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  • Day162

    Bocas del Toro, Panama

    March 28, 2017 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Beach bums and bites.

    Getting to the border at Sixoala was surprisingly quick but insanely hot. Cat and I are now resorting to our sportswear for travel days and usually handwashing immediately afterward. Trust me, we've been the horrific sight too many times by now to care what state we appear in during or after these trips!

    Sixoala is just like every other border town. The only difference is the Panamanians and Costa Ricans have conspired to make this the most confusing yet. Instinct tells you to walk along the straight road and over the obvious bridge. Customs has it otherwise. You snake your way up, down, around and under the roadway and bridge, ducking into pharmacies for your exit fees and taking directions from old mate on the street who you really don't want to talk to 'cause he's definitely not official and you'll no doubt end up paying him for something you don't want to pay for. But we got there in the end, not happy about the fees but glad to have found a chicken bus and to have dodged the (only slightly) more expensive shuttle. Not quite yet a sheep in the herd!

    After some bus time to get to the coast, we took a water taxi out to Isla Colon on Bocas del Toro, a group of islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. It started in some awful waters in Almirante and ended in the crystal clear water of the Caribbean sea. Bocas is hot. Muggy too. And when we were there, the closest thing to a breeze we got was the back draft of the planes as they upped their thrust on takeoff. We attributed this to the lack of energy we had in Bocas. Sleep was everywhere and everyday; on the beach, on the couch, in a hammock - wherever it had the chance, fatigue struck like the plague. We didn't resist it nor did we feel guilt and it was delightful! The problem with sleeping at every stop, is that you quickly become an unsuspecting meal for all kinds of biting insect - sandflies and mosquitoes we presume, the most persistent culprits, and Cat the tastiest victim. Your hydrocortisone cream, mother, has earnt it's keep!

    Our first day was spent biking along the northern coast of Isla Colon in the baking heat to some idyllic Caribbean beaches. Palm trees lined one beach after another, golden sand and blue skies gorged our visual senses and even the monkeys came out to play. The bike ride was along an unoccupied, sandy gravel road, flat and accommodating to the resistance of our bikes and our levels of energy, much to our relief. We spent the day snoozing on Playa Bluff - one of the most idyllic and quiet beaches I've seen. We then crawled home beach by beach taking advantage of the beach bars along the way for unearned food and beer.

    The next day played out much the same, only this time we bussed to the far side of the island and undertook the previous days activities by foot. Playa Estrella was the beach of choice, with plenty of starfish and beachfront restaurants to add to the mix. Bocas did it's best to get us on a tour, but we felt it had little to offer that we had not yet trumped already with our travels around the Caribbean. The life of the spoilt right? On the subject of being spoilt, the Panamanian Balboa and Panama Lager (local brews) are a distant cry from the refreshing taste of a Nicaraguan Toña - oh how I wish we could be reunited!

    Our accommodation (Vista Pista) at the end of the airstrip provided us with great entertainment. From our balcony we watched planes soar mere metres overhead as well as hundreds of kids playing soccer and baseball on the grassy patch at the end of the runway - litterally all day everyday. Incredible how unaffected the planes and players were by each other - they even held sprint training on the runway after dark! We've also had the pleasure of Mike and Char's company, briefly and will continue to enjoy it on and off until Panama as we hit the same spots with slightly different timing.

    In terms of adventure in Central America, we're starting to feel like we've done it all - as you could probably tell by the last few footprints! It's a shame the surf on the Caribbean hasn't come to play as that was the activity we itched for on this side of the country. We've shortened up the parks and nature and have set a bee line to Panama City where canals, shopping, history and culture have a lot to offer us. Our next and last stop before that is Boquete in the Chirique Highlands where we'll enjoy a break from the heat before the high thirties we expect in the capital. Yikes!

    If you're wondering the plan from there, here it is: from Panama City we have buses, 4x4s and a boat back to the Caribbean (near the San Blas Islands). From there we board a yacht with a bunch of others and sail through the San Blas Islands to Cartagena, Colombia. We then have 11 days in Colombia before we fly to Punta Arenas in Chile (very far south and into the serious cold!) where we'll find Torres del Paine and hopefully get some serious hiking in. We'll then be taking buses north, hundreds of kilometers at a time and ticking off as much as we can in South America before the cash runs dry. Big tickets are the Atacama Desert, Amazon River and the aforementioned Torres del Paine! Wine and steak of course will be a welcome change...at least for one night. I cannot wait!!
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