Again – it’s been WAY too long since I’ve updated this and now I can hardly remember what has happened! Thursday, February 16th – Ali, Rachel and I set out for Panama from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica on an interesting jaunt that included a fairly confusing border crossing, as our bus driver and guide of sorts left us for a while, while he ran an errand… but we made it across and into Panama. Our first stop in Panama was the amazing islands/province of Bocas del Toro. We spent the first night in the Bocas region on Isla Colon and discovered that we had randomly arrived on the first day/night of Carnaval(a.k.a. big party in the streets)! We luckily were able to find a nice, cheap hotel with air conditioning and classed it up a bit for the night. As Ali wasn’t feeling very well that night, Rachel and I decided to run around town, finding some cheap cardboard pizza and a cute local bar by the water to hang out at.
The next day, as there weren’t any rooms available on the island, due to Carnaval, we headed to Isla Bastimentos – only a 10 minute water taxi away. The whole string of islands is amazingly beautiful, with lush green landscapes and turquoise waters – yet another place that I would love to return to. We ended up staying 3 nights on Isla Bastimentos, and got a chance to check out Red Frog Beach(although sadly didn’t see any red frogs), Starfish beach(we did see some bright orange starfish), had some random but decent Thai food on the top of a hill overlooking the jungle(and saw a sloth), and had a dance party on a tiny island at a club! On our last night on Bastimentos, we were relaxing in the hammocks, when the power went out on Isla Bastimentos and on Isla Colon! We then went out to a bar and drank boxed white wine by candlelight, while we chatted with a nice Dutchman and a cool Canadian.
On Tuesday morning, we began the trek to Panama City, which included about 14 hours of bus rides and a slow arrival into town on the last night of Carnaval. Luckily, our hostel, Luna’s Castle, still had availability, albeit in 3 different totally packed dorm rooms. As we were super tired, we didn’t do much that night, but awoke early the next day to walk around and take in all the sights in Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is the old, rather dilapidated but charmful section of Panama City complete with beautiful old buildings, slums, and uneven sidewalks. I really enjoyed this part of town, as I have found that I really love old shabby buildings, stairs, and abandoned hardly-there structures, oddly enough.
On Wednesday, we headed out to see the world famous Panama Canal at the Miraflores locks. It wasn’t as pretty as I imagined (other locks and viewpoints are a bit greener), but watching the whole process was pretty amazing. We also checked out the museum and a short video on the canal – it is absolutely fascinating to see how everything worked – pretty mind-blowing really. Wednesday afternoon and night we hung around our hostel, a giant old mansion building with a stellar view of new Panama City. That night, we cooked some food and drank some drinks at the hostel bar, and then I woke up at 3:00 am with some serious stomach problems… I’m not sure what did it(empanadas that I bought from a restaurant or tortilla snacks that we made), but I was throwing up, etc. all night long.
The next day, I spent recuperating and eventually we moved over to new Panama City, to a little slightly ghetto hotel that I had a coupon for through my old work. That night(our last night together) we all went out on the town with Rachel’s friends from the States that had recently moved to Panama City. I still couldn’t eat too much, let alone drink a lot, but it was still a fun night with great company. The next day, I shopped a bit for some things I needed for Chile, ate lunch and then said goodbye to Ali and Rachel as I headed to the Panama City airport. I had such an amazing time with Ali and Rachel in Central America – love those ladies and hope to travel with them again(or open a hostel with them) in the very near future!!! But, alas, the next stage in my journey has begun … Chile!!! More on that very soon!