“You suggested two days, Kathleen, and you were right. Two days would have been perfect. In the end, though, we stayed five. We couldn’t leave!”
Friends from Paris, Vincent and his wife Marie-Laure, have been visiting us in Panama over the past couple of weeks. They wanted a beach escape, and I agreed that Contadora Island, an hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Panama City’s Amador Causeway, would be a great, quick sun-and-sand trip. They decided to go for three nights. Then, as Vincent explained to me last night, when it came time for them to return to Panama City:
“Our ferry broke down! Not too far offshore the island. Eventually they figured out that the battery had died. But no one came to help us. We floated around in the bay for hours.
“Finally, another boat came by and was able to jump-start our battery. But the captain of our ferry was worried he wouldn’t be able to make it all the way back to Panama City, so he returned us all to Contadora.
“We were told that the ferry service was indefinitely delayed, so we went to the little airport on the island to see about buying tickets to return by plane. But we were too late. So many others had gotten there before us that all flights from the island back to Panama City were full for two days. We didn’t want to stay two more days. That would have meant missing our flight back to Paris.
“We had no choice, though, but to stay another night.
“The next morning, we set out asking around, anyone we came upon with a boat. Finally, we found a fisherman who said he’d take us across the bay to Panama City for a reasonable fee. We went to our hotel, got our bags, then returned and climbed on board the little boat. We were off.
“Only, we weren’t headed in the right direction. I could see Panama City across the bay, but our fisherman was taking us in another direction altogether. Farther away from Panama City.
“‘I think there is a misunderstanding,’ I said finally. ‘We want to go to Panama City. I think it’s that way,’ I offered, pointing in the direction of the horizon with the high-rise towers.
“‘Yes, yes, Panama City is that way,’ the fisherman replied. ‘But I don’t think that my engine is strong enough to get us all the way there. So I’ve arranged to borrow a bigger engine from my friend. He lives on an island over this way. We’ll go to his island, switch engines, and then I’ll take you to Panama City.’
“In the little fishing boat, with the stopover on the little island where the friend lives, the return trip to the city took all day. But we didn’t mind,” Vincent explained last night. “We saw dolphins swimming and jumping along the way. Did you know there were dolphins out there? Amazing.
“And the water was so clear and still. The sun so bright. We didn’t mind the extended return voyage at all…”