Santa Catalina >>> Valle de Anton >>> Panama City
Scuba Isle de Coiba National Park
+ Woke up sweaty and covered in mosquito bites with the power still off.
+ Walked into town to Scuba Coiba and checked in for today’s dives.
+ After an hour on the boat, the engine made a stranged sound and we lurched to a stop. We had arrived at Isle de Coiba National Park (The national park includes the reefs and surrounding islands) but unfortunately the engine gave out about 100 meters from the dive site.
+ While we waited for another boat to pass and rescue us, Corey and I jumped in the water and snorkeled for a bit.
+ Another boat came by and we rode to the 1st dive site with them.
+ Over both dives, we saw over 17 white tipped reef sharks all clustered together, multiple turtles, multiple eels, tons of fish especially puffer fish, and a few crown of thorns starfish! Awesome!
+ Both dives sites had a very interesting thermocline, where you could actually see the warm current and the cold current mixing together. It looked very similar to the heat above a sidewalk on a hot day. As we were swimming along, one side of your body would be in the very cold current and the other half would be in warm water like a bathtub! It was very interesting!
+ Because of the boat trouble we all had to change plans and shuffle around a bit. We didn’t get to go to the actual Isle de Coiba. Instead we ate lunch at Playa Canales (another island inside the national park) This was disappointing but the dive master said Coiba would have been crazy packed with people today because of the holiday. So maybe it is for the better.
+ Caught a ride back from the dive shop to our hostel with another diver from China who is also staying at Jammin. We arrived to find the power is still off!! The rest of the city’s power returned very early this morning!
+ Walked back into town to try to find somewhere to use wifi and charge our devices. Found spotty wifi at a near by hostel and charged up our phones for a bit.
+ Ate a steak dinner at a place listed in lonely planet.
+ Walked around town trying to find another spot with wifi (we need to book a plane ticket to colombia asap!) But we were not successful.
+ Came upon a church service where everyone was clapping loudly and singing upbeat music. The happiness exuded by the church attendees was contagious!
+ Walked back to Jammin only to find the power IS STILL OUT!
+ Watched Straight outta Compton before bed.
Drove with friends to Valle de Anton
+ Woke up to find the power turned on sometime during the night.
+ Our Chinese friend, John, offered to drop us off in Valle de Anton as he was driving to Panama City. We took him up on his generous offer! Our other dormmate, Marcella, was also headed back to Panama City. So the 4 of us who had been dormmates in Santa Catalina took off towards Panama City!
+ With all the traffic from Easter (many Panamanians were returning to the city for work on Monday after the long holiday weekend) the 4 hr drive to Valle de Anton took about 6 hours. John even insisted on dropping us off directly at our hostel!
+ After getting off the main highway with stop and go traffic we drove up and through the scenic mountains into Valle de Anton.
+ We arrived at Bodhi Hostel, checked in, and grabbed a very late lunch with John and Marcella at a local Panamanian restaurant.
+ After saying goodbye to John and Marcella, Corey and I spent the rest of the evening catching up on wifi things: blog updates, looking at plane tickets, etc.
+ There was a fair complete with rides and games right across the street from our hostel. We walked over around 945 and Corey got a late dinner.
+ Stopped at a bar down the street and got a few beers with Teenage Ninja Turtles playing in the background.
+ Headed back to our hostel for bed. Bodhi hostel is really nice! There is one big room with 27 dorm beds! That sounds absolutely awful but it is actually the nicest dorm beds we have stayed in so far! Each bed has their own fan, reading light, electrical outlet, new mattress and pillow, and curtain for privacy! And the best part… it’s not hot here!!!
Enjoyed a break from the heat in Valle de Anton
+ Woke up (not sweating!!) And rolled into the kitchen for the free breakfast (all you can eat pancakes, coffee, tea!).
+ Liz is excited to actually drink the free coffee! Many hostels offer free coffee but it’s usually way too hot to take advantage of it.
+ Met some other travelers and volunteers from the US and Germany. Got some tips about Colombia and gave some tips about Costa Rica.
+ Decided to go on a hike to the popular waterfall of the area: Chorro El Macho (Manly Falls – named after Corey).
+ The walk there was a scenic 45 minutes and the waterfall itself was a bit disappointing due to it being dry season. There was also a small man made pool at the bottom of the falls but we decided against swimming since we were by ourselves and it was going to be closing soon anyway.
+ We chose to walk home a different way so we could see more of the neighborhoods surrounding Valle de Anton.
+ Back at the hostel, we went next door for dinner at a place called Munchies. Arabic food we think. It was absolutely delicious, the best thing we’d eaten in a while. We vowed to return the next day for lunch, only to find out they would be closed. Oh well, next time!
+ That night in the hostel we chose to enjoy the cool weather and sat outside in the patio area watching House of Cards. We were cold for the first time in a few weeks!
Arrived in Panama City and attended our first Futbol match
+ Checked out of Bodhi and jumped directly onto the bus for Panama city!
+ On the way into Panama city we got to drive over the Bridge of the Americas. Looking down, we saw many small boats and large ships waiting their turn for the canal passage.
+ The bus dropped us off at the Albrook bus station/mall and it was the largest/busiest place we had been to in quite a while. It’s funny how quickly something like a big mall with A/C and a food court and movie theater can become so foreign.
+ After a quick lunch of McDonald’s, we caught a taxi to our hostel (after bartering with him down to half of his originally quoted price).
+ Checked in to our dorm at Magnolia Inn and met the 4 other people staying in our room: Wes and Matt from Colorado, and Andy and Jessie from Switzerland. This was the first dorm where all the other people had been traveling long term, and we’d all come in the same direction from Cancun and we all left that area at roughly the same time! Crazy!
+ After getting settled, we all decided to venture across town to see if we can get tickets to the Panama vs Haiti World Cup qualifier match!
+ We used Uber for the first time on our travels and we had a very nice driver named Jimmy. We all practiced our Spanish for the hour and a half it took with all the heavy traffic.
+ Outside the stadium, the 6 of us got tickets for general admission for $16 each! While waiting in line to get in, we ate some cheap mystery meat on a stick from a roadside stand and drank some beer.
+ The game itself was a lot of fun, even though nobody scored until almost the 7th minute. Still, everyone was having a ton of fun chanting different cheers (we tried to join in despite not knowing the words)
+ When Panama finally scored a goal, the whole stadium went crazy! They threw beer everywhere (luckily not on us) and celebrated like they just won the championship! The energy was awesome! Comparable to some of the better American football games I’ve been to.
+ After the game, we got some spiral hot dogs on a stick, then crammed 6 people into a tiny taxi for the ride back to the hostel.
+ Before going to sleep, we finished the last 2 episodes of House of Cards.
Visited the Panama Canal with friends
+ In the morning, Laura and her husband Johannes (who had flown in from Germany a few days earlier) met up with us at our hostal. Laura had gotten sick and needed antibiotics. So after watching some YouTube videos on how to properly use the foreign medical products, Liz gave Laura an injection!
+ Afterwards, all 6 of us (Laura and Johannes, along with Andy and Jessie) walked along the Cinto Castera to the fish market. After wondering through the maze of stinky exotic fish, we all had a nice fresh seafood lunch.
+ Up next was a visit to the famous Panama Canal! The 6 of us walked a few blocks to a bus station, bought a bus card and then road the bus to the main terminal (same mall we originally arrived at) and then caught a different bus to the Miraflores Locks at the canal. We watched the large cargo ships go through and how the locks operated. The canal was just wide enough for the ships to just barely squeeze through! The mechanical “mules” on each side of the canal were very interesting as they follow a sort of train track and are used to help keep the boats centered in the canal. We also walked through the on site history museum and watched a short 3D film.
+ We stayed til close, then eventually caught buses back to the Cintro Castera to watch the sunset over the cityscape. It was a very pretty site and reminded us a bit of the Miami landscape. We also saw some of the native Kuna Yala people from nearby San Blas islands hanging out and selling souvenirs.
+ Corey got a delicious snow cone for 50 Cents and best of all, it was actually made from shaved ice right in front of us. Not like in the U.S. where a machine spits out the ice. The man would actually shave a huge ice block right in front of us!
+ Andy used his nice camera and expert photography skills to take some really nice pictures of each couple with the city scape in the background
+ We all wandered around Casco Viejo, at least the parts we were allowed to since the President of Panama’s house/mansion was in that area. The area was a little upscale, but very picturesque with unique old buildings and colorful murals and graffiti.
+ One of the places in the area recommended by Lonely Planet was a bar called Mojitos sin Mojitos. We all got a drink but were underwhelmed by the atmosphere (we later found out we were too early and it got extremely crowded later on) so decided to move on.
+ Up next was a visit to La Rana Dorada brewery with Laura and Johannes. They had delicious craft beer and pizza! Although it was probably our most expensive meal in Panama, it was unique pizza and it even provided leftovers the next day!
+ Laura and Johannes had to get some supplies (alcohol) before their San Blas trip was to depart the next day, so we went to the grocery store with them. Then we said our goodbyes and we headed back to the hostel.
+ The rest of the evening was spent researching Colombia and logistics.
Rest and Planning Day in Panama City
+ Today was a “take care of business” day, so we headed to a nearby internet cafe to print some stuff, make some copies and scans, and take care of stuff that’s easier to do on a computer as opposed to a tablet.
+ The early evening was spent booking our flight to Colombia and gathering tax stuff. So much fun! 😦 Not all days traveling can be spent relaxing in paradise or exploring new and exciting places.
+ Around dinner time, we headed out to walk around Casco Viejo more and see what we could find to eat for reasonably priced.
+ We ended up having ice cream for dinner! From a shop that hand made gourmet ice creams.
+ Afterwards, we stumbled upon a festival near the ministry of culture. There were a lot of different groups that would take the stage and different performances involved traditional dancing and crazy monster/demon outfits. We think they were celebrating Verano (summer) and various Legends of panama? Corey even got a free Panamanian energy drink while we watched! It was a nice way to spend the evening watching the different dancing even if we didn’t totally know what was going on 🙂
+ We walked by this area that was haphazardly blocked off with caution tape and realized the metal pipes immediately behind the tape were the setup for a very large firework display! We walked a few more steps and saw a guy sleeping on a park bench holding what appears to be the remote for the fireworks! Only in Central America!
Dinner and a movie at the mall!
+ Ate lunch in the park from some sort of hole in the wall (literally) restaurant. It was some kind of meat that we weren’t able to identify by look or taste… hmmmm. But it filled us up!
+ Now it was back to the internet cafe for a repeat of yesterday and to upload pictures.
+ Later that day, we walked 45 min on the Cinta Costera to the Multicentro mall. This place was 4 stories tall and had crazy stores! After some unsuccessful shopping, we ate some burgers in the food court. They were delicious!
+ Now it was time for the main event of our outing: Batman v Superman! Our movie theater had assigned seats, but wasn’t full at all. There were a bunch of silly commercials before the movie that had us laughing and guessing what product or service that was trying to advertise.
+ The movie was good but it didn’t get out until almost 1 am, so we opted for an Uber as opposed to risking walking. The uber car was super fancy (some make/model we had never heard of before) and the seats even had tv’s on them!
+ As we laid in our separate dorm beds trying to fall asleep, Corey geeked out and watched different YouTube videos about the Batman/Superman movie while Liz probably looked at instagram!
Click here for more photos from our time in Panama!