We experienced tremendous relief after finding the rental car key.The stranded feeling was gone, and the series of problem solving clutter of strategies was lifted. We were given one key and I tied it to a large and heavy object.
The scenery on the way out of Boca Chica is very beautiful with gently rolling hills and big fields for cattle with shady trees for them to rest.
We did a quick stop at a local Mini Super outside of Boca Chica on a quiet country road to stock up on water and plantain chips and we were on our way. This was the grocery I wish we had of discovered earlier. There is an archway as you can see in the distance.
We prepared for our trip by studying the road map we had bought in detail so that we could arrive smoothly at our next destination of David. We looked for ( mostly non existent ) road signs to towns, rivers, streets etc…..then check that against the map to establish where we were. Without signage and the benefit of altitude to spot rivers and towns it can be quite awhile before you get a sign or a clue. We saw a town La Concepcion, and then continued not seeing a David sign.
We stopped in Santa Marta and asked for directions at a local beauty parlour, and they redirected us to turn around and go back. Looking at the map a second time we had completely missed David, and if we had continued would have reached the Costa Rica border. We turned back and kept our eyes peeled for a David sign after passing again La Concepcion. We noted that that junction was our important turn to Volcan which was our next stop after David. Still not seeing a David sign, we spotted a large Reys market,and a truck crushed against a hydro pole with wire hanging and police on the road, and decided that this was David. There were directions on Booking.com to Hotel Ciudad in David which I had booked. It looked like a turn of from the main highway, but we could not find a sign with the street name. We stopped at a corner gas station and asked if they knew Hotel Ciudad and bingo! We got directions, and it turned out we were sitting right on the correct turn off.
We headed down the road, however we were not prepared for the quagmire of confusion and bewilderment.
You need fast reflexes when driving in a Panamanian city, as it is a kaleidoscope of busy where anything could happen at any given moment, so eyes need to be peeled at several things at once. In driving school they say “keep your eyes moving”, and this puts it to the test. As you can see the driving creatively flows at intersections in David and somehow works. I kept my eyes peeled for the hotel as it had very distinctive appearance with a large square red shape. We pulled over to ask directions from a local man and he did a left right left gesture with his hand, and we were on our way again, discovering a one way street. Glenn handled the drive with expert pilot skills!
I saw the beautiful sight of the red square building in the distance! We pulled over again to look at it, which was not an easy maneuver. The building looked like a department store with no hotel sign.We asked an expat where the hotel was and he said “It’s right here! “He explained that it looked like a department store with the mannequins but it was the hotel. The expat was a Canadian and Glenn had a nice long chat with him. We found it had underground parking by guessing, and drove under, and security guided us to a perfect parking spot. Glenn checked us in, and a staff took our bags and showed us to a beautiful hotel room with down pillows and comfortable mattress. We had spent many nights with sparse foam pillows, and made extras by stuffing tea shirts with our clothing. We took a moment to breathe and have complete gratitude for arriving safely. There was a spectacular breakfast included in the room price of 95 USD. It felt extremely safe, and it was a gloriously comfortable nights sleep. From the hotel there is a view of the University.
Glenn patiently went shopping with me to buy a light cotton dress and sandals. My sandals broke, we glued them and they kept breaking.The bounce and rattle of the city was upbeat, and the Panamanians were friendly and welcoming. The journey into the shops was a delightful fun adventure.
We thoroughly enjoyed our one night stop in David before our trip to Volcan,Boquete Isla Bastistomos and Colon in Bocas Del Toro. The next morning we were headed to Volcan, and we already knew exactly where our turn was!