Mandy and Jon's Journey 2005 travel blog

Lining the canal banks during our boat trip to Bocas del Toro....

We passed the Chiquita Banana Plantations on our way to Panama. The...

Sixoala was still recovering from severe flooding when we crossed the border.

We woke not too early at J´s and met up with our new associates Kim and Bobby, recently married, to head off towards the border. Fearing the rain we did our best to weatherize our gear, but Jon´s used laundry bag was no match for Mandy´s LoweAlpine pack cover. No matter, however, as we departed for the Puerto Viejo bus station in only a light drizzle.

The bus ride to Sixoala was uneventful for the most part save for the chance to witness some of the terrible devastation caused in the Limon province as we moved south. The rain from the previous weeks had created huge swells in the watershed and many of the lowlying areas, true flood planes, had been underwater. As we neared the border there were parts of the road washed away, houses caked with wet mud, and men and boys still filling sandbags to create barriers to restuarants and gas stations. The waters had, for the most part, receded, but the rain that was still falling was anything but welcome. Our bus stopped short of the border, due to road damage, and we were forced to walk the last half mile in the rain to the bridge.

The crossing itself was quite painless. Due to the weather not many travelers, or anyone for that matter, was going anywhere. We were greeted, though, by an anxious taxi driver who wanted very badly to drive us to Almirante. After some confusion (and we won`t say 'attempted swindling') we got a cab to our preferred destination of Changuinola. From there the four us, plus Chris, a surfer from South Carolina, awaited the departure of the water taxi that would take us from Changuinola, through the canals and mangrove fields, out to Isla Colon and Bocas Del Toro.

Happy to report the boat was uncrowded and of excellent stature. The rain died and we had a wondrous drive through the jungle and coastal plains. We crossed out into the open sea a few times and witnessed the choppy, chocolate coffee waters where the muddy rivers met the incoming surf. Quite a ride. Arrived at the dock in Bocas after about an hour and were greeted with a little speckle of true sunshine, which dried our wet clothes and improved our spirits along with the invigoration provided by the boat ride.

Bocas is a great little waterfront village (town?) in the midst of a certain development. Hard to say what it will be like in five years, but you can tell that it has great potential, and much of it already fulfilled. You never know when development will go to far, and we'd be foolish to judge, with our limited engagement, the process the Bocas will undergo. But, anyway, we find ourselves a pleasant place to stay a short distance from the main dock. After plopping our bags down in our rooms the five of us who made the boat trip share an authentically bad meal downtown and then return to the hotel for a nap just before the rains begin again.

Mono Tatui (sp) is run by a trio of young guys our age who bought the place only about six months prior. After our rest and in the spirit of the rain, that is, without much else to do, we enjoy the happy hour these gentlemen set out for their guests. Fifty cent Panama Lagers set the stage for a fun night. A group of us from the hotel share an Indian dinner down the street and later in the evening the bar becomes quite a festive place to meet with other travellers, many expats, and a strong contigent of locals. Monday night finds most of the other island bars closed and ours is the center of attention. We enjoy the company of Bobby and Kim and our new friend, Chris, whom everyone is convinced is from Australia or South Africa and scoff when he says he´s from Greenville. A wild guitar player sings songs and the place hums like a bar should when it's Monday and it's raining.

The next morning, rain still falling, Mandy and I enjoy a walk around town, some breakfast, and then spend most of the day cooped up in the internet cafe writing emails and updating this ridiculous website. We want very badly to enjoy the other islands of the archipelago, but the rain makes the money it costs hard to swallow. It is easy to see what a beautiful place the islands are, but the rain refuses to let up and we are forced to make the best of it by continuing our marathon games of Rummy and reading our books. Later that day we make plans to cook dinner with Kim and Bobby, and after consulting the weather report for the week, we begin making plans to get out of the rain.

During our dinner of vegetable burritos we decide that out best bet is to head due south towards the Pacific. The sun, we hear, is shining down there and we get a good recommendation from one of the hotel owners for a place that will quench our desires for white sands, clear water, and sunshine in the sky. In the morning we will head for Isla Boca Brava.

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