An utterly uneventful story

by Alex on May.29, 2009, under Blog

It’s much cheaper to fly to Colombia from Panama as compared to from Costa Rica so I got on a bus from San Jose that would arrive in Panama at about 4 am and bought a flight out of Panama for midday the same day. My plan was to wait at the bus station and get the first bus to the airport.

A Costa Rican girl on the same bus chatted to me at the border and after a while suggested that rather than hang out at the dodgy bus station in the early hours of the morning, I could crash in her hotel room and at least get a little sleep. And that’s what I did, we got to the hotel just after 5, went to sleep, I got up at 8 and am now at Panama airport. It was one of those simple examples of kindness.

But it needn’t have gone like that. I’ve heard many tales of theft and druggery and robbings at knife and gunpoint and, having just watched a film about tourists getting kidnapped in Europe, loaded with heroin and forced into prostitution, I started to wonder if taking up her offer was the breast of ideas. Did she do this trip regularly, befriending lone tourists and setting them up? Would she call ahead to a dodgy cab driver who would pick us up seemingly randomly only to pull up in a rough neighbourhood, hold a gun to my head and take all my stuff? She asked for a drink of my water, would she slip in some drug that would knock me out and I’d wake up in the street or in an empty hotel room sans all my kit and having missed my flight? We got to the hotel that she usually stays at, without incident, they’re fully booked so we go to a really dodgy place ’round the corner. Was this planned? Were we staying somewhere where nobody would hear, or at least take note of my screams? Would there be a knock at the door at 5:30 that she’d answer letting in two massive guys to beat me up and steal all my shit?

Well, as you already know, the answer to all those questions is no. But how do you know? How do you know who to trust and who not?. Of course you steer clear of those who look dodgy but that’s not going to protect you from the more accomplished con-artists and professional tricksters and robbers.You could be extreme and never trust anyone but then of course you’d never properly meet anyone and miss out on a massive part of traveling and indeed life. Adopting a ‘no locals’ policy won’t guarantee anything as there are plenty of travelers who’ll rob you and hiring a bodyguard would certainly put a dent in your budget as well as imply that you’re mental. I suppose all you can do is rely on your good sense and trust your gut instincts, and of course learn from your mistakes – some bloke that I chatted to one night, well until 10am the next day ended up robbing some money from me, and my shades, having done a pretty good job of convincing me that he was trustworthy. It was a good lesson learned though, cost me less than 10 dollars and I know now to be far more cautious…

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