(Not) Getting Our Visas Renewed in Changuinola

Kathy went off to spend a long weekend with her sisters, so Neil and I are “batchin’” it together.

Today we caught the lancha to Changuinola to get our visas renewed.  It was a beautiful 45-minute ride across Almirante Bay and up a very shallow canal dug by United Fruit nearly 100 years ago between the ocean and the banana fields of Changuinola.  The canal is maybe 50 yards wide, and probably no more than 5 feet at the deepest, and passes through farms, fields, and the odd village.  In some places it is choked with water hyacinth – which makes it nearly impassable if it’s been raining heavily. 

From the lancha landing, it’s about a 5-minute taxi ride through banana processing areas to the heart of town.  It was slightly reminiscent of Fronteras – dusty, crowded – but we found a good place to eat, interesting markets to wander through, and a couple of large grocery stores, in addition to finding the bonus that we didn’t need to renew our visas.  Panama is going through lurching changes in its visa and immigration laws, which seem to change weekly.  So we’re good for 90 days instead of the 30 we thought.

We had to wait about an hour and a half at the lancha landing, and caught a pick-up baseball game  in a vacant lot with maybe a dozen clean, well-behaved kids who could have been anywhere in the world.

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