A local bus ride in Panama feels a lot like you just jumped on the back of the world’s largest tortoise, who stops to forage every five paces, sometimes overnighting at a watering hole.
A simple trip to a neighboring town twenty miles away may take approximately 36 hours. The strange thing is, it has nothing to do with road conditions or the horsepower of the 1970’s era school bus.
They are just in no hurry to get anywhere. Maybe the bus driver receives a phone call, so he downshifts to first to answer it, an hour and three blocks later he says his goodbyes and the shift is made to second.
Around dinner time we pull over and some passengers may get off to enjoy feasting at the street side grill. The bus driver may, at that point, decide to call it quits for the night and set up his hammock at the front of the bus – not to be disturbed until the rooster has crowed the final wake up call the next morning.
It’s 10 a.m. and we get started again…but only after the driver sits motionless in his seat for two hours contemplating the arduous 10 miles ahead of us and the terminus of our journey.
The day is filled with random pull-overs to the road’s edge where everyone will enjoy, for example, a soaring vulture, a teeming ant hill, or perhaps another bus that left years before us, but the unfortunate passengers on board had died of old age before the driver could make it to the terminal. In total I have taken 3 round trip journeys and by the time we made it to our destination, I had forgotten the reason for traveling in the first place and consequently have aged to the ripeness of 42.