As I walked across the border in Panama – which is a hilarious experience and everyone should try it (but pay your exit fee at the restaurant as opposed to the pharmacy in order to get the best deal) – I knew that I would love this country.
As I was offered a marriage proposal and told that Panama was my new home and was then hit on by the very cute police officer at the road stop I knew that country number 20 wasn’t chosen in vain.
So with our ponchos and backpacks in hand we marched into a new country to see what kind of fun we could find. And we found happy hour, and our American friends, and the best little hostel sitting on top of the Caribbean Sea (running water not included, but termites to keep us company).
Costa Rica was a bit of a whirlwind so it was nice to settle down for the next week in one location.
Bocas del Toro (which I’ve only just thought about the name now, direct translation: mouth of the bull, huh?)
An archipelago of islands on the Caribbean Sea and it was right up our alley. We stayed on Isla Bastimentos, a mostly uninhabited island which allows for no cars, and we slept in a room where we could see the sea splashing around under the cracks in our floor boards.
Perfection. A step away from the large bustle of life.
We spent our days lazing around in hammocks, diving off our dock into the bath temperature water, and getting way too much sun while floating around in innertubes. We hailed water taxis right to our docks end and explored the islands and endless private beaches. Of course we got lost, almost every time we went to a new beach and I drug Tiff to a lot of beaches that involved a lot of walking to get to. But on our journeys we found tiny red frogs, and sloths, and men selling coconuts(and apparently cocaine), and sweat out of every pore possible without cease.
When we needed groceries we went to the main island and stocked up on fresh fruit and veggies for $6 and fell in love with ice cream again, specifically ice cream sandwiches, and even more specifically, Trits (maybe the coconut guy put cocaine in them and that’s why they were so. damn. good.) We purchased antibiotics from a boy at a pharmacy that was wearing sweatpants and looked 16, and right there on the counter, Tiffany put her head down and I dropped them in her ear. We walked on the end of the airport runway, and got yelled at to move only slightly to one side as a plane landed and another took off. In case you didn’t figure it out, we did a bunch of random stuff.
Bocas was.. perfection – and as Jaguar said – no one want to leave Bastimentos.
As we were offered an amazing deal of 1 more week for 1/2 price we sadly hailed our last water taxi and headed to the mainland to catch our overnight bus to the hustle and bustle of Panama City – sadly, real life was calling us back to Canada in a few days.
We rocked up to Panama city at 4am and checked in early to our ‘hotel room’ (as Tiff put it, think shady Super 8.. in New Jersey – and then think worse) at 5am – which basically meant we got a half night for free. This proved perfect and we slept for a few more hours before heading out to see the grand ole’ Panama Canal.
While slightly underwhelming to look at, and very slow to watch, it was definitely something that needed to be done. The pure history, and manpower, and physics that it took to build the original canal, and the subsequent locks is remarkable. We also got to share the experience with a German and a Kiwi that we met while there. Aaron was partially blind and sharing the experience with him was one of those change your perspective on life kind of things. Very neat.
After an afternoon at the locks we cabbed it back to Casco Viejo, the old city of Panama -not the oldest, but that part that hadn’t been destroyed by pirates. We roamed around the streets, which bore a strong resemblance to the French Quarter in New Orleans, and toasted with $2.5 mojitos to another vacation in the books.
A quick sleep, a cold shower, and some air conditioning and we started home our journey home. We only got stuck, for a minute or two (or a night in Montreal at Hostel Suzanne), before we made it back to a chilly Halifax.
When I become an expat I will be back to purchase the hostel that was for sale in Bocas Town, but I’m sure i’ll be back before that for my wedding.
For such a small country, it sure holds some great stories.
Until the next journey