Once in Panama we headed straight for Bocas Del Toro on Isla Colón, an island off the Caribbean coast. When we arrived on the island we wandered around on foot with our backpacks and found a place we liked the look of, Casa Max. A double private room with a bathroom and balcony for $38USD was fine by us!
Our first night on the island also happened to be Ash Wednesday. Whilst Carnival is celebrated throughout Latin America, in Bocas they do things a little differently. We walked into town from our hotel one night to find a huge noisy crowd in the main street of town. On closer inspection we found what seemed like every young man in town was lining both sides of the street shoulder to shoulder. We heard a huge roar from the crowd as a red blur ran through the hundred metre long tunnel of people and bolted out the other side. After watching this happen every few minutes, we realised that these red and black blurs were guys wearing devil suits. And the reason they were running so fast down this tunnel was that the guys lining the street had lined up to belt them on the legs with home made whips as they ran past! After speaking to some people around town, we found out this devil whipping had been going on for the whole week previously for carnival. You can read more about these maniacs here. (Bocas Del Toro travel website)
Whilst in Bocas we explored, on foot, by bike and in the water. On our second day there we booked a snorkelling day trip that would take us to see dolphins, Crawl Caye and Hospital Point (both snorkelling stops) and Red Frog Beach. The day was fun, but coming from Australia where you see dolphins frequently, either surfing or standing on the beach made the dolphin portion less special to us then others (as the dolphins were only coming because they were being fed). However at our stop at Red Frog Beach Bec was ecstatic to see a baby sloth in a tree, our 2nd sloth sighting of the trip. Red frog beach was really pretty, and we had a fun afternoon in the surf and sun. You can hire boards here and we're led to believe some days here the surf is really good - although this isn't overly common due to being in the calm Caribbean.
The next day we caught a taxi boat over to Aqua Lounge. A bar built on a wharf with swings and a trampoline you can jump into the water from. We spent the afternoon sipping beers and vodka pineapples whilst jumping in and out of the beautiful blue water, swimming around and under the bar. That whole day there had been an island wide power outage (which we soon learnt was quite common on the island). This hadn't affected us as we'd been outside all day, however that night Bec ordered chicken for dinner (that we forgot would not have been refrigerated all day).. and spent the next 36 hours throwing up and sleeping.
2 days after the food poisoning fiasco Bec was feeling better so we decided we'd hire bike and ride to Bocas del Drago and Starfish beach, a couple of beaches on the other side of the island. So off we went, we hired bikes and begun our ride. The ride was only 16km so we thought it would be quite easy. However, we did not take into account the many hills along the way, the fact our bikes were single speed, the humidity and heat and also the fact that Bec was still slightly sore and sick from food poisoning the day before. Maybe not so easy... It was a struggle to get to the other side, but once we were there it was totally worth it. The sand was white, the water was bright blue and there were big orange starfish hidden in the shallows. There were also cute little fish that kept trying to bite our toes!
We lay in the sun and swum around for a couple of hours before we decided we'd get a taxi back (taxi's in Bocas are utes, so we could easily put our bikes in the back).
The next few days we explored town a little more, and did our final shopping for gifts before heading to Panama City to fly home via LA.
In Panama City we stayed at Casa Cuba, a lovely hostel run by Luis and his wife Theresa. They were such beautiful people and had the walls of their hostel lined with framed photos of every single guest that had stayed there before.
Unfortunately we only got to spend one night at Casa Cuba and in Panama City, as we had to fly home to Sydney to begin our Uni Semester a few days later. Our first whirlwind taste of Latin America was absolutely amazing, but absolutely far too rushed! We saw a great deal but missed out on seeing and experiencing so much more! We both agreed that some time in the not too distant future we would have to return to Central America and spend some more time there, getting to know the people, learning spanish, and visiting some more of the amazing places that we heard wonderful things about from the other travellers but didn't get to see first hand. And who knows; if we have the time, maybe even venture further afield?
Until then, next stop.... Home.