Friday, January 16 5:47pm – Bocas Del Toro
I am in Bocas Del Toro an island on the Panamanian Caribbean Coast just south of Costa Rica.
Saturday, January 17, 3pm – Bocas Del Toro
I’m still in Bocas. I’m sitting in the great hostel called Gran Kahuna. This is a great little spot. Its really hot here but the breeze from the water is welcome. The hostel has a cool lounge with couches and wireless internet. Its a safe comfy place to rest. I should get going but I am tried. I have been on the move for days and I am sore and exhausted. I just want to sit for hours. It is an 45 minute boat ride back to the mainland then 4-5 hours bus ride to David.
Today’s highlight was crossing the border into Panama from Costa Rica. Here are two pictures of the crossing.
I took a private shuttle from Pure to Veijo to Boca’s. Its about $10 more than taking standard public transportation. But worth it. Its air conditioned. And you don’t have to change busses when you cross the border to a Panamanian Bus. There was about 12 people on the shuttle. Most were from Argentina. A lot of Argentineans vacation here. When you arrive at the border you must exit the bus and walk across the border. I have no idea why you have to exit the bus and no one I talked to could give me an answer. After we walked across the shuttle crossed and you get back on and continue your trip. I have no idea why you have to get off other than its really cool and dangerous to walk the bridge. The wood is old and slippery. Its always wet here. It is an old railroad bridge with boards next to the tracks for cars, trucks and busses to cross and for people to walk on. Between the boards is nothing but the river 150 feet below. You can look down as you walk and see the river. I had all my stuff in my backpack lashed to my body for the walk across. There is a fence on either side so you will not fall off, but the gaps in between the boards is what makes it exciting. One slip and you could put your foot between the boards. Or if you dropped something it could slip between the boards and fall to the river below.
On the other side of the bridge is the Panamanians check point. I have to show my passport to the guard and get my stamp. As part of the shuttle we have a guide. He speaks only a few words of english and is very pushy. He makes sure our group get to the front of the line and pushes away the locals.
I am the third person in line when he motions me to follow him. He wants me to leave the line and follow him. I am the only one of our group of 12 he wants to follow him. He motions to an office door. I don’t move. He politely grabs my arm and moves me towards the office. He is insistent so I follow him. The glass door leads to a small office with a official man at a old desk. What have I done. I have been in the country for less than 5 minutes and I am 15 feet from the border. How could I have pissed them off already. He is not making anyone else follow him. There are people in front of me. Why me? I felt like I was called to the principle’s office on the first day of school just as I walked through the school door for the first time. I walked in to the office and the official demands my passport. I show it to him. He tell me I am to pay him. I asked him why in spanish. My one word question, “why”. He raddled off sentences in spanish. I say I know very little spanish. He gives me a sheet of paper. I read it and it says that all Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans must pay an entry fee of $5. At that point the Canadian girls from the shuttle show up at the office. I pay my $5 and get a special “tourist card” allowing me to be in the country. This is a half sheet of paper with my name and info on it and stamped and signed by the official and he then stamps my passport. I point to the door and nod my head. I want to leave the office. Although it is air conditioned. I don’t like police or other officials. He points to the door and I return to the heat and humidity to await the bus. I see the bus sitting next to a little plaza of stores and restaurants. They are all very run down and little kids are coming to me to beg for money. I need to use the bath room and get a bottle of water. I ask the driver if we have time for me to run into the restaurant. I head in and the bathroom is locked. I go to the counter and ask for a key. The chinese women ask for 50¢. I head her speak to her husband in some language that sounded like chinese. I handed her costa rican money and she refused. She wanted US coins. I started digging in my bag. I had some US coins from the airport when I bought lunch and snacks. I start handing her coins and count them out in chinese. She was very surprised I spoke chinese. I am digging in my bag to try to come up with 50¢. I get to 30¢ and she gives me the key. I say thank you in chinese and go into this bathroom that is worse than the worst gas station bathroom.
I get back on the shuttle with my group and we start the trek to Bocas. The roads are much better in Panama. They have lines painted on the sides and middle most places. Its a nice change from Costa Rica. Panama is more poor that Costa Rica but they do government better. I guess is from the American influence over the years.
I arrive at the little port to board a boat to take me to Bocas. Its a nice boat with life vests. I am told the trip will take a bout 40 minutes.
Here I am passing one of the other water taxis. They come and go very frequently. But only run during daylight hours.
Bocas Del Toro is part of a chain of islands along the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus and his crew discovered the area in 1502
Here are some of the homes along the waters edge.
Once we leave the port the boat driver speeds up and we are soon traveling very very fast skimming the water in this small boat. I am just above the water. I can put my hand over the side and touch the water. When we get into open water, the waves increase and we are bouncing up and down. I don’t remember ever going this fast in any boat. The boat is a water taxi. And like any taxi driver he is crazy.
The open water.
We pass this old ship listing in the water. It looks very old and abandoned.
Close to Bocas is this beautiful sailing ship.
Arrive at Bocas is very beautiful and picturesque.
The boat dock is in the middle of the town. Pictures of the main street.
I stayed at a very nice house in Bocas. It was over 100 years old. The beds has mosquito nets. Also staying was surfers from Australia. They were fun to talk with.
Here are some photos walking around Bocas
I just found out that the if I leave now I can get a bus to Panama City. I arrive at 6am. So I guess I am sleeping on the bus.