For all intents and purposes, that’s all she wrote folks. I’m currently sitting on a bus heading to San Jose, Costa Rica from the Panamanian City of David. It’s hard to believe it was just 28 days ago this adventure began, it seems much longer, in a very good way.
The last leg of my journey began in Santa Catalina, a surf town on the Pacific coast of Panama. Similar to Santa Teresa in Costa Rica, it is a one road kind of town. The difference though is the road is paved and unfortunately, the beach was not as nice. However, I went for the scuba diving and that was good.
I went diving with 3 girls (Jordan’s Angels, and no I didn’t have to pay extra) from my hostel (2 US, 1 German). We did 3 dives around Coiba Island and even though the visibility wasn’t the greatest, we saw a lot of fish.
Diving with sharks, dare I say, has become blase (at least with white tips) as they were all over the place. Turtles, small octopus, schools of barracuda, and zebra eels were some of the other sea creatures on the menu. We also saw dolphins and a manta ray from the boat (with masks on, we stuck our heads over the side of the boat into the water to watch the manta ray that was no more than 10 feet away). However, the best thing I saw was a frog fish, an ugly, ugly, car wreck of a fish you just want to keep looking at. I’ve included a picture from the web that is similar to the one we saw.
Keeping with the international group theme started on Isla Grande, dinner and drinks that night included representatives from the US, Germany, Holland, Panama and Argentina. No world problems were solved but everyone had a good time.
The next day, for only the second time this trip (and again strictly for logistical reasons), I jumped on a tourist shuttle that took me to the town of Boquete. It is a town in what is considered the mountain region of Panama. Perhaps this is why Boquete is by far my favorite place in Panama. This was also the first place in Panama that locals on the street said “hola” or “buenos” to us strangers.
(Side note:. I just had an interruption in my writing, Panamanian army/security/police boarded our bus to search and check ID’s. I’ve become accustomed to it as it is the 5th or 6th time it has occurred in the short time I’ve been here.)
On the shuttle to Boquete I met a German couple, Jan and Caroline, and we ended up staying at the same hostel and hiking together the next couple days. The first day we did the Hidden/Lost Waterfall hike. I’m not sure about the name because they were pretty easy to find, but the hike was good and I was excited that I finally had a real reason to be wearing my hiking boots this trip.
Earlier in my trip I met a Spanish guy that had recommended a trail named El Pianista when I got to Boquete. Jan and Caroline also received that recommendation along the way so we decided that would be our next hike. Well, never had a hike by 3 gringos been met with such disfavor.
The Pianist is a trail that a couple of Dutch girls died on about 5 years ago and since then, Panamanians look at the trail as taboo without a local guide. Our hostel owner went so far as to say he would not go to the trail to help in the search for us.
Well, we saw no reason to pay $65 each to hike a trail, so armed with the latest technology, Jan with his GPS tracking smartphone and me with mine, the three of us set out on El Pianista and… nothing happened.
The trail is very interesting, for most of it you’re walking uphill through a jungle that is partial rainforest and part what you would expect Tarzan to be swinging through. About ¾ of the way up you start walking through corridors one to two feet wide formed through years of erosion. Some just a few feet high but some with walls over 10 feet that feel like tunnels in the earth. Most are covered on the sides by wet, green, moss. Also, the trail is near impossible to get lost on, even without our trusted GPS.
(Another Side Note: I just went through the border crossing and am now back in Costa Rica. I am the only gringo on the bus and I noticed from the start, the others on the bus (only 6 of us) have been friendly and interested in trying to communicate with me, in our limited ways. Going through immigration I found out they are Costa Rican and Mexican and not Panamanian, so this fits with the thoughts me and my other travelers have all felt throughout our journeys. I also now have a local tour guide the next time I go to Puerto Vallarta.)
With the hike completed, and no danger beset upon me, I changed up plans. Originally, I planned to go on to Bocas Del Toro with Jan and Caroline for a final few beach days but realized I might be cutting it too close to get back to San Jose for my flight home. So, I decided to stay in Boquete for a couple more days but switched to another hostel, The Castle.
The Castle actually is a castle although it was built recently and eventually converted into a hostel. It’s located in an isolated location, surrounded by coffee plantations, up in the hills above Boquete. It was a very chill place to relax and spend time my last few days chatting with other travelers.
At The Castle I again met another Breck employee and Colorado resident, Tanner, and an English girl named Emma, and wouldn’t you know it, they had the desire to hike El Pianista. So, on my last full day in Panama, I pressed my luck (and waived my $65 guide fee), and escorted my new friends up and down the cursed trail. During the hike I realized, since my first night in Costa Rica, 27 days and forever ago, this was my first activity without a German at my side. Inconceivable.
Originally, I had a reservation on a bus to San Jose that I was to catch upon it’s arrival in David, at around 4am tomorrow morning. However, on my way to David, when I found out I would need to be there an hour early, to make sure I caught the bus as it passed by, and sit outside at just a bus stop, on a street, alone, in the dark, at 4am, waiting, in a city I don’t know, that speaks a language I don’t speak…I changed plans.
Instead, after arriving in David this morning, I jumped on the first bus headed to San Jose from the main bus terminal. It is on that bus, and at some point during my 8 hour trip, that I am writing this, and bringing this trip’s blogging to a close.
From somewhere in southern Costa Rica, until my next trip, I bid you adieu.
Life is good. PURA VIDA
P.S. To anyone reading this that I met along the way, thank you for the memories, it was awesome. Until next time.
P.S.S. I never did get my ATM card.