Back on the buses…brilliant.
Jumped on a bus to David as it was pulling out, so I had to sit on the floor for the first half of the journey. Things looked up after Chiriqui rest stop, where my hand-flapping strop at an aggressive wasp made the sulky Chinese cashier laugh. By laugh, I mean the corner of her mouth twitched almost imperceptibly before she went back to staring at her smartphone.
In David, I went in search of chicken and rice and found dry hojaldres and coffee instead, which sufficed. Hojaldres can be quite nice; in the same manner as your average sponge cake, they only really hit the spot when they are moist. Still tasty washed down with a strong coffee though.
I nipped into the supermarket to purchase onward journey snacks and jumped on a bus to Santiago as it was pulling out. It’s the best way to do it, whacking grandmas in the head with your guitar as you fight your way to an empty seat. This was a posh Panama City bus: spongy reclining seats, double-decker. I was on the top deck, next to Gilberto. He was prepared for the journey with six cans of beer in a mini cool-box. The road between David and Santiago is in the process of being turned into a four-lane highway; a billion-dollar project for which companies in Brazil, Panama and Costa Rica are bidding, and which is kept relatively quiet in the press due to the inevitable environmental and displacement problems it will cause. The benefits? Erm…
Gilberto works in the city and returns to see his family when he can. On this occasion, he had returned for the day to sell an oversized pig, a transaction which he assured me went well. We talked about corruption and whale sharks and the ex-president’s yacht, and he looked at me funny as I ate my yogurt by spooning it into my mouth with the paper lid.
I’m back at the same seedy bus station motel in Santiago, and like a mangy old dog you feel sorry for but don’t particularly want to stroke, I’m becoming quite fond of it, especially now the receptionist has cleaned up her act and is off the crack. Ate at a restaurant recommended by Gilberto (three dollars) and fought my way home through the Christmas crowds, eyes forward as I desperately fought urges to buy gold dangly earrings, Aztec-patterned leggings and flowery pumps. So pretty! So cheap!
The guitar attracts attention when travelling. The usual cat-calls and appreciative whistles are accompanied by phrases such as “Play me a song, beautiful!” And “You gonna teach me how to play, mami?” Bus drivers also like to tut and sigh at it for taking taking up too much room. But I got there in the end.