Panama & Colombia: 4/2 – 4/8

Panama City >>> (Colombia) Medellin >>> Bucaramanga >>> San Gil

4/2
Planning Day and Happy Hour at La Rana Dorada Brewery
+ Today was yet another day to hang inside, trying to stay as cool as possible while we did work stuff online.
+ Worked on taxes and researched possible itinerary for South America.
+ To reward ourselves for our attempts at focus and dedication, we went to happy hour at La Rana Dorada and had half price pints!
+ We then walked to a different part of town and had dinner at Coca Cola cafe (no relation to the soda. It is the oldest historic diner in Panama City! Food was decent, but as usual in Panama, they had 1 poor server trying to take care of every single table so service was lacking.
+ Walked back to the hostel and packed up our bags in our new 12 person dorm (still at Magnolia Inn). We got everything prepared for our super early departure the next morning.
+ This dorm was laid out similar to hogwarts! It is a big ballroom they have converted into a large dorm room. 12 Single beds each with their own plugs and high power fan and lots of open windows since the room didn’t have A/C. Many Panamanians were partying late into the night and blasting music from the buildings right below and all around us.
+ Liz was amazed at how backpackers can seem to sleep through anything! People were in bed at only 9pm with the lights on and music blasting!
+ We watched Man of Steel in the common area before bed and stayed up way too late.
+ Went to bed around 2am. Music was still blasting outside the dorm but we were able to get a few hours of sleep before leaving for South America in the morning!

4/3
Flew to Medellin, Colombia– Our 1st flight since Christmas!
+ Caught an Uber around 5 am to the very small airport we were going to depart from. The airport was so small even our driver had trouble finding the departure building!
+ After a weird check in and and waiting around for a bit we were finally on our way! This was the first flight we’ll have taken since leaving the U.S.!
+ We boarded the plane without the usual “gate”. We felt like movie stars as we climbed up the stairs into the plane. (Although this was a first time for us, I’m sure it will not be the last.)
+ As the sun was rising, we got some awesome aerial views of the Miraflores Locks in the canal and being able to see both oceans in the 1 flight!
+ Landed in Medellin and caught an Uber to Cocobamboo Hostel in the El Poblado district.
+ The ride was about 50 minutes and we saw a whole bunch of cool scenery on the way! We also passed a ton of bicyclists (well over 100) on their fancy expensive bikes. Corey was impressed at how many people partook in biking as their hobby, and that they all had such expensive bikes ($5000+)! The whole country was very different than Central America already!
+ After waiting around at the hostel for a bit until the room was ready and a quick Subway lunch, we checked in to our private room and promptly took a nap to recover from the lack of sleep the night before.
+ We were happy because after 13 days of nothing but dorm rooms (almost all of our time in Panama), we were ready for some privacy and peace and quiet!
+ After our nap, we walked around and explored the El Poblado district/neighborhood. With lots of nightlife and restaurants and cafes, El Poblado was very lively even for a Sunday night.
+ For dinner, we ate at a wing place and got 30 wings (6 different flavors), a big tray of fries, and a 1.5 liter soda all for less than $10! (We are such health nuts, I know) And we learned that in Colombia, it’s customary to eat wings while wearing plastic gloves. We thought it was clever since there’s less germs touching your food and you don’t have to use napkins as often.
+ Then it was back to the hostel to enjoy the cool weather and our private tv too! Liz worked on taxes while Corey planned out itinerary for the next day. We again stayed up way too late!

4/4
Planning Day: Taxes, Colombia Itinerary
+ The first part of today was spent relaxing in the room and doing work. Liz finished most of our taxes and Corey made a rough plan of every day we’d have before our cruise at the end of May!
+ Lunch was leftover wings from the night before, and around happy hour we went and tried out Bogota Beer Company. Our beer came with a delicious huge burger that we split. We then sampled a few of their different beers too, of course.
+ Next up we walked to Medellin Beer Factory. This was another brewery and also had very tasty and cheap brews. We wish they were this cheap in the U.S.!
+ We needed to use the Internet some so we stopped in a Coffee shop for a quick latte for Liz.
+ Mexican was on the menu for dinner to satisfy our craving from the night before and it definitely hit the spot! We didn’t know if it was all the spicy things Corey had been eating lately, or the new Colombian water (which is perfectly safe to drink), but Corey’s stomach was not liking all the new stuff!

4/5
Medellin Metro and Cable Car, Parque Arvi, Flew to Bucaramanga
+ Today was our only day to explore the rest of Medellin so we headed out across town to catch the metro. After the 20 minute walk and some yummy street food of empanadas and tacos, we caught the metro and headed north for about 30 minutes.
+ Then we hopped on the Metro cable car which was suspended high above the city and gave us spectacular views of all the different buildings and houses built on the side of the hills and mountain. It looked just like scenes from a movie or what you think of with Brazil.
+ After a much longer than anticipated ride (about 30 minutes again), we finally arrived at Arvi park. The whole journey had taken over an hour and a half!
+ At the park we were given a very small map and confusing information in Spanish. Although we had been traveling for over 3 months in Spanish speaking counties and had studied Spanish for 7 days in Guatemala, we felt like we did in day 1 of our trip because we could read and understand almost nothing! Spanish here in Colombia is very different than Central America. They use different words and have different accents. This was very frustrating to feel like we were speaking a different language all over again and not being able to understand much!
+ So without knowing where we were going, we started off towards what we thought was the trail. The park was not crowded at all, so we couldn’t simply follow people to a trail. We gave up on our initial direction, then asked some police where to go and they agreed the map made no sense but pointed a different direction. Sure enough after 5 minutes we reached a trail. So we walked along for 15 minutes and reached a road. Our phone map said there was another trail if we headed left on the road for a little bit. So we did that and on the way we passed 3 sketchy looking guys walking the other way, but they didnt seem to notice use and we made sure we were not being followed. After 5 more minutes, we reached the trail then started walking up. About 10 minutes after getting on that trail, Corey stopped to go to the bathroom and Liz walked on about 40 feet further up the trail. All of a sudden those same 3 guys (all about 18-20 years old) came running up the trail and before we knew it, one guy had a giant knife (blade was about 8-10 inches) pointed at Corey demanding his hat and other stuff while the other 2 guys were screaming “Camera, Camera” at Liz and immediately took that from her. By now Corey had backed up to Liz and we were backing away from the 3 guys. The main guy with the knife was still demanding stuff from us (probably the backpack Corey had on, or our phones) but we couldn’t understand him. We said no and turned around and ran away. Luckily they did not pursue and were content with the camera.
+ Shaken up and wondering how that happened so fast, we ran up the rest of the trail to the finish (worried the guys would return again) and quickly headed towards the police we had seen earlier. We explained our situation to them and they called for backup. Then about 10 officers started searching around the park for the assailants for at least an hour. Corey even rode on the back of one of the motorcycles with the police but nobody was able to find them or recover the camera.
+ We were not able to get a police report from them, so we gave them our information in case they were to find them.
+ Then we had to leave to get back to the hostel in time to catch our flight that night. So we rode the cable car, the metro, and walked back to our hostel in time to meet the taxi driver. Then we rode the extra hour to the airport through rain and traffic.
+ Caught our flight to Bogota (our quick layover) and climbed on and off the plane via stairway, just like movie stars! The trip became less glamorous when all the passengers were then shoved into a bus to be transferred back to the terminal.
+ Then we had to walk through the airport one direction for 15 minutes only to arrive, check in for the connecting flight and have to board another bus that took us back the direction we had just come from. Yet another example of Latin American inefficiency.
+ On this plane, we met 2 new friends: Matt from Philly who is on day 1 of a year long stay to teach English! And Eric from Toronto, Canada who has lived down here for a few years and works at the university in Bucaramanga. Both were friendly guys and Eric gave us a few good tips for Bucaramanga.
+ When we arrived, we said goodbye to Eric, then shared a taxi with Matt who was also staying at our hostel, Kasa Guane.
+ After we dropped off our bags, we went out to grab a bite to eat and chose a place called Wok. We all split a wing/nacho platter and ended up having some drinks and talking with the 2 workers there for a couple of hours. They were really nice and we practiced our Spanish while they worked on their English. Finally around 2 am we headed back to the hostel to go to sleep.

4/6
Planning Day and Korean Food in Bucaramanga
+ Very tired from the previous day, we slept in really late (maybe new trip record?) and then set out to go find a lunch spot.
+ Definitely the hardest time we’ve ever had finding something to eat due to it being in between lunch and dinner. We think Colombia might be a little like Spain where the stores and people might close up shop in the middle of the day for a siesta. We did find a fast food place open in the mall, but it had prices so high even Americans would scoff. So we said no to that place and continued the search/tour of the city. Despite passing hundreds of stores and businesses, there wasn’t one local restaurant open for food (only drinks).
+ After an hour, we finally stumbled onto a Korean restaurant that, despite not having any other customers, was indeed open! Our stomachs rejoiced! The food portions were absurdly humongous (the platters took up our whole table!) and only cost $5/person! We stuffed ourselves and still had enough leftovers for 2 more meals!
+ With our leftovers in hand we went to Liz’s new favorite store, Exito. It’s like a mini Walmart and offers nearly everything. There, she went shopping while Corey updated the Evernote blog. We finally were able to purchase some things we needed that had been accumulating on an ever growing list for a few weeks.
+ Back at the hostel, we tried to work on some tax and flight stuff, but the Internet was frequently cutting in and out.
+ Eventually around 11:30, we headed back out to the Wok restaurant again to meet up with Matt as well as Howard, and Janie (our 2 new South American friends). We spent another 2 hours just hanging out and talking about funny things. For example if men say anything negative/mean/degrading to women in Colombia, it is socially acceptable for the women to throw plates, shoes, or anything else within reach at the men’s heads!
+ We wanted to stay longer, but still had work to do so we headed back to the hostel. Unfortunately the wifi had not improved and we spent the rest of the night becoming frustrated at our lack of productivity and efficiency.

4/7
The Nest Hostel and Dinner with Argentinian Couple
+ After waking up, we packed up and checked out then ate some of the leftovers from the day before for brunch (still didn’t finish them!)
+ Started to work online when the power went out so we ended up moving down the street to an Internet cafe. Worked about 2 hours there doing taxes and preparing documents for the travel insurance on the camera.
+ Then we had to leave to catch a cab with some other people from Kasa Guane to our next destination: The Nest Hostel and Fly Site! This is where we were going to go paragliding! The bus drove us all straight to a launch site but after waiting around for a while, the weather was only getting worse so the instructors deemed it unsafe and canceled the flying.
+ During that time we got to know the 2 other girls who came with us from Kasa Guane, Ashley and Brianna. They were really nice and from Chicago, visiting Colombia for 10 days. Plus we all got a free ride up the mountain and some fantastic views of the city!
+ So we said goodbye to them when we were dropped off at our hostel and they continued back into Bucaramanga. Our room was perched right on a cliff and had incredible views and much to our delight, a nice cool breeze too.
+ After some time relaxing at the hostel we went down the street for our dinner appointment (yes, this was especially scheduled only for us) at this older couple’s house/restaurant. There was no menu, they simply asked if we liked meat, we said Si, then about 20 minutes later they plopped down the 2 biggest steaks we had ever seen in front of us! Plus potatoes, plantains, and a big salad too!
+ The couple joined us for dinner (although their steaks were half the size of ours!) and we sat around speaking Spanish/miming for about 90 minutes. They were very friendly people and talked about how they had 53 animals on their property, ranging from different kinds of birds, parrots, dogs + cats, chickens + roosters, and larger livestock too. It was definitely a unique and authentic Colombian experience!
+ When we had stuffed ourselves silly and gotten the other half to go, the couple took us inside the house and showed us their home and the very pretty mosquito curtains the wife made (looked just like giant wedding dresses!) We eventuality said our goodbyes and walked 5 minutes back down the mountain to our hostel.
+ In our room, we were greeted by another fantastic view of the city at night!  So many lights of the city and so quiet up here on the mountain. Very cool.
+ Continued our recent nightly trend of working until the wee hours of the morning on flights and stuff, including making many wifi calls to airline companies. Although we were much more productive than previous nights, we still longed for the nights of relaxing watching movies. But that’s the difference between a vacation and long term travel.

4/8
Paragliding over Bucaramanga  and Bus to San Gil
+ Got to enjoy some free breakfast today, although by ourselves again. The only 2 other people staying here were students doing a 10 day Paragliding course offered by the hostel. Both The Nest and Kasa Guane were probably the 2 most empty hostels we’d been in on the trip. I guess getting off the tourist trail sometimes can be nice though, since we got a free room upgrade since no one else was gonna be using it!
+ After some more work with our Travel Insurance company and some of the leftovers from the night before, it was finally late enough in the day (when the wind gets strong enough) to go Paragliding!
+ At the Fly Site literally next door to the hostel, Liz was up first and got harnessed up with our American instructor from Alaska named Russell. After laying out the parachute/kite correctly, it caught some wind and just like that they were lifted off the ground! In just a matter of seconds they were both lifted up and away over the cliff side and over the towering drops below!
+ For 20 minutes they flew around, past mansions, 6 star hotels (didn’t know those existed), chicken farms, cow fields, a humongous waterfall, lots of vultures, and spectacular views of the city and distant mountains. Then they landed as graceful as a butterfly! Next up it was Corey’s turn and although he didn’t get as high or far (due to the weather changing to rainy and much less thermal winds) he still had a great time too and enjoyed his first ever Paragliding (or Parapente in Español) experience.
+ After another safe landing we paid our bill, grabbed the bags and caught a bus down the mountain to a gas station where we were given vague directions on what to do next.
+ We asked a passing bus driver if the bus was headed towards San Gil, he said yes, but after we got on we learned it was actually going the opposite direction to Central. So we made a quick exit ASAP, walked up the side of some small but steep cliff with all our stuff on, across a bridge, then caught a correct bus actually going to San Gil.
+ What we were told would be an hour and a half ride was actually about 3 and a half hours and most of the journey was after sunset. We did make it through most of the crazy twisting roads of the Chicamocha Canyon before dark however, which provided some impressive sights. Supposedly, it’s the 2nd deepest canyon in the world, behind only the Grand Canyon!
+ We were unfortunately stuck in the back of our overcrowded bus and therefore had to ensure some extra bumpy shoulder rubbing with very sweaty and smelly people!
+ When we finally arrived in San Gil, we were very relieved to regain our personal space and breathe some fresh air.
+ A taxi took us the remaining 5 minutes through the very hilly town to our hostel called Bacaregua. We checked in to find a religious ceremony going on in the courtyard, literally right outside our room. So not wanting to be rude and interrupt the ceremony, we waited in the room sweating 30 minutes for it to end, but to no avail. Finally the heat and our hunger outweighed the possibility of offending and we snuck out as quietly as possible.
+ Then went out to get a bite to eat at a popular restaurant called Gringo Mike’s. Corey couldn’t believe his eyes as the menu seemed almost catered to his liking. It had, among many other types of food, about 20 different burgers all with different spicy Chipotle, jalapeño or other sauces. And all for $5-7 including fries. After nearly memorizing the menu we ordered our unique concoctions and while waiting we drank some delicious $1 beer!
+ Stuffed, we walked back through the park/town square to our hostel and spent the rest of the night watching the Agro channel in Spanish on our cable TV. It was like a QVC chanel except for selling livestock. How funny!

Click here for more photos from Panama and more photos from Colombia!

Panama: 3/26 – 4/1

Santa Catalina >>> Valle de Anton >>> Panama City

3/26
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.

3/27 (Easter)
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!!!

3/28
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!

3/29
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.

 

3/30
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.

3/31
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!

4/1
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!

Panama: 3/19 – 3/25

Uvita >>> (Panama) David >>> Bocas del Toro >>> Santa Catalina

3/19
5 hour Panama Border Crossing!
+ Checked out of Flutterby. Said our goodbyes to Laura and caught a taxi to the bus station.
+ After the very confusing bus station with multiple rude staff members, we FINALLY boarded the bus to David and took the very last seats. Because we bought the ticket directly through the conductor and not the office, when Corey gave him money and asked for change, the guy simply said it was his propina (tip) and kept it all. Not wanting to get kicked off the bus, there was little we could do so we just boarded.
+ After an uneventful ride, we got off the bus and began the process to cross the border. We ended up being at the border for just about 5 hours! It would have probably been much longer if the bus driver had not kept taking groups of 2-3 of us up ahead and skipping a bunch of people!
+ After the border, our bus continued on for a quick 45 min to David.
+ The international fair of David was happening this weekend. Tonight was the grand finale- a horse parade! Citizens from David and the surrounding area parade through the streets on horseback! Apparently there are hundreds of horses!
+Our taxi driver was driving us through the remainders of this parade. There were people on horseback everywhere! And many of them were obviously drunk! Others were riding up to beer stands and buying a few brews without even getting off their horse! We were bummed we had missed the actual parade because even this was such a site to see!
+ We made small talk with our taxi driver and learned that even he owns two horses. And he thought it was preposterous that we asked what their names were. “They have no names.” (followed by a weird look)
+ Arrived and checked in to the dorm at Bambu Hostel. Our dorm had AC. It was glorious!
+ Spontaneously ate dinner with 3 other travelers from Stuttgart! Talked about what we learned about Germany from Laura and Marius (i.e. fressneit). Also talked about lego movie theme song. Hagen thinks all Americans always say how “everything is awesome” ! Lololol
+ Corey had fried fish and Patacones (squished plantain patties) for less that $4! Liz was adventurous and tried some octopus stew! It was delicious!

3/20
Rest and Planning Day in David
+ Checked out of dorm, moved into private room with AC and very small TV from the 90’s.
+ Spent early part of day checking email, talking to family/friends
+ Walked 15 minutes to town and ate lunch at Dairy Queen.
+ Stopped into the Super 99 grocery store and picked up some drinks and ramen for dinner that night.
+ Walked back to hostel and spent the rest of the day researching Panama and Colombia.

3/21
Rest and Planning Day in David
+ Corey woke up and watched a movie while Liz played on her phone.
+ We then spent most of the day planning our next moves and deciding which places we were and were not going to.
+ Booked accommodation for our upcoming places and researched flights to Colombia.
+ Watched Zoolander 2 and relaxed by the pool.
+ Ate dinner at the seafood restaurant across the street again. We both got the fish special and  an appetizer of fish ceviche. They were both delicious and big portions for very cheap prices.
+ Spent the rest of the evening soaking up our last night of AC and watching our tiny TV.

3/22
Arrived in Bocas Del Toro
+ Woke up and checked out of our room, but had already missed the free breakfast.
+ Caught a taxi to the bus station and then the first shuttle bus headed towards Bocas Del Toro. On the 4 hour shuttle ride, we passed many interesting landscapes and little villages. Some little kid on the bus got sick and threw up in the van, but luckily it wasn’t near us.
+ During the ride, we watched Trumbo and then Corey watched Beasts of No Nation. Liz skipped that one so she didn’t get more car sick and end up like the little kid from earlier.
+ When we arrived to the town of Almirante, we got off the bus only to find that our bags on top were never covered and the rain through the mountains got them soaking wet.
+ No time to linger however as we were quickly ushered into the first taxi and driven to one of the boat docks. After 10 minutes we loaded up, strapped on our life jackets, said a prayer we weren’t going to need them, then started our 25 min journey over to the main island called Bocas Town.
+ Checked in to South Beach Hostel and then headed for an early dinner since we had skipped lunch.
+  Ate dinner and had a few drinks at happy hour. Then walked around town and talked to a few tour operators about tours or at least locations to snorkel tomorrow.
+ Ended the night at Bocas Brewery sampling their beers and playing ladderball.
+Corey tried to teach Liz how to do the Runningman. It was not a successful lesson. 🙂
+ Caught a taxi back to our hostel and did some more planning since Semana Santa is SO busy here in Panama.

3/23
Snorkeling at Blue Coconut with over-water hammocks
+ After leaving the hostel, we took a water taxi to Blue Coconut- a waterfront bar/restaurant of off Bastimentos. This bar had free snorkel gear and hammocks hanging in the water. It was a very cool place!
+ The snorkeling was good. Half coral/sponge and half sea grass bed near the mangroves. We saw tons of fish and sponges, free swimming jellyfish, lots of brittle stars, a skate, and a yellow sea horse!
+ Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the hammocks over the water and watching the owner’s dogs fetch sticks from the water over and over.
+ Ate street food for dinner and watched House of Cards before bed.

3/24 (Our 3 year anniversary! 😊)
Snorkeling at Hospital Point- cove all to ourselves
+ We moved to a new dorm (same hostel) yesterday that may be the smallest dorm we’ve ever seen! 4 beds, no windows, but it has AC!
+ Because there were no windows we slept soundly in our little AC box and woke up with no idea what time of day it was.
+ Turned in laundry, and then hired a water taxi out to snorkel Hospital Point.
+ Hospital Point was not the most amazing snorkeling we had ever done but it was still a nice cove with grassy cliffs we had almost completely to ourselves. It was definitely a nice place to spend the afternoon.
+ After we got back to the hostel and showered, we set off to find dinner. The power went off for the whole island shortly after we left the hostel. We ended up having a hodge podge dinner of street food, Liz’s leftover chicken sandwich, and ice cream with chocolate cake!
+ Back at the hostel, we checked out and packed up to leave on our long travel day tomorrow. We are traveling from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast!

3/25
Traveled 13 hours! From Carribean Coast to Pacific Coast of Panama
+ Woke up very early. Grabbed our clothes that had been hanging to dry only to find they had been soaked by rain overnight.
+ Left Bocas del Toro on the 630am boat. Little did we know this would be one of our longest travel days yet.
+ Almost 13 hours later we finally arrived in Santa Catalina. We took a total of 7 different vehicles to get here.
— Water taxi from Bocas to the mainland — Taxi to bus station
— Bus from Almirante to David
— Bus from David to Santiago
— Bus from Santiago to Sona
— Bus from Sona towards Santa Catalina but only part way
— Old, stinky beat up SUV the rest of the way into town to our hostel- Jammin Hostel
+ Needless to say, it was an exhausting day.
+ After we checked into our hostel  (which is also a pizzeria) we ordered a cold drink and some pizza!
+ In the middle of dinner, the power went out for the whole town. Corey and I had a lot of things to do online, but unfortunately the power never came back on before bed.
+ Instead we watched Parks and Rec in the moonlight outside our dorm room.
+ There are multiple kittens here running around and wrestling with each other. One of them very much reminds us of Tumbles. He is super playful and also likes attention.
+ Still no power, so we settled in for another hot sweaty night in our dorm beds.

Click here for more photos from our time in Panama!