Bocas Del Toro to Nicaragua

by Hagan on January 29, 2009

Bocas del Toro – a must see backpacker’s paradise in Central America. Don’t get me wrong, there are gobs of luxury options as far as accommodations and dining are concerned for the more well-off crowd. I ran into a friend from Quepos there who had planned on staying two days and ended up staying a week. For a number of reasons, Bocas easily takes that span of time to escape from once you get sucked in.

The archipelago comprises islands fit for scuba, surfing, beachgoing, snorkeling, sailing, and dolphin or turtle watching tours, just to name a few. As far as business goes, it seemed like a really easy place to set up shop. A girl from Montreal who had just opened a poutine stand was going to be turning a profit in her third week on the strip. She opened at the peak of the backpacker season, so who knows how she is handling the ups and downs of the rest of her fiscal year. I wished her luck and had the plain fries (I had a bad experience with poutine at a crappy sports bar in September, but I had some fantastic smoked meat that made up for it gastronomically).

Without further adieu, I give you Bocas:

Of course you know by now that all images pop up in this window without leaving the page. Click them so the next time I use the term “without further adieu” it can actually mean something.

$4 per night. Not bad.

I have pretty much given up on Costa Rica – I cannot recommend traveling there when there are cheaper places that are just as nice in Panama and Nicaragua.

I didn’t exactly figure it out, but let me do my best to break it down for you.

Two teams, each behind a line, one sock in the middle, same number of players on each side. The referee yells out a number, and that number of people hold hands or lock arms and try to get the sock back to their goalline without being touched. You are allowed to throw the sock, and the kid in the blue there is allowed to completely ignore the “being touched” rule, while he cheers for himself and the other team complains.

Maybe it took me so long to understand the game because of that kid.

bastimentos, bocas del toro, surfing, central americaBastimentos is a twenty minute boat ride from Bocas. There are no cars and no streets on this island. I got breakfast at a restaurant, scrambled eggs with cheese and ham . . . The cheese was a kraft single, still in the wrapper. I sent it back.

bastimentos, bocas del toro, surfing, central americaAll the way at the end of the street in Bastimentos on the Bocas side is this completely awesome venue to have live music in a state of utter disrepair.

Location, Location, Location . . . This one just wasn’t close enough to the center of town to really take off.

bastimentos, bocas del toro, jungle, surfing, central americaYou know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby.

When there is no path anymore, but you can hear voices, you go toward the voices. When there are no more voices, you are kind of screwed.

I went to Bastimentos to hike through the jungle. These two girls had gone the day before and said I would see monkeys (no monkeys). They said it was an hour and a half hike to the Wizard beach, but if you take the wrong turn on the first turn of your journey, it is a bit longer and a lot muddier.

Of course, it was an interesting adventure and I had plenty of time to explore, so I had fun.

I came up upon some Washingtonians with the wrong kind of footwear for their excursion. In the mud, there were more busted flippy floppies than I bothered to count. I started blazing what looked like a trail and told them to follow me, and they did. Knowing me, your only question should be how far downhill it went from there for those guys, and my answer would have to be “pretty far.” New sandals were in order.

The other voices you hear on the video are the people from DC. We’re pretty far off the path at this point.

I could have climbed this bad boy – they hadn’t put a fence up yet. I am sure the farmer is getting paid less than $100 a month for this space. Yay Capitalism!

wizard beach, bastimentos, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaThis was probably the beach with the best surfing I had seen since I arrived, but it is only accessible by an hour long hike.

That tree is Beached As! It’s heaps beached!

red frog beach, bastimentos, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaRed frog, on the other hand, is a five minute walk from a drop off point in a bay on the other side of the island, and it kind of sucks. There isn’t much beach, and there are quite a few rocky parts.

bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaCanadiens: Yes, they are from Montreal. We talked about Poutine and Smoked Meat.

We talked about the Montreal girl who came down to Bocas to open a french fry stand. She bought her location on a sidestreet to the main road in a fairly well-trafficked location for $1,800. She couldn’t have spent more than $5,000 for the entire setup.

I am thinking about going back down there to see how easy it would be to set something up. She told me that her biggest issue was her potato supply.

(edit: I don’t want to deal with potato supply – not considering this business plan.)

bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central america, shiri arbivShiri and I met in Quepos the night my bike lost its headlight and hung out. We were going in the same direction and she was envious of my wheels because she had a 3:30 AM bus trip the next day she wasn’t excited about. We randomly met up in Bocas the next week. I showed her the Toucan video I took for here and she was jealous. She’s a birder.

cat on a fucking dog, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaOmg lulz! OMG LULZ!!1!

When I typed this into my Flickr account, I couldn’t just type “OMG LULZ” in the description of this picture without it being reformatted to “Omg lulz.” Why would Flickr want to reformat my LULZ? I think they are anti-1337. Can’t they tell that I am making fun of the 1337 with my LULZ?

almirante, panama, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaI got to Almirante (the mainland jump-off point for Bocas) at about 3:30PM and dropped off my bike at the fire station, where I tipped Goyo to put my bike on the next ferry at 7AM the next morning. When I got to Bocas, I realized that it would be silly to bring a bike there for two days and immediately called the fire station to let Goyo know not to put the bike on the boat.

Well, I thought I was talking to Goyo on the phone, but apparentlly, I wasn’t. When I arrive at 1 on Saturday to pick up my bike, it’s nowhere to be found. Goyo didn’t get the message and the bike was put on the ferry. When it got to Bocas, I didn’t pick it up, so it went back the next morning, and then back out to Bocas the next day. Since the ferry comes in at 5:30 and the Panamanian Border closes at 6, I am stuck in Bocas for another night.

My last post, you received my photoblog at about 7PM EST, a few hours after I took this picture and spent the rest of the day at the internet cafe writing the captions for the photos.

I get to the ferry at six and the guy wants me to pay for every trip that my bike was on the ferry. The firefighters on duty negotiate down to one trip for me and all is right with the world . . . except that I decide to drive to Changuinola and halfway into the trip realize that I have no headlight again.

changuinola, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaAside from being in the cabana with the stabbers, Changuinola is the place I have felt the least unsafe. I went to a bar the night I was there and I was getting dirty looks from a bunch of tough guys. A guy with an intentionally conspicuous knife in his pocket asked me to buy him a beer, just because.

changuinola, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaBEAR BLASTING!

The sport you’ll invent becaus you’re TOO ENERGITIC FOR NORMAL SPORTS!

I think this is the great idea of some Latin American guy who watched Super Troopers too many times.

border, bocas del toro, panama, surfing, central americaLa Frontera Panama – Thus ends my exciting excursion to Panama and back. This crossing took not more than ten minutes. Damn.

puerto viejo, costa rica, surfing, central americaPuerto Viejo:

It was rainy when I was there, so I only stayed a day. I went out to meet Shiri at Rocking J’s. This was the hostel that had the best layout I had seen thus far into the trip, you should take a look at the website. There was a pile of tiles and some tile-affixing cement behind a building and people were encouraged to adorn anything they could with art.

It was a very chill place, but I wasn’t so taken with Puerto Viejo. The town was there so foriegners could come to surf and smoke weed (which isn’t the worst reason for a town), but I just wasn’t into that scene so much at the time.

hermit crab, puerto viejo, costa rica, surfing, central americaThe tiniest Hermit Crab is tiny.

That is all.

puerto viejo, costa rica, surfing, central america, bananas, banana productionSo they grow banana bag trees down here. I wasn’t against genetically modified fruits and vegetables until I saw this.

puerto viejo, costa rica, surfing, central america, jungle, adventureIt would have taken me four hours to get from Puerto Viejo to San Jose, but that wasn’t the case. I got about four miles into the trip before running out of gas. I had no money to buy gas, and I had to hop a bus back into Puerto Viejo to the cajero automatico to get some colones. In my rush to get back on the bus, I left my credit card in the ATM; a fact that I didn’t realize until San Jose.

puerto viejo, costa rica, surfing, central america, jungle, riverI reported my last credit card lost and still needed money to stay in San Jose for the night so I could get my bike worked on. Normally, you can go to any bank with a Visa logo and your passport and get the money, but the banks were closed by the time I arrived. Walking around San Jose SOL, I ran into an American Expat who said he was living his life as a bookie (but I’m certain he was homeless) and he knew that I could get cash at the casino. I followed his advice and went there, but the lovely people at Bank Of America closed the wrong credit card. I went back to Hostel Pangea (this place is super cool, it is the only place to stay in San Jose if you are traveling) and got on Skype to get this fixed.

I went back to the casino, took out $40, and promptly lost it all on the tables. I did get a complimentary water, though.

san jose, burger king, costa rica, surfing, central americaI’d wanted to get the bump on my uvula checked out by an ENT doctor here (I’m fine), and Manuel offered to translate for me so I bought them lunch. He had brought his mom in for a checkup. They lived in the countryside and hadn’t been to San Jose for three years, so they obviously wanted Burger King.

Just a sidenote: this is a picture of me minutes after I lost my second credit card. It would have been fine if I knew this at the time of the picture, but I didn’t find out until 5PM, after the Doctor’s office (which could have been the place I lost it) closed for two more days. Thus begins the comical saga of abhorrible customer service I receive from Bank Of America.

liberia, costa rica, adventure, central americaRolling into this gas station at about 8PM determined to get to Liberia (Yes Mom, I am driving trough Central America on my motorcycle at night), I come up on a pump with a grasshopper on it. Not just any old grasshopper. A ridiculously huge Paul Bunyan on HGH style grasshopper. The attendant comes out to pump the gas and I am trying to tell him not to go near it so I can get a photo of it before it flies away. The guy had this “Are you serious?” look on his face as I excitedly attempted to keep him away from scaring this guy. When I was done with my photography, the attendant shooed the bug away carelessly.

I was the size of my hand – as amusing as it was terrifying.

liberia, costa rica, adventure, central america, nicaraguan border, nicaragua, san juan del surThis guy spoke no English and I spoke broken Spanish, but he managed to find a suitable parking place for my bike for as long as I needed it. I spent 30 minutes trying to figure out a way I could get my bike through customs and eventually just asked a guy who spoke English, “What do I have to pay to get this thing across the border,” even though I had no money to pay anyone and no way to get any more.

Welcome to Nicaragua. I really can’t complain about my bike being caught up at the border – I got to spend a beautiful few weeks in San Juan Del Sur learning Spanish and going out nearly every night. San Juan Del Sur (heretofore referred to as SJDS) is myu barato (very cheap) if you don’t party with each new group of hostelgoers that come through each night.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

SunshineState July 23, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Thanks for giving me a fantastic place to vacation! I've been looking for a place to go.

Mally July 30, 2009 at 4:59 am

It's so strange how many different species of animals there are in the world. It's so cool to be able to travel and see how different places are.

SandyQ July 30, 2009 at 5:23 am

I would love to go where there's an ocean. That's beautiful!

Previous post:

Next post:

Click here to close

Submit your email for foodie updates: