After spending the night in the car and sleeping for 6-7 hours, Lilly and I still had to drive for about an hour to get to the port where the boats were heading to Bocas Del Toro. The road had a lot of turns, but we were driving through beautiful land and terrain.
Finding a parking spot was a challenge. We really had no idea what we were doing. We just sort of drove around, but it was very much a small village at the port, so there weren’t any signs or parking structures. We finally saw a fire department and decided to ask a man sitting near the fire trucks. He was nice, but his advice was to park on the grass nearby. Then he said we had to give him the keys so he can move the car if it needs to be moved. It would probably have been fine, but I rejected that idea. If the car was stolen I could file an insurance claim (I definitely bought insurance) but if I gave him the keys I believe I would be liable for the loss. Then he said he knew a friend that we could park on their property. I gave the fireman a $5 tip for his help/advice. I had to prepay $20 for 4 days to park at a little home near the port. Not bad. Other cars were parked there too which made me feel better. The picture doesn’t show it, but there were 4-5 more cars parked on the right side, all nice/decent cars too.
We walked through small town to get to where the water taxis were. The boats were small 10 seater boats that cost $5 per seat. Lilly paid and confirmed that the return boats would take me here since this is where the car was parked.
To get to the main island took about 30 minutes. It was a longer ride because the islands of Bocas are clustered a few miles of the coast.
Upon arriving on the main island, we went to the ATM for cash. Panama uses USD as their currency instead of having inf their own currency. This is easier for me, because I don’t need to know an exchange rate every time I buy something. I was getting really low on cash from all the low/unexpected expenses of traveling, so I was happy to finally get to an ATM. The fees were low too which was surprising.
We searched around for a place we could buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Both Lilly and I wanted to eat something healthy because we were tired of the typical local food, which is fairly unhealthy. Authentic Panama food is really tasty, but it consists of fried foods, pan (bread) and rice and beans. A person can only eat so much of that.
We found a great place to buy lunch overlooking the harbor. They had fresh vegetables, seafood, cheap drinks and it was right on the water. We could see the water taxis traveling around the harbor. The bathrooms smelled bad, but that’s fairly common when traveling. A lot of time plumbing is an issue, especially in small towns, so I always have backup toilet paper in my backpack.
After eating, we went to 2-3 local markets to buy snacks. It’s always a good idea to have ample snacks on a trip because it’s not always clear when food will be available next. This can sometimes lead to weight loss, purely because meals can be limited on the road and your trekking around the town/city. I bought some water, nuts, apples, dried fruit and vodka. Lilly bought some rum and other things. The hostel I’m going to has meals, but dinners tend to be pricier than average and I’d rather have my own bottle of booze.
After that, we headed to Bambuda lodge. We took a small water-taxi for $5 (USD) and it was a beautiful sight to see when we arrived:
When we first arrived, Lilly expressed hesitation about staying there. Basically, we found out that the hostel had only one more dorm bed, so either we would have to split a private bunk-bed room for $50, or one of us was going to stay at a hostel on another island while the other took the only remaining dorm bed. When Lilly said she needed to think about it, I really had to talk to her. I really didn’t want money to be an issue. Most hostels cost $6-10/night, but a private bed would cost $50 total, so $25 each which is pricey for travelers. For me though, I was on vacation and didn’t have a budget. My trip was only 8 days long, not 2+ months like other travelers. So I really expressed to her that she’s really making my trip great and I don’t want this money to be an issue for her. I think she also realized that if we parted ways before I got back to the car (after Bocas) I would have a hard time figuring things out with such poor Spanish. So, I was able to persuade her to stay. I was so pumped and excited. After she made up her mind, she was excited to stay there. We just did this great trip and now it continues.
So we rented the private bunks, tossed our stuff in the room, locked it up and went out to meet others. Here are the private bunks we got:
Found out the property is 100% solar powered, relies solely on rain water and has fully biodegradable waste products. That’s impressive because it’s a huge property and beautifully built. It’s really nice for the land too because it’s surrounded by rain-forest.
Pool – drinks and played beach-ball/volleyball with two girls from Columbia. We were the only ones in the pool. Eventually I discovered that they were 18 & 19 years old through our broken English/Spanish. They were nice but I couldn’t keep playing, especially with drinking. Pools + Alcohol = Danger.
Dinner rolled around about 40 minutes later. Lilly and I ate the fancy dinner provided by the hostel and it was really good. It was somewhat expensive relative to Panama price, but still lower than USA prices. It was delicious. When we were eating, almost everyone staying at the hostel elected to buy the hostel dinner too. We were essentially a huge group eating and enjoying a nice meal together overlooking the pool and ocean. I have never experienced anything like that in a hostel setting before.
We met friends quickly and we all went to Aqua Lounge on the main island. It was a techno party and everyone was having fun. At one point this drug dealer gave me a hard time because he wanted me to buy his drugs, but after I raised my voice he bailed. Tony and others were with me so he was crazy if he thought he was going to try anything.
At Aqua Lounge, the bartender started giving me free drinks, but not other people I was with, so I guessed she was into me. She was very attractive and as I had more drinks I got more into conversation with her. Again…broken English/Spanish. Her smile was incredible. She gave me her number, but it was clear she would be working until 5-6AM. They party late in Central America.
I texted back and forth with the bartender a few times but nothing really materialized. I discovered during this trip that opportunities come and go in a flash. If I really wanted something to happen, I never should have left. Live and learn.
After partying for a while we left, took a water taxi back and more fun ensued at the hostel.
First, we were all very drunk. We stayed up talking, most of which I can’t remember. I remember talking to Lilly in my drunken stupor and she tried to get me to fall asleep since I was hammered, but I resisted and wanted to stay awake. I remember hanging out, but it was raining and I was soaking wet. I fell asleep temporarily on the stairs while everyone was talking and smoking cigarettes. Apparently I fell asleep with my ass sticking out on the stairs which made everyone laugh hilariously. Someone took a picture but I never saw it, even after asking around for the pic. Eventually I started sobering up, but I can’t really remember what happened after that. I woke up the next morning and found that apparently was sober enough to take off my soaking wet clothes before I fell asleep last night.