After visiting a permaculture farm in Bugaba and having lunch at a local fonda nearby, we stayed the night in Boquete before traveling to Bocas Del Toro. To get to Bocas from Boquete, instead of going all the way back to David and the Panamerican Hwy to Hwy 21, you can cut over to Caldera and continue to Hwy 21. We found this road to be full of potholes and single lane bridges though, and a few places the road has buckled up. Thank God again for 4-wheel drive (especially when we drove to the permaculture farm the day before). Anyway, we finally met with Hwy 21 which winds around through the jungle and through the clouds over the mountains to the Carribean side of Panama. I think I forgot to mention in my last blog how green it was from Santiago on compared to the Azuero. They get a lot more rain year-round. As we drove, the jungles over the mountains are very thick of trees and foliage. I noticed that many of the houses were built with wood planks on tall wooden stilts above the ground, some with thatched, some with metal roofs (like my main cover picture of my blog), unlike the typical cement block homes builds on cement floors in many other parts of Panama, including Pedasí. The highway also crosses on top of a hydroelectric dam. Eventually we turned off Hwy 21 and drove about another hour to the town of Almirante. Altogether it takes about 4-5 hours from Boquete.
Almirante is a port on the Carribean where you must catch either a ferry or water taxi to Bocas Town on Isla Colon (the main island of Bocas Del Toro which is made up of many islands). You can also fly to the island from David or Panamá, but obviously we like to drive-more adventurous. Since we were only staying 3 nights, it is cheaper to just take a water taxi over (no need for a car). When we arrived at Almirante, there was a man on a bicycle waving at us to stop. He had us follow him as he rode his bike to a secure locked car park where we could leave our car for the duration for $3 per night. He then directed us to the nearby water taxi dock. We paid $3.50 each since we are Panamanian residents and. with luggage loaded on the boat, we were soon on our way to Bocas Town with about 20 other people. It takes about 30 minutes. When you arrive at Bocas Town, you can catch another water taxi to another island or taxi on the street outside the dock to where you are staying if necessary. As for us, we had booked a condo outside of the town but still on Isla Colon, so we caught a taxi. All taxi rides are 60 cents per person, but expect to share it with others as taxis seem to be the main mode of public transportation. The condo we booked was next to the only gas station on the island, so it was easy to tell the taxi driver where we wanted to go. And it is very easy to wave down one just by standing out on the road wherever you are; they are very plentiful day and night.
Our 1-bedroom condo, Jardines Vista del Mar, was very nice with a full kitchen, TV, Internet, AC, and pool, across the street from the beach and next to a mini market so we could buy some groceries and not have to always go out to eat. The manager Rosie greeted us and not only explained everything about the condo, but also the best places to eat and visit while we were here. That night, we felt like Mexican food, since it was Cinco De Mayo , although not a holiday usually celebrated in Panama. But they were celebrating it at Taco Surf, and the fish tacos and burritos were delicious. While we ate fireworks went off in the sky and there was a car parade celebrating yesterday’s election of the new president, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela (a real surprise since he was always lowest in the polls with the other two candidates). Had a good night’s sleep and ate breakfast in our condo the next morning before venturing out on a tour we had previously booked.
Enough writing for now. It looks like it may take 4 instead of 3 posts of this trip. Sometimes I feel like I am writing for a travel book, but we are having so much fun living here and exploring Panama that I want to share it with our family and friends by explaining it in detail and pictures so they can enjoy our experiences a little with us. But I don’t want each post to be too long; then it might get really boring.
*(Warning to those driving to visit Bocas for the first time: just as you enter Almirante, as you go down a hill and turn the bend, there is a 40 kph sign and possibly a policeman hidden behind with a radar gun. He calls down to other police further down standing in the road an stopping everyone as they come into town unaware that they were speeding. Yes we got stopped and you either get a ticket to pay for later or pay them the full amount of the ticket right there without him writing the ticket, and there is no bargaining down the price.)