bus as they kept squeezing in more and more passengers. Kind of ironic since at the station everyone is assured a seat but along the way things are different.  To take buses in Latin American countries one must get used to strange butts, crotches, armpits and boobs rubbing against them.  Our friends Rich and Pat from Austin, TX retired to Nicaragua and are always posting similar bus rides that they take there.

Buses Lined Up At The Terminal

The Size Of Bus We Were On

Since our bus left the station at 4pm.....rush hour in the big city and since this was Friday where city dwellers head to their beach homes we expected to hit traffic. We made our way to Chame around 5:30pm, making our bus ride 90-minutes which wasn't bad considering all of the stop and go traffic.  The trip usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes so it wasn't too bad at all.

Typical Weekend Traffic In Panama

Clyde just did some calculations and came up with a total of $1013.00 for the whole week spent in Medellin.  Our flights cost us $224.00 round trip for both of us, hotel costs were $293.00, and eating out two times a day and all public transportation ran around $440.00.  So, in Colombian Pesos, that only comes to 3,353,305 Colombian Pesos!  Let me read that to you....  Three million, three hundred and fifty three thousand, three hundred and five pesos.  And you wonder why Clyde had such problems keeping up with the money, especially when the numbers were in Spanish!

A breakfast buffet was included with our $40 per night hotel room, as was round the clock coffee, hot and cold tea.  There was also a candy jar at the front desk that Clyde kept emptying out in passing. While some of the women desk clerks gave him dirty looks one of  the men told him, "not to take more than 1000 at a time."  But surprisingly he forgot about some of the candies that were still in his pants pocket last night after doing laundry.  Yes, living with a man is like living with a little boy and I'm never quite sure what I'll find in the washer or dryer! Life with Clyde has always been an adventure!

It occurred to me recently that there are maybe
THREE different travel styles:

There are the people that like 5 star hotels with English speaking employees, restaurants and shops on site, air conditioning and elevators with little need to venture out among the locals.  This type of tourist hires English speaking tour guides for all of their sightseeing needs since they don't speak the local language. These folks might have mobility issues or minor health problems so a guide service is more beneficial just as a security also. 

The Hilton In Panama
One Night Stay Probably $120

The second group will stay at cheaper hotels with less on sight frills. These travelers take public transportation or walk everywhere, utilizing taxi's, local buses and subways forcing them to get up close and personal with the locals.  These travelers do plenty of research before leaving home and along the way since they are self-propelled to get around on their own, and do get lost along the way.  They probably have a grasp of the local language and are not afraid of the local population.

Our Cheap Hotel In Medellin
About $40 A Night
Hotel For Seven Nights, $293

The third group is usually younger, although we've seen older folks that fit into this category too.  These people are true travelers, money savers who usually carry all of their belongings on their backs in packs.  They might stay at hostels while sharing a room and bathroom with strangers along the way. They are usually fluent in the local language and have no fears of going anywhere, or so it seems.  They mingle with locals and other travelers alike and make plenty of new friends along the way.

Open Dorm Sleeping....A Hostel
Six In A Dorm
$6.65 A Night

We like to think we are in the second group.  Remember, there is not a right way or wrong way, just different types of travelers!

For Clyde and I part of the experience of travel is to mingle with  the locals whether we speak their language or not.  We enjoying seeing "real life" as it happens whether that be in the streets, the grocery stores, parks or public transportation.  When we find that we do want a tour guide to show us around we let a taxi driver be our friend.  In several countries now Clyde has hailed a taxi driver and asked them, "what's your favorite thing to see here?"......and then......"how much to take us there?" For a mere $20 or so we've had taxi drivers proudly show us around their home towns and all of the touristy and non touristy spots.

Typical Medellin Taxi

Our Tuk Tuk in Sante Fe, Medellin
They Called It A "Moto Car"

Some of our favorite memories along the way include real life moments such as:  why can't we pay for cheese at this register at a grocery store in Paris........a pitcher of beer being accidentally spilled on my head in Spain.......broken windows due to theft and a police barricade across from our apartment in running after placemats before they fell into the canal from a restaurant in Venice, Italy and so much more.  Probably one of the best is before we went to Paris people told us how unfriendly ALL of the French people would be to us especially since we speak NO French.  Our first hours there we boarded a subway and the door closed on my arm with my suitcase still outside the car. In a split second about six Parisians grabbed the subway door and pulled it open. Just as quickly a small framed French women put her hand over mine and yanked my arm and suitcase into the subway car before the door closed again.  So much for the unfriendly French people!

Terry Covered in Beer Barcelona

Our travels so far have been full of memories, tiring times, laughs, giggles and plenty of wow moments.  We look forward to selling our house in Panama soon so we can travel more and make more memories around the world.......along the gringo trail.

Terry and Clyde are able to "Travel The World House Sitting"  and so can you!  We have created a website to help people who want to learn about house sitting.    Information for both the prospective house sitter and for someone who needs a house sitter.

the New Website                          -->  CLICK HERE

How to Get Your First House Sit -->  CLICK HERE

How to find a house sitter          ---->  CLICK HERE

1 comment:

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