Panama Day 1
Panama day 1 really kind of starts in Costa Rica. We were held up in traffic on the way to Panama so we ended up not making the border crossing in time and had to spend the night in Sixaola, a weird little town with nothing going for it. We were literally metres from the border and could have easily just walked across, but then we’d be illegals, and I don’t think they have sandy beaches and rainforests in jail. Anyway, we stayed in an ok place and put up a fellow straggler on our floor as the next nearest place to stay (according to a taxi driver who saw dollar signs and a trip to Disneyland in his near future) was 30km away.
Panama Day 2
Officially day 1, our first day started with a taxi ride and then a boat out to Bocas Del Toro, a group of islands on the Caribbean Sea. We started on Isla Colon (where I am now until tomorrow – Thursday 10th), which is a surfy kind of island. The main town is a strip of hostels, restaurants and bars and you couldn’t get into the sea from there – you have to get a cab or cycle to the beach or get a boat to another island. This place is not my scene at all. We pitched up in Hostel Heike, which is a the kind of hostel that has crusty travellers lounging about as if they’ve been there for weeks and people puking 24/7. I had a shower and when I bent down I smelled puke. Gross, so gross. The sign below was in the toilet. Classy.
That day we went on a trip to a nearby island with a nice beach and Kate the Aussie and I had a wander around and it was gorgeous – coral reefs, jungle interior, great views. Then we went back to the hostel and then went out for the night. Everyone was going on about a bar called Iguana, and personally, when everyone is going on about one particular nightspot, I feel the strong inclination to avoid it. But I had to go with the flow and the place was exactly as I’d imagined. It was free drinks for girls so everyone was wasted and it was just packed and sweaty and boring. I chatted a lot to a Nicaraguan (who we’d been to the beach with) and a Peruvian, named Daly and Francisco respectively, who taught me Spanish all night, including the useful phrase ‘Get out of my way’. When asked to say some words I knew in Spanish one I chose was ‘I stay/I’m staying’ because I hadn’t been able to get it right when sorting out accommodation. I was then politely informed that instead of saying ‘ I stay’ I had in fact been saying ‘I poo’. All the curious looks came flooding back into my memory. All that time I’d been saying ‘I poo five days’…
Moving on… That night I got back to the dorm (we were sharing with two guys) to discover my top bunk bed was right next to a window (I call it that but there’s no glass, just some loose wooden slats) that looks onto the front balcony where everyone was hanging out post-clubbing, chatting and smoking. So I went to sleep breathing smoke and staring at the back of someone’s head. The room was also dark and stifling hot all day and night, and the whole hostel has the permanent stink of disinfectant from the constant puking. Not for me.
Today I checked out and moved to a private room by a beach a few Kms away from town and I think I’m the only person staying here – bliss.
Going back a little bit though, today we were booked onto a tour of the islands, including dolphin swimming, snorkelling and a bunch of other great stuff. We got on the boat right on time, then waited for the other passengers to turn up. We waited, and waited some more. 50 minutes later they ambled up to the boat, and only one of them apologised. We made the executive decision to get off the boat and go cycling round the island instead.
We were angry and the day was overcast anyway. And we had a brilliant day, we stopped to swim in the sea a few times and saw some cool jungle interior, as well as farms and local homes. We also passed a nice-looking hotel 15 mins’ bike ride from town, and I went in to ask about rooms. All vacant and not entirely outside of the budget as long as I ate nothing and did nothing.
I checked out of Hostel Pukey and moved into La Rumba. I am sitting here right now listening to the sound of the sea. We went out for dinner tonight in town, after a Spanish lesson in which I didn’t learn much new, and we ate in Emma’s friend’s friend’s restaurant, El Ultimo Refugio. We all ordered the tuna and it was so good. Seared slightly, raw in the middle, sesame seeds around it, ginger, veggies and soy sauce, followed by peanut butter snickers cake – yum. Then the others went off to Aqua Lounge, party central, while I came back here to, well, write this and chill out.