Bocas del Toro, Panama
It’s been a busy week and once again I struggled to find time to sit down and blog. So here I am a week later, getting the chance to write about last weekend. It was one for the books, that’s for sure. I ended up signing up last minute (seems to be how things happen here) for a trip to Panama. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I think it’s pretty accurate to describe it as one of the greatest weekends of my life.
A group of about 30 students met at the University at 10:00 am Friday morning where we piled into two buses and left San Jose, Costa Rica. Everyone was really excited to get there, but we had a full day of travel ahead of us. About three hours into the trip, the two buses pulled up to a rest stop so we could grab something to eat. All of a sudden I notice some commotion going on, and hear Luis (the leader of our group) shouting that someone had gone into our bus and stolen a backpack. Everyone ran over to the bus to make sure their stuff was still there, and sure enough, one backpack was missing- belonging to Del. The backpack that was stolen only had a couple things in it, but unfortunately one of the things in the backpack was Del’s passport. At that moment, the overall mood changed and we were all panicking. After all, it’s pretty difficult to get across the boarder without a passport. Luis explained that Del had two options: He could take a taxi back to San Jose and miss out on the weekend in Panama, or he could illegally cross the boarder. We are in Costa Rica where the motto is “Pura Vida” so of course he agreed to cross illegally. This was just the beginning of the trip.
I am still not sure how he made it across, but everything worked out and we all made it to Panama (with an illegal immigrant). Going through immigration was quite the process. After arriving at the boarder by bus, we had to stand in a long line in order to get our passports stamped and then proceeded to walk across a bridge from Costa Rica to Panama which did not look too promising…I tried not to look up too often because it only takes one wrong step and you would have a leg dangling down over the river through the wooden boards.
After we crossed the bridge, we piled into the second bus where we had another hour and a half to go before arriving at the water taxi. The water taxi was a 30 minute ride, and we finally arrived in Bocas del Toro around 6:00 that night. We checked into our hostel (Diamond Hostel) and then went out for sushi at a restaurant on the water. That night, we went to a place called Iguana Bar. It is hard to describe without having a picture, but Bocas del Toro is surrounded by water and in order to get anywhere it is necessary to take a water taxi. A lot of the bars/restaurants are located right on the ocean. Iguana Bar had a large patio, and in the middle of the patio was an open area where you could look down into the ocean. Everything was going great, we were all sitting around the circle area dipping our feet in the ocean. All it took was one girl to drop her shoe in the water and then it turned into madness. Just minutes later, EVERYONE was jumping in…bellyflops, flips, cannonballs…it was crazy. I have never seen anything like it.
The next day we woke up for a dolphin tour and snorkeling. First of all, I am terrified of sharks/anything else mysterious in the ocean so I was pretty sure I would skip the snorkeling. When it was time to snorkel, I decided to just go for it…I figured we were in a pretty safe spot. I jumped in the water and seconds later I hear, “there are jellyfish surrounding you!”…that was the end of snorkeling for me. After that disaster, we went to “Starfish Beach” which is one of the best beaches I have ever seen. The water was amazing, and the beach had the perfect atmosphere. This is one spot I hope to go back to one day.
Later that night, we took a water taxi to a bar called Aqua. Just like the night before, there was access to the ocean except this time there were three swings over the water. My night consisted of jumping off the swing, swimming to the ladder, jumping off the swing, swimming to the ladder, and so on. I have never had so much fun. We woke up the next morning and took another water taxi to a different beach called “Red Frog Beach”. Since most of us were both exhausted and burnt from the day before, we found a spot in the shade and relaxed there for most of the day. We went back to our hostel around 4:30 to get dinner and figure out the plans for the night. At this point we were all pretty tired and decided we would head out for a little bit and then call it an early night…well, most of us anyway. I ended up at a place called “Mondo Taitu” which was another hostel down the road. When I arrived there, I realized more people from our group had gone out than I had expected. Lets just say things got a little crazy when one of the guys from our group announced that he was going to eat a live gecko. Yes, a live gecko. So many strange things were happening that weekend but I had no idea it would get that extreme. I still can not believe this, but there was actually an option on the menu to “Eat a live gecko, and get a shot of vodka thrown in your face.” Oh, and did I mention that it cost $15.00 to do this? Long story short, that actually happened. I saw it with my own eyes.
After 3 days in Panama, I was ready to get back to San Jose. We left Panama around 12:30 Monday afternoon and arrived SAFELY back in San Jose that night at about 9:00. After everything that happened and all of the crazy stuff I witnessed, It was one of the greatest weekends of my life and definitely one that I will never forget.