On our forth day in Panama it rained. Not the all the sudden showers… but one all out down pour after another. So what? Who cares?!
As in my past post, rain is the lifeblood of the islands. If it doesn’t rain we don’t shower, wash dishes, wash clothes, or our bodies. We don’t flush toilets. Plain and simple… rain does not “ruin our vacation”. I know… I know… there are beaches to explore, reefs to conquer, and sights to see. The rain refreshes everything. Forces people you may never had met into tight quarters such as bars and shops… hiding under trees and awnings. People you may never have met if it weren’t for the rain.
So it’s raining today… we went into Isla Colon’, Bocas del Toro proper. We flagged down a water taxi in the pouring rain, standing on the dock waving the white flag. From across the bay comes a faint ghost of a boat appearing from out of the deluge. Hop on, tell the captain where you want to go, hide from the rain and hope he understands where you want to go.
We hopped off and wandered around until we found an inviting hostel with great music and lots of young people from all over hanging out… hiding from the rain. Scantily clothed chicas and chicos wandered about. We ordered a few drinks and lunch and enjoyed the sights and sounds until the rain stopped.
Impressions of Isla Colon’ Bocas del Toro. Typical beach town in Central America. Happy people everywhere living in tiny homes and as mentioned earlier… a lot of trash. Like old fridges, car parts and large garbage not easily removed. Also typical, mostly absent sidewalks, broken and in disrepair. Where the sidewalks do exist… the curbs are 18-24″ deep. I wouldn’t suggest getting drunk and walking around at night. There are many shops and outdoor markets, catering to tourist and locals alike. The sounds are those of diesel engines and a sea of languages from native Panamanian to foreigners from around the world. There are back streets and alleyways, small parks and even the occasional “American establishment” to satisfy the non-adventurous type.
As the sun peeks through, the humidity rises. The smell of fresh fruit fills the heavy air. It is time to seek shelter in the form of the sea to cool down. Another Balboa, Oh yes why not…
Every island we’ve ever been on… a huge issue is trash. That’s not to say the islanders themselves are dirty. Islands are just the strainer for ocean garbage. We have seen many creative uses for this garbage; from bagging it up and using it as wave breaks to stop erosion to cute uses such as planters and works of art.
The gals that own the little beach cabin we are staying at here on Isla Basimentos have made a concerted effort to keep their area of the beach “trash free”. They say that recycling is just catching on here. We are instructed on what trash is good and what trash is bad. Instructed to toss uneaten food and food byproducts into the jungle, certain cans and different plastics go in bins, glass in another and paper in a third. Amazingly if you eat fresh, and who wouldn’t when it’s available, there’s not much left for the “other can”.
What an incredible day! One thing about the jungle in Central America is the sunrise. At the first crack of dawn the jungle comes alive. The crickets and frogs cease and the birds sound the wake up call for the world. Parrots screech as they fly in waves of brilliant green across the sky in daring acrobatics through the trees. The morning doves rise and begin their mournful songs. The cowbirds make their unworldly announcements to get your ass out of bed. It’s natures alarm clock.
If you are so inclined to open your eyes and meet the dawn, the sky reveals intense hews of pinks and crimsons that cut through the inky black night. The trees begin as shadows against the lightening sky and eventually turn lush green and show off brilliant colored flowers. It seems to take an eternity for the night to release itself from the day.
Coffee and breakfast on the deck overlooking the turquoise sea and silhouetted against the sky is the distant mountain ranges of the mainland. This is truly paradise. Wafting on the cool morning breeze is the smell of coffee, bacon and salt air. Time to start the day.
Chris has met a gal here from Canada and the two of them are going to hike to the other side of the island. I will stay put at the lodge and chill since my knee is still not quite healed enough for an uneven Trail. There’s an inviting pool with a volleyball net which will serve as my entertainment for the day.
Bambuda Lodge is an eco lodge on the small island of Isla Sorte. It’s nicely nestled in a jungle setting. Fully supported by the sun and rain water. Fairly rustic with trails leading to the different sleeping areas. They have tent camping, single rooms, private rooms and dorm rooms. Their kitchen turns out delicious food for ever culinary tastes. There’s a pretty fully stocked bar with local beer and wine, cokes and coffee. A resident dog names Sasha who enjoys smiling at everyone and taking hikes with the guests. Best yet… hot showers and a pool to enjoy. It attracts travelers from all over the world with reasonable rates for your stay. http://www.bambuda.net
My day was relaxing. I played volleyball in the pool with the guys for hours. There were Italians, a Norwegian, a couple Germans and a Canadian… a smile and laughter is the same in any language. I chased the shade around the deck to keep from ending up looking like a sunburned tourist for the rest of our stay. After 4 hours I began to worry as I had not seen a water taxi carrying Chris and Joanne from the beach that was their final destination. The day before a young gal was attacked on the same trail so two middle aged women would be a prime target. At 4 1/2 hours they came back, finally, both sweating and exhausted. They had not been able to flag down a water taxi from the dock after a half hour. They had met some German boys that were also lost and they eventually had to climb back up the ladder like steps 200 feet back to the trail and hike back to the lodge.
After a mid day nap at the pool we were ready to continue our relaxing evening with an incredible meal and good company.
It took twenty six hours to arrive in Bocas del Toro. We can’t really complain since it only cost $350 USD to get here flying first class all the way. Airline miles make most of our travels free but sometimes you have to take the available flights for the least amount of miles. Occasionally that means long layovers, getting in in the middle of the night and very little sleep. Another perk I would strongly recommend is a good credit card with perks like airline VIP club entrances. This really makes such long layovers more enjoyable instead of sitting in the terminal listening to the same announcements over and over. They allow you to have a private space, good food, free drinks and good WIFI.
After a total of about 4 11/2 hours of sleep we went to Nature Air for the final leg of our journey. There were 16 of us on a twenty seater prop plane. The wind had picked up and the thunder heads were building. The flight was quite bumpy as we flew our way between the fluffy clouds which gave the effect of flying a toy plane through a cotton candy machine.
We arrived safe and fashionably late… Island time. The immigration and customs was all in the same room and consisted of 2 old computers, a fingerprint machine and a guy who derived a bit of pleasure searching all you luggage, joking about what he found with his partner. When he was satisfied with all your belongings and was sure we weren’t gonna blow up the Island or smuggle in contraband he repackaged our items and sent us out of the room.
We went into the second room of the airport and were immediately inundated with taxi drivers wanting to take us to the town docks, arrange snorkeling and each vying to be our personal tour guides for our time in Bocas. Note: never take the first or second offer, the prices get a bit less by the third or forth guy.
TONY whisked us away in a taxi to a bar and restaurant right on the water arranged us a water taxi and told us he could arrange anything we needed for the rest of our trip. One thing to note about us… we don’t normally dig on “touristy things”, we’d rather experience wherever we are on it’s own terms. Exploring the people and customs. Trying to sniff out expats who live there. We find they generally will steer you to the local haunts and hook you up with a good local who will not take advantage of the gringos.
Welcome to Isla Sorte and Bambuda Lodge.
Day One Panama: Travel Day
Holiday, vacation, time off… depending on where you live… it all amounts to time away from a regular routine. For most Americans though, we must try to cram a “vacation : a finite amount of time allowed to us by an employer to try to enjoy ourselves” into a short trip to ‘try’ to relax and forget about our “normal daily routines”. I find that it usually takes about a day to get where ever we are going including packing, running around dropping of the “kids” human or four legged, getting to the mode of transportation and the travel to the destination. This day is usually, or at least can be, more stressful than the stress of our daily routines.
For me I find the disconnect rather difficult even though I tell myself I am excited… I’m not gonna think about work… I’m not gonna miss my boy… we’re gonna have fun DAMN IT… if it’s the last thing I do! I worry about having forgotten something. Not getting to the airport on time. GERMS! Yes I’m a germifobe when it comes to winter travel during major flu outbreaks. I just can’t seem to ‘chill’. I just want to get there…
This trip is going to be longer than our normal. We are throwing all caution to the wind and taking off for two weeks. Our normal is five days. We are going where there is limited power… internet… and an abundance of natural living! Islands off the coast of Panama, just south of the Costa Rican border. Bocas del Toro. We’ve rented two homes that are run on solar power and the water in the homes is supplied by the rainfall and rain catchment systems… in other words, we are at the hands of the earth, the sky, and Mother Nature.
I awoke today to a blanket of fluffy white snow. Snow is silent as it falls. It is as peaceful as anything in nature. It blankets everything in a pureness like angel’s wings.
After a day of unease and even hate spread across the waves of social media… this snowfall has come in time to accompany a renewed feeling of empowerment to all the marchers across the world who are expressing themselves in solidarity.
If left alone, snow is a great equalizer. It blankets everything evenly… creating an unbroken wave of starkness… robs everything of it’s color, it’s individuality. It blends the landscape into a soothing wave of white. It brings out the yin and yang in the strongest of ancient trees. It brings life and can also usher in death.
Snow… for me… brings a peaceful, easy feeling…
Yesterday the USA had a “peaceful transfer of power”. I sat watching this on TV wondering what this country is on track for over the next four years? The USA already has a negative ima…
Source: The Changing of the Guard