A Travellerspoint blog

Panama

Big Turnaround

again....


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This will be pretty short, but have loads of photos!
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A nice part of Panama City!

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Hanging at the Panama Canal, truly o World Wonder

I haven't been enjoying Panama. Boquete was lovely, but I couldn't stay there forever and travelling in Panama was just driving me crazy for some reason. It felt like every decision I made was the wrong one. And this is how I found myself in Colon, apparently Panama's most dangerous city.
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Colon is a shit hole, probably where it gets it's name (it's not)

I could only stay in my hotel in Panama City for two nights, so I thought, 'Why not head up to the Caribbean for a few days?' BIG mistake. I am at the Caribbean, but in a port city that makes Mos Eisley look like Athens, makes Dartford look like Shangri La.

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At least the Panama Canal is near by

I pretty much lost it. I didn't even feel safe walking around and I've walked around some dodgy places, slums, darkened Mumbai alleys at night, Dartford. Here felt worse. I wanted out. Now.

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This is a working prison! It's like sonething out of a horror movie!

I had a flight in 19 days time out of the country that couldn't be changed because I saved £70 on a flight, but after a couple of phone conversations I just thought sod it and booked a flight out to Ecuador. I lost £180 but I'll save half that by being in the much cheaper country for the extra time.

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Animals checking me out in Panama City park

So I'm getting ready to leave now for my bus back to Panama City, then off to the airport. It does feel a bit like giving up and it was a knee jerk reaction to being in such a craphole of a city, but I'm happy with the decision. At least I had enough time to see the Panama Canal. One of the trip bucket list entries and well worth being here for.

Now on to Quito and the Southern Hemisphere!

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Goodbye Panama - I give you a 5/10, but that's not enough

Posted by cblanc102 13:47 Archived in Panama Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises lakes bridges buildings skylines animals night monkeys rainforest hiking travel bus beauty journey central_america solo solo_travel Comments (0)

Water - fools


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Just so you know, I've been writing this (or not) for three days, so when I talk about yesterday, I'm actually talking about Saturday 26th June. I have been a mixture of tired, travelling and lazy. Apologies

So yesterday was the craziest of days yet.

I had decided to hike to a series of waterfalls with one of the women from my hostel, Anita and we were ready to set off at about 9:30. A couple also staying at the hostel offered us a lift to the start as it was a long way past the bus stop to the waterfalls. Unfortunately we accepted.

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Some cute little Panamanian girls we met that just live in these stone houses with no windows

The couple are born again Christians. I have no idea to which particular denomination they belong (I suspect none), but their beliefs also include:

The Earth is flat
The moon, sun, stars are all made up, put there by Christ as a test or something, I don't know why he's being an arse about it.
So no moon landing or any other space stuff.
The outline of a bird that can be seen from above in some mountain range is what's left over from an actual 150 mile long bird from the past
Basically, all conspiracies that you have heard of are real and anything that randomly resembles anything else is actually that.

This was ok I guess when you could walk away, but when we were stuck in a car with them, there was no escaping the idiocy. When we stopped to take a look at an interesting rock face, we were told that all rocks, apart from volcanic rocks, are the leftover muscles of giants - The Devils Tower in Wyoming is the ankle of a giant. The Giant's Causeway? More giants. It's interesting that the only rock that isn't giants is the one that you see formed in front of you... Although how they explain tectonic plate shifts I don't know, probably more giants.

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No rock, remains of a giant, or some other insane ramblings

We eventually escaped and started our walk, but this nonsense went on all week, with them trying to convert new arrivals and trying to convince me that lunar eclipses and horizons aren't real. They failed in all of it.

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The first waterfall, where we escaped

Anyway, back to the walk. After losing Mr and Mrs Munchhausen at the first waterfall we continued up through the rain forest climbing up and over rocks, up ropes and across rivers, there were three more waterfalls, all more impressive than the last, they were truly beautiful and well worth the effort, although as you could guess by now if you've been reading my blogs, it's usually around this point where it starts raining hard and this was no different.

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Waterfall no 2

The walk to the waterfalls had been mostly uphill, so getting back was a little easier, although it was a lot slippier and we both fell a few times. We were absolutely soaked though as we left with a good couple of hours walk along the road ahead of us. Anita suggested that we ask a guy who had walked in front of us if we could get a ride into town, she's Polish, apparently it's a thing. Before we had a chance though, he offered us a ride! We just had to wait for the other two people he'd offered a free ride to!

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Waterfall 3, the weather is getting worse!

What a gent! His name was Frank, a Cuban who had moved to Panama a decade ago and apparently just gave people rides? On the way to town, he surprised us again by pulling into a coffee house and buying us all coffee! It doesn't get much better than this!

Or so we thought until he invited us all to his house for dinner! It was incredible and crazy.. We'd met the guy an hour before and here we were contemplating going to his house for dinner. We were fairly sure this would be some kind of Murder House, but I was bored of cooking my own pasta every night, so I accepted. After a quick stop to buy a huge piece of meat, and another to let us change our wet clothes, we arrived at Franks house and just WOW. It was huge! After we were shown around the place and his two enormous gardens we chatted and drank, got to know each other and finally ate what tasted a lot like perfect beef and hopefully not the remains of the people invited there before.

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The final waterfall from the front and back! Aren't you lucky!!

It was a fantastic night. One that I can only imagine happening while travelling and even then very rarely. You'd rarely even hear of someone giving strangers a lift in the rain, let alone buying them coffee or inviting them into their home! But six people from five different countries with varying levels of English and Spanish spent the evening laughing and singing and dancing like we'd all known each other for years. I'll never forget it.

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First getting to know each other in the coffee house

Finally, today is day 40 of this trip. on day 40 of the last attempt, I arrived back in Gravesend beaten by the stupid virus, so every day from today is officially the longest I have travelled for. I very much doubt I'll be out here for a full 6 months, it just seems too long and the price of flights back to Costa Rica from Peru are about the same as a flight back to the UK, so I suspect I'll return to the UK from there, travel conditions permitting, so I think I'm around a third of the way through the trip, but who knows at this point!! If the last week has shown me anything, it's that anything can happen.

Posted by cblanc102 04:48 Archived in Panama Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains bridges buildings people parties trees night food rain rainforest hiking travel drink hostels jungle holiday panama weather beauty friendship coffee central_america problems solo_travel Comments (0)

Time to smell the coffee

sunny 30 °C
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I seem to have found myself at yet another turning point after making yet another stupid mistake.

I'm definitely finding this trip harder than last year's Thailand attempt. Whether this is down to the weather not being as great, or everything costing more or if there is actually less to do here I don't really know, but everything here feels like it takes more effort.


My route so far

Now I find myself in Panama, a perfectly nice country similar in many ways so far to Costa Rica, with another four weeks remaining here and thinking that half that would have been enough. I had to book a flight out before I entered the country and I booked 5 weeks, mostly because that was the cheapest option, but I sat here for hours last night trying to work out where to go next, with little success. Where interested me? Where could I get to easy enough? Where was affordable? I couldn't find anywhere and have ended up booking an extra 3 nights at this hostel, which is fine, it's nice here and there's still some stuff I would like to do, but it's really just about my not knowing where to go next.

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Apparently a very poisonous caterpillar. I always wonder where all the caterpillars went from when we were kids? There were loads then!

At this point my options are to head up to the Caribbean islands in the North, down to the Pacific beaches or West to the Panama City area. As I fly out of Panama City, it seems natural to do that last so I'm guessing I'll head either North or South. I'll just book a few days so if I don't like the place I can leave, if it's great I can always stay longer.

Boquete (pronounced Bo-ket-ay) is a nice little town with lots of ex-pats around, Panama's only volcano a few miles away and lots of jungle around. My hostel is great, pretty cheap and there's still some hikes around I'd like to do, so staying another three nights worked out fine.

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Coffee beans, not yet ripe, those are red

Today I went on a tour of a local coffee plantation. After a fairly hefty walk up there It was great! very interesting, the hosts really friendly and funnily enough, loads of free coffee to drink and take back with me. I even got to try the Geisha coffee, which everyone goes crazy for around here. A kilo once sold for $1000+ on auction, but they were selling it for $30 a pound, so I don't know who was paying that. It's nice, tastes like someone mixed tea and coffee together with some fruit juice.

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They sort the beans out by hand, four tonnes a year of them!

I was shown the whole growing and picking process, although it was out of season, so there was nothing to be grown or picked, but I then got to roast my own beans to my taste which I then ground to take with me! Along the way being told lots of facts about coffee such as how it's mostly cut with other products and the smell from any coffee sold without a valve in the bag (so most coffee) has likely been added chemically and is mostly the cause of acid reflux.

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Beetles eat coffee beans, ducks eat beetles! This I did not know.

Then another worker came along, and showed me different ways of making coffee. Happily, I've mostly been doing it right. It was very interesting and far less poncey than you'd imagine lol. Overall it was a great day and the owner even gave me a lift back to my hostel, which was pretty nice of her.

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All the coffee types and ways of pouring. The Geisha coffee is in the front in the odd looking jug

Tomorrow I'm going to some ex-pat thing with the owners of the hostel and then hopefully I'll hike most of the weekend, maybe today I'll figure out where to go next!

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My coffee, which I roasted, ground and even glued the packet! Sealed in a packet with a valve to let the carbon dioxide out, but no oxygen in. Very important it turns out.

Posted by cblanc102 19:53 Archived in Panama Tagged mountains trees animals rainforest hiking jungle panama coffee journey south_america central_america latin_america solo_travel Comments (0)

Lockdown Blues

This feels strangely familiar, just wetter

I have no photos! I have done nothing now for 2 days!!

I was expecting to be in Boquete tonight, a small town in the Panamanian highlands on the edge of another volcano, instead I'm spending another night in this windowless room in a mediocre hostel on the edge of a mediocre city. That may be a bit harsh, maybe.

This turn of events started last night when I was told at 5 pm that the city goes into lockdown today. For one day. Apparently they have a load of little rules about travel that affect different people, such as men and women being allowed to travel on different days and foreigners being allowed to travel at certain times depending on the last number of their passport. Stuff like that, all confusing! But most importantly, no one is allowed to travel on a Sunday.

Quite how this stops the spread of Covid is beyond me, I figure people just travel on other days, but they seem to be doing pretty well with numbers, so who am I to argue? I just wish someone had told me when I booked this hostel to leave on a Sunday, or when I booked the next place actually for a Sunday!

To be fair to both hostels, they dealt with it pretty well, were both very accommodating, letting me stay an extra day here and moving my time in Boquete back a day, so no harm there. As far as I know though, I'm here in this hostel completely on my own, the manager gave me a key to the kitchen and her number for emergencies yesterday. All pretty easy.

The unexpected consequences came today.

After spending all day just watching movies and reading, I decided to go out to eat. I'd been to the Supermarket yesterday, but only bought enough food for one day as I expected then to be off this morning. I had enough for a bowl of noodles, but that was about it. Looking on Tripadvisor, there seemed to be a good few restaurants up on the main highway about half a mile away, so I thought I'd try there. As I arrived where the restaurants were supposed to be, I noticed that no only were they nowhere to be found, but all the other businesses were closed, however I spotted a McDonald's along the road some, so headed there. Unfortunately I was told when I entered that they were only open for deliveries!

Determined to find anything at this point, I checked Google Maps for an open Supermarket and headed towards the same place I shopped yesterday. About a mile or so away from my hostel, it was at this point that it started raining. Of course it did.

It was a bloody great storm, that's still going on now two hours later. It had some crazy thunder and lightening to go with it as well. I headed for the supermarket, getting shelter from overhanging roofs where I could and made my way there slowly, getting pretty wet along the way. When I finally arrived, it was of course, shut. It was supposed to close at 9 pm, some two hours later, but I guess everything is closed today as I saw nothing open at all on my 5 km journey. I made my way back, now with no shelter at all, just pretty much getting soaked.

My dinner tonight was spaghetti. No meat, no veggies, but a sauce, which is better than nothing. I also emancipated two slices of bread from the kitchen, but today has been pretty pasta heavy, I've had just that and about 10 cups of coffee today. The cat here fared better than me, I saw him with a lizard in his mouth earlier, at least he had some meat.

Tomorrow, Panama returns to normal. I don't know if this was a one off thing or weekly, although I'll likely be in another part of the country next week so they may have their own rules. At least now I've learned that these rules exist and I can work around them. It's all part of the journey I guess!

Posted by cblanc102 12:52 Archived in Panama Tagged people food travel hostels panama journey south_america central_america latin_america quarantine problems solo_travel coronavirus Comments (0)

Border Time - Feel like I'm going to lose my mind

I finally left a country!


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What a crazy day!!!

I woke up at 6 am raring to go! Excited to be leaving to go to Panama. Not that I was happy to leave Costa Rica, It's a beautiful country, filled with amazing animals, stunning landscapes and lovely people. I would have stayed a bit longer, but to go anywhere new would have meant travelling about 11 hours back through San Jose to visit the Caribbean side of the country and I just didn't have it in me. Especially as many of the things I still wanted to see, like more volcanoes, tapirs, the aforementioned Caribbean Sea, are also in Panama. Decision made!

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Goodbye Costa Rica, you were Pura Vida for sure!

I had my shower, breakfast and coffees, sorted out my rucksack and said my goodbyes to the people at the hotel. It really is lovely there and the people who work there make you feel like family. Top marks. I decided to walk to the ferry pier, even though it was already 28 degrees or so, it was only about a kilometer away and the journey wasn't too bad.

As I sat waiting for the boat, I wondered where I'd put my travel adapter? I had definitely taken it out of the socket, but I couldn't remember which bag it had gone in. I went through both bags pretty thoroughly, the answer? Neither. I'd left it at the hotel. It was also during this search that I knocked my mask into the ocean and then couldn't find my backup. I was doing well.

I returned back to the hotel, both bags in tow and they had my adapter waiting for me. but by then it was too late. I would miss the ferry and the next one wasn't for almost three hours! But off I went, still carrying thirty pounds of bags in the now 30 degree heat.

I know what you're thinking, that I should have just forgotten about the adapter, I can get another, but it's a very good adapter and cost me £15 and I'm on a budget!!

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It's bloody great and worth walking 3km for

After walking there and back and there again, I had lots of time left to go through my stuff and find some masks, read a book and watch the world go by until the boat arrived.

After my ferry journey arrived in Golfito at midday, I was told the bus to Peso Canoas would arrive after 1 pm, which it did. About an hour after 1 pm! But arrive it did, and it was super cheap (about £1.40 for a 60 km journey) so I was happy enough and after an hour or so, we arrived at the border crossing into Panama.

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Welcome to Panama!

Now, I had read up on it, so I had an idea of what to do, but most of that went out the window and the next 90 mins or so was just a rat in a maze type puzzle that I was locked into. Here's what I had to do and bear in mind, no one spoke any English. Well, I did say I wanted to learn Spanish!!

1 - Firstly, pay the Costa Rican Exit tax ($9). Confusingly, this isn't at the Costa Rica border office, but over the road, in a hotel or restaurant.
2 - Take your passport with exit tax slip to the CR border office to get your stamp.
3 - Go to the Panama Border control (this took me ages to find, even though there's a big building that says 'Panama' on it. There were lots of places within that it could have been.
4 - Fill out your details, have your temperature taken
5 - Go pay for an antigen test where a woman will shove an impossibly long bud impossibly far up your nostril - Pay your $46 - Wait 15 mins
6 - Take this back to the guy in step 4, who then sends you along to another booth two or three places down.
7 - Show proof of your accommodation, proof that you're leaving the country (my flight out) and proof that you have at least $500, a credit card will do. Have your photo and finger prints taken, get your stamp.
8 - Walk out, not knowing really if that's all done, only to wander out into Panama without speaking to any guard or anyone.

As far as I can tell, I could have just walked right into Panama without anyone stopping me. My only issue would have been trying to leave I guess!

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Panama's Flag is great

I managed to find a bus fairly quickly, it was a bit bonkers! Going super fast, overcrowded, playing loud music, people jumping on and off at any time. It was pretty fun and again, super cheap.

But I'm here now. In Panama, with a day to spare in another city that seems a bit rubbish, in a room with a curtain but no window (??), but it's clean, has great wifi and a shop across the road and I'm heading North on Sunday to see some more volcanoes. All seems pretty good right now and after about 70 days of travel (this journey and the last) I've finally gone from one country to another!!!

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The curtain feels a tad redundant!

Posted by cblanc102 05:21 Archived in Panama Tagged water bus crossing panama costa_rica border ferry journey south_america central_america latin_america solo_travel Comments (0)

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