Tica Bus from Panama City to San Jose

Getting to Costa Rica was a nightmare; it didn’t stop pouring rain for the 2 days it took for me to get from Panama City to San Jose when it was actually supposed to take 15 hrs in a bus. The heavy rains came late in the wet season this year, and apparently with more rainfall than usual, so a bunch of mudslides and bridge collapses shut down many major highways and closed off cities from road transport. It was almost impossible to get out of Panama too because Nov 3rd was a national holiday celebrating their Independence from Colombia. Their Independence Day is actually more like a 5 day weekend holiday, and every Tom, Dick and Harry was both trying to get into the city and out of the city, causing every bus to be fully booked. I bought the last seat on my bus, which was actually the last seat in the back of the bus, conveniently located right beside the most foul-smelling, pee-covered toilet ever; I cringed every time the door opened, and since we had 46 people on the bus, it opened pretty frequently, offering a lung-full of sewer air every 10 minutes.

perfect depiction of a blocked road, from Frank Delargy at Virtual Tourist

We first hit a mudslide at around 9pm, after the Costa Rican border but still about 5 hrs away from San Jose. The bus decided to park beside it and wait, asking us all to get some sleep while we waited for the road to clear. When I woke up at 6 am, everyone else was also sleeping and looking out the window revealed no one had even arrived to start clearing the road. After spending 8 hrs in the nearest town listening to the radio and waiting for the road to clear, a police car drove through with loudspeakers announcing the way had been cleared. We drove on, passed the first mudslide, drove over an extremely distrusting, temporary bridge to replace a collapsed one, and then hit another mudslide. We waited roadside, this time only for 3 hrs, and finally made it to San Jose at midnight the next night.

Luckily I had a friend on the bus who spoke English better than my Spanish and kept me up to speed, and also got me a taxi out of the sketchy suburbs where we arrived too late for anything to be open, and I spent the night at a friend’s place. His mattress on the floor felt like a five-star hotel, and so did showering off the pee and crowded bus aroma of the 2 day journey. It was still raining outside, for the next 2 days I was there, but I wasn’t in a rush to get out of there knowing how many more mudslides still had to be cleared all over the country

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