Panama 2020 – Last Show On Earth Ep 9

What a day was yesterday! Leaving the coastal paradise after 105 days, saying goodbye to the house on the hill! We were up at 5 am to prep for the last dawn photo shoot; mermaids in the mini pool, shipmates in the house, like ya do! Our transport was booked for 7 am but typically doesn’t arrive. This was just as well, as we were still up to our lashes in golden machetes, wigs and beach trash! We heard Carlos shout up from below that the transport can’t make it up the hill due to big rains in the night. The prospect of hand-balling our entire tat pile down a mud slide to the beach is daunting. Maybe we were not leaving after all? 

But Grimaldo the neighbour knew another route! Phew! Local knowledge! We only just made it, no time to say goodbye to angel Jose! It was hit and run at the Tribal Gathering finca, as we fumbled through rushed paperwork and sweaty goodbyes. And then we were off, cruising through the jungle! I was thinking “Ahhhhh big William was at the wheel, but we never saw Gonzalo Gonzales, my hero (long story).” Then, as we passed the first village, there he was at the roadside! He jumped in for a ride to the next village, ahhhhhhhhhh what a geeza! He planks trees in the jungle barefoot with a chainsaw at 65 years old. I gave him my boots and some other useful paraphernalia! Once we dropped him off at the crossroads and hit the next Pueblo, it was time for medical checks and face masks! A terribly slow process, Panama stylee, but we make it through. Is this good or bad news? 

One more checkpoint and we’re back in the bello, Portobelo! We landed slightly dazed and confused at the new HQ, with a monsoon-scale downpour as we unloaded our luggage, ensuring everyone and everything was soaking! New HQ is a nice spot on the water though – wow! Walls! Taps! Clean sheets! Air conditioning! Disorientating. The cash point was just near us on the main road next to  the police station, “OK” I think to myself, “go get the dollars for rent, where’s my shirt? Ah whatever…” I got the cash out and walked back across the parking spaces in front of the police station. There were some cops on the front step, one had a bald head and I recognised him as the chief of police, whom I was hassling along with the minister of health, at the gates of the festival the day they came to lock us in. In the end they had sidled off crab-like. I don’t know for sure, but maybe he recognised me. His colleague called me over, ushering me inside the station, and after some broken exchanges in Spanish he established that I’m English.

“Ahhh English, hmmmm, errr, you are …. arrested!” 

Ooph! For not wearing a shirt in public! A crime in Panama. So there I was, stood in the corner like a naughty kid in my shorts and crocs. I was given a mask to wear, niiice! It’s cold with the AC on full, my mind was racing, heart sinking, it’d been awhile since I had stood in my undies in a police station! Time dragged, the bald policeman came in and said something rude about me – I think, but Panamanian Spanish is harder to tune into. Something about foreigners coming here, wandering around naked etc. Deportation was mentioned, but they were also aware there were no flights for 6 weeks. Where would I be waiting for that then? Minutes turn into hours, days, and suddenly I realise: “Shit Mai is sat in the house wondering where I am!” Oh shitty fuckety fuck sticks! 

But then Amy, the friend who sorted us out the new place, appeared! I discover she is a maestro of humble negotiation. The bald eagle grumbled,

“Fuck you he is nicked,”

I roughly decipher. Amy replied that I have paperwork to travel today and just arrived, a client of a neighbour, hands in prayer shape on chest. There was a growled spat retort, and then they relented and let us go. Elation, weak knees, dizzy spells, air tasting like golden elixirs of the gods etc! I recall a memory from all those years ago, when I was trying to leave Portugal to return to the UK, getting robbed, eventually busted and imprisoned, and realising I just shouldn’t be trying to leave! As it turned out life took off in an awesome direction once I realised this and was freed, and this moment had a similar vibe. But how easily and suddenly your paradise dream can become a totalitarian nightmare. You’re not on the edge of the wild frontier now, Francisco! You are in lockdown, next door to the police station. Welcome back to the un-real world! We get drunk and watch the sunset, there is nothing like a sunset or rise after even brief incarceration. The wine and rum tastes good! Ah, surely nothing else can go wrong? Next day I wake with a cracking hangover to discover the airport is closed for another month. That’s that then!