Got wrong info from Charlie of Cabinas day before...he said buses leave every hr beginning at 7:30 am, so we take taxi to bus stop only to find out bus for Sixaola leaves at 8:30! (one at 7:30 goes to SP). A wait in the covered bus stop place - it's raining - and promptly at 8:30 bus pulled up, we got on, and some 15 min. later it stops. Engine trouble...tho we hear nothing wrong that might indicate trouble...oh well, we wait for the 9:30 bus to come by, which it does, we pile on and off we go. A bit worried since the LP says the border to Panama closes betw noon and 2, and Panama is an hour ahead ie now it's 11 am! We could have paid $2 US more and taken a colectivo and been to the border by now, perhaps penny wise but....So far on our journey this is first bus breakdown, of all things in the most expensive country and supposedly having better buses?! I guess I heard too much hype about Costa Rica before getting here and my expectations were too high.
We get across the border right at noon, a colectivo jammed w/ 9 others @ $10 US pp gets us to Changuinola where we all board a boat taxi to Bocas del Toro, an island hopping w/ tourists, but today it is overcast & raining off and on so most are hunkered down. Not nice out on the water snorkeling or diving or?? which is mostly why people are here. Find Hostel/Hotel de Hansi (went to Hostel Heike, but really a pit for backpackers), this one was designed & built by Sra. Heike & her hubby, nice folks, very well laid out place for %23 US dbl w/ hot water private bath.
Panama uses US currency and since late 1800s has been growing bananas - United Fruit took over early on then changed name to Chiquita Banana...it is huge here, second only to the canal in income for Panama with tourism gaining fast. Did not expect the mountainous drive of 1 1/2 hrs to the ferry, thought Panama would be much flatter, surprise. Even more picturesque than Costa Rica. Also, since there is a very liberal retirement system (health care, easy residency reqs., etc) there are many expats moving or have moved here...we met several just in the travel to Bocas!
Signed w/ Jampan for Dolphin Bay (we saw one), Crawl Cay-snorkel, Punta Solarte Jungle Tour (property owned by Chuck, the Jampan owner) where he had some orange and red frogs, and then to Red Frog Beach - an Eco Experiment for Panamanian upscale tourism development...lots of yachties/cruisers there. Only Red Frogs we saw were brought to us in banana leaves by little local boys looking for $$$. Our guide/boat driver took us to one last snorkel spot which made the $25 US almost worth the extra $5 Chuck charges over the going rate.
All in all, a very nice, sunny day...saw tons of colorful soft corals and some schools of fish but mostly just getting in the water was what I liked. Did a little body surfing at Red Frog beach too. It ain't gettin' any cooler, esp after rain and the water is almost bath warm - but wet, but wet!
A woman from Spokane (AnaLouise), a gal from Argentina (Marianna), and a Swiss young fellow (John) whose great grandfather emigrated to Helena, MT 100 yrs ago! What a world! His mom moved back to Switzerland.