Frank Goldthorpe

Joined February 2019
  • Day36

    Panama City Wrapup

    March 18 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    My last 4 nights of this trip have been spent at the Radisson Panama Canal in Panama City. It has been more than enough time. This city of 4 million sports a very modern skyline and some very interesting history but the divide between rich and poor is pretty stark.
    The quaint Casco Viejo district is tourist central and very picturesque. The police are present on many of the intersections to keep the tourists safe. The adjacent district of Chorillo is poverty central , appearing like a badly maintained prison tenement slum.
    I visited the brightly coloured Biodiversity Museum that was designed by Frank Gehry on my first morning in town. It sported interesting exhibits on the natural and human history of the region. Afterward I travelled to the huge Albrook Mall before catching a cab to Casco Viejo.
    The Mall was massive and could have been anywhere in the world, although most of the shops were not international brands. The exception was in their food court.
    After wandering around Casco Viejo for a few hours in sweltering heat and humidity I grabbed an early dinner and then headed back to the hotel for a long cool shower.
    My other significant tourist activity was to visit the Miraflores Locks that mark the Pacific start to the Panama Canal. Definitely worth the time.
    The front of my hotel features several very large mango trees that are currently dropping ripe mangoes on the ground by the dozens where they sit rotting. What a waste!
    I ate 3 of my dinners and spent a couple of afternoons at the hotel mainly due to it’s relative isolation to the rest of the city. Security concerns also played a role in my decision. It was interesting however that I could sit by the hotel pool and watch freighters begin or end the Pacific leg of their journey.

    So ends my Latin American adventure for 2019.
    It has been muy bueno!

    I hear that the ice has melted from my driveway back home so I’m keen to return and welcome spring back to Toronto.
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  • Day33

    Bus-ted

    March 15 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 34 °C

    The journey actually went like clockwork but my poor butt ached by the end of the day.
    My BnB hosts had my empanada breakfast ready earlier than usual so that I could make the 9:00 bus from Boquete to David. In fact I made the 8:30 bus allowing me to make the 10:00 bus from David to Panama City.
    I was amazed that the road between Boquete and David was smooth 4 lane asphalt all the way. The same was true of the entire 7 hour trip onward to Panama City. The speed limit was 80 km/hr and both busses did not exceed it. The first bus was an up-to-date comfy coach but the long distance double decker bus to Panama City was a brand new giant with “attendant” offering food for purchase. Imagine Air Canada +.
    All the way south from David we drove along in the blazing sun with mountains in the distance on our left covered by a solid blanket of cloud.
    Just after 1:00 the bus wheeled into a cafeteria where many passengers bought lunch, visited the banos and stretched their legs. It was our only stop.
    Within 50 km of Panama City the highway turned into 6 lanes and we crossed the Panama Canal with a view of the city’s modern skyline in the background.
    Upon leaving the highway at 5:30 pm we ran into the Friday rush hour and crawled the rest of the way to the main bus terminal.

    I decided that after so much time on those 2 busses and uncertain of the local transportation I would take a taxi to the hotel.
    Steeling myself for taxi negotiations, I strode confidently up to the row of waiting taxis outside the bus station. The first guy wanted $20. I offered $5. He laughed and I walked on to the next group of taxis confident that I was zeroing in on a reasonable fare. The next guy asked for $12. I told him “$10 and we have a deal.” And he agreed.

    The hotel turned out to be only 4 km from the bus terminal but the traffic was so bad that it took over a half an hour to cover that ground. It was after 7:30 pm when I finally checked into my room.

    What a long day!
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  • Day31

    Beautiful Boquete

    March 13 in Panama ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    What an interesting place this is - so completely different from the beach side experience of Bocas del Toro. With an elevation of 1200 m above sea level, it is noticeably cooler than the coast but still T-shirt comfortable. The town lies between volcanic mountain ridges that ascend quickly to heights above 2000 meters. Volcano Baru is the highest point at 3500 meters and you can hike to the summit and back from here in a very long day. Maybe next time😜.
    These heights to the north of Boquete have been covered in cloud since I arrived here 4 days ago. Winds, clouds and a very fine rain frequently (especially in the afternoon) descend to the town but not for long. The evenings are borderline jacket temperatures .
    The cultural mix here is fascinating. The indigenous locals compose the majority on the streets but many travelers from around the world are obvious too, based on the plethora of hostels and Bed and Breakfasts on the side streets. In the last couple of decades a largely American expat community has grown up in the region too, totalling about 20,000.
    Many or the indigenous women wear brightly coloured full length dresses with elaborate embroidery .
    There are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants here catering primarily to all those foreigners.
    I spent the last two days hiking two of the numerous mountain trails within easy access of central Boquete. On the first day I was lucky enough to see a male quetzal. It’s an endangered bird known for its brilliant colouring and long blue tail feathers.
    Coffee plantations dot the mountainsides, bamboo and eucalyptus trees are common and flowering trees are plentiful in and around the town.
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  • Day27

    Cool Man, Cool

    March 9 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    My yoga friends were long gone when I caught the bus to Bocas Town. There I waited half an hour to catch my boat-bus back to Almirante. Being on a bigger boat and on much calmer water, the return trip was much faster. Waiting to board the van shuttle to Boquete I chatted with a group of Canadian 20 somethings who were traveling around Central America.
    The van left the coast and started the climb up into the mountains. The sky became cloudy and we continued to climb until we reached a large plateau.
    The houses seemed to reflect more affluence as we got closer to Boquete and the road turned into a four lane highway.
    I noticed a change in the air as soon as I exited my shuttle van in Boquete. It was jacket-worthy cool and breezy. My Bed and Breakfast was a few minute walk from the drop off point but I found it easily and checked in to my small but clean room at Casa Algeria BnB.
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  • Day26

    Ooommmmmm!

    March 8 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    A young local woman who was on my bus got off the bus where I did, somewhere on the sandy coastal road at Bluff Beach. She didn’t speak English but waved me to follow her through a gate.
    I had forgotten the name of the hotel that I was looking for but knew it was on Bluff Beach. I figured that I would try a hotel and if I was wrong I could use their internet to check my old emails for the correct name of our yoga retreat hotel and then walk to it.
    As it turned out the young woman’s name was Milka and she was a kitchen worker at Bluff Beach Retreat and indeed it was my hotel! Lucky me!
    The buildings of the retreat are new and luxurious. The food was exquisite and plentiful every day.
    Karen, one of the American owners, welcomed me and showed me around the grounds and to my room. I took advantage of the large pool to cool down from a long day of travel.
    The rest of my Toronto yoga group arrived later that afternoon and for the next week we practiced yoga twice a day.
    It felt really great to get back to my practice.
    On Wednesday most of the group took a 5 hour snorkeling tour after our morning yoga class.
    I was pleased to see the extensive areas of healthy coral. There were several fish species that I had seen before while snorkeling in other locations but they were not great in numbers. The exception was the dense schools of minnow sized fish that were abundant and obviously curious about me.
    The week flew by far too quickly and tomorrow I will use the same shuttle company to take me to Boquete, Panama, in the mountains.
    The beach portion of my holiday is done.
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  • Day20

    Border Bored

    March 2 in Panama ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Last Saturday I got picked up at my bed and breakfast (Physis) at 5:50 A.M. by a shuttle company to take me from Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro in Panama. The first van ride took a group of travellers to the border where we paid our $8 exit fee . We arrived just as the immigration office was opening for the day but a power outage meant that all their systems were down. After waiting for over an hour one of the immigration officers began to process people manually by recording their passport details by hand and stamping them.
    Once across the border the Panamanian immigration folks were checking passports and proof of exit flights out of Central America. One German girl could not provide proof so she tried to buy an airline ticket to Berlin online but the wifi was very poor. After waiting for her for another hour we had to leave her there as her attempts were proving unsuccessful.
    The new Panama shuttle and driver took the rest of us to Almirante where we caught the 40 minute speed boat ride to the Archipelago main centre of Bocas Town.
    The last leg of the journey was in a van/bus to take me to Bluff Beach Retreat to begin my weeklong yoga retreat with other people from Canada 🇨🇦.
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