This was by far the oddest border crossing I’ve ever done. And I’ve experienced a few in my day. Flashback to February 2013 – I had just begun a tour with G Adventures. Little did I know what I’d got myself into.
We left Costa Rica’s hippy, beach town of Puerto Viejo and made our way to the border at Sixaola. It took us about 1 hour. When we got to the government office, we signed immigration forms and lined up to get our passports stamped for departure. Then, our guide ushered us to the perilous bridge of doom.
From afar, it looked fine. I thought it’d be a nice, relaxing walk before we left the country. The closer I got to the bridge, however, the worse it looked.
The bridge wasn’t pretty and it sure as hell wasn’t safe either. It was a railway line that hadn’t been maintained for decades. It stood on top of Rio Sixaola, a dirty, muddy river with shrubs and bushes interspersed. Whoever thought this was a good idea to use as a crossing clearly had a few screws loose.
Slowly, I made my way to the other side with my rucksack on my back. Little by little, I crossed the bridge’s old wooden planks. Some of them were wobbly and some of them were missing. There wasn’t even a hand rail to lean on for support. With every step, an odd noise. I had to make sure my feet didn’t land in a gap, where I would instantly plummet into the murky water below. Urgh!
After reaching the end of the bridge and breathing a massive sigh of relief, we lined up for 2 hours. In the hot, humid climate. I was sweating through my clothes, feeling sticky and miserable. All I kept thinking about was the light at the end of the tunnel – the pristine beaches of Panama and the cocktails I would be drinking to go with it.
Eventually, we made it to the front of the line and paid a 3 dollar fee to get our passports stamped by the pompous guys behind the window. Then, we met up with our Panamanian driver at the station nearby and made our way to the idyllic archipelago of Bocas del Toro.
This border crossing was altogether memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.