So, I'm back in the office after a tranquilo week in Panama, and with only three weeks of teaching to go I'm trying to wrap things up (read: organizing, writing tests, etc.). However, there's no need to go into detail about work when I can tell you about the time I spent in beautiful Bocas del Toro and Boquete.
I left on Saturday the 4th, which was also my 90th day in CR. After 2 bus rides, walking across the border, losing an hour to the time change, one car taxi and one boat taxi, we made it to Isla Colon in Bocas sometime between 7 and 8 pm. It took us longer to get there than anticipated; then again, we had to spend an hour in Puerto Viejo waiting for the next bus to the border and then another hour waiting for the boat taxi to Isla Colon. At a first glance, Colon seemed a little more developed than I had imagined, but that could be because Subway was one of the first restaurants that I saw.
We got an early start on Sunday (anxious to see Bocas in daylight) and after strolling around the town and finding some delicious cinnamon rolls (which became my version of pana breakfast for the week), we decided to do a catamaran sailing and snorkeling day trip around the islands. We were able to snorkel in a couple different spots and see starfish, schools of sardines, bright purple coral and many other things that I don't know the name of. In short, it was a great way to spend the first full day in Bocas; I even learned a few things about sailing.
The next day, after cinnamon roll breakfast of course, we went to the other side of Isla Colon to a beach called Boca del Drago and spent the day lounging around in the shade of the palm trees that lined the water. Everything on that side of the island is muy tranquilo, which was a nice change in scenery from the main part of town where we stayed. In search of continuing the "muy tranquilo" theme, that night we took a boat taxi to Isla Bastimentos.
We didn't really know where we were going or where we were going to stay on Bastimentos, but as soon as we walked off the boat dock we were greeted by a bar owner, [crazy] Andrew, telling us that most places on the main road were full, but his friend Big John had a few cabinas at the end of the street on "the point." Luckily, "crazy Andrew" was right and "Big John" had a place to offer us right on the water. After seeing the rest of the island, I'm convinced that "The Point" is the nicest place to stay.
We had one full day on Bastimentos and used it to walk across the island to Playa Wizard. It was a nice walk, but by the end of the day we decided to skip the muddy trail and take a boat taxi back. We left Bastimentos Wednesday morning to start our "travel day" to Boquete, which is a town in the mountains of western Panama. Despite the fact that I had to stand [on a bus built for people shorter than me] for roughly three hours on one leg of the trip, it was an easy journey and we made it to Boquete by late afternoon.
The plan was to hike Volcan Baru the following day, but after the long day of travel we decided to save the hike for Friday. Thursday we wandered around the town, visited some beautiful gardens and enjoyed the famous coffee of Panama. Then, the next morning we took a taxi to the park entrance and started the trail a little after 7 am. From the entrance to the summit at 3,474 m (11,398 ft) is about 14 km and it took us almost 5 hours on the way up and about 4 hours to get back down. The weather was great, but not quite clear enough to get a good view of both oceans. We were only able to see the Pacific.
The return trip to San Jose was uneventful, although I did see my Italian neighbors and an Australian couple, both English teachers that I know from CR. Anyway, we were able to get a direct bus from David, Panama to San Jose, which saved the trouble of trying to find a bus leaving from the border, and I was home late Sunday afternoon.