Having reached the shore of Panama via a very bumpy ride in a skiff boat from Big Fish we found our 4X4 for the transfer to Panama City. We were off on a windy, rollercoaster, steep up n down jungle adventure. To our surprise and joy it was paved (I was expecting a 3hr death defying dirty track trip like in the Amazon basin), although this whole rollercoaster experience was too much for one of our passengers and she got to see her breakfast again.
It was quite an adjustment from a week at sea surrounded by isolated islands and zero civilisation. Casco Viejo (Old Town/Compound) would be our base in a hostel for a few days while we get to know the city a little and of course visit the famous Panama Canal (7th wonder of the world).
From the lookout point on the edge you can see the construction of a controversial coastal highway around the whole peninsula. We wandered around our first day taking it all in, trying on a few Panama hats that I had waited until now to buy and then shared a pizza.
We were pretty tired from the boat trip and had a nice chilled night in and watched ‘Behind the Candelabra’, a really great film but probably not the film to watch in a shared dorm as there is quite a bit of gay loving going on we thought anyone who caught a glimpse of the our screen must have thought… ‘why are the weird English couple watching gay porn!’… ohh well!
We caught the back end of it and decided to check out the museum and info 3D film until the next ship was scheduled to pass through in just over an hour. Typically the 3D film was VERY American “WELCOME TO THE MOST AMAZING PLACE… IN… THE … WORLD………. EVER !!!” and quite rightly so because the mini cinema with massive seats was full of middle to old aged Americans. We also went from boiling outside to freezing inside, the thing about Panama and the Panamericans is they absolutely love their Air Con and given the chance would happily live in a fridge. Throughout the day we learnt some pretty interesting facts about this huge man made marvel that finished construction a hundred years ago in 1914 as well as about the new construction currently taking place. Around 20,000 workers died from Yellow fever and Malaria. There was a massive humanitarian push to eradicate the diseases which thankfully due to an American doctor they managed to do and work continued. The Canal stretches 80 kilometres from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean and ships pay a fee depending on the weight of their cargo. The maximum fee to date was $300,000 a few years back for a cargo ship and the minimum paid was $0.36 by Richard Halliburton in 1928 who swam from the east to the west.
I even managed to watch the England vs Scotland rugby one afternoon by calling Mum n Dad with FaceTime who propped me up in the sitting room facing the TV (quite bizarre being back home for a few hours whilst up in the jungle).
What followed was probably the most fun we had all day, waiting for an hour and a half flagging down cars, trucks and even motorbikes in the hope of catching a lift.
Adam pretty much single-handedly ate out the road side café of their cake and coffee, we all got a bit silly but made a lot of people laugh and smile that day including ourselves.
We chilled, floated down the mini canyon, slipped down natural slides and did a spot of rock jumping.
On the way back to the cloud we stopped off to get some veg for a mega feast, that night we all cooked as a group and ate for $1 each with a load left over.
|Mowgli all grown up - Our mate Michael!|
This was followed by Hannah’s and I first game of ‘Cards against Humanity’, an amazing card game we had heard a lot about previously. Without going into too much detail it basically relies on everyone’s different personalities to individually fill in the blanks to a phrase that we all know with words from the cards in our own hand. We listen to everyone’s selections and the person whose go it is chooses their favourite. It’s the kind of game that produces non-stop laughing and humour for the whole night; I will definitely be purchasing it when we get home. That day was one of our favourite group days ever, we especially bonded with Adam, Michael and Fernanda and we were genuinely really sad to have to say goodbye the next day.
In the space of 24hrs we had become really great friends, they were a group of kind, caring, interesting, aware and fun people who we clicked with. It was Adam and Michael that sang to us on our arrival into the hostel.
|So long Lost and Found.. we got lost and found great new friends!!|
We decided to stay away from Bocas Island as we had heard it was a bit tourist ready and just a party town, we were in a pretty chilled space after the cloud jungle so didn't fancy anything to heavy. Instead we hopped on another boat to Bastimentos Island. A bit more relaxed with a Rastafarian vibe and ‘the local’s’ island. There are no vehicles on the island so it’s mostly made up of cement footpaths which the children of the island use as their playground, trying to see how many they can fit on their tiny bicycles. The ‘grown-ups’ can be found in groups either on the footpath or the porch of their half falling apart shacks all playing cards, some for money other for who knows. The odd whiff of ganga lingers round most corners with reggae-ton tunes pumping from the homemade stack speaker system they have in prime position.
Here the language is a melodic blend of English, Jamaican and Spanish. As you pass the ladies hanging out on the street if you concentrate hard enough you can pick out the OK English word. We couldn’t help but turn to each other a safe distance away and try to repeat what we just heard. Yup…. We sounded well cool!
Eventually we found it after possibly getting lost yet again, now with mud up to our shins. We climbed down from the Jungle onto the beach, found a bar with beer and took a well-deserved swim in the MASSIVE waves.
After our boat ride back we found a lovely hostel/restaurant, which served great food and Coco-Loco (Pina Coladas) for just a few bucks. Hmmm.
The following day we headed over to Bocas Del Toro, hired a couple of dodgy rackety looking old bikes and took a 7-8KM ride up the coast to find some nice beaches. Rediscovered how difficult riding on sand is, luckily it was not for to far though. Found a lovely beach side bar and grabbed some food before chilling and sleeping on the beach.
While in the town of Bocas we found a dive shop and booked ourselves in for a two tank dive the following morning, our first official dive since becoming fully qualified.
This led to some dancing, more free drinks (super strong rum and cokes) and a power cut to the whole island, probably caused by one of these home made speaker stacks that was cranked up to the giga watts. Cut a long story short and I left fully loaded up with a rum n coke in one hand, and the other cradling a full plate of cake and a bottle of beer and lolly in the mouth. Fortunately Hannah was in a similar state and we both wobbled back to the hostel.
So after a can of coke, strong coffee and an apple pie in the morning we were ready to dive! Our first dive was to an old vehicle transporter that was wrecked on the rocks. Fun to explore and we saw a variety of fish as well as plenty of starfish. The visibility was not fantastic but we still enjoyed both dives, especially as it was Valentines Day!
After the dive we jumped in a shuttle to Starfish beach! Loads of starfish just chilling in the shallow waters, you could see them clearly just looking down at your feet. We turned one over and watched it working it’s way back onto it’s front in super slow motion. It was a stunningly secluded beach in a gentle bay with super warm water.
Yet again another picture perfect location. After a delayed shuttle back to Bocas Town and some epic fresh fish Sushi we were back on Bastimentos packing for our trip to Costa Rica in the morning. We were meeting up with Mum n Dad Stevo at the border after 6 months away and were very excited to be spending the next few weeks catching up and getting spoilt… so long hostal living!