Splette's Travel Blog


Bus FeetTime to move on to Costa Rica. Flights from Panama weren’t within my budget, so I took the bus which can be fun but it’s also quite a long ride. If all goes as planned (when does that ever happen?) it’s a ~16h trip from Panama City to San José, Costa Rica. When I last took that bus about two years ago, I ended up getting stuck by a road block and had to spend the night in a Catholic convent in some village nearby.

All the tickets for the first class bus were gone, so I took the regular Ticabus which leaves Panama at midnight. Next to me sat a guy that reminded me of the main character in the movie Machete Kills. Those seven hours until we reached the border, I didn’t sleep very well. At he border all passengers have to line up their luggage in a room, so it can be inspected by the customs officers. First, all the names from the passenger’s list were read aloud. The guy had to repeat my name three times until I understood he meant me. His pronunciation of “Splettstößer” didn’t even come close! I don’t blame him but corrected him nevertheless so he’ll know for the next time I cross that border.
Next, the drug dog entered the room and ran along the line of suitcases, bags and backpacks. At my backpack he paused and and took an awful amount of time to sniff it. Was it my smelly socks? Or the two bottles of cheap red wine I ‘smuggled’ from Germany (Dornfelder)? I’ll never know. He moved on to the next suitcase without raising alarm. My seat neighbor Machete was called into another room for some questioning.
Getting the passport stamped was quick and without hassle. On the Panamanian side they took another photo of me before I left but no fingerprints this time. On the Costa Rican side the bags where checked again. This time without dog.

Bag with smuggled products

A bag full of… shampoo?

Finally, the bus moved on towards San José. Another 8 or 9 hours or so and I could have my much needed shower. But then something happened. Apparently, the Costa Rican police doesn’t trust their colleagues at the border much, as they flagged down our bus a few kilometers behind the border in order to check our luggage a third time. And well, what’s that? Two crates of Corona beer smuggled across the border! The police checked a few bags and found a huge sports bag full of… shampoos, cremes, body washs. A heated debate with the bus driver began who tried to convince the police to just let us go. But they seemed to take their job rather serious.

And now lets all get out

And now lets all get out

Another police car arrived and a guy with an assault rifle secured the crime scene. Certain products are considerably cheaper in Panama than Costa Rica, so some people try to make a business with that. And smuggling is not unheard of in Costa Rica. Now guess who the beer and sport bag belonged to? Exactly! Machete and his accomplice. The two left the bus and got their IDs taken by the police. The rest of the passengers and I watched everything from inside the bus and had great fun doing so. Until another sports bag of similar products appeared and the police decided to check again the luggage of all the passengers. Oh dear.

Women underwear and bras

Women underwear and bras

So, we had to get out of the nice air-conditioned bus and distribute our backpacks and suitcases across the lawn and wait until a policemen checked them all. My two bottles of wine wrapped into a towel went unnoticed yet again (and were most likely legal anyway). We were allowed back onto the bus but the police found a third back that belongs to Machete and his friend. This one contained new women bras and panties which the police man pulled out and inspected one by one. It was delightful to watch but in the end I felt a little sorry for Machete and his buddy, although I didn’t mind the free seat next to me during the rest of the trip, as they were left behind to do some explaining to the police.

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