December 2015 & January 2016
After an easy border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama we jumped in a cab, followed by two more boats before arriving at our accommodation for Christmas, thankfully this time with all our belongings!
We pulled up to our accommodation on one of the smaller islands surrounding Bocas Del Toro and for the first time ever the hostel not only met but exceeded our expectations. The Bambuda lodge is perched on a hill overlooking the Caribbean ocean blessed with a coral reef close enough to swim to. We had arrived Christmas eve and as it turns out Panama follows the European tradition of having the main celebration on the eve instead of Christmas day proper. That night I tucked in to a turkey and ham (which seemed a bit weird considering the Caribbean surroundings) and after dinner we danced around the pool before the rest of the hostel caught a boat in to the main island to go clubbing and I bailed and went to bed. On Christmas day it was much the same again but with swimming added and a bit of a tropical thunderstorm.
As boxing day was our last day in Bocas we decided to jump on an island hopping tour for snorkelling, swimming and plenty of rum, and as the boat pulled away blasting Tom Petty and cocktails were handed out I knew I had made the right decision. As we pulled up to a mangrove island the captain set up a slide directly in to the ocean where you barreled down emerging in to the water surrounded by hundreds of jellyfish. Thankfully most of them were harmless but when I got closer to the reef I did see some with an alarming amount of tendrils. Afterwards we drove to dolphin bay and watched dozens of dolphins breaching the water and
jumped in to try to swim with them but ultimately made them swim further away, and as I had a bit of liquid courage I jumped off the top of the boat in to the Caribbean ocean below.
After some good advice from a lady I met in Bocas we journeyed to the mountain town of Boquete for the dual purpose of hiking and escaping the oppressive Caribbean heat. Boquete is a small town set deep in to a valley and surrounded by mountains and more importantly a million degrees cooler than the coast, here we spent two days hiking and swimming in beautifully brisk rivers.
Finally it came for my final bus ride with the two friends I had traveled with since Guatemala; we caught the overnight bus from David to Panama city which was closer to an air plane than to any bus I had caught on this trip. We arrived to a sweltering Panama city at 5.30am and caught a cab to the hostel and napped on the couches until our room was ready. After a night bus trip we all felt like zombies and as the hostel didn’t have air con during the day we went to a mall (the first I had been to since America) and wandered around relishing the air con before going to see the new star wars movie (how good is it!). The following day was new years eve and knowing that we would be in no shape to do anything the following day we caught a cab out to the Panama Canal. Although as a rule I find anything to do with ships very boring I thought the Canal was pretty amazing. That night we had a few drinks in the hostel before heading to Casco Viejo the old town of the city to hit a club, and although that is the last thing I would ever do back home I had a really fun night dancing to songs I actually knew (Instead of the usual reggaeton blasted everywhere) and defied my nana-ish tendencies to stay out until 3am. On the second we moved to the hotel I had booked for my birthday, and on the 3rd I woke up to my 30s. I celebrated by getting a massage at a fancy day spa and going out for dinner in Casco Viejo with Thomas and Reut. My birthday was also our last day travelling together, before Thomas took the boat through San Blas, I would take a flight to Medellin in Colombia and Reut headed back to Europe. On my final day in Panama Reut and I had lunch in Casco Viejo before I caught the bus to the airport, which as it turned out was the wrong airport and I had to make a mad dash across town in a cab (lucky I always arrive very early to airports) to arrive to the tiny airport that services only Air Panama. Of course I arrived and my plane had been delayed, but luckily they accepted the entirely fake bus ticket I had made as proof of my outward travel from Colombia. I made friends with an American couple and we caught a cab together in to the city of Medellin where I have now been for a couple of days. In case you don’t know about Medellin it was the most dangerous city in the world about 20 years ago when Pablo Escobar was in his hey day, prior to being assassinated on a rooftop. Thankfully that is now over and the city is now very safe and very trendy.