Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bocas del Toro

Ferry to a bus to a bus to a town to a shuttle to an office to another office to the border to a bridge to an office to yet another office back to a shuttle to a boat and to Bocas! Bocas del Toro, meaning, mouth of the bull, is a province of Panama. The province of Bocas is made up of 9 main islands in addition to part of the mainland.  The main island, Isla Colón, is where you can find the capital of the region - Bocas del Toro, or, Bocas Town. About 4 years ago, Bocas was reported having just under 125,000 residents.

Although not really visible, there's an old railroad bridge ahead (over 100 years old) that's used by tourists to cross over into Panama, which has yet to be topped as far as border crossings go. We were herded about for around an hour by different locals. Although very helpful and good intentioned, it all felt pretty odd and left us wondering if there was something sketchy going on. 

Eager to arrive in Bocas and also wondering what the hell was going on. 

Parts of Panama are incredibly lush and covered in mountains with jungle coated hillsides. Other parts are flat and farm filled. We drove by countless rows of bananas. Green fields harvesting this "oro verde", or green gold, spanned on for as far as you could see in any direction. Driving the last leg of the way to Bocas was absolutely beautiful. We whipped around up and down curving roads as our shuttle driver played reggae music and kept his foot firmly planted on the accelerator. He brought us to a tiny dock with only a few small boats. We piled in and raced through the open waters towards the main islands. 

Houses on stilts amongst mangroves, and locals in small canoes made for beautiful scenery on our ride to Isla Colón. 

Arriving on the main island, Colón. The island was originally named Isla del Drago by Columbus back in 1502 when he explored the area in search for the passage to the Pacific. 

Some local chiquitas rehearsing for some sort of festival that was held in the park. How great are those outfits? 

A delicious creole chicken dish served with coconut rice - a popular and delicious side we loved while in the Caribbean. 

Streets of the main island

One of our hostels, Aqua Lounge. Complete with swings and a giant trampoline to launch you into the water. 

The islands of Bocas are absolutely beautiful, but the living conditions are extremely low.
The houses are dilapidated and very bare, and parts of some islands are trash filled with plastic and styrofoam all over the beach.  

Many structures stand abandoned with missing walls or roofs.

Bocas paradise

Beauty in the decay

This dogs' eyes were so awesome! There are so many dogs roaming the streets, belonging to no one and cared for by everyone. We've seen some very interesting mixes and we've also seen dogs that would cost a fortune in the States. They're all calm and friendly, never dare beg for your food, and eager for some love and affection, just as any deg always is. 

Ant highway 

These little guys were playing on their porch, screaming with laughter chasing each other. When they saw me they stopped in their tracks and then came closer, seemingly amused. They then pointed at my camera looking intrigued. I asked if they wanted their photo taken and they immediately nodded and got together. 

Some obvious big brother adoration here

I showed them the photos afterwards and their smiles grew even bigger, looking at one another and giggling. So sweet! 

The crabs on the islands were so interesting! Only one of their claws was massive and as soon as anything would come near they'd scuttle into their holes and nearly disappear except for their one big claw. I had been walking around the island (across from the main island) for quite awhile before noticing these guys, but once one's movement caught my eye I realized there were hundreds all over.

I loved this house! 

What the inland area of one of the islands looked like 

Little restaurant/shop on the water

The one and only Aqua Lounge

We ran into some friends we'd met at Casa de Olas in Nicaragua. It's funny how often this happens and how many connections you realize you have amongst other travelers. It's always nice to see some familiar faces on the road. 

After a couple nights at Aqua Lounge we were in need for something a bit calmer. Experience the other side of island life. We moved over to another island, Bastimentos, where the Palmar Tent Lodge was located. 

Sometimes rainy season's cool. 

The Palmar Tent Lodge. Found on Red Frog Beach.

The lodge is exactly as it sounds and the rooms are simply one large safari tent. The bathrooms are outdoors as well as the showers. The showers and sinks work on a pump system from collected and filtered rainwater. When showering, it takes about 20-30 pumps with a foot pedal, and then you pull down on a rope and release the water. There is no wi-fi here and electricity is offered between 8am and 6pm. The entire lodge is powered by sun and rainwater! 

The name of the beach (Red Frog Beach) lives up to it's name. We saw some of these cuties (actually a red poison dart frog) at the lodge but we saw lots of them when we went on a hike through the unforgiving jungle. 

We saw these ladies picking coconuts on our hike around the island. They are used here for a LOT of things. To drink the water and eat the flesh, to make coconut oil and soaps, and many different ways in cooking.

Our hike was put on hold about halfway in as we came to some mud that nearly reached our knees. It was a battle not to fall or slide down as we struggled to get anywhere. Marly managed to find a plastic crate buried in the mud with her toes. As she pulled it out of the mud we quickly realized it was broken. It was nearly an L in shape and starting to bruise. This later allowed us to visit a hospital on the main island. Interesting stuff there.

We spent 2 nights on Bastimentos before going back to the main island for one last night. After that we were ready to move on and head into to the coffee region of the country. 

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