Panama’s Paradise, Bocas del Toro, Panama

FUNKY

This is the word I would use to describe Panama’s Paradise Saigoncito, our accommodation in Bocas del Toro.

The entrance to Panama's Paradise

The entrance to Panama’s Paradise

Way way back, during our very first week in Tamarindo, we were given a business card for Panama’s Paradise by a guy who had just stayed there. At that point we weren’t even sure whether or not we would be going to Panama, so we just tucked it inside our tour book, and forgot about it.

Month’s later, as we were planning our trip to Panama, we unearthed this little card, and we are certainly glad we did.

Panama’s Paradise is located in Saigon, a small little community just a 5 minute bike ride from the heart of Bocas Town.

This worked perfectly for Shaun, and I, as we usually prefer to stay somewhere that is a little bit outside of the hustle and bustle of town centres.

The map to help the confused lost guests

The map to help the confused lost guests

When we first walked in to Panama’s Paradise, we instantly got lost. The property itself is fairly small, but there are pathways that wind around the various cabins, and buildings that can certainly cause some initial confusion. It’s no wonder their website provides very detailed instructions on where to go when you check in (which of course we didn’t have with us). Luckily the path to the reception area is very clearly marked, and once we had checked in, we had it all figured out.

Our cute little cabina

Our cute little cabina

We stayed in Cabina number 6, which has a full kitchen, double bed, single bed, TV, WiFi, and ensuite bathroom. We shared a porch that had hammocks, chairs and couches with three other units.

The set up in our room was fantastic. Our kitchen had a little bar set up, so we could visit with each other while cooking dinner. The single bed was set up near the TV, so we could use it as a couch area during the day.

Our couch/TV area

Our couch/TV area

The room had all sorts of hatches, and big windows that we could open wide to get the air flowing through. The light fixtures in our cabin, and outside, looked like they were straight from an IKEA catalogue, or my mom’s house.

The outdoor communal space was wonderful. Each unit has their own hammock, table and chairs. Strung around the porch were several hummingbird feeders. I have never seen hummingbirds so close in my life. I could actually see their little tongues poking in, and out of their beaks! I can’t even tell you how many humming bird photo’s I amassed during our stay.

Jenny's house/Reception

Jenny’s house/Reception

Panama’s Paradise is lovingly run by Jenny Rolink. She lives in the centre of the property with her kids, and will literally help you with anything that you need. She takes pride in her property, and it shows. During our stay both Jenny, and her staff worked tirelessly to maintain, and improve the property.

Aside from the great living spaces, and customer service, Panama’s Paradise has a couple additional perks that really make it worthwhile.

Our bike's Dolly, and Ralph. They're in love.

Our bike’s Dolly, and Ralph. They’re in love.

Anyone who stays on the property is given a free bike rental from Bocas Bicas in town. I can’t tell you how amazing this was. Shaun, and I often want to rent bikes when we visit towns that are a little bit more spread out, but it’s often over our budget. Having bikes the entire time gave us so much freedom, and we ended up seeing so much more of Isla Colon then we would have without them.

A second perk is that Panama’s Paradise also offers a discount for extended stays. If you stay for 6 nights, your 7th night is free. You can use this deal at Panama’s Paradise Saigoncito, or at their sister location Rafael’s house on Isla Bastimentos.

One of my MANY hummingbird photos

One of my MANY hummingbird photos

If you are looking for a self contained rental in Bocas del Toro, with a funky atmosphere, great service, and some fabulous perks, we would highly suggest you check out Panama’s Paradise Saigoncito.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

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Snorkel Tour, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Well, after our disastrous first attempt, we managed to arrive, (on time), to our snorkel tour…but before we start up…lets back up a bit.

Made it on the boat...at the right time!

Made it on the boat…at the right time!

The streets of Bocas Town are covered with a countless array of tour companies offering various tours. In fact, it can be rather daunting walking by them as they they try to sell you on what they have to offer, which for the most part, is all the same thing.

There is certainly a lot to see in Bocas del Toro. Although you can take water taxi’s to the various destinations, a tour just simplifies matters, and ensures you see everything you want to see in a short period of time.

My attempt a a dolphin picture

My attempt a a dolphin picture

We knew we wanted to do some snorkelling, and go to Red Frog Beach, so the tour agency we chose suggested we take the option 1 tour (offered by most companies). It included a stop in Dolphin Bay, a ride through Starfish Beach, snorkelling, a stop for lunch, and then an afternoon at Red Frog beach. It sounded like a pretty full day, and for only 20 dollars each, we figured it was a pretty good deal.

another sad dolphin picture attempt

another sad dolphin picture attempt

After checking in, and waiting on the dock for a bit, we dawned our life jackets, and piled into our boat. We left Isla Colon, and headed out to our first stop of the day, Dolphin Bay.

The name says it all, it was a large bay full of gray dolphins. They were gorgeous, and it was pretty amazing, but I had mixed emotions about this part of the tour. It didn’t feel right to be invading the small space these dolphins live in. During our 30 minutes puttering around the bay, we would inch our way closer to the Dolphins whenever they surfaced. At one point there were about seven boats in the area.

One of the many boats crowding the dolphins

One of the many boats crowding the dolphins

I felt like our tour guide kept a respectful distance, but I noticed some boats being more aggressive. These looked like boats with people who had just hired someone in town to take them to the bay

If Dolphin Bay is something you want to see, I would suggest you hire a professional tour company, as I think their practices are a little more ethical. That being said, it’s probably not something I would do again.

But we move on…

Our lunch pit stop- time to pre-order

Our lunch pit stop- time to pre-order

After the Dolphins, we puttered around some shallow areas to look at the marine life below. The water was so clear that you could see right to the bottom. There were lots of starfish, and sea cucumbers. It was one of those moments when Shaun, and I looked at each and realized how lucky we are to be from Vancouver Island. We see these types of sea creatures all the time!

No one looks cool snorkelling...especially me.

No one looks cool snorkelling…especially me.

Our boat ride continued, and we eventually stopped in at a little soda on the water. We were asked to pre-order our lunches, so they would be ready for us after the snokelling. After about a 15 minute break, we hopped in the boat for a quick 5 min jaunt to the snokel spot.

Now, I’m not a snokeling pro. In fact, I’ve only been twice in Tamarindo. Everyone told me that the snorkelling there was lame, but I didn’t know any better. I saw a couple fish, so I was happy.

Lunch time casado!!

Lunch time casado!!

Well my friends, I think I’ve been spoiled rotten now. The snorkelling was unreal. Brightly coloured fish, coral of every shape, size, and colour, spidery looking starfish,and jellyfish. There was so much to see, you could hover over the same spot forever, and still not see it all. Shaun later said that he couldn’t get the song “under the sea” out of his head!

We snokeled for about an hour, and then it was back to the soda for lunch. We were adopted by this lovely family from Panama City, who let us sit with them. They were so lovely, and it was great to talk to people from Panama about what it is like living there.

Pulling into Red Frog Beach

Pulling into Red Frog Beach

After lunch, it was off to Red Frog Beach. If you are only in Bocas for a short period of time, this is the attraction you should see.There is an 3 dollar entrance fee to get in the park, but it was covered by the tour. We pulled up to the dock, and hiked about 10 minutes to get to the beach. It was outstanding.Blue water, white sand, and big waves, what more could you ask for.

Perfect place for a beach nap.

Perfect place for a beach nap.

There are a couple little places to stay on the beach, and a small restaurant. We opted to find a spot on the beach, and settled down for some sun time. I may have had a pretty lengthy beach siesta. When I woke up, I had one thing on my mind, a pipa! I cruised down the beach a bit, and found a lovely women nestled in the shade who hooked me up. It was the perfect end to our adventure.

Salty, and sandy,  but happy!

Salty, and sandy, and smiley

We got home around 4:30, salty, sandy, and sleepy. We are so thankful that we got the opportunity to take this tour, it created memories that will last a lifetime!

Have you ever snorkelled? What did you think?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Exploring Isla Carenero, Bocas del Toro, Panama

On our third day in Bocas del Toro, Shaun and I got up extra early to embark on an all day snorkel adventure.

We rode out bikes downtown, and marched up to the tour company booth to check in. We knew something was up when we presented our voucher, and the women looked at us like we had rocks in our head. She explained that the tour was at 9:30, and had already left. They had waited for us as long as they could.

We were baffled. Shaun looked at his watch…9:07. We showed it to her, and she laughed. “ahhhh, Costa Rica time,” she exclaimed.Yes my friends, we were unaware that there was a time difference between Panama, and Costa Rica. In fact, we had been living in the wrong time for two full days. It certainly explained why we were always to late for Happy Hour!

Those look like pretty rainy clouds overhead!

Those look like pretty rainy clouds overhead!

We were thankful that the company was kind enough to honour our voucher for the next day, but in the meantime, we had an entire empty day ahead of us.

We decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and head over to the small island of Carenero, right across from our island.

Shaun, hard at work, with our "light station" on Carenero

Shaun, hard at work, with the “light station” on Carenero

We asked a local if he would take us over, and we hopped in his boat. We actually felt pretty fortunate that we had postponed our tour, as the clouds overhead were looking fairly ominous.

From shore, Isla Carenero looks pretty busy. Several building dot the shoreline, and by looking at it, you imagine there would be a little town to explore. Wrong again! The few buildings you can see from the shore is really the extent of the activity on the island. That being said, it is still a pretty funky place.

Checking out my first barrel waves

Checking out my first barrel waves

We pulled up to the dock just as the rain started. Luckily, being from Vancouver Island, a little rain didn’t phase us, and we forged ahead.

The buildings on Carenero are mainly vacation rentals, and hostels, with a couple little restaurants scattered about. Unlike the busyness of the main island, Carenero is much more relaxed. People who stay there often find they have no need to go to the main island, unless they need to go to the bank or the store. It’s got all the basic amenities, with less of the hustle.

Wandering the path around the beach

Wandering the path around the island

We slowly winded our way along the shoreline, stopping to explore the little cove’s and beaches we discovered along the way.

During our walk, we certainly figured out where all the surfers had been hanging out. We spotted several reef breaks with tons of surfers in them. I saw my first barrel waves, and even saw a long boarder ride a wave while doing a hand stand. I may not be that interested in watching surfers, but even I was impressed!

Pretty busy surf spot

Pretty busy surf spot

Although we were told we could walk around the entire island, after about an hour we ran into barbed wire crossing the path. We figured we could have passed it at low tide, but decided to take it as a sign to turn back.

Before heading back to the main island, we stopped in at Bibi’s for a coffee, and a beer. Enjoying our beverages over the water was a perfect way to end our impromptu morning adventure.

Nothing like a beach side bar to top off your morning jaunt

Nothing like a beach side bar to top off your morning jaunt

It’s funny how things have a way of working themselves out. Had we not missed our tour, we would likely never have visited Carenero Island. Now that we have, we know that if we ever come back to Bocas del Toro, this is the island we would stay on.

Do you have any travel time change stories?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Our Favourite Places in Bocas Town, Panama

After bouncing around from place to place the last several weeks, having five days in Panama felt beyond luxurious.

Not only were we able to fully unpack, but we were able to explore lots of awesome local businesses in Bocas Town.

So, without further ado, I present the next instalment in our series of favourite places, check out “Our Favourite Places in Bocas Town”

If you see this door in Bocas Town, go inside...you won't be disappointed!

If you see this door in Bocas Town, go inside…you won’t be disappointed!

Random Art: I can safely say, without a doubt, this is the coolest place I’ve visited throughout our entire adventure. Random art is a tiny art studio nestled amongst the restaurants, and tour companies on the main street of Bocas Town.

The owner, Christin, welcomed me to her studio with open arms and showed me around. I was overwhelmed with how amazing this place is. The studio is small but covered in art, and art supplies. The atmosphere feels like it would spawn creativity.

Christin offers a variety of classes for people of all ages. I had the opportunity to pop into one of her children’s art classes on our last day. I was amazed by the art work that these kids were producing.

The studio

The studio

Each class they focus on a different technique, artist, or style. She is passionate about helping children learn to look at the world through a different lense, and embrace their artistic abilities at an early age. On Friday nights, Christin also runs a free art class for the local kids of Bocas. These are the kids whose parents wouldn’t be able to afford such a luxury for them. I was disappointed that we left Friday morning as I would have loved to watch the magic of that class unfold.

Working on the skill of "perspective" note the boat in the background of this amazing masterpiece.

Working on the skill of “perspective” note the boat in the background of this amazing masterpiece.

Christin also offers a variety of classes for adults, including some that involve wine tasting. I don’t know about you, but nothing gets my creative juices flowing like a little bit of vino!

One of the primary reasons I am so thankful to have stumbled upon Random Art, is the fact that I am now decked out with all the art supplies I need for the rest of the trip. I’ve been sketching like mad since I got to Costa Rica, and have been dying to get my hands on some paint.

The artists hard at work

The artists hard at work

Thanks to Christin, I now have a set of acrylics, a large sketch pad, and some brushes. I can’t wait to set myself up on the beach, and get started.

Random Art is truly a must visit location in Bocas Town. Whether you are artistic, or have never picked up a paint brush in your life, Christin has artistic wisdom to pass on to you.

The store front

The store front

Super Gourmet Bocas del Toro: If you’ve read any of my previous favourite place posts, you know I’m a sucker for a health food store. And, although Super Gourmet has a wide variety of products, the amount of unique, and healthy food caught my eye.

Not only do they have natural peanut butter, but they carry almond butter as well. I certainly haven’t seen any of that during my travels through Central America!

An amazing selection

An amazing selection

In addition to nut butters, they have a variety of organic, gluten free, and kosher items, as well as imported items that simply can’t be found anywhere else.

Local chocolate-delicious!

Local chocolate-delicious!

Super Gourmet also stocks the famous Island Cacao chocolate, as well as many other varieties of locally produced chocolates. If you have a sweet tooth, and want to indulge in these local delicacies, I highly recommend taking a tour of their selection.

Nestled in the back of the store is a deli that offers a variety of fresh goodies that you can take to go.

I probably visited Super Gourmet Bocas del Toro, three times during our five day stay, and still feel like I didn’t see it all. I highly recommend stopping by, and checking it out.

It's pretty unassuming from the front

It’s pretty unassuming from the front

Frozen & Creamy– What would a favourite places post be without an ice cream shop! We stumbled upon this place one night completely by accident. We had finished dinner, and were trying to decide whether to go for a night cap, or grab a treat. We opted for dessert, and started poking around the grocery stores trying to find something involving ice cream.  Everything was looking pretty lacklustre, until I glanced up at a sign hanging over an alley. “Frozen & Creamy”, it was like it was destined to be.

A multitude of delicious treats to choose from.

A multitude of delicious treats to choose from.

We creeped down a little back road, and found Bocas del Toro’s only Ice Cream Parlour. It was fairly late in the evening, so their selection was limited. Luckily, their cookies n cream was in full stock. Normally in these situations, Shaun and I would share a cup of ice cream, but after a lacklustre dinner choice, we were looking for some indulgence. We each got a scoop in a waffle cone. I seriously thought I had died, and gone to heaven. This homemade ice cream was so creamy, and full of huge cookie chunks. Needless to say we both buzzed home on a sugar high.

If you are looking for an amazing ice cream treat, check out Frozen & Creamy. It’s pretty fabulous!

Want more of “Our Favourite Places?” Check out the rest of our posts. And as always, if you are visiting any of these areas, and have questions, or are looking for recommendations, feel free to leave us a comment or come visit us on our Facebook page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Exploring Bocas del Toro, Panama

Things in the land of Hostels and Hot Rollers are picking up speed. With a couple free lance articles due this week, I found myself a little overwhelmed with keeping up ALL of the Panamanian themed blog posts I want to write.

I’m pretty thankful that my fabulous husband stepped up to the plate to write this post about Bocas del Toro in Panama. Shaun’s going to give you a run down about what Bocas del Toro is all about, and clear up some serious confusion about it’s name!

Take it away Shaun.

Bocas del Toro can be a bit confusing at first as it seems to refer to a multitude of places. Translated to “Mouth of the Bull”, Bocas del Toro can refer to a town, a province, and an archipelago of islands.

Bocas Town from the water

Bocas Town from the water

Bocas del Toro, the province runs along the Costa Rican border on the Caribbean side. It includes an archipelago of islands that is, funny enough, also named Bocos del Toro. There are nine main islands in the archipelago, the most developed being Isla Colon which is at times, although rare, referred to as Isla Bocas.

The town of Bocas del Toro is located on southeast corner of Isla Colon. It is also the province’s capital city and often just referred to as Bocas Town. Confused yet? Don’t worry we were too.

An example of some of the cool buildings in Bocas Town

An example of some of the cool buildings in Bocas Town

Bocas Town is sweet.  It has a few main streets and a nice downtown core with numerous bars and restaurants literally right on the water. Much of the buildings on the water side are built on piles and extend out over the water. Most have small docks so boats can just pull right up. We spent a fair amount of time during the afternoons just chilling in the bars enjoying a few beers and watching the ocean and the various boats cruising around.

The buildings are all mostly wood clapboard style built in the early 20th century. There is a distinct colonial look to them. It reminded me a lot of New Orleans, but also like nothing I have ever come across. It has that older well established feel to it that we haven’t seen a lot in our Costa Rican travels. If you are in the area, a visit to Bocas Town is well worth it.

One of the many beaches on Isla Colon

One of the many beaches on Isla Colon

The majority of the water shuttles from the main island go the Bocas Town and then you can take water taxis from there over to the neighbouring archipelago islands like Carenera and Bastimentos. I really regret not spending a night or two on Carenera which is only a short boat taxi from Bocas Town. You can apparently hike around the island in about 1.5 hours. It also has some fairly impressive waves on its Caribbean side.

On Isla Colon, we stayed about a 15 minute walk from the main town in an area called Saigon. It was perfect for us because it was nice and quiet and closer to the beaches and surf spots on the northern part of the island.

Our bike's Dolly, and Ralph. They're in love.

Our bike’s Dolly, and Ralph. They’re in love.

Our stay included bikes so we would bike all over the place. We have done so much walking this trip that the bikes were a welcome change. I loved riding all over the place. We would cruise up and down the main town streets and bike to the north side of the island where it was much less developed.

Bocas Town is only a very small portion of Isla Colon. There is a large beach called Bocas del Drago, on the west side of the island, which can be accessed by taxi or a long bike ride. There is also a road to the north, which is exposed to ocean. This is where the main surf spots of Playa Bluff, Playa Paunch and Dumpers are located.

Enjoying the surf at Paki's Place

Enjoying the surf at Paki’s Place

Kate and I biked out to Playa Paunch, and stopped in at a super chill bar called Paki’s Point. The bar was sweet, there were a ton of lounge chairs and tables facing the surf break right out front. We chilled there for a drink and watched the surf, it was a good time and well worth the trip. I think it only took us about 20 minutes on bike from Saigon. With more time I think we could have spent a whole day there.

Some cool beach art work in Bocas

Some cool beach art work in Bocas

Dumpers and Playa Bluff were further down the road. I rode all the way out to Playa Bluff one morning to check the surf. It is an amazing beach. Surf was bad when I was there, but the beach was impressive. The sand seemed almost orange and the water was so blue.  I was bummed I didn’t have a camera. On a bike I would say its about a 30 to 40 minute ride without stops.

Dumpers was just past Playa Paunch. I never surfed there but it looked like a fun reef break with good lefts. Playa Paunch was the only spot I surfed. It was fun but got fairly busy.

Our time in Bocas del Toro seemed to fly by. With all the different islands to explore, the many surf breaks, the beaches, the snorkeling, all the neat beach bars, and their $1 beers, we could have handled a much longer stay.

Whew! That’s a lot of information, got any questions for Shaun?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Border Run to Panama Part 2

So, when we left off, we were on the bridge crossing over into Panama.

I am happy to report, that we made is safely across, and neither Shaun nor I fell into the water. Success!

The next check point was Panamanian Customs. Essentially a small room, with a man at a desk who was collecting money,and giving you a sticker for your passport. Today the fee was 3 dollars are person, but apparently these fees change frequently.

There wasn’t really a line up, everyone was just cramming their way into the room, and jostling to be next. You can imagine how fun that was with backpacks and our surfboard. We heard the guy at the desk mention something about immigration around the corner.

I had also read about this on-line. Once you’ve gone through Panamanian Customs, you have to turn a corner, and go into a separate building to go into Immigration. It would be SO easy for someone to just keep on walking, and enter the country. I’m just taking a wild guess that this would be very bad.

Once leaving customs you need to take an immediate left, and go down some stairs, and straight down the first side street. There you will find the line for Immigration. We made it there without incident, and there was even some guy there who had our names on a list. That was fairly comforting, as by this point we felt like we were flying solo.

We stood in line for another 25 minutes or so, and finally made it up to the counter. This seemed like the “big” counter. That one that ultimately decides whether you are getting in or not. We watched lots of people ahead of us having difficulties understanding what the border officials wanted. All we had were our passports, and a copy of our return flight information. We made it to the counter, and after much scrutinizing, our passports were stamped again, and we were on our way. I’ve heard that sometimes they require you to provide proof that you have at least 500 dollars cash, but today, our documents seemed to do the trick.

We exited this second line up, and a guy stopped us. He said he was a friend of the bus driver, and told us to wait with him. He was pretty aggressive, telling one of the guys in our group to give him a cigarette, and making Shaun give him an extra 5 dollars for the surfboard. As he stood there spitting, and doing pushups, we all kind of looked at each other, wondering whether we should just give up on the shuttle, and take a taxi.

About 30 minutes went by, and another man came over, and said they were ready to go. We walked down the street about 100m, and there was a van, with a couple people from our original group waiting for us. We never did figure out what the confusion was, and why we were left waiting for so long, but either way, we now had a ride.

Leaving the "ferry" terminal

Leaving the “ferry” terminal

We piled in the new van, and headed off to the boat to Isla Colon. We picked up another Panamanian man on the side of the road. He spoke a bit of English, and was obviously in charge of getting us onto the boat. After about an hour, we got to the ferry. We sat in the terminal for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed a Pipa, while Shaun went to pay the additional fee to get his board on the boat.

So happy to be on the home stretch

So happy to be on the home stretch

The boat arrived, and we piled on. It was a beautiful ride, and a welcome breath of fresh air after line ups and shuttles all day. After about 30 minutes we pulled into Isla Colon, and it looked fabulously funky. We grabbed our stuff, and trekked into the middle of town to look for a taxi to our place. It took us a while to track one down, but finally got into the back of a pick up truck.

I will laugh at this picture for the rest of my life

I will laugh at this picture for the rest of my life

A man, and a women sat in front arguing for the entire drive. I couldn’t help but take this picture. Here they are, yelling at each other with a small Yoda figure perched in the middle on the dashboard. After such along day, you have to appreciate the little things.

We arrived at our hostel, Panama’s Paradise. Although no one was home, there was a little note with my name, on the door. It had everything we needed in it to check in.

Keys on the door, thank goodness!

Keys on the door, thank goodness!

Our arrival did truly feel like paradise. We stripped off our sweat drenched clothes, and I settled in for a BIG siesta.  Before falling asleep I glanced at my phone. It was 12:30. The entire process had only taken 4 hours, but it felt like it had been a week.

Keep tuned in this week because I have some great content coming up. This week I will be recapping our entire adventure in Bocas del Toro, Panama. You won’t want to miss it, this place is AMAZING!

What are your border crossing experiences?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Our Border Run to Panama Part 1

Border hopping…it’s one of those things that every traveller has to go through…and turns out…I’m not a fan.

As we were planning our trip, we knew that we would need to leave Costa Rica at least once to meet the Visa requirements. A Visa in Costa Rica is only 90 days, and since we are here for 5 months, we would have to leave the country in order to get ours renewed.

Although we originally thought our border run would be next month through Nicaragua, so many people told us how wonderful Panama was, we to do it early to see the sights.

I had done a lot of research about border hopping, and it all seemed like quite the ordeal. Since we are fairly laid back travellers, and like to avoid stress as much as possible, we opted to book a tour to take us from our hotel in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, to Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica.

You can certainly take public transit to the border, walk across, then catch it again on the other side, but that seemed far to adventurous for us.

We woke up bright, and early to catch our shuttle, and by the time it made it to our hotel it was VERY full. It was lucky there were no tunnels to go through, because all of the backpacks and bags were piled sky high on top of the roof of the van. We were given wrist bands to wear so we could be identified by the shuttle driver and began our journey. We slowly winded our way through the endless banana fields, until we reached our first hiccup.

woops, road block!

woops, road block!

Yes my friends, that is a tree, right across the road. I am pretty sure that every shuttle we have taken through Costa Rica has involved some sort of strange occurrence, and this one was foliage based.

The shuttle parked, and everyone got out, while a maintenance crew worked away trying to clear the tree.

man down...he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks  tragic

man down…he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks tragic

As you can see, Shaun was thrilled. It seemed like we were going to be stuck for hours, but they worked fast and It ended up only taking about 25 minutes. We all hopped back on the shuttle and carried on. Shortly there after, we arrived at the border.

This is where the my stress levels started increasing a little. Unlike Nicaragua, cars are not allowed over the border into Panama. Our van stopped just before the archway of the border, and we all got out. We were handed our bags, and an immigration paper. Our shuttle driver left, and we assumed we needed to find our next shuttle driver on the other side. Some of the people on the tour just started walking towards the archway, while a few of us stood on the side of the road filling out our paper.

Rookie move.

By the time we had filled out our paper, and started walking towards the archway, our group was split in two, as the rest of the tour group was much farther ahead in the line up. The remaining few of us gathered together on the hot pavement with all of our gear, and waited in line. I had been cold in the morning, so I had put my sweater on. Getting out of the van had happened so fast that I hadn’t had the chance to take it off. Now with Tatonka, Titty Tonka, and our food back lugged over my shoulder, I was a sweaty beast.

After about 25 minutes we made it to the front of the counter. This turned out to be Costa Rican Immigration. They stamped our passport, took our paper, and we left.

This picture doesn't even do it justice!

This picture doesn’t even do it justice!

Now, in doing my research, I had heard a lot of talk about this supposed “bridge”, and let me tell you, it lived up to all my expectations. To enter Panama, you have to walk across this rickety old railway bridge. The slats are loose, and there are gaps that a 7 year old child could easily fall through. Did I mention you have to do this while carrying all your gear? It was impressive to say the least.

Did we make it over the bridge you ask?

You will just have to wait and see, because this my friends, is a two parter.

Tomorrow on Hostels and Hot Rollers, Our Border Run to Panama Part 2

Pura Vida!

Kate

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