Sunday, April 01, 2012

Random thoughts about travel and travel in Panama

I have been thinking about our most recent trip, and the past one.

On both trips, I had the experience of driving in a place I did not know well, where the road signs were in a language which is not my strength. It made me think about what it must be like for the tourists who visit the US. One good think is the movement towards a universal system of symbols for use on road signs. That was a plus. But then there are the "construction zone" signs. They are bad enough in English, but they are even harder in an unfamiliar language. I managed through a detour, but partly because the map function worked so well on my cell phone. (Yes, we had signed up for the international data plan to be activated.)

I most certainly appreciate some of the road signage that I used to take for granted. One of them is route numbers, and signs to cities. On our most recent adventure, I drove from Changuinola to David. The first part of the trip was on a fairly major road from Changuinola to Chiriqui Grande. On the way the road goes through and by several large-ish communities. Only once was there a road sign pointing to one of the towns (Almirante), to which we had already been, and wanted to get past. I think the signpost at the one turning had been knocked over. But, not once was there a route number sign.

I made sure we were on the right road by asking at the gas station which, it turns out, was at the point where we needed to turn. (I did have a detailed map, but I was concerned.)

The road over the mountains (Chiriqui Grande to Chiriqui) was an adventure. It was two lanes, curving (sometimes without guard rails), and long, steep upgrades followed by the reverse. I was worried about getting through the Comarca Ngobe-Bugle (independent area governed by the indigenous people) before dark. On our trip leaving Bocas, one of our water taxi companions had mentioned possible disturbances after the President's speech that night.

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