About two years ago around this time I flew down to Panama to travel with my sister and her adventurous puppy in an old Mitsubishi Delica that she had built out in El Salvador just a few months before I arrived. She had been all over Central America, meeting tons of people from all over the world, surfing, relaxing and eating fresh fruits. When I arrived in Panama I was met by the sweetest couple who were watching after Ellas mobile home. They owned a cute hostel just outside of Panama City that was surrounded by palm trees and mango trees. Ella was making her way back from Ecuador so I had a few days to myself to relax in the sunshine and get used to the hot humid air.
After a couple days she and her puppy arrived, we packed up the van with our belongings and said our goodbyes to the sweet family that had taken such great care of us and her beloved van. I had only packed a small backpack filled with my bikinis, a pair of shorts and t-shirt for my trip. Only expecting to stay for two weeks I didn’t know what this trip would soon turn into.
Upon getting reunited and hitting the road we headed to the coast. We went to one of her favorite surf breaks in Veraguas, it was a heavy beach break and we arrived just in time for a big swell. Flash back to a month before I was to leave I was skiing with my sweet friend Maisy when I crashed into a tree and broke my wrist. Long story short my cast was taken off 3 days before I left so when I arrived I was wearing a brace on my wrist everyday, even while surfing. Forgetting about how weak my wrist was and how I hadn’t surfed in ages, that first session I got pretty mauled by the waves. But I was too happy to get down about anything else. I paddled for a few waves and caught a couple but I couldn’t last very long in the water and was getting completely worked when I would try and paddle back out. Lela, my sisters bouncy 7 year old -at the time- Australian Shepard was patiently waiting and guarding our van on the beach. Ella would leave a water bowl for her near the van and poke a stick in the ground and she would obediently sit and wait. Anytime a surfer would go in Lela would excitedly sprint up to them and greet them hoping it was one of us.
After two days we moved on, getting word of a big storm coming in she drove us down a long sandy dirt road that felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, which we kinda were. It wasn’t too far from where we had just stayed but it was new and different and much less crowded. As we were trying to find a sweet nook to pull our van up to and have a bit of shade we were met with our first challenge. Ole Dory-the van, was stuck deep in burning hot sand. We immediately started digging and reinforcing the wheels with sticks we found to get her freed. After battling with the sand and feeling more than crisp from the sun our home on wheels was out. We moved onto the next best spot, a shaded little area with trees perfect for stringing up a hammock and the most beautiful view of massive waves crashing onto the shore. The sand was much firmer in this spot but we weren’t about to take any chances. We gathered dead palm leaves that were strewed everywhere and laid them down to back the van onto, it worked perfectly. We opened up the back of the van and slid out the ‘kitchen’. Cutting up fresh papayas, mango and pineapple served with a fruity rum drink, we really were in paradise. The waves grew bigger and bigger with each passing hour and the clouds were looming above. We set up a small fire pit to use later and let ourselves wander down to the beach to feel the warm salty ocean on our skin. Up above, the clouds had other plans as they slowly opened up and started to rain. Embracing the cool drizzle from the sky we ran around the beach finding little treasures in the dark sand and chasing the bright purple crabs that came up to play. The fiery sun was beginning to set and our empty rum filled stomachs were starting to grumble. We started our fire, boiled some water and opened a package of pasta along with a jar of pesto – a typical meal for us. After filling up our stomachs we were in the process of cleaning up our dishes when Ella screamed and jumped back ensuing me to do the same and jumping onto a nearby cooler. I threw my flashlight on, and looked where Ella had just stepped. A scorpion was perched on the towel and was starting to crawl out of Ellas footprint she made in the sand. Not sure of what to do I grabbed a stick, picked it up and chucked it as far as I could, not wanting to have a sleepover with this poisonous little creature.
The next morning we had a long drive ahead of us as we wanted to get as close to the border to Costa Rica as we could. The day was long, hot and humid and we were weary from driving through the open road filled with gross men who would cat-call us from their cars. It was getting late, the sun had set and our eyes were getting heavy. We had a thick coating of sweat and salt on our skin and craved for a shower. Not having a place to park our home we found a beautiful hostel sitting up in the mountains of Chiriqui. Owned by the sweetest couple from the East Coast of the US. They moved down here to begin their own journey and live off the land, providing sustainable living for each backpacker that comes through their doors. We were met with warm hugs and a glass of cold water as we sat down with the couple and their young daughter. We showered for the first time in too long and washed the salt from our hair and tanned skin. Waking up feeling refreshed and clean we organized the van and did some overdue dishes. The couple then gave us a tour of their beautiful land, filled with so many medicinal plants and fruit trees, they shared their plans for what’s to come in the next few weeks and shared how they’d love to host us again. As we were checking out they showed us a wall in the kitchen that had writing from all who have stayed with them, sharing what their goal is. Not just for the year, but for as long as you please. Ella and I were given paint and brushes and wrote what came from the heart, something we both wanted to achieve and pursue for ourselves and the world we live in.
“My goal is to only influence the world and people in a positive way and with love” Annabel 04/27/18
“One of my goals is to provide for myself. Zero dependency for love, happiness or FRUIT” -Ella 04/27/18
There hasn’t been a day that goes by where I don’t think of what I wrote on that wall in the hostel. Especially in times like this when there is so much negativity floating around, it always best to lead with kindness and happiness. Take care of the people around you and the planet you live on.
We left feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness and positivity, hoping it would carry us into Costa Rica. We drove to the boarder, making it by midday, the sun penetrated our skin and sucked the coolness right out of us. At the first border point check we were stopped and told to pull over. Me being very rusty with my Spanish I hadn’t a clue what was going on but there was most certainly a problem. The temporary import permit for Dory had expired by about a month, maybe more. Ella came back to Lela and I who had been sitting in the van waiting for the verdict and what we had to do next, seeming very distressed. She told me that I would be driving with this very nice man back into Panama City to the impoundment where the van would stay until we could get her back….
To be continued.