07.12.2016 - 16.12.2016 33 °C
So we started out in Panama City - well I started a couple of days earlier than Marv because he was delayed by what the Spanish aviation called 'fog' in Madrid - but to Marv (and I would assume any Londoner), it would seem like a pretty clear morning.
After getting to the hotel at about 3am the night before, my first day was all about kicking the jet lag and getting my bearings around the city. I spent most of my time wandering the pretty streets of Casco Viejo (the old town) and walking along the bay.
Because I was so happy to be in a hot country again, my mission for the second day was to go to the beach. Unfortunately the closet beach to Panama City is about an hours bus ride away, but I thought - hey, what the hell?! Theres not a lot of stuff to do in Panama City (well not cheap stuff anyway) and I was leaving all the touristy stuff for when Marv arrived. I somehow managed to get a bus ticket by fumbling my way through with my terrible Spanish (I definitely need some lessons soon) and some made up sign language and boarded a minivan to the closest beach. That was an interesting experience! Drivers in Panama are crazy! The journey that was supposed to only take just under an hour took almost two because the bus driver on the way there got pulled over by the police for driving a few miles along the shoulder of the road while there was traffic. On the way back it wasn't much better, I was on a fold out chair in the aisle, the driver would get up to about 120km/h then cut across 3 lanes on the motorway to stop and pick up more passenger.
The beach was about a mile from the bus stop down a couple of sandy roads. I passed a few tiny thatched roof houses and was quite surprised to see in one of them this huge scary looking Panamanian guy tattooing another guy with Spanish rap music pumping out of massive speakers in the background. Not the most likely or sterile place for at tattoo parlour haha! (I have to admit, I walked a bit quicker when I saw those guys!) The trek to the beach was worth it. It was absolutely beautiful, there was hardly anyone around and the water was crystal clear and warm.
That night Marv arrived in Panama and the next day we went to the Panama Canal. I hate to sound unappreciative of this 'engineering feat' but essentially it's just a big Lock. You can see a similar thing in Camden while drinking a pint at one of the local pubs (but just on a smaller scale). I'm not sure what I was expecting, it is impressive knowing they dug the canal etc, blah blah blah, but it just felt a little....underwhelming. Obvs not my thing. I would definitely suggest, if any of you guys want to go there, do the museum before you go and see the ships come through (it will hype it up a bit for you).
On our last day in Panama City, we went to the Park Nationcial Metropolitano, a national park in centre of Panama City, which I have to say was the highlight of Panama City for me. We hiked around the park for a couple of hours (the park is massive) and got to see all different kinds of animals. It's so close to the city but we got to see turtles, snakes, some interesting looking birds and kinkajous.
That night I caught the painful overnight bus Bocas del Toro. Bocas is amazing, the bus ride there, not so much. They have the aircon set to subzero temperatures and you are jerks side to side all night with the bus drivers erratic driving, but eh it's all part of travelling right?!
Bocas is a beautiful bunch of island on the Carribean side of Panama. Our first couple of nights in Bocas we spent on Bastimentos Island, just A 5 minute water taxi ride from Bocas town. Bastimentos was also absolutely beautiful. Our hostel was right on the water, and what they called the 'lounge room' was decking over the water with hammocks and a thatched roof - amazing! Before our dinner of pot noodles (or whatever else was the cheapest food we could buy in the supermarket), we would sit out there with a couple of beers swinging in the hammocks.
On our first day on Bastimentos we trekked over to Wizard Beach on the other side of the island. The trek was about 30 minutes up and over a very muddy mountain. This didn't bode was for my outfit of choice, a white sundress and thongs. Being the ridiculously clumsy person I am, I slipped in the mud before we even really started climbing the hill, from my knees down I was completely covered in mud! I had to take my thongs off and walking over barefoot because they were just too slippery. Marv had a good laugh though!
Wizard Beach was stunning - its jungle meets white sandy beach that went for ages. The current was super strong so you couldn't swim too far out but it was beautiful being surrounded by palm trees with fallen coconuts dotted along the shore.
The next day was our big tour around the Bocas Islands. We went snorkelling and saw some dolphins, some starfish and some sloths. The tour took us to Zapitilla Island, the beach there looked like something straight out of Lost or Castaway. Heaven on earth!
We were supposed to have about a week in Bocas but it was bucketing down with rain on our last two days so we ended up heading to Costa Rica a day early. The border crossing was surprisingly easy than expected others we've spoken to grilled and had to provide proof of exit from the country. Immigration must have know we were VIPs
I will add an update with what we have been doing in Costa Rica soon.
Hope you're all well back home! Sending my love and Feliz Navidad!