From Bocas del Toro, we took a morning boat back to the mainland to the town of Almirante. At the dock in Almirante, a young guy asked if we wanted the bus to David, we did. I thought the bus station was a short distance from the boat dock. I asked how much. He said $1. I thought he would take us to the bus. Instead, he helped us carry our luggage out to the highway and flagged down a taxi. The taxi ride would be another $2. The first bus arrived and was pretty much full already. There were enterprising entrepreneurs about that were trying to sell us on the idea of taking a taxi instead. They ensured us that the next bus would also arrive full (how do they know these things). We finally settled on sharing a taxi with a gentleman, originally from NYC currently residing in Bocas, for the ride to the town of David where we would transfer to a bus for Boquete.
Boquete is a town of about 5,000 people in the highlands of the Chiriqui province of Panama. It is a mountain town referred to as the Napa Valley of coffee and is known throughout Panama for its cool climate and pristine natural setting. The mountains surrounding the town are very green and rich with blooming tropical plants. Near Boquete is Panama’s only volcano, Volcan Baru, whose summit tops out at 3475 meters (11,500 feet) making it the highest point in the country. Boquete is popular with retirees from the US and Canada. Ten years ago, AARP’s “Modern Maturity” magazine named it as one of the four top places in the world to retire. We observed several of them spending their Social Security money in the local bars.
With all of the beautiful flowering plants, there are several beautiful gardens in and around Boquete. We visited one such garden, Mi Jardin es Su Jardin. The garden which surrounds a lovely home is open daily to the public free of charge. You’re free to wander the grounds or linger with a picnic, just don’t disturb the owners. We also visited “La Jungla de Panama”, a wildlife rescue operated by a US ex-pat. It is small but they have a few nice monkeys, birds and reptiles that you can interact with.
Here’s some of our favorite pictures. From here we’ll be heading across Panama to Panama City.
Archipelago de Bocas del Toro consists of six heavily forested islands and scores of uninhabited islets in the Caribbean 32km south from the border with Costa Rica. The largest of the islands, Isla Colon, is home to the town of Bocas del Toro, capital city for the province by the same name, a colorful town of wooden houses built by the United Fruit Company early in the 20th century.
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is less travelled than most of the rest of the country. It’s hotter and wetter than the interior with emerald green forests lining the sandy beaches. One-third of the population of this region descends from Jamaicans and Barbadians. The traditional rice and beans (Gallo Pinto) is a little more spicy with a hint of coconut. Reggae and calypso beats can be heard everywhere and you can often catch a hint of marijuana smoke.
Puerto Viejo (photos) can be found far south on the coast. It has a bit of a reputation as a party town and it’s easy to see why. There’s plenty of dining choices with a surprising variety of cuisines for a town this size: Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean, Indian, Italian, USA (burgers, fries and pizza) and, of course, the Costa Rican Soda. The Soda is a generic name for a casual eatery that serves primarily Casados. This is the national dish that can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It generally consists of rice (duh), beans, salad, some type of plantain and either chicken, pork, beef or fish. The work “casado” refers to marriage in Spanish. The story we got was that before you get married you can only afford to eat rice and beans but once you get married you can add other items to the dish. Maybe they have that backwards?
I know it probably sounds silly that we need to have some downtime during our travel. But sometimes we just need a break from having to plan the next hotel stay, transportation and activities. We chose San Jose as a break between visits to Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo. It gave us a chance to regroup, resupply, catch up on organizing photos, updating the blog and to see a bit of the city.
We’re standing on the beach in a huddle around our guide. It’s about 11:00pm on a moonless, partly cloudy night on the Caribbean coast. We can barely make out the features of the other members of our small group. The guide is telling us that another turtle that had been digging a hole in which to lay its eggs has given up on that spot and seems to be moving to another location. We have to wait until the Green sea turtle has completed clearing a nest and begins laying its eggs before we can approach it because we might disturb it and cause it to abandon its efforts and return to the ocean. The nest clearing usually takes about 30 minutes.
Unexpectedly, the guide whispers for us to follow him now. He starts moving quickly to a spot where the beach meets the vegetation. There, a large Green sea turtle is in the space it has cleared and is laying its eggs. Once it begins to lay the eggs it enters a kind of “trance” and is less likely to be disturbed by our presence.