Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bocas Del Toro Panama

To get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas Del Toro I caught a bus to Sixaola, the cost was $1.75 and it was about an hour ride. Cleared Costa Rica customs and got my stamp out. After that it is a walk across a very scary bridge, again with the height issues if I couldn't have seen through the planks I would have made it across a lot faster. At Panama customs I had to go purchase a bus ticket out of the country, you are not allowed in unless you have a way out, the ticket was $11.00 and is good for 1 year for the bus from Changuinola (the closest town by the Panama border) to San Jose Costa Rica. Lots of folks I met had changed their airline itineraries on the computer before printing them out to Panama City as the place they were flying out of to avoid having to purchase the bus ticket. Sorry I didn't think of it but as I was heading back to San Jose I was going to need the ticket anyway. There is also a $5.00 US charge for US & Canadian passport holders to get into Panama. Seems our governments are not very nice to the people of Panama and charge them a lot of money to enter our countries so it is a retaliation fee.

Unfortunately we made a miscalculation on our departure time from Puerto Viejo, the last ferry to Bocas Del Toro leaves at 5pm and we did not have time to take the bus and none of us wanted to spend the night on the mainland so we had to catch a cab from the boarder to Almirante where the ferry leaves from. There is another route via Changuinola and then a ferry but they are dredging the canals so the service has been temporarily suspended. Too bad cause it sounded really cool, the canals are suppose to be beautiful. Anyway we hooked up with another guy so there was 4 of us in the cab at a cost of $8.00 each. We made the ferry with 5 minutes to spare, the cab driver called ahead and reserved us some spots so we made a beer stop along the way, good thing he made the reservation as it was a full boat. The ferry costs $4.00 and takes about 35 minutes, the ferry is a large speed boat that is covered, a pretty comfy ride and some nice scenery along the way, it is a very beautiful area, everything you would imagine the Caribbean would be.

We checked into the Hieke Hostel which is located on the main street across from the park, cost of a bunk in a dorm room was $10.00 an night and included a kitchen, cook it yourself pancake breakfast, free coffee all day and free wireless Internet. It is a nice place, rooms are clean, plenty of bathrooms, the staff is very helpful and a great vibe. Again ran into folks I had been meeting up with along the road, among them 3 French Canadian guys I ran into initially in Semuc Champey and again in San Pedro and again in San Juan Del Sur. I have no idea what their names are but I'm pretty sure they think I am stalking them and are a little afraid.

There is a lot of things to do in town, restaurants and bars everywhere and a couple of beaches 1 within walking distance that is not so good and one you need to take a bus to, cost of the bus is $2.50 US (Panama currency is US dollars) each way and the beach is okay but not up to Puerto Viejo standards. To get to the best beaches you need to take a boat and that costs $'s, anywhere from $5.00 each way up to $20.00 if you do the whole day tour that includes a visit to a few beaches, some snorkeling and a trip to Zapatillas, the cost does not include the fee to go onto Zapatillas which is an additional $5 to $10 as it is a national park. The fee is based on if the captain of the boat you are on can talk them into a discount.

We did not succeed in evading the rain, which kind of sucked but again we had a few days that the sun came out of hiding for. However not for long enough that any of us wanted to pay $20.00 for something we might be doing in the rain. As luck would have it we met some Canadian guys who have property on one of the islands along with a sail boat and a run about boat. They took a bunch of us from the hostel out for the day and we did a trip to Bastimentos Island to Red Frog Beach. There is a $3.00 charge to go to the beach as it is on private property. Bet you are noticing a trend here, as nice as the place is there are $'s attached to pretty much anything you want to do. After the beach we went back to the Canadians sail boat were we sat around, snorkeled and made pina coladas for the rest of the day.

I went out to a couple of bars one was on an island across the way at a hostel called Aqua, on Wednesdays and Saturdays they have free drinks for women folk, finally something that was free yippee, well almost you have to take a water taxi there at a cost of $1.00 each way. The other bar was just down the street Barco Hundido Bar. One of the cooler ones I have been in, part of it is on a dock and there is a swimming hole with a wrecked ship that runs under the dock. Not sure how wise that is with a bunch of drunk tourists running around, they do have a sign saying swim at your own risk things will cut you so I guess they are off the hook. Was fun watching all the fish swim around, no tourists gave it a go while I was there. I also had a few coupons for free drinks so a happy place for me.

I was now down to 3 days left on my travels and the rain was not letting up so I opted to head back to San Jose for some shopping as I had not been able to pick up anything on my travels due to the whole backpack weight space issue. It was really hard to say a final goodbye to the folks I was traveling with 1 has another 6 days and the other a month so they were off to Panama City. Happy trails amiga's, it was great sharing time with you!

So off I go to solo on the last leg of my Central American journey to San Jose.

No comments: