I had almost forgotten about  Latin American buses and their love for all things air conditioning… Or more likely I’d put it out of my mind secondary to previous trauma.

But now here I find myself, sitting in sub zero temperatures aboard a large moving vehicle with just a sheet of glass separating me from warmth… Humid sticky warmth, oh how I miss you already.

My intuition must have been working overtime when I last packed my bag, as I have jeans, a long sleeve top and a hoodie in my bag with me. Oh, and a pair of socks… one of which is on my right foot, the other is stuffed into the air-conditioning hole above my head to replace the missing cover. Yes, how ingenious… well at least the back half of the bus thought so.

The cold seems to be stirring my creativity, so allow me to take you on a journey in rewind…

Before we entered into current freezer box situation we were sitting on the side of the road, beside a parking lot, mid Pan-American highway… for 2 hours. So it could be argued that we are currently in a better predicament, being aboard freezer box moving in a forwards direction rather than sitting in a parking lot. And I would agree, if it weren’t for the small fact of the parking lot having a  buffet beside it selling Chicken Chow Mein… And when we were in parking lot I could still feel the big toe on my left foot… which now appears to have gone numb due to left foot sock doing its bit for humanity in the air-conditioning vent above my head.

Rewind to pre 2 hour wait for bus in parking lot… We get out of a taxi, tip the driver heavily, wave and smile as he drives off. We find a small ticket office with a lady on a phone who looks at me, hangs up the phone and says “Diga me” before planting her hands firmly down on the desk. She makes a phone call and tells us that we need to go back the way we came. We have some discussion. She makes another call… “The bus to David will be here in one hour. How many?”

Rewind. We are in a taxi. Arms out three separate windows holding down two surf boards that are balancing freestyle on the roof, laughing with our taxi driver.

Rewind. We exit a small chicken bus in a town called Santiago (inland Panama) and stand beside a taxi wondering how to fit two surf boards in a soaking wet cover, us and our backpacks into the taxi. The taxi driver then smiles and has a great idea…

Rewind. We are reminded of the kindness of strangers. We are kindly driven an hour in a 4WD into Soná and delivered to a bus stop by Italo, the owner of hostal surfers paradise in Santa Catalina. He loads our packs into the back of the bus before giving us firm hand shakes and wishing us well on our journey.  We drive an hour back to Santiago extremely glad to have our backpacks under the bus rather than on the roof with the surf board, as a storm comes in and the rain pours down.

Rewind. I’m standing on the deck of a rustic Hostal, high up on a hill surrounded by ocean. Hammocks swing lightly in the breeze beside me. I close my eyes, raise my arms above my head, breathe in the fresh air… and smile. Hostal Surfers Paradise in Santa Catalina has certainly been just that… Paradise.

Kimberley Casey

Founder of Time as a Traveller, where Independent Travellers share their extraordinary experiences. Kim is an Independent Traveller since 1997, and has travelled to 60+ countries. Writer. Photographer. Lover of Freedom. Specialist in off the beaten track, adventure, long-term budget travel and everything Latin America. Good at roughing it, long haul trips, and sleeping on all modes of transport. Read her story at https://timeasatraveller.com/founder-kim-casey/

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