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HELP! Does Anyone Know How To Get Out Of Panama?!?

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Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
If you have any ideas, please let us know, because we are STILL HERE! We finally found a boat that we thought was going to take us, but then we couldn't get the required stamps in our passports in time to make the boat! So now we are breaking into two groups and we'll see who gets to Colombia first. Will it be Kevin and Abeja, or Kavitha, Shawn and Monica?

AND THEN, it turns out that the entire country of Ecuador is shut down by strikes! We have to go through Ecuador after Colombia before we will finally arrive in Peru! UGH!

So we've decided to let you in on the "inside story," so you can relive the unfolding of this adventure in our private e-mails. You see, we always have to report in to some friends who help us coordinate the Trek from an office in San Francisco, California. So today we are going to take some pieces from those e-mails so you can see how it all unfolded.

Wish us luck - hopefully we'll be reporting to you from Colombia soon!

Shawn - Wednesday, March 17
Today is our last day in Central America. Hopefully we will be in Columbia within two days. We have decided to travel together to S. America because we are behind schedule and running low on funds. No one was able to find a cheap, safe way to hike the Darién, and all sources say it is stupid to try it these days. We are taking two ferries along the pacific coast and will contact you from Columbia. Abeja and Kevin will lag in Columbia, while Monica, Kavitha and I will head straight for Ecuador. The way things look we should be in Peru by the 28th, or 29th, and I will be very relieved and happy to finally arrive there.

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Abeja - Wednesday, March 17
Looks like the boat isn't leaving 'til tomorrow now. Don't get excited. I won't believe it until I'm on the friggin' boat--until then, it's all speculation. This is a route that is fast and on the Pacific side--it's not mentioned in the guidebooks or anything.

Shawn - Wednesday, March 17
Did you hear that Ecuador is completely shut down and on strike? It's getting serious, like riots and molotov cocktails and all that. This could be a big problem for us as far as getting down to Peru. I just talked with a woman who waited four days, JUST TO GET TO THE AIRPORT! So if things don't get better soon, getting to Peru could be a real problem. We are looking for alternative routes through Brazil or by sea around Ecuador, but I don't really think there are any.

Kavitha - Thursday, March 18
We just got word... the five of us got passage on a little dirty old boat full of bananas and us... just $12 each... fifteen hours overnight to Puerto Pina or Jaque, a southern Pacific border town. I quote Abeja: "It's just a little wooden piece of crap!"

I'm glad I just watched Titanic for the first time last night! The boat's name is Amparo (which means "shelter") and it's leaving from Casco Viejo Marcado Maritime Port in Panama City around 6 pm tonight. So if you don't hear from us again, that's the news. Oh my goodness, I can't believe we're going. Abeja is already making ginger tea to help with seasickness. I've never been on a boat for longer than a few hours.

This is Kavitha signing off!

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Shawn - Thursday, March 18
We're still waiting here in Panama, but it looks like we are actually maybe getting out of here at 6:00 on a banana boat. It is a little sketchy, but it will probably be fun. The situation doesn't look so bad after all.

Kavitha - Thursday, March 18
We're a little unhappy about all the news we get from the travelers from Ecuador. We aren't sure what to do. We could get stuck in Ecuador. Or we could take a boat through the Amazon, but that could take weeks.

"Colón is the capital of the large province of the same name, which extends over 200 km along the Caribeean Coast from Veraguas Province in the was to San Blas Province in the east. Most of the region is undeveloped and inaccessible.

Warning Colón is a dangerous slum, and if you don't have a pressing reason to come here, do yourself a favor and give it a miss. Crime is a serious problem. It is not only possible but likely that you will get mugged, even in broad daylight, and even if you take every precaution. If you must go somewhere in Colón, take a taxi from the bus station; don't walk."

Excerpt from The Lonely Planet: Central America on a Shoestring, 1997 edition, page 748

Kevin - Friday, March 19, 1999
NOOOOO!!! You won't believe our bad luck. After we had made all of the arrangements to leave last night on the banana boat, we weren't able to get our passports stamped in time. It was just unbelievable how long we had to wait in different lines and how many people we had to talk with!

I don't even want to think about it.

So we have hatched a new plan... Abeja and I are going to Colon. Don't read the description of it in the Lonely Planet guidebooks - you won't like it. We'll leave at 5 am tomorrow (Friday) and it should only take us a couple of hours. We believe there are more ships waiting or passing by there than there are from Panama City. Whichever team finds a boat first wins! Wish us all luck, and maybe the next time you hear from us will be when we arrive, at long last and with great joy, in Colombia!


Abeja - The Darién Gap: Blow-darts, Guerrillas, and a Mother's Worst Nightmare
Shawn - Panama: The Fifty-first State
Kavitha - American Involvement in Panama: A Just Cause but an Unjust Result
Monica - Twenty-Two Reptiles, Toucans, and a Thousand Plants: Biodiversity in Panama
Kevin - A Traveler's Paradise: Yummy Food, Hot Showers, and NO COCKROACHES!!!
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