Wow, it’s been two whole months since I last posted! Yikes! I just arrived back in the States and will be somewhat stationary for the next few weeks, so hopefully I’ll sort through my thousands of photos and update this blog a bit.
I’m going to start with what is freshest in my mind, which is where I just returned from- Panama.
Exactly one year ago, I was finishing up my month-long Ayurvedic cleanse in India. I met a group of wonderful people during my panchakarma, including an American couple, E & S, who split their time between Panama and the United States. They were kind enough to invite me down to their home in the rainforests of Panama last month so that’s where I spent the past few weeks.
They told me they lived in a remote area on an island in Panama and it was a very special place. But other than that, I had no idea what I was going to see or experience. I flew down to Panama City late at night after Thanksgiving and caught an internal flight from Albrook (domestic airport) to Bocas del Toro the next day. I purposely booked an afternoon flight to give myself some time to sleep in and take a look around Panama City. It turned out to be a national holiday (Mother’s Day) so the streets were completely deserted and the city felt like a ghost town. I walked all the way down to Cinta Costera, a new stretch of waterfront development without seeing more than a dozen people. It was a gorgeous day (albeit a humid one) and I was able to take a stroll down paralleling Avenida Balboa for a while.
I had a bit of a panic and confusion over my flight to BOC a few hours before leaving because I hadn’t realized that my flight made two stops- at BOC and then at CHX (Changuinola). Was I supposed to get off at BOC or CHX? They are both in Bocas del Toro!? Me from 3 years ago would have had this all researched and sorted out at least 5 months before arriving in Panama. But somehow in the last year or so I shed that “super duper organized, color coded, and quadruple checked planned” part of my brain. And now I frequently find myself without a place to stay a week before I’m headed somewhere (I’m still not spontaneous enough to land in a new city without confirmed lodging though). In any case, I eventually figured it out and about 50 minutes later I was flying over the pristine blue waters of the Caribbean towards Isla Colón, an island known for world-class surfing spots in Bocas del Toro.
By the way, Air Panama enforced a strict luggage policy and weighed both my carry-on luggage and check-in luggage (check-in luggage limit: 14kg, carry-on luggage: 2.2kg). I was taking down a battery charger and a heavy book for my friends, which weighed 5-6 kg so I barely squeaked by at 13kgs without paying any penalty (2% of published fare per every kilo of excess baggage).
Inside the airport, I was looking out to the baggage handlers when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was E! Yay! And S. wasn’t far behind. We drove to the town of Bocas, which was actually walking distance from the small airport, to do some produce and grocery shopping. We stopped at the fish guy’s house to pick up a big chunk of fresh tuna (it was so fresh that it hadn’t even had time to freeze yet) and a large bag of lobster tails (probably about 4-5 lbs worth for $18). We got some Chilean wine at a grocery store run by a Chinese family (I learned that all large businesses on the island were Chinese owned and operated) and then went to a “gourmet” shop for some other provisions.
As it was a holiday all the restaurants in town were closed except for this one Mexican place run by an American expat. We needed to have our dinner before heading out for the long drive home so we made a quick meal out of enchiladas and tacos, and as the sun started to descend down the horizon we drove out of town.
About 30 minutes later we were at the end of the paved road and heading down a bumpy dirt path… 10 or 15 minutes on that road led us to a big rusty gate, which E had to open with a key and lock behind us again once we were through.
This private stretch of “road” went on for maybe another 20 minutes. Now in complete and utter darkness, all I could see was the narrow clearing directly ahead of us. We seemed to be surrounded in jungle; over our heads was a dome made of thick arms of the rainforest. And then at the end of the dirt path, far up on a hill I saw an outline of a structure. Is that a house? What is this I hear?
I couldn’t make out anything else but I could definitely hear crashing waves. Well, there will be time enough for that tomorrow… All I knew was that my travel day had come to a nice end and it was time for bed. ¡Buenas noches!