just some more island fun
27.07.2013 - 30.07.2013 25 °C
The overnight bus to Bocas del Toro was absolutely freezing. I asked if they could turn down the airconditioning but they just laughed in my face. Throw in an incredibly fat woman in the seat in front of me, who's seat was unable to support her own weight, meaning she spent half the journey in my lap and a couple of bus drivers who insisted on blaring music out of the overhead speakers all night; meant we had a terrible journey. We arrived at a town called Almirante at about 7am, and from there we caught a taxi boat out to the islands that made up Bocas. It was absolutely pouring by the time we arrived. It wasn't a good start! However we were soon in the dry at our hostel. I say hostel, but that doesn't really do this place justice. It was more cabana accomodation and on arrival the host offered us a free upgrade to one of the largest cabanas. It was amazing, it had its own kitchen, a dining area, a bathroom and a very cool bedroom. It also had a big deck area outside.
We spent the first day in Bocas relaxing after the journey. We went out sushi on the waterfront for lunch and explored the town on the bikes that came with our accomodation. Bocas is made up of a number of islands. There is one main island where most people stay and then a number of islands nearby where there are beautiful beaches.
On our second day we visited Bastimentos Island, where there were a number of beaches. We caught a taxi boat from Bocas town out to the island and from there jumped on the back of a pickup, which drove us to the beaches. The first beach we stopped at was called Red Frog, because there are lots of red frogs that apparently live nearby. It was a huge surf bay, and looked quite rustic, but it was pretty. We had swam in the sea-weedy water, before grabbing some lunch. We then walked round to turtle beach. I thought this was much prettier than red frog and much to my delight there was no sea-weed! We played in the waves for a while before continuing to explore the island. It then started to pour with rain, so we turned back, went for another swim on turtle beach, and then wandered back to the taxi boat and returned to Bocas town. That night we met up with Shane, our friend from the San Blas tour, for dinner and drinks.
The following day the three of us had signed up for a snorkelling and deep boarding tour of some of the further islands. The tour was initially delayed by rain, but about an hour later we set off. The first stop was sloth island, a tiny little island with lots of sleeping sloths. Next stop was meant to be coral caye, but it started to pour with rain and lightning storm, so we had to take shelter and missed out on snorkelling. When the storm eventualy passed, we carried on our journey to Zapatillas island. This island was a protected national park and was absolutely beautiful. We had a walk around the island, through the mangrove and looking at konch shells before we had lunch and went for a quick snorkel after lunch. Then it was time to go deep boarding. I know many people reading this would have no idea what deep boarding is, we had certainly never heard of it before now, but it is basically being dragged behind a boat, holding onto a perspex wing that was attached to the boat by rope (like waterskiing), whilst wearing a snorkel, so you can observe life below the surface. The wing has been designed in such a way that a slight tilt up or down allows you to dive down, or spin or rise back to the surface. The wing reacts very suddenly and that combined with the momentum from the boat, allows you to dive quite deep very quickly, continue at that depth, exerting no effort, and then when you need to breath or feel like coming back up, return to the surface, again with very little effort. That may all sound very strange, but it was actually brilliant fun and you were able to experience the underwater world in a way that isn't really possible with normal snorkelling. We were able to have a couple of 10 minute goes each, by which time our arms were very tired from holding onto the wing. We then all jumped back in the boat and were taken to a final snorkelling spot. We spent a bit of time snorkelling and then we had some beers in the water. It was great. As the sun began to beautifully set, we were driven back to Bocas town.
The following day was spent travelling to Costa Rica (we had found that bizarrely it was cheaper to fly from Costa Rica to Panama to Cuba, than just from Panama to Cuba). We set off early and caught the taxi boat back from Bocas town to Almirante. From there we caught a bus to another town which took about 45 mins. From there we jumped on a much longer bus that would take us over the border and all the way to the Costa Rican capital, San Jose. It was about an hour and a half to the border. We had to cross a river on an incredibly rickety bridge at the border by foot and Anna managed to drop her flip-flop down a gap between the planks. She managed to get it back after a quick dash through no-man's land, but came back covered in nettle stings. After a bit of time queuing we had our passports stamped and we were able to get back on the bus. The journey from the border to San Jose took about 6 hours. There was a little hold up, because there was a head on collision in front of us, which closed the road for a while, but eventually we arrived in San Jose. We didn't really explore much of San Jose. It wasn't particularly pretty and we only saw it as a stop off before our flight to Cuba. We had dinner at a teriyaki grill and then returned to the hostel, excited that the following day we would be going to Cuba!