February 3, 2008
Crossing the Gap, Day 4
The day started off smoothly when the immigration office was actually open and I was able to get my passport stamped. The officer needed to make a copy of my passport, so he made a kid go to the back room to turn on the generator, and the gas-powered copy machine functioned properly. The only step left was getting on the plane to Panama City.
I asked everyone with a set of ears about the flight, but still nobody knew anything. The main lady in charge of arranging seats finally told me that it was full and nobody had mysteriously not shown up like she claimed they "always" did yesterday. The problem was she wouldn't even write me down on the list for tomorrow's flight because she was too busy trying to figure out the logistics for today's flight. I had to keep on waiting patiently.
At about 11:30, a car alarm went off. Car alarms are so common in South America that I had grown completely oblivious to them, but this was a special case because there weren't any cars in Puerto Obaldia. It turned out that it was the warning that the plane was about to land, so everyone had to stay clear of the runway. Most of the town gathered to watch the most interesting part of the day when the plane hit the runway with about six inches to spare and dropped off its passengers from Panama City. The new passengers got on board and when the plane was just about to take off, one of the kids playing baseball (the only people not watching the plane) made a bad throw and the ball rolled right onto the runway. Someone ran after it, but the plane was already revving up its propellers for the takeoff. The ball slowly rolled across the pavement and came to a rest just on the other side, barely outside the plane's trajectory. The flight left without incident and I had the rest of the day to relax.
One of the military men told me there wasn't a flight for tomorrow, so I became nervous that I would have to wait three more days in Puerto Obaldia. The plane ticket lady finally wrote down my name, but told me she had no idea if the plane would indeed be back tomorrow. The Italian group I had met a few days ago on the boat showed up and were put on the list as well. I spent the rest of the day sleeping through the intense heat and hanging out on the deserted beach. The military had the town well under control and were very nice to me, but they insisted that I couldn't leave their watch because they had no control of the jungle beyond the hills. Puerto Obaldia is a beautiful place, but there's nothing to do here so I hope I can get out tomorrow.