It is hard to believe that it’s been over 200 days since we left our home to begin this year long trip. At the time, the goal seemed lofty and a bit unreal, but here we are in Panama. We have driven over 18,000 kilometers and have made it to the most southerly country on our itinerary. It seems impossible to have seen and done all the things we have. We really don’t know how it will feel when some time in the next couple of weeks we reach our turnaround point. Will it be a sense of accomplishment or regret as we realize that this journey will come to an end? I guess we will tell you in the next post but I have gotten way ahead of myself.
We stayed at Maria’s little campground for a couple of more days which was highlighted by a great hike in Cahuita National Park. It was an 8.5 kilometer walk along the shore of a finger of land that juts out into the Caribbean Sea. We managed to spot a sloth but were most impressed by the variety of birds, plants and insects.
We overnighted in the town of Puerto Viejo before crossing the border into Panama. When Kristel told me that we were headed for the “Lizard King Hotel” I may have felt a little angst but it turned out to be a very pleasant stay with none of the racy images or fascinating possibilities the name had conjured up for me.
The border crossing would have been pretty typical had we remembered that we were changing time zones…meaning that our seemingly comfortable our ten o’clock arrival was really 11 o’clock Panama time. Half way through the usual rigmarole, we hit noon and all of the offices shut their doors for the lunch hour. This gave us a long break with nothing to do but sweat it out in the midday heat. We were able to finish all of the necessary paperwork once things opened up again but it was probably close to 3:00 pm when we were finally clear.
We had decided that we wanted to spend a little time working on our Spanish and initially planned to head to Bocas Del Toro, a small island off the Caribbean coast. However, the cost to ferry our truck was was more than expected and the ferry timing was less than ideal. Given this, the crappy weather (the blazing heat of the border had now turned to black skies and pouring rain) and the complete lack of anything resembling accommodation in the depressing port town, we decided to abandon our Bocas plan and head inland towards Boquete.
Boquete is a very pleasant mountain town with good camping and a very agreeable climate. Temperatures hover around 25C and the humidity is much lower (Kristel’s edit: it was awesome – my hair didn’t even resemble Richard Simmons’ while we were hanging out here). Due to a holiday, we were only able to squeeze in four days of school but it was very helpful for both of us. My beginner level class helped my confidence and got me trying to speak again. However, Kristel was placed in a more advanced class that really challenged her. For once, Kristel was in the unfamiliar situation of having to struggle to keep up with the class. I, on the other hand, was in the equally unusual situation of feeling at ease opening my mouth (Kristel’s edit: Ha ha! Not really an unusual situation). In any case, it was a good refresher and we are both more determined to keep practising. We had gotten rather lazy with the ease of managing in English in Costa Rica and Panama. We will tell you more about Boquete when we return here in a few weeks. Laura will be joining us here at the beginning of December and I don’t want to spoil any surprises. I will say, however, that one of the strangest things for us was the “emergence of Christmas” during our time here. It is beyond odd to see houses with lush green lawns and gardens full of flowers decked out for the holidays.
After a week in the mountains and all the classroom time, we decided we were ready for some beach time. We have landed in Playa las Lajas on the Pacific Coast. It is a bit off the beaten track but it checks a lot of boxes:
1. Miles and miles of empty beach to walk on. Check
2. Warm ocean waves to play in. Check
3. Palm trees, exotic birds, and sunshine. Check
4. Fridge full of cold beer. Check
5. $6/night camping fee. Check
6. Pristine toilets and hot showers. Okay so isn’t paradise but it’s close.
We have spent the last two days enjoying long walks at sunset and sundown, playing with our boogie boards in the waves, flying our kite (which had been packed away long forgotten since its purchase in San Francisco) and generally relaxing. We intend to continue this until that fridge runs out of beer!