The worst day of our trip

Getting from Panama City to Santiago in Chile turned out to be a very long day.

Our taxi arrived at 07:00 as arranged by Lyn who had won a trip to the airport in a raffle . We had to leave early as roadworks were due to begin on the highway from 09:00. In the end we had a perfect drive to the airport in Panama City arriving just after 09:00 giving us plenty of time to be prepared for our flight which was due to leave at 12:40. (Because this is a blog which does not really have photos except for the first one, to brighten up I have put in various photos taken in Panama)

 Trevor Vicky with Taxi driver

Trevor, holding the voucher, Vicky & our taxi driver

I have just looked at my journal entry for this day and it starts, “This was a day of bad experiences.” and it certainly was. It started at this airport where, as our flight was not for another 2.5 hours, the Special Services Counter for Assisted Passengers, which I was, told us to sit on extremely uncomfortable chairs which were right at the entrance and wait for 2 hours. After a bit of discussion, we and 2 other assisted passengers, were told that we would be taken to our relevant Boarding Gates within the next 15mins and that happened. At least here there were more comfortable chairs, coffee shops and toilets.

Bridge of the AmericasThe Bridge of the Americas on the Americano Highway at the Pacific end of the Canal

After an hour we looked at the information board only to see that our flight had been delayed by at least 2 hours and would probably leave at 14:50. Well, that meant sitting around for another lengthy time until at 13:00 we were given meal vouchers to use at Fast Food restaurants on the top floor. According to the voucher we could include a non-alcoholic drink. I decided that I would like a pizza so I went to the pizza shop and placed my order from a very limited menu. I then requested a fruit juice only to be told that it would cost $5! When I pointed out what was on the voucher they refused to honour it so I cancelled that order. I ended up having a delicious baked potato and fruit juice from another shop. Trevor got himself some spicy chicken and a ginger beer. There was no doubt that the flight would be delayed for at least the 2 hours, if not more when we saw members of the crew coming to get their lunch too.

High rises and SupermercadoBlocks of apartments known as Parallel Living

We returned to the Boarding Gate and finally boarded our plane at 14:55 but only left almost a half hour later. This mean that we arrived in Santiago around 23:00 but we weren’t quite the last plane to arrive. We thought, OK, we’re here just go through Customs and Immigration and on to our hotel. I had cancelled the arranged hotel transport when the delay was announced and a representative of COPA, the Panamanian Airlines, had said not to worry as they would send an e-mail to the Santiago Office to arrange transport to the hotel for us.

Long causeway and Ancon HillWhere the Cinta Costera ends in Panama City

There were 5 passengers plus 2 partners to receive assistance. We were told to wait at the front of the plane until the wheelchairs arrived. Finally one did and I was told to use it and Trevor to come as well. We didn’t see any others on our way up the ramp and we learnt why when we got to the main corridor. Waiting for us was an 10-seater golf cart! We got on to that and 1x1 the young man brought all the others up from the plane. We then begin a long and winding journey through the airport. Suddenly we stopped at a set of double doors marked Emergency Exit. Our driver stepped off of the cart and took some photos of the signs on the doors on his phone and then got back on and drove a bit further. Once again he stopped at a pair of double doors but these were open and he went inside. He came out with a young man in a wheelchair and got him to sit on a bench. He went inside again and came out with 3 more passengers.

 Crater and road to the view siteThe El Valle de Anton Crater

More driving around and we finally arrived at Immigration where, usually, assisted passengers were taken to the front of the queue but not this time. First, he asked the 3 newest passengers to go with him and 30mins later he returned and took 2 other passengers. This time he was back in 15mins and took 1 of the wheelchair passengers and was gone for another 30mins. In the meantime, we were watching incoming passengers complete health questionnaires in connection with Covid-19. Why he didn’t give us the forms to complete while we waited we’ll never know. A lady with Supervisor written on her overall came past but would not speak to us as we did not speak any Spanish.

Puente Atlantico bridgeShip in the Agua Clara Lock with Puerta Atlantico Bridge in the distance 

Finally he got 2 wheelchairs and let Trevor push mine while he pushed the other passenger. Instead of going to the front of the queue we just joined the general one which explained why he had taken so long each time. Once we had been stamped in we turned a corner only to find that officials were waiting for us to complete the health forms. By the time we arrived at the carousel to collect out luggage it had already been taken to the left luggage section.The other passenger had someone waiting for her so he asked us how we were getting to our hotel and we tried to explain what we had been told to expect but he understood that he was to take us to the taxi rank. While we tried again to explain a very kind gentleman, who spoke both English and Spanish, explained the situation to the young man and agreed to take Trevor up to the COPA offices. He told us to remain where we were. Well, once they had gone up in the lift, he pushed over to some chairs and left me there.

Ancon HillAncon Hill with its very large flag

Of course, when Trevor arrived at the office only 1 very young man was on duty and he knew nothing about an e-mail or a taxi. Lots of phone calls were apparently made and then they both came down to join me who took a few minutes to let them know where I was. We went out and after a few minutes a COPA taxi arrived and we were finally on the way to the hotel where we arrived at 02:00!

A day neither of us would like to experience again.

Gamboa JungleThe Gamboa Rain Forest

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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