February 2, 2008
Crossing the Gap, Day 3
I got up early and promptly began waiting for a boat. Nobody seemed to know when one would leave, but they assured me the a boat would indeed be going north to Sapzurro at some point. Eventually I got the ride I was looking for and was in the last settlement in Colombia.
Sapzurro was even smaller than Capurgana, with a few deserted beaches and some small fishing boats to keep its few residents occupied. From there I walked up a hill marking the border between Colombia and Panama, and made it to a small monument and a hut with police officers from both countries. They looked at my passport but didn't search my backpack because they knew I had nowhere to run to. I took one last look at South America and headed down the hill and into Panama.
Yet another tiny village called La Miel was on the other side. The people told me there weren't many boats leaving from there, and maybe I'd have to wait until tomorrow to get out. I got lucky, however, when some police showed up for a shift change and took me away in their boat. We went a few minutes north to Puerto Olbaldia, the last town before a long coastline of uninhabited jungle. Customs did a light search of my backpack, but didn't seem too concerned with me. It would have been quite a maneuver to smuggle Colombian contraband into the country on a police boat.
I found out for certain that there would be no long-distance boats out of town for at least several days, and even then, nothing was certain. That left flying as my only option. There was a flight scheduled for tomorrow, but everyone involved in ticket sales was off drinking somewhere. Immigration was also nowhere to be seen, so the drama of getting my passport stamped was left up in the air as well.
After an entire afternoon of escaping the heat and asking everyone who would listen about tomorrow's flight, I was finally informed tonight that it was already full. However, somebody "always" canceled at the last minute, so maybe I'd still get to leave. I hung out with Ricardo, a Colombian ex patriot living in Panama, for a few beers. The Dutch-imported lager was going for only sixty cents a can, so the village ran out before dark. From that point onward, we were stuck drinking boring rum. Puerto Olbaldia's nightlife consisted of three light bulbs, repetitive music loud enough to wake the people in Colombia, and about a dozen people who found that the best place to listen to said music was three inches in front of the speakers. It was a beautiful place, but life moved way too slowly for me to enjoy sitting around much longer.
The photo album for this entry is here.