Category - Panama

Panama

5 Aug

We began our adventures to Panama with a short trip to the border, a walk across a bridge, a few stamps and after a few palms were greased, we arrived in the town of Bocas del Toro, Panama. We quickly grabbed some food and found a 4-wheel drive taxi who took us out to our accommodation. We soon found out exactly why the trip, of which we had been warned, was so expensive. More so because Panama uses the U.S. dollar. The road followed a dirt track, that quickly turned to sand, and then lead out onto the beach itself. Barriers had been built to prevent the “road” from being washed away. This had clearly not worked and chunks of the road were missing.

 

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Finally, after turning to each other a few times and exchanging significant “where the heck are we” looks, we arrived at the eco lodge that is Tesoro Escondido. The two story lodge, painted in blues and oranges, has two full balconies that surround it, and being up on the cliffs, the waves crash consistently and loudly below. Hammocks and spots to hang are scattered around and a yoga deck is hidden in the jungle of a garden below. A short walk reveals a stunning, wild beach – it’s easy to see why turtles come here to lay their eggs. We relaxed and prepared for the day that would follow. Our sweet Panamanian friend had booked us a tour and we set out for the journey into town the next morning.

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We were taken on a mini bus, full to the brim of sweaty shouldered people, to the other side of the island. We spent the day exploring Playa de las Estrellas, and here the blue water is full of starfish. Each is just as unique as the last, orange, red and coral in colour, each with different patterns, the smallest the size of a grown mans hand.

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The next day we spent on a boat, searching for dolphins (and sadly finding none), snorkelling, resting out sea legs on an island and exploring the mangroves. We found beautiful reefs and a sloth on a floating island, reminiscent of something out of “The Life of Pi”. In the days that follow, we relaxed, meet other guests, did a bit of yoga with said guests and enjoyed the never end waves. The last two nights pour with rain, practically monsoon, and we moved everything into the center of the room to avoid the rain coming in through to mesh. Its muggy in Bocas, and quiet easy to work up a sweat, but due to the nature of the lodge, nature is the only way to cool off, and we found ourselves relying on the wind to stay cool. On the last night, I found mold on some of our clothes and the bugs had finally gotten to us. The rain was so bad, a small landslide had occurred and so three large trees were cut down in front of the lodge, sending swarms of bugs into the air. Our last night was spent covered in deet, fending off the bugs and rain. Needless to say that while this place was stunning, we were thrilled to get moving again. At 5 o’clock we started our journey on the one and (we hope) only over night bus of the trip and headed to Panama City. Drivers here leave much to be desired, and to say it was a bad nights sleep is an understatement.

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We arrived, haggard and confused, but welcomed by our most helpful host yet. He picked us up before dawn and took us to his hotel of an apartment, complete with stunning views, a pool, gym and the comfiest, biggest bed of our stay. Complete with air conditioning we were in heaven, and promptly hopped in bed to recover. The following day we spent in an air conditioned mall, drinking coffee, replacing lost clothing and enjoying being away from the scraggly life that is backpacking. If just for one glorious day. We took a taxi the next day into the old part of town, Casco Viejo and wandered it’s beautiful colonial streets. Casco Viejo was the second area built in Panama City after the first, Panama Viejo, was attacked by pirates (or the Queen of Spain, depending on who you talk to). Until recent years, the area wasn’t that safe, until the government saw the potential in the buildings, and now hotels, restaurants and bars are beginning to pop up. Its still an area in development, and as such, makes for a stark contrast in condition of each building. We then negotiated a taxi out to the Panama Canal and museum. I’ll preface this next part by saying we are budget travellers and the U.S. Dollar was not kind to our pockets. We purchased one very expensive ticket and took turns visiting the small museum and peering over the decks into the canal. It’s bad practise, we know, but one that saved us aperture penny. We definitely found Panama to be the most expensive country and without careful for thought, we found it easy to blow a chunk of change in a day. Whether it’s our safety or the unknown, or a flight that I’m uneasy about, I woke up with vertigo, no appetite and a mouth ulcer that took a few days to disappear. It’s strange how ones body reacts to stress despite telling yourself you’re fine. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, but that’s a story for next week.