I mentioned awhile back that the roads in downtown Boquete are a mess right now. It’s been going on for a long time, but since the Panamanian President came here to see it for himself in late August and promised that the roads would be finished by the end of November, there has been much more activity – and consequently, much more of a mess. Plus, it’s the rainy season, which washes away temporary gravel patches and leaves the roads with huge potholes and washboard texture. Not good for cars or pleasant for drivers!
They seem to be working everywhere at once these days, and it’s really difficult to get to where you need to go, or even to find a parking place because sometimes they’re tearing up two or three blocks right downtown, where most of the businesses are. Detour routes change almost on a daily basis, so you’re never really sure if you can go the same way today as you did yesterday.
The business owners are struggling mightily to stay afloat – customers can’t get to them easily because of the roads. Plus, there are planned water outages for entire days, perhaps once or twice a week, in the areas they’re working on. How does a restaurant stay open with no water? How does a hotel stay open with toilets and showers that don’t work? Difficult, to say the least.
And now, there’s a major detour that was supposed to go into effect today. There’s only one main road into and out of downtown Boquete, and they were going to start on a section of that road near the edge of town. This detour would take people way off the highway, starting about a mile south of town. They would travel down a two-lane side road (which becomes one lane in some areas) until they reach the downtown area. See the map below – downtown Boquete is just to the north on this map.
This detour is scheduled to last two weeks (but considering the rate of completion so far, it’s very likely to take longer). Here is a video of the current road conditions on at least one section of the route. Granted, the video was taken during a prolonged rainstorm, but that’s a river washing across the road! How are heavy busses and small cars supposed to go through that for at least two weeks? The road would be one sloppy, rutted (not to mention dangerous) mudhole in no time with all that traffic.
I say the detour was supposed to go in effect today. However, it seems this detour was the last straw for people in the transportation business – school bus drivers and taxi drivers. This morning, about a dozen school busses formed a blockade just at the edge of town, preventing anyone from entering (or leaving) Boquete on the main road.
Blocking travel, either with vehicles or crowds of people, is apparently a common means used in Latin American countries to protest issues that affect the community. A couple of weeks ago, people blocked a highway going into Costa Rica because of tax hikes. The Boquete community has been frustrated for quite awhile over the road conditions, but it seems it’s reached the boiling point with this latest detour.
So the detour has been postponed for a week. How much that will help is questionable, but I heard that they’re at least trying to improve the alternate route in coming days, probably just by throwing a bunch of gravel in the worst spots.
Time will tell – but I’m not planning to go into town very much for awhile unless I just have to.
Everywhere local government is about making the trains run on time and all politics is local. I’m hoping the pain is only temporary while the benefits are long term. Best of luck to the residents and expatriates of Boquete.