Friday, January 7, 2011

FLYING TO PANAMA

January 7th - the long-awaited day we move to Panama.

My son drove us to Washington Reagan, so we could take advantage of a flight that arrives in Miami two hours prior to the Miami-Panama City departure.  This adjustment of itinerary proved to be critical and allowed me to make all the flight arrangements myself without having to use the pet transport agent and their $3,000 fee.

Even though I knew all the documents for flying the dogs were in order, I had a few nervous moments at check-in when the agent at Washington Reagan spent over an hour verifying every bit of minutia.  I knew we would be OK when she got the green "Live Animals" stickers to put on their kennels.  I would advise anyone traveling with pets abroad to have all the documentation on IATA rules etc with you.  It turns out the rules had been changed in October, and I had a copy of the most recent regulation saying that two adult dogs could travel together in the same kennel if they were under 14 kg apiece.  Even the agent, who used to work in cargo, was not aware of this and was eventually able to document it in their system.

When leaving your former life behind, you don't want to have any more surprises than necesssary.  Do your homework.

The same Skycap who had brought the kennels and baggage into the terminal took the dogs down for loading and invited me to ride with him in the elevator to the passenger boarding level.

Once seated on the plane, I had a wonderful view of the Jefferson and Washington Monuments:
Jefferson and Washington Monuments from the Tarmac

After a few minutes I had a birds-eye view of the dogs being loaded onto the plane:

Dogs Waiting to Be Loaded

Pups on the Ramp
 The ticket agent had changed my seat at the last minute; she must have known I would want to make sure the dogs were on the plane.  Thanks for that small unnecessary kindness she gave to this stranger.

During take-off the view of Washington was spectacular:

Good-Bye to Washington
The two-hour layover in Miami gave me enough time to have a Cuban sandwich for dinner.  Then we were off into the twilight.  Here are some interesting cloud patterns en route:

Rippling Clouds

Marshmallow Clouds
And then we landed at Tocumen Airport.  Unfortunately the darkness prevented any views of the mountains.  Jose, my Man on the Ground, was there to meet me at baggage claim.  The dogs came out with the baggage, and Jose's colleague took the kennels to the agriculture office next to baggage claim, then told the customs officer to wave me on through.  It's nice to have friends in strange places.
..
Four hundred and fifty dollars later, I had the official stamps of approval.  Jose took us to the Balboa Inn, where the dogs finally got a little walk through the lovely Balboa neighborhood.

We had a fairly good night's rest, but little did I know of the adventure that awaited us tomorrow.

-bjd


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