|Wake in Bocas del Toro...
Walk - Hotel to Dock
Boat - Bocas del Toro Dock to Almirante Dock
Taxi - Almirante Dock to Almirante Bus Station
Eat = Fried bread and coffee
Bus - Almirante Bus Station to David Bus Station
Taxi - David Bus Station to Boca Chica Dock
Boat - Boca Chica Dock to Isla Boca Brava
.... Sit down at Frank's for lunch
Total Travel Time = 8 hours. Not too bad considering its sunny, very sunny, when we arrive.
We climb the steep steps leading away from the dock on Isla Boca Brava and are greeted not by the best of news, but also by a man who was to be a constant source of enjoyment throughout our stay. Frank.
"Tengo nada." He says in a thick, yet worn, German accent. "Itz impozible. I call the taxi drivers dis morning. Tellz them, bring me no more people down. No more people down I tellz dem." He is tell and thin with his hair pulled back roughly in a ponytail and a brustly handle-bar mustache to frame his ridiculous, deadpan, cigarette-coarsened voice.
Kim, Bob, Mandy and I are only happy to put our bags down at his feet, but are not yet really ready to deal with the reality that there´s no room in the inn. "Who brought you down?" He demands. Frank´s place is the only place on the island, and with some addtional dialogue he explains that the place is full and that he only has two hammocks left in the loft of the barn to offer. In addition to the two other folks who have come in directly behind us this leaves an atmosphere of despair to contend with as the newly arrived exchange looks of pleasant disbelief.
"We tried to call, Frank, but the number wouldn´t work."
"Uv course the numberz did not work. We had them change five months ago. Za phone company iz screwzing me and I haz to change za number. No you can´t call here without za new number. Iz not pozzible."
It goes on like this until we offer to leave the island at which point Frank throws up his hands in Eureka, that no, he forget - "I did, juz today, bring mattresses from my house to use. Yez, iz possible. We can put theze mattress, yes, also in za barn and we can all sleep tonight. Yez. I totally forget. Sorry. Come..."
So we get mattresses. Bobby and Kim elect to spend the nights on the other side of the island at a newly opened place. And all is well. We stow our packs in our appointed lockers and head right for the beach for a late afternoon, and much needed, swim.
The island itself is magnificent. It sits close to the mainland and is one of hundreds of small islands that dot the Chiriqui coast on the Panama Pacific. Howler monkeys are not reluctant to make their presence known, nor are they afraid to let you know when it is time to wake up in the morning. Roosters have nothing on a howler monkey when the sun breaks through the dawn clouds. Impossible, this far, to get a presentable photo of a monkey, although these were the least shy we've encountered yet.
Our second day on the island is spent on a snorkeling expedition. With a small group we are driven by boat to an isolated island to spend the day on the beach. As it turns out Frank is not enthuised to provide snorkeling equipment nor does he sell suntan lotion in case you've recently run out. 'Burn yourselv!' he exclaims when one of our companions asks if he has any to offer. 'Iz no problem. Za sun will not kill... not yet.' He opens his shirt to show us proof of this. I digress. The seven of us are forced to share two sets of snorkel gear for the day, which is fine because everyone seems content to sit on the beach or wade in the clear blue waters until their turn materializes.
Jon proves to himself that he's not much for snorkeling. Apparently the water is a bit rough, but regardless, he lacks the necessary qualities to breath into a tube, kick his legs, float, and watch for fish all at the same time. Again on this island, though, we get the creeping sensation that we don't deserve this small piece of paradise. We are reluctant to send the pictures home. But then, as we stand to our waists in the crystal waters, drinking Balboa beer we think about all the tables we waited and the papers we corrected and the leaves we raked and the time we spent counting the days until this sort of day would be a reality. We still think that we don't deserve it, of course, because no one deserves one reality over another, but we got to a point where we felt less guilty about choosing this one over another one... at least for the day. All that being said, this day was an especially beautiful one, and more in line with a honeymoon getaway than a year long, low-budget, backpacking trip. We sipped our Balboas and enjoyed the day despite the world beyond that island. And it was nice.
Frank continued to provide comic relief just by being himself and the next two days on the island found us enjoying the fresh fish to eat and the company of our friends Bob and Kim and new acquaintances, Amy and Cedar, from San Francisco. We were able to move from the terrible mattresses in the barn to a room of our own after the first days and when it was time to go, finally, we were sorry to say goodbye to Isla Boca Brava.
As we descended the stairs to the dock for our boat, Frank was kind enough to shout out, "Sendz no morz people downgoddamnit. Weez need a rest from this crowds. Sendz no more peoples down."
So if you're headed to Isla Boca Brava, please tell Frank that Jon and Mandy say hello. We know just what he'll say.