Dates: 26 February-6 March 2014
DAYS 115-117: “Panama City” (26-28 Feb)
We disembarked The Independence in Carti and then “enjoyed” a 3 hour jeep ride through the jungle to get to Panama City. In a massive 180 from the organised prepared travellers we started this trip as – who pre-booked and researched everything – we’ve become pretty chilled and had nowhere to stay when we arrived in Panama City. As we couldn’t bare the thought of being separated from our new sea family so soon, we followed the majority to Luna’s Castle hostel, located in the Old Town.
We spent the next 2 days saying staggered goodbyes to our shipmates, wandered around the city, enjoyed the odd drink and obviously went to check out the Panama Canal. We were lucky enough to see a luxurious cruise liner going through the last lock of canal… On it’s way to the Pacific Ocean, and graciously waved to all the people enjoying the view from the ship.
Our relaxed attitude landed us in a spot of bother when we realised that Carnival started on Saturday 1st March and there was no accommodation to be found in the whole of Panama City as the city hosts the biggest Carnival celebration outside of Rio – oh dear! Our options were pretty limited in that we couldn’t get out of the city as the buses were fully booked for Friday and we were unsure whether they’d be going once Carnival started. We were reluctant to stay in Panama City as, a) we didn’t have anywhere to sleep and b) we didn’t fancy a 5 day street party bender…so things were going slightly pear shaped. We even resorted to considering hitchhiking out of the city, hiring a campervan, camping on a beach – all pretty extreme options for us barbie backpackers. It eventually dawned on us that we could turn to our favourite mode of transport – flying! So we hopped on to Skyskanner and managed to get the last 2 seats on the last flight with availability to Bocas del Toro for the next day – result!
DAYS 117-123: “Bocas del Toro” (28 Feb-6 March)
As seems to be the case when travelling, things do tend to work out. We were stoked that we made it to Bocas, as this was on our list of places to go in Panama and is well known for its Carniva, albeit it on a much smaller scale – more our style! The Bocas Del Toro archipelago sits in the Caribbean Ocean and captivates people with its seductive, primitive beauty and Caribbean charm. We managed to find accommodation at Pukalani Guesthouse on Isla Colon. This hostel was located 5km out of the main town providing the perfect balance between raving and relaxing. The family run hostel provided the ideal location for our 6 days in Bocas, offering stunning views, delicious food (seabass to die for!) and great company. Some of our new friends included Martjin and Loes (a Dutch couple on a mini-break), Ben and Eric (Canadian friends on a surf holiday), Marc (who woke up in NYC one Sunday morning and randomly booked a flight to Panama for a week), Imran (1x very crazy Sri-Lankan guy), Katy (another American travelling girl) and Darren (a Canadian guy on a solo trip).
We got involved in the Carnival celebrations and we were even treated to the surprise arrival of our Irish lass, Breda from the San Blas sail trip. We partied up a storm at the street Carnival, Casa Animal Club and the adults playground, Aqua Lounge – making full use of the swings and trampolines. We even managed to hitch a ride home in a police van one night – don’t worry Moms, we had not committed a felony! They took pity on us when we couldn’t find a taxi to take us back to our hostel.
During our time in Bocas we spent a quintessentially Caribbean day at Playa Bluff, chilling at their ultra cool beach bar, watching the surfers, listening to Bob Marley and just soaking up the relaxed vibes pretty unique to a place like this! We also went on a day trip which involved a stop at “Dolphin Bay” (a dolphin breeding ground) to finally see us some dolphins, a couple hours on Zapatilla (known as the most beautiful island in Bocas), snorkelling at Crawl Cay (Coral Cay) and ended the day looking for, and finding, sloths on sloth island.
Our next stop was Costa Rica, we booked a shuttle through our hostel to take us from Bocas del Toro to Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica) via Sixaola border crossing.