Category Archives: Panama

Portobello, Panama

It was here that I would find passage to Colombia via a sailboat.  You see, though Colombia and Panama are connected by land, the land is impassable.  There are no roads that connect the two and I’ve heard story upon story of people either legally or illegally traveling from one country to another on foot through the dense jungle and while they lived to tell the tale so to speak, it didn’t sound like anything I’d ever want to try.  So instead I opted to go to Portobello to seek alternate passage.  Again, I could have flown to some part of Colombia, but then I would have missed the beautiful and exotic San Blas Islands!!  More on that later…

Portobello, named by an Italian when he landed on the land and exclaimed “Beautiful port!” in Italian of course, and well as you see by the name Porto (port) bello (beautiful) got it’s name quite literally…  It too is a sleepy little town.  It was once a defense port for Panama and it does still retain parts of forts and walls to protect the area, but of course it’s been damaged considerably.  Not a whole lot goes on per se in Portobello now except one of the largest businesses there is the transport of tourists via sailboat to and from Colombia/Panama.  To be even more specific, if you plan to do that type of travel, the only way to do so is to go to Captain Jacks hostel and wait for information on boats traveling through…

Captain Jacks, man what a fun place!  And if I recall, the ONLY place for tourists to sleep!  Not kidding either!  I seriously don’t think there was any other hostel or hotel in the entire place!!  Captain Jack’s is run by, well, Captain Jack!  A retired sailor, Captain Jack moved to Portobello and opened his restaurant/hostel and really the main traffic to and from his place is from tourists again simply seeking passage to Colombia.  Of course he did have some regulars (i.e. sailboat captains and staff would frequent the bar in search of finding perspective tourists to take to Colombia).

I found out quickly that just about every person who entered Captain Jacks was after the same thing… Or they had already booked their passage (smart people!) and simply needed either a place for the night or to get in touch with their boat.  So it wasn’t very soon after arriving and settling that I started meeting people with like needs.  I met a woman from Germany, a man from Britain and 4 Aussies who all ended up being on the same boat as I picked out.  Truth be told, the woman and I, since we both were travelling alone chose to pick the same boat so that we at least had a “safe” companion to travel with:)  Not that the trip was unsafe in any way, but we were the only females on our boat, and we were the only solo females traveling at that point, so it was nice to have some company in that way.

Anyway, picking the boat and captain/crew was also an interesting time… We did have some reservations about the captain at first of our chosen boat because he showed up at Captain Jacks drunk and only proceeded to get even drunker as we attempted to get our various questions answered… But Captain Jack seemed to vouch for them and after we took a tour of the 38′ sailboat, we thought “safe enough!”.  Plus, boats were not coming and going all the time, so if a decision wasn’t made fast then we could have been stuck in Portobello for quite a while more!  I believe in total I was already there for about a week just waiting for boats to arrive and then getting info on them and when to leave, yada, yada…

The trip was not cheap, but once again an experience of a lifetime in more than one way!!  All food was provided for us and cooked as well so all we had to provide (aside from payment to board) was booze for the trip if we wanted any.  I didn’t end up buying any booze, and well as you can see from the picture below, you will see why… The four Aussies opted to buy several cases of beer each, plus several gallons of rum and other assorted liquors for the 5 day trip… It was by far enough for a whole Army of people!!

With bags packed, booze packed and passages paid, we were ready for the San Blas Islands!

On to Islas San Blas

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Panama City

I made my way from Puerto Viejo back to David where I once again stayed at La Casa Marada (the purple house) and after turning down a temporary job there as the hostel receptionist, I made the long bus ride to Panama City, Panama.  I didn’t stay there long and honestly don’t have a ton to say about it… Like every other large City, it was hustling and bustling with activity and modern buildings, sky scrappers, and lots of business.  This sort of scene doesn’t really interest me quite frankly, especially after having lived in the serene and quirky small town of Puerto Viejo for so long.  I’d easily grown accustomed to the laid back beach life and wasn’t terribly impressed to be back in such civilization.  To each their own!  In any event, I did spend one night there before booking it back to the small town of Portobello, Panama.


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Isla Bastimentos back to Bocas

So I may have built up this day more than actually necessary… But hey, such as it is, while it may not have been the most adventurous day, it was still great!  I started my day with the free breakfast (as I recall it was free, but maybe it was just a couple of dollars… In any event) then decided to just wander around a bit more.  Red Frog beach was not the only beach there of course, so I wandered past along Red Frog beach, up the road to the adjoining beach called Turtle beach!  Much like Red Frog beach, the sand was white and fine.  I spent hours once again playing in the sand and water until I could take no more and needed some lunch to replenish my energy.

I went back to the community kitchen area and made my lunch.  Sadly, someone had chosen to pick a jack fruit and place it at the bottom of the fridge.  Now, for those who don’t know, the Jack fruit is a HUGE fruit, like a gigantic watermelon.  Its skin is kind of prickly and it’s orange in color inside.  However, the Jack fruit to my nasal passages at least, absolutely stinks!!  It is the most foul smelling fruit I’ve ever encountered (aside from papaya which smells like dirty feet to me) and just like potently scented food in general, when placed in the fridge, they tend to make everything else in there smell like it.  Hence, lunch for me wasn’t the most pleasant as my sandwich smelled like Jack fruit… Yuck!! I wasn’t going to waste my food however!

In any event, the day went by quite lazily otherwise.  I went back to Turtle beach for some pictures and spent the evening getting to know fellow travelers (from Switzerland as I recall).  And by getting to know fellow travelers, I mean drinking about 70 beers between 6 or 7 people… Good times!!  But hey, the beers were cheap, about $1 a beer and I’m quite sure we just about drank them out of stock!  What made the drinking even more fun however was the games provided in the common area.  They had a Jenga game with different things written on them.  So if a block was successfully removed we all had to follow the command on the block.  They were all innocent enough (take a shot of a drink, take a drink without using your hands… Seeing a theme here?) and hours of great fun!  Eventually we all gave in and went to sleep and thankfully (and miraculously) I didn’t wake up with a hangover!!

The next day was once again quite lazy, just spending time again soaking up the beaches as I wasn’t sure exactly when I would be getting some beach time in again after leaving!  I returned to Bocas town after my third night on Isla Bastimentos and headed to another hostel just next door to the one I’d stayed in the first night (Zappos??).  It was much more accommodating to the hostel traveler and was brimming with energy!  I met a great crew from England and though I really wasn’t up for any more drinking… well as you can guess I was sucked in and went out drinking!  Some very notably good and fun bars on Bocas town are the Aqua Lounge where they have a swing and trampoline that swing and bounce you right into the water!  And the Iguana Lounge again built backing onto the water.  It had several docks going from inside the bar to the outside with underwater lighting so you could see all the critters and fish under the water surface.  It was quite great but VERY slippery!!  There were several times I almost completely biffed I, but thankfully never did!

In any event, once again we all made our way back to the hostel and passed out.  The next day I was on my way to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica!


Strawberry Red Frog Detour

So it occurred to me after finishing that last post that I never actually explained why the Red Frog Beach is called as such.  But, as I’m sure you are able to guess, it’s because of the red frogs that live there!  Now at one point in time the sands of the particular beach known as Red Frog Beach were completely littered with the frogs.  Now however, you will be hard pressed to see one at all.  It’s not only that the little buggers have become exploited and are dying out because of people trying to handle them and thereby poison them to their deaths (death of the frog, not the human) but it’s also hard to see them because of their absolutely tiny size!

The red frogs of Isla Bastimentos are about the size of a nickel to a quarter, are red (duh!) and are speckled with black dots all over their body making them look like a strawberry!  Each time I walked through the jungle from the hostel to the beach or back again, I searched every surface I could just to spot one of the tiny beauties.  On the second day there, I was blessed enough to spot one.  They are quite a sight to behold and it’s really a good thing I “hunted” them as vigorously as I did, otherwise I’m sure I never would have spotted on, even if given a month there!  They really are that tiny and hard to spot!!  Sadly every time that I was walking through with my camera I never could find any, but at least I got in one live viewing!

So, I’m going to jump up on a soap box for a few minutes here just in case someone reading this does visit the area.  I implore you to at all costs to NOT handle, pick up, or touch the red frogs.  In addition, I strongly suggest you don’t even pay others for pictures with the frogs.  Let me explain further:

The Red Frogs, like most other frogs are quite delicate in nature.  They basically breathe through their skin and literally absorb their environment into their bodies.  So, while they are not poisonous to humans to the touch, we are poisonous to them!! Sunscreen, soap, oils, hair product, our lunch, literally any residue we may have on our hands is absorbed into their body and can potentially poison them to death.  It is in part due to people (tourists) handling the cute critters that they no longer in bountiful numbers and are dying out.

Another thing I would strongly suggest against is even to pay for pictures of you holding the frogs.  Children, yes children, would go around to tourists with a red frog or two that they had caught and ask if the tourist wanted a picture with it.  The tourist, not knowing (hopefully) that they were #1 exploiting the amphibian and #2 potentially killing or aiding in the amphibians death by holding it, would pay the children for a lovely vacation picture of them holding the frogs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about supporting local economies, however I believe there is a more sound way to do so.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so as there was a posting at the hostel about this very situation occurring (children selling picts with frogs to tourists) and imploring tourists to not take part!!  Kudos to Bocas Bound!!!

Ok, I’m off my soap box now… And by any means, I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I do everything right by the environment, but I do try to do my part as best as possible.  And for this particular area, not touching the frogs was my way of doing just that.

One last little bit of interesting information… Strawberry Red Frogs are not poisonous to humans to the touch.  They DO have poison on their skin, however if that poison does not get into our blood stream, then they are not poisonous to us.  Hence why you could (please DON’T though!!) touch or pick them up without being harmed… Local people apparently would also eat them and suffer no consequences from the poisoned skin of the frog because the stomach acid would kill off the poison.  However if punctured with something that had brushed against the skin of the frog, you’re a gonner!  Due to their ability to poison people if punctured, they are part of the poison-dart group of frogs used by indigenous people as weapons if needed.  Pretty cool stuff…

On to day two on Isla Bastimentos…

Isla Bastimentos

I arrived to the JAMPAN tour office with my gear and groceries ready to go.  We loaded up and were heading out shortly after that.  The boat wasn’t huge by any means as it really didn’t need to be.  Just a simple commuter to get between the islands that made up the greater area of Bocas.  I learned on my way over that the tour owners, a couple from Florida had moved down to Bocas after first vacationing there and simply fell in love with the place.  So much so that they gave up their “normal” lives in the States and opened the boat tour business in Bocas.  I should also mention that acting as a shuttle service is only one of what they offer.  They also took out snorkel trips, dolphin sighting trips and day trips to the various beaches.

For my needs however, I only used their shuttle service.  We hummed silently (apparently they had just updated their engines to make them more eco-friendly and therefore less of a noise nuisance to the marine life, YAY!!) along for perhaps 10-20 minutes and finally arrived on the very modest but sturdy dock of Isla Bastimentos.  From there it was just a short hike along a trail to the (apparently) only hostel on the island: Bocas Bound.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before I had seen several advertisements of this particular hostel while traveling to Bocas, and even a few before.  Normally I would not go with a hostel that was so heavily advertised, but what did attract me considerably was the price.  They were running a special of sorts that basically gave you a third night at 1/2 price, and since the original price was only $10, I thought heck, 3 nights it is!  The other benefit to this hostel was a free breakfast, cheep beer (yay!) but BEST of all, unlimited and free access to the famous red frog beach!  They even had a trail that went through the jungle from the hostel cabins to the beach.  Quite convenient and fun to walk through!

So I paid my hostel fees, settled in the dorm room, put away my groceries in the outdoor community kitchen and immediately hiked down to the beach!  I had been itching for quite some time (basically since leaving Costa Rica) to once again be on a beautiful and inviting beach and since I was now on the Caribbean, I salivated at the thought of the warmer waters and pristine sands that I imagined in my mind, but so far had not encountered (even though Bocas is an island too!!).

I made my way down the trail and finally emerged onto a scene that finally took my breath away!!!  A beautiful, inviting, soft sanded, warm and bright Caribbean beach!!  I shed off my cover-up dress and all but sprinted into the warm waters until fully submerged.  I can’t say how long I was in the water, but I was out there for several hours at least simply playing in the shallow waters, floating on my back along the gentle waves of the sea, and sunning myself on the sand in between bouts of swim sessions.

There was a little rock formation off the beach, not a very far swim at all that I thought would be fun to swim to and maybe climb on to explore a bit.  I swam up to the formation and with bare feet hoisted myself up on the rocks, being careful not to step on any of the inverts that were clinging to the rock.  I wandered around for a bit seeking out the different critters making their home on the rocks and generally watching the ocean from a rocky point until plunging back into the water and swimming to shore again.  I had to specifically mention this part of my swim because, well… Let me go back a tiny bit.

When I was first checking into the hostel I asked the helpful staff if they by any chance had snorkel gear for the beach.  They said they did but no longer lent or even rented them out because many of the hostel patrons apparently ended up ruining the gear, so it was just not worth it to them to deal with snorkel gear rental anymore.  However, they did say that there was a “kiosk” on the beach that did rent out gear.  After my first “dip in the pool” I walked along the beach and found the rental kiosk, but sadly they too did not have any snorkel gear to rent.  It wasn’t as if they were out of the gear because of all the people on the beach (I was one of maybe 4 others there!) but rather they simply didn’t have any anymore.  So after I finished my first beach fun and went back to the hostel, I spoke with the staff just to let them know that those particular individuals no longer rented snorkel gear, and the lovely young lady felt so bad that she had “led me astray” that she allowed me to use the snorkel gear that they had (even though she wasn’t supposed to!!)!!  Needless to say I was very appreciative of this and just had to go back again for another swim, or snorkel rather.  I did of course promise to take good care of the gear, and true to my word did:)

Ok, so now fast forwarding again… With the snorkel gear in tow I decided to swim yet again to the little rock formation to check out all the sea life around the rocks that lived below the surface.  Man-o-man… Was I EVER LUCKY!!!  As it turned out, with goggles to actually be able to see everything in my surroundings, I realized that as I had climbed up the rocks barefoot on my previous trip there, I had just narrowly missed stepping on one of several dozens of long-spiked sea urchins!!  Those things were just everywhere!! Tucked in every nook and cranny of each rock yet hidden from the surface by just a few inches and further disguised by the water crashing against the rocks were sea urchins!!  I have no idea how I missed stepping on at least one, but goodness am so very THANKFUL that I never did!  I guess in my previous ignorant bliss it never occurred to me to watch out climbing on sea rocks in bare feet!

The rest of that day went by peacefully and soundly.  There was only one other person that was staying in the hostel at that time, which was fine by me so needless to say it was a quieter night.  The next night however, slightly different story…

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Before beginning again, I must admit… It’s been quite a while since my last post.  It’s crazy how life can just sweep you up and time flies so fast you forget to keep up with some things… In any event, I am currently getting ready to travel again but must first finish the tales of the last adventure…

After leaving the quaint little town of Boquete, Panama I made my way to Bocas del Toro.  It was quite obvious that the closer we got to Bocas, the more prepared the locals were for lots of travel from tourists back and forth in that area.  Taxis were lined up around the bus terminal waiting and ready to sweep tourists off the bus, into the taxi and whisk them away to the boat terminal.  Honestly I don’t even recall saying much to the locals as the swaps occurred, only “Bocas?” followed by a head shake indicating “yes” and away we were.

It took about 40 minutes by boat to arrive on the island of Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama.  Again, once off the boat and on solid ground I was immediately greeted by a local named Carlos.  He was most eager to shuffle me around and help find me accommodations for the night.  Of course he would be getting a commission for getting me to the “right” place but I first wanted to check out a few places that I had heard about from others on the road.  Carlos was quite determined to get his commission however and literally refused to leave my side as I walked from place to place inquiring about prices of the places that were recommended to me.  They were quite out of my price range however, and Carlos’s efforts to not give up on me were soon rewarded as I finally gave up and told him to take me to the place he recommended.

The place he took me to was right on the main road just across the street from the community park and also right across the street from THE BEST sandwich shop anywhere!!!  The name of the place was called… And this is why I should keep up with my posts more frequently… Los Zapatos… I believe… Anyway, the place wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.  I felt comfortable enough to stay there for the night.  The place next door honestly enough looked much more inviting, but they were booked.  So for one night I opted to stay at Los Zapatos and paid for a private room.  The one definitely nice thing about the place was it had several floors with a balcony on each floor overlooking the town, so it was great to just sit and watch the traffic and people watch.  Carlos, after collecting his commission from my sale said bye and trotted off back to the boat dock to greet the next arriving boat.  Honestly I recall the lady looking quite bothered by his presence and the fact that he brought me in.  I think mainly because she just didn’t want to pay the commission, but such is how life there works I guess!

In any event, perhaps now is a good time to actually describe Bocas del Toro.  Prior to my arrival I had imagined and envisioned (all due to the descriptions provided to me by other travelers) that Bocas was an island in the Caribbean surrounded by beautiful beaches.  Quite to my disappointment, the reality was absolutely nothing as what I had conjured in my mind!  The water as we came toward the island became increasingly gross.  It was quite apparent that at least the water path we took to get to the island was becoming increasingly polluted from all the boat traffic.  As for beaches, there is no waterfront anywhere on the main portion of town on the island of Bocas.  The waterfront is completely built up with resteraunts, hostels, hotels, docks for boats, bars, etc, etc.  The only beaches on Bocas are at least a 40 minute bus ride to the other side of the island.  Apparently there was one beach 20 minutes by bus, but it was recommended not to go there as the currents for that beach, depending on how they were flowing, tended to wash up all the seaweed or trash from the ocean, etc on to the land making it not quite a nice beach to be on.  The beach 40 minutes away however was the world famous starfish beach.  The sands are literally littered with hundreds of starfish!  Or rather, that is what I’ve been told since I sadly never kicked myself hard enough in the rear to go there!

Honestly, I think just I was just disheartened when I arrived on Bocas that I kind of lost energy or enthusiasm to do anything.  I was hoping to arrive on a beautiful island with beaches nearby to walk to.  Instead I arrived on basically a party island built up to the hilt with beaches only accessible by yet another bus ride or a boat ride to another island nearby!  So, needless to say, I was just bummed!  I didn’t really like the energy of Bocas.  In any event, I was determined to make the best of it so I once again did what I did best and simply wandered the streets getting to know my new surroundings.

As I wandered I found the Spanish school where I once again contemplated taking some courses, but then couldn’t imagine spending weeks on an island with no easily accessible beaches!  I found the local internet shop where I stopped in to check emails.  Then I found a boat tour group called JAMPAN tours (honestly you couldn’t miss them as their front door was the most colorful anywhere on the island!) that offered services to the nearby island of Bastimentos, home of the world famous Red Frog Beach!  On this National Park island there was also a hostel called Bocas Bound which I had seen many advertisements about.  So, since I wasn’t 100% enamored with the island of Bocas, I decided to jump over to Bastimentos and stay in the hostel there for a few nights.  I booked my departing trip with JAMPAN tours for the next day as well as my return to Bocas several days later then continued my wanders.  I was informed by the tour group however that there were no grocery stores on Bastimentos, but that there were community refrigerators at the Bocas Bound hostel, so unless I wanted to eat out the entire time there, I should go to the grocery store and stock up on food for the several days to just bring with me.

The rest of the day went by without any major occurrences.  I ate in the bakery across from my hostel (seriously the biggest and best sandwiches of all kinds and for only $4!!!!!!!) and otherwise sat on the balcony of the hostel people watching and chatting with a guy from Germany about politics and such.  Ok, massive correction here… I wasn’t speaking about politics but rather listened to HIM talk about politics in the US.  And as I listened to him talk it occurred to me how amazing it was that someone who lived in Germany, yet worked in Panama City, Panama knew so much about US politics whereas those FROM the States (sadly including myself) know so little about it… Hmmm…. In any event, I eventually turned in and for the night, got up bright and early the next day, did some grocery shopping for food for the next several days on Bastimentos and headed over to JAMPAN to hitch my ride over to the Red Frog Beach!






Boquete, Panama

After a boat ride, taxi and two separate buses I arrived in the cool (literally) little town of Boquete.  Nestled between mountain ranges, this adorable town was quite a sight to behold!  I can still recall sitting on the bus, completely surrounded by nothing but the view of mountain sides, when all of a sudden the view opened up and ahead was Boquete.  It literally reminded me of some little obscure mountain town in Europe, quietly slumbering, hiding its secrets in the valley.

I stepped off the bus at the main square and started my hunt for a place to stay.  There were several hostels along the main “highway” that looked quite nice, but a little out of my preferred price range.  I had immediately decided to stay in Boquete for 5 days to a week so I wanted to find somewhere that I could get comfortable in for a bit.  Off the main road I came across a house that had a little sign hanging on the front.  The building to the right looked like a personal home, while the building to the left had 2 doors with numbers on them.  I wish I had taken note as to the name of the place so I could share it with future travelers to this area, but sadly I did not.

After speaking with the family living in the main house about accommodations in one of their 4 apartments, I paid for 5 nights at $8.00 a night.  That $8 a night bought me my own private room with queen size bed, little kitchen, private bath and even a little TV.  Sadly the television only got a few channels and of course all were in Spanish, but at least it made for some entertaining distraction when I needed some.

Not a whole lot of excitement occurred in Boquete for me really.  I used my time there to unwind a bit and get some essential things done before traveling on.  For example laundry and a very much-needed pedicure!  Hey, a girl still has to keep herself up regardless of where she goes:).  I spent my days walking around the town and exploring new areas of the town each day, which also served as a good way to get exercise.  Every day, and on some days all day, we had thunderstorms, the kind that rattle the very core of you shaking you from the inside out!  Now I absolutely adore thunderstorms and was quite happy to be somewhere with consistent ones for  a bit.  During my lunch and dinner I would turn on the television and watch Spanish Soap Operas, which let me tell you are quite dramatic and funny in how dramatic they are.  The days basically passed like this with a walk everyday for at least a couple of hours, otherwise killing my time with books or thoughts of where to go next.

What was interesting about Boquete was the great extreme of people present.  It is obvious that Boquete has turned into the American Retiree place to go.  For one, it’s cheap and in Panama in general it is quite easy to become a resident.  All that is required is proof of steady income, which if you have your social security check, you get in immediately.  What was funny to me though was the great divide in the town.  You had your Panamanians, your Panamanian Tribe people who were easily spotted due to their traditional clothing that they wore daily, and then you had the Gringos (i.e. the expats living off their Social Security checks out of the Country where the cost of living is lower).  It was humorous to watch as the Gringo gang walked around the town.  Their dogs were all on leashes (every other dog was street smart and ran around free), they all walked in packs (the people, not the dogs) and English was the only language spoken or attempted (at least in all those who I noticed).  I did find it quite sad that these people didn’t seem to make an attempt to learn the language.  For if I were to permanently move to another Country, at least I could try to show respect to them by learning their language.  Especially since I was in effect there taking advantage of their cheap standards of living…. But I digress.

Along this point I did myself look into a Spanish school in Boquete.  As I probably mentioned before, I only spoke conversational Italian prior to coming to Latin America and while it was slowly changing over from Italian to Spanish, I thought some school would probably be a good idea to help facilitate and speed the process of speaking Spanish better.  Boquete though was not somewhere I wanted to be for a long period of time though.  It served its purpose well as a relaxing and quiet retreat, but knowing myself I knew there just wasn’t enough of a life there to keep myself busy for an extended period of time.  Plus it was chilly there at night and sometimes during the day when the sun failed to make it through the cloud cover and I’m really a warm-weather kind of person so staying in cold climates can only be tolerated for so long!  Interestingly enough, the school in Bocas (Habla Ya!) had a sister school in Bocas del Toro, Panama on the Caribbean coast.  I had heard a lot about Bocas so thought perhaps I would check out the school there and if I liked the town would stay there for the classes.  So after my 5 nights in relaxing Boquete, I moved on to Bocas del Toro.

Boca Chica/Boca Brava

I had heard of this spot from one of the reception people at the Purple House as a fairly nice area to go.  definitely not the best place to go, but certainly one to check out.  I had also read in the Lonely Planet that it was a nice place to go.  The main boasting point for Boca Chica/Boca Brava is that there is only one hostel there.  And it is on a remote island that is reachable by boat only.  So I thought I would give it a try…

Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps my mood, but I wasn’t at all impressed by any portion of part of the trip.  It took several hours and different buses to get there, a private taxi and then a water taxi to get to a hostel high on an island cliff.  The weather was dull and overcast, threatening the look of rain but never producing.  Everything felt dank and dull.  The hostel itself was nothing spectacular.  It honestly was mostly a safety hazard as the paths were made of mosaic design of glass pieces which made everything very slippery.  I opted for a hammock as the beds seemed quite dangerous to sleep on (dirty and potentially moldy and were kept on the floor of the room that had no screens on the windows so you literally were one with nature).  The price to stay there was quite expensive for what they offered as was the trip just to get out there!  All in all I probably spent $60 on this dull detour that I could have done without.

Were it not for the hike I took to one of the beaches once the weather finally shone through with some sun, I would have seriously regretted the detour.  But I did enjoy the beach time as there were hundreds of crabs on the shore to chase and watch, and a troop of howler monkeys came by to chill by the waters with me.

I was literally the only guest at this hostel, so again perhaps it was just poor timing all around, but nothing about this area impressed me.  I slept that night in my hammock and rose early the next day to head to Boquete.

David, Panama

Since being on the road I tried to make it a point to NOT be on the road… But in David, it was certainly hard to do!  David is a hustle-bustle city much like ones you would find the in the States.  Traffic, roads filled to the hilt with cars, wilderness stripped away, or in other words a typical settled city.  There isn’t a whole lot to do in David.  It really is just a stop over city to get you to your next destination.

I got off at the main terminal in David and true to my stubborn nature, I figured I could easily walk to my destination for the night:  The Purple House hostel.  I had earlier acquired a map of Panama at the tourist stop at the border and on the back it had a detailed map of David.  No worries!  I could find this place without help!

About a half hour to 40 minutes later, I threw in the towel of submission… I had been wandering around with all my things in tow and apparently was also going in the wrong direction.  The map and the streets (when they had street signs on them) seemed to coincide with the right direction, but then all of a sudden they wouldn’t!  Street signs would appear that weren’t anywhere on the map according to where I was supposed to be, but then a block over the signs would coincide properly so I thought I was going in the right direction!  Well, apparently not at all and as I said earlier I eventually submitted and walked into a used clothing store where a woman and 6 young boys were chattering away.  I plunked the map on the table and asked desperately “Donde estamos??”  (i.e. where are we??).  The boys immediately set to figuring out where we were on the map, turning it sideways, upside down, right side up and down again several times.  There apparent confusion indeed was a little worrisome as they didn’t seem to know where we were either on the map, but then again it made me feel a bit better about not being able to get my way around with it as well!

About 5-10 minutes later the eldest of the boys (probably about 10) declared he knew where we were on the map and asked where I wanted to go.  After giving me directions (I was 12 blocks in the opposite direction from where I was supposed to be!) I thanked them all and headed out again.  About 3 blocks into my walk, two of the boys from the shop, the eldest and a friend of his, came running up behind me and declared that they would take me to the house themselves.  How freaking cute!!

True to their word they walked ahead of me picking their roads carefully and avoiding the traffic where and when possible.  I was definitely thankful for them as guides at this point due to my mind and body getting very tired and neither wanting to think anymore.  We arrived at The Purple House hostel and as a thank you, I gave them both a dollar.  Ironically enough, I came to find out that if I had taken a taxi from the terminal to the house, it would have also cost $2!  This version however definitely got my exercise in for the day:)

The Purple House hostel in David is EXACTLY as it sounds… PURPLE!  The walls are purple, the sheets are purple the cups, plates, mugs, folders, towels, dog, shower curtains, or in other words everything is purple!  Ok, for those who were paying attention, the dog isn’t purple (her name is cute-si) but her collar is;)  The woman who owns the hostel is from NYC and has been living down here since 2004, I believe.  She has also lived in Israel and the Greek Isles prior to here, working as a runner in Israel for the original Purple House hostel there.  (Side note: a runner is a person who goes to the bus stations and waits for backpacker arrivals to take them to a particular hostel or to sell them on their hostel.)  True to the New Yorker way of life, she is a tough cookie!  Very friendly and very accommodating, but no one you would ever want to cross so to speak.

After settling in, I met a few girls from the States and joined them in a walk  to the movie theater to watch a movie at the Multicine National Theater.  A movie theater?!?!?!?!?!  I literally almost died when I heard them suggest to go and see a movie!!  In a theater no less!!  I absolutely adore movies and with the traveling, it’s obviously been hard to watch movies at all or to even see a television, let alone go to a theater!!  I can say for sure that I honestly haven’t missed TV at all, but movies on a big screen I do get nostalgic for.  In any event, we watched “Friends with Benefits” and cabbed it back to the hostel as it was pouring rain when we got out of the theater.

Once we arrived back, ironically once more, I met a couple who had been living in Puerto Jimenez for several months!  She was the schoolmaster and her husband was at that time still looking for work but being the “house-mom” in between.  I just couldn’t believe that we had been in the same place together for at least a week and yet I had never run into them before!  But, I suppose it isn’t that uncommon as there are areas that are more residential than the “tourist” areas that those who live there wouldn’t have any necessity to go in to.  In any event, they were down in David for their 90 day Visa renewal and were planning to stay a few days longer.  I dined with them that night chatting away about Puerto Jimenez experiences.  One of the things I recall the most was their thoughts on the Macaws… They cracked me up as they started in on how wonderful and beautiful and majestic they seemed at first, but how now they couldn’t stand the loud, obnoxious, always dropping almond seeds on our roof at all hours BIRDS!  LOL!!  I guess everything can lose its charm… Though I still maintain that they are wonderful creatures that though they may have their annoyances, we are better off with them than without them!

I stayed only a single night on this trip (ironically again:  I am currently back at the Purple House Hostel while writing this though it’s been 9 months since being here!  I warned you all that this blog wouldn’t always be up to date!!)  and the next day made my way to Boca Chica on the Pacific coast of Panama.