Costa Rica and Panama

On Tuesday the heavens opened.

It was the first rain I’ve had in three months and by George did it more than make up for it. It’s like the rain in England when it really pours it down, and then some. It was unexpected, but still quite nice. It’s rained every day since, but only for an hour or two max, but when it’s not raining it’s still very hot and humid.

I’ve whizzed through Costa Rica and also most of Panama, and am now down in Panama City waiting for a boat to Colombia.

San Jose I really liked – the Lonely Planet (awful book) gives it a bad rep and I think undeservedly. Admittedly there’s not much to do there (the best thing we found was a cool science museum for kids that we walked into for free), but it was safe and there’s always something on.

I spent three days in San Jose before moving on to the Caribbean coast to a little town called Cahuita, which was quite like Dangriga back in Belize. Lots of Rastas, lots of smoking, and an absolutely gorgeous beach that stretched on for miles. Also quite a dangerous beach if you swim in the wrong place, but absolutely beauuutiful if you walk a little bit to where it was safe.

It was however in Cahuita that shock horror I discovered that I’d lost my Visa card in San Jose, and being only a little town with one cash point that didn’t accept my Maestro card I was pretty much screwed money-wise. I spent the evening deciding whether to go to one of the other towns along the coast in the morning to try there, but in the end decided to go back to San Jose where I thought I’d be sure to be able to get something out (and failing that there would always be a Western Union if the worst came to it), and did in fact miraculously manage to get my actual card back when I went back to the last place I could remember using it on the off-chance it might still be there. So that was nice. The guy at the bank brilliantly made me show my passport to prove it was my card, despite the fact the card doesn’t have any name on it at all (a Thomas Cook buy), and indeed despite the fact the signature on the back of the card is different to the one in my passport – he put the card next to my photo, probably searched in vain for a name, couldn’t find one so handed them both back to me thanking my for my patience and assuring me he only had to check to ensure the security of my card and so that not any old Joe off the street could come in and claim it. Unless, it seems, they own their own passport.

However, Costa Rica was on the whole pretty expensive – I was spending the same on a bed as I was in a whole day in Nicaragua – and I didn’t really have much planned to do there, so after heading back to San Jose for another night I went straight down to Panama (incidentally back through Cahuita again – I did that 4hr journey three days in a row!), whizzed through the border (a cool little River Kwai style rickety old bridge) before heading out to another Caribbean archipelago called Bocas del Toro to meet up with Nicole and Ryan whom I’d met back on Utila.

On Bocas it was still raining. In fact it was chucking it down. I’d gone there to hopefully do a bit more diving, but rain til noon meant (apparently) that the sand or silt was all kicked up and there was not very much to see, so we never got round to it. When the rain eased up though we rented some bikes and had a nice little cycle along to some of the better beaches.

However, on the third day it was still raining, and the others were heading back to San Jose to get flights home, so I decided to move on to a nice little town called Boquete, up in the Panaman (Panamanian?) highlands. Here it was raining, and cold! It actually felt like being back in England! For the first time since god knows when I actually had to dig my jumper out of my backpack. In Boquete I met up with George from Nicaragua and we hired some scooters. And let me tell you, riding up and down through Panamanian (Panaman?) mountains with nothing on the roads was sweeeeet. Probably averaged about 60kph and even topped 100 at one particularly straight downhill bit. But was absolutely brilliant fun, and has also tempted me to consider getting one back home (I can see the look on your face mum).

However didn’t spend long in Boquete either, and after two nights took the long ride down to Panama City to see the canal and try and sort out a boat for Colombia. We saw the canal from the Bridge of the Americas on the way in (I’d never heard of this bridge but apparently it’s quite famous so I’ll give it a mention). Am gonna check it out properly tomorrow.

It’s looking likely that I’ll be getting a boat on Sunday. Should be a 5 day trip spending a couple of days in the San Blas islands (google it, the pictures look incredible – picture paradise islands and you’ll picture these) before a couple of days sailing before landing in Cartagena on the Colombian coast. And I’m WELL excited. Can not wait to get out there!

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