On the way across the bay to the mainland, we discussed whether we should take the cheap, cramped, hot collective van to the bus station and then transfer to a bus for the airport or if we should just opt for a comfortable, air-conditioned taxi right from the port. Surprise of surprises, we opted for the taxi! We figured there would be plenty of opportunity for discomfort in the coming days.
So we consulted the sign to see what the fare was to the airport now. It seems to change all the time and we don’t do it enough to know. It said 240 pesos, or about $24. Fair enough, $12 each for a 20 mile ride. Throughout Mexico, one pays for the taxi ride, not a certain amount per person. I think it is basically the same everywhere but most people seem to get confused by the concept when visiting here. The taxi deposited us at the departure gates and we unloaded our packs. The closest I could come to the fare was 250 pesos so I gave that to him. I was going to tell him to just keep the 10 pesos ($1.00) change when he announced that I had not given him enough money! This brownspot in the underwear of cab drivers was trying to scam us and make us pay 240 pesos each! We argued back and forth for a bit, with us absolutely refusing to pay any extra money. I wrote down his cab number and then told him to call the police on his cell phone. We would have the police call back to the ferry port and verify the price. If he was right, we would pay him. If not, he would go to jail for trying to run a scam. With that, he told us, more or less, to go have sex with our mothers and got back in his cab and sped away. A totally unsatisfying start to our time at the airport.
Never mind. Across the street we went to find our check-in window. We were flying Coba Airlines, the national airline of Panama no less. This was to be my first time flying with a carrier other than American owned since the days when I used to fly back and forth to Germany. I was sort of looking forward to it. To see how other countries treated their guests while flying. We were three hours early, just like all good international travelers are told to be, so we were quite surprised to see quite a few people in line already. We had not expected this to be a crowded flight. We were flying to Panama City and then switching to another plane to San Jose, CR. It turns out that most of the people in line ahead of us were Argentineans returning home from vacation. We could tell immediately that they were tourists by the number of those gigantic gaudily decorated sombreros that only tourists buy down here.
Our turn finally came to check in and we were suitably impressed. They even put our backpacks in giant plastic bags so that the straps would not catch on anything and get damaged. And, best of all, nobody cared what we had packed and nobody tried to snoop in any luggage or otherwise make life miserable at check-in. Our boarding passes safely in B’s control ( I guess I am not old enough yet for the responsibility of carrying my own boarding pass!), we scurried outside to inhale as many cigarettes as we could in the time allotted to us. After all, it would probably be six hours before we had a chance to damage our lungs again! The last puff exhaled, we made our way through security and found our gate. Miracle of miracles, it was in sight of the food court so we decided to have lunch, or at least a snack, before we boarded. We both chose an airport culinary treat and beverage and sat down to enjoy them. This done, we wanted another cigarette but it was too much hassle to go through security again so we just went to the gate and found seats where we could watch all the people passing by. We amused ourselves by pretending we were the What Not to Wear gurus of the airport and thus passed the time until we were called to board.
We were all loaded onto a bus and driven out onto the tarmac to our waiting plane. Once safely aboard and all junk stowed, I glanced out the window. I was surprised to see that each end of the wings was upturned, like somebody closed the door on the wings and made them stick straight up in the air. I have never seen this kind of design on an airplane before. It made me kind of nervous for some reason. After what seemed like an eternity, down the runway we sped, bouncing from one side to the other. Then we were a flight and the plane was tipping from left to right as we quickly gained altitude. I was beginning to think we had a novice pilot, or worse! But all things settled down and we were truly on our way, leaving Mexico behind for awhile, but not the beautiful blue Caribbean beneath us.