20.12.2010 - 26.02.2011 -31 °C
After a 30 minutes boat ride we arrived at the main island in Bocas Del Toro. It was nice to arrive dry after a boat ride for once. The place was extremely touristy, but we were expecting the worst. So even though it was gringolandia central, we actually thought it was a pretty cool place. I mean hardly anything is authentic in Panama anyway, so at least being on an island with surf and party vibes made it a bit more fun. We decided to take the party hostel no 1 called Mondo Taitu. I was expecting much more party actually, though we went to bed like midnight, so the party probably started after we had gone to bed. They had a quite a fun bar downstairs, but other than that it was not really a social place. All the people we met were people not staying in the hostel or at least people that we could have met not staying in the hostel.
Both of us arrived in Bocas with a real party mood. After we finished whatever was left in the little rum bottle I bought in Panama City, we even went and bought a 1 liter bottle of rum, thinking that we would finish it pretty quickly. However, we clearly overestimated our party abilities after being so out of practice. The first few nights we were in bed before midnight and by the 3rd night out we had drunk perhaps ¼ of the bottle.
We went on some nice excursions during the days. After being screwed around by touts trying to sell snorkel trips, but not having any organized tour, thus not actually leaving, we ended up going to the other end of the main island. We weren’t expecting much but this beach was really amazing, completely remote without any buildings at all. Only palm trees and white sand as far as the eye could see. This beach was also famous for starfishes, and they could be seen everywhere in the crystal clear water. We took a few ones out of the water temporarily to snap a few Christmas greetings home to our families.
The next day we decided to pay a bit extra and go with a tour company that actually had a snorkel tour. Still we were a bit worried as we showed up and were the only ones in the boat, but soon it filled up. The snorkeling was great, or for us great at least, as this was the first time we could even snorkel at all. While some other people coming from the north were less impressed, Laura and I were the first ones in and last ones out at each snorkel spot. The tour also included a stop at Red Frog beach which was kind of…hhmm crap really. Awful beach, no good for swimming, and actually a pretty ugly beach. Not sure why it’s so famous, you even have to pay to access it, or why we had to stop there for 3 hours, leaving only 15 min to snorkel at the last place.
We had pre-arranged to be dropped off at Batistion, another island nearby that was still very undeveloped in terms of tourism. It got a real Rasta feeling over it, almost all being black and speaking this weird language, which is sort of a Jamaican mix up. We ran into a nice Swedish couple who we had a few beers with. The next day we walked along the remote beaches and ran into a few people that we had met at the snorkel tour.
When we came back to the main island on the 23rd of Dec, after only being away 1 night, it had gotten really busy. Most hostels were full and we took into a cheap hotel without atmosphere instead. By now we had started to get to know a few people here and there, and in the evening when we went for a walk we ran into a few people sitting drinking rum outside a hostel. We said to sit down for one beer, but there was this crazy, but super friendly Austrian guy that made sure that everyone including us was having a full glass of rum all the time. It didn’t take long until a few bottles of rum were emptied. We decided to go to a club seeing we had made it past our usual bedtime and were still awake. There we ran into more people we´ve met; actually I think pretty much everyone we had met on the island was there. We had a blast dancing around like crazy. I mean the music was pretty crap, but we were all in a party mood and had loads of fun anyway. We hadn’t been out dancing since Salta in Argentina, which was like 6 months ago.
An American girl got strongly attached to us for some reason, and she had made us promise to meet her the next day for lunch. Later in the afternoon we took a short boat trip over to a small nearby island called Isla Colon. There was nothing special in the guidebook so we were really surprised how cool it was. There were deserted wilderness beaches, some small mangrove swamps and nice views of people surfing off shore (looks crazy to see people surfing 500 meters out from land). It seems like the things that sounded the best in Lonely was the worst (Red Frog Beach) and the other way around.
I had had a tiny wound, in my leg on the day we went snorkeling. After that day the wound started to grow into something that looked like a big spot. Now after 3 days it was really massive, like a small volcano, and a 15cm area around the wound was very red and a bit swollen. We decided that perhaps I could squeeze it a bit as it looked so inflated. After a few pushes, loads of white stuff together with puss and blood started to come out. Both amazed and a bit chocked, I must have been squeezing for 15 minutes on that thing. So much stuff came out, never seen anything quite like it. However afterwards I could hardly stand on the leg. We went to get some stuff at the pharmacy to clean it, but by the evening it was so sore that was even having trouble limping around.
Anyways, being Christmas and all, the evening we went out again with most of the guys that we met last night. It seems that everyone in Bocas goes to one place at a time. There will be one bar that has happy hour between 19-20, then one free beer special at another bar between 20-21 etc and that’s usually where people will be. Tonight there was an English pub that had ladies night starting at 22pm. At ten to ten there were only the usual old men clientele drinking pints, but in 20 min, the place was completely full, so full that people spilled out on the porch and even out on the road. It was pretty obvious that the free girls’ night had turned into free for everyone night as the girls got drinks for the guys too. It was so chaotic with so many people, that people just brought in outside bottles of rum, mixing their own drinks in the bar. I bought one single beer in the pub during the whole evening and that was before 22pm, still I managed to get drunk enough to even pull off a 5 min dance session with my war injured leg.
The next day we got some serious advice from two complete strangers that came up to me, to go to the hospital and check up my leg. They both had some pretty horrible stories, one almost being killed by a small piece of coral and the other telling us about this insect that lays eggs inside your skin. Ok, I am stubborn with not going to the hospital, but don’t want to mess with the things you can get here. The hospital was chaos but the doctor was great. He told me that I had some infection, which was good news compared to insect eggs and coral poisoning. The bad news was that I now had to go 10 days on antibiotic. Even worse, I was told that I could not swim in the sea until it had healed up. Being on a party island with great surf and snorkel sort of limited me to things to do, but we rented some really funky bikes and cycled a lovely route passing deserted beaches and seeing some great surfing.
The night we met up with most of the people we had gotten to know for a Christmas dinner. Most were traveling for only a short time and their budget was quite different from ours. Still we decided to splurge that night (using Christmas money from Laura’s parents) and went for Surf and Turf i.e. steak and lobster. It really was so, so. Also most people had a bit of hangover and to be honest the conversations and other was not the best. It felt like the best nights had already been so not being able to drink on Christmas day wasn’t really a big issue. We also had to get up early to move on towards Costa Rica. Surprisingly we had had an great time in Bocas, meet loads of fun people. If you don’t expect any local culture, this place is actually pretty great.