Bocas Del Toro – Day 7 : best birthday ever !

Today, we still wanted to go to the beach. But we had to take our time and do things the right way.

We started with a huge breakfast with pancakes, eggs and bacon, partly because here, a good english breakfast is easier to make than finding real bread. Since we didn’t go out of bed very early, we only started to move at the (very) end of the morning, towards Red Frog Beach, a bit further than the one we wanted to go to yesterday, but supposedly prettier. We didn’t make the same mistake as yesterday and took a boat, which left us on the closest pier from the beach, belonging to a hostel there, and the only one accessible to the public : all the other Red Frog piers are dedicated to the inhabitants and owners of the sailing ships and other boats docked here. We looked at the ships for a few minutes, they were so pretty, all painted and polished, swinging with the waves (you didn’t think they were poor-people yachts, did you ?)

Then we figured out something. Our Bastimentos island has the main village, Old Bank, where we sleep. Everything there seems a little makeshift but it’s all very nice. And then there is the marina area, with bourgeois and yachts, and the huge resort with a golf, villas and private beaches. It wasn’t obvious, but the wooden arch, piers in the mangrove and behind them, white gravel floor and perfectly tended grass made it very clear. We crossed the welcome desk and followed the “public beach” signs. There were a lot of other signs, telling us how and why care about the ecosystem, but we thought that it was a bit hypocritical, coming from a business that was building wide roads in the middle of the forest. Well yeah, we were passed several times by speeding golf carts on the (short) way to the beach. They were probably only going 15 kmph, but in the forest it’s so much cooler to make a big dust cloud in the curves… People on them were wearing towels with embroidered logos of the Red Frog Beach Club and guess what… we didn’t meet them on the public beach ! (Note : there aren’t any roads in Old Bank, just a paved way for pedestrians and cycles. The trucks and carts of the resort are the only motored vehicles on the island…)

The beach was beautiful, with finer sand than we had met until there, slightly retreated from the surrounding cliffs and forests, with turquoise water. The waves were reasonable but there was a red flag and a sign on how to get back to the beach if you got sucked in by rip waves, so we decided to just splash around and not go too far. It was perfect since the sand make a very soft slope, the water was warm and when it rained a few drops, it was even warmer than the air, and so salty that we could float around for ever without even moving. We were probably in there more than an hour an a half and it was like paradise. however, once out, we didn’t drag on too long, because the beach was infested with sandflies (see previous articles), flying in swarms like midges in Scotland (I don’t wish you to meet them either). So we plastered ourselves with sunscreen to prevent them from landing, but still packed our stuff and walked back to the boats.

Once back at the cabin, it was still early enough to skype some friends and families, and we took some time to rest before going to eat. Since we had something to celebrate, we had asked in advance to all-around-beloved-and-advised restaurant about lobster. Turns out they couldn’t fish one, but they asked around everywhere, being incredibly nice with us. Still, it’s better than to think about the disgusting fishing methods where you can fish anything and everything by scraping the bottom of the sea… So we ate other delicious things and the house cocktails were really interesting. We probably will remake some of them, including the one we had for dessert (choco banana with coffee liquor and rum… as much to eat as to drink !) Besides, the people around were really nice and we had a great time ! It was probably the nicest restaurant we have been to since we started traveling…

To conclude, it was the first time I could swim in the sea for my birthday, and it was nice… I don’t regret for a minute spending it here : you have to admit that Bocas Del Toro is an amazing region, and Bastimentos such a cool relaxing place, we could easily spend a few months here. We are now starting to be used to this feeling of excitement when leaving to discover new places mixed with disappointment of having to leave the wonderful places we were at… anyway, tomorrow morning, we will be on the road to Costa Rica and it will kick ass !

Kisses to y’all !

Note : these days, we don’t post many pictures. The sky is often cloudy and the light gray, or we tell you stuff that happens at night. In the day, we are sometimes too busy to take pictures, or we are scared to repeat ourselves. I promise, we will try to post more of them !

Bocas Del Toro – Day 6 : jungle and Bocas Town

Today, we wanted to go to the beach.

This is not the beach

So we went with flip-flops and a small bag for the so-called small walk to Wizard Beach, which is the nearest not-too-touristic beach. We were told it was around 20 minutes to get there, just on the other side of the hill, and that is was sometimes muddy on the way down.

This is the easy path, we took it on the way down (read further)

From the village, at first, it was all well signaled. Then it started to be less clear, but with last houses we could still ask for directions. Then it became a narrow path buried in the jungle, where, if you’re wearing flip-flops, you’re just a walking free-meal for every bug in the forest !

At the pass (well we have this notion of a pass with a view, but here in the forest, we couldn’t see much more than anywhere else…) we noticed that it was rapidly becoming very muddy. So we decided to redirect ourselves to a coffee shop higher up on the crest (again, this is not the Pyrénées, more like vegetation-covered hills) to ask them if we could go across.

Beer crates stairs

Since the coffee shop is one of the tourist attractions of the village, it is quite well signaled, with flower-shaped beacons made out of plastic bottles hanging from the trees. We also noted a good use for the plastic beer crates to make stairs in the muddy slopes.

At the coffee shop, up in the hill, we talked with a german expat (it’s quite interesting to hear the point of view of a stranger living here) and with another french couple (for some more linguistic gymnastics 😉 ). And of course, we drank a nice fresh fruit juice to cool ourselves.

We also discovered that, in order to go down to the beach, we should have better equipment (not flip-flops and beach towels…) and that walking sticks were apparently useful to lean on in deep mud. So we decided to go to the beach another day and to go back with a shorter trail from the coffee shop to the village, much better than the one we had seen on the way up (all the pictures are from this one, we were too busy hunting mosquitoes and other bugs to take pictures on the way up !)

In the end, even if we didn’t get to the beach, we discovered the jungle at the center of Bastimentos island, and saw the simple but very efficient construction of a rain-water collector (at the top of a hill, so you get pressure in the pipes). We also got a nice sea-view on the way down to the village before cooking and eating.

After that, we decided to do like the local people and rested. It was way too hot to do anything away from a fan anyway 😉 We also were visited again by these famous tiny local red frogs, probably really interested in the next episode of Fringe.

Late in the afternoon, we took a boat to Bocas Town, the main city of the archipelago (on the biggest island, Isla Colon). We were warned that it was very different from the small village of Old Bank on Bastimentos, and it was : the island is bigger, so is the city, but mainly, it is more organized and built up. There is a ferry, which also means roads and vehicles (Bastimentos only has a pedestrian cement-way along the sea-side village). There are many more big hotels (sometimes with 4 floors, amazing !) and even more tour operates. And they have real supermarkets instead of grocery stores (even if they are also owned by Chinese people here).

Bocas Town

Tonight is Halloween, so the party was slowly starting. We were impressed by the courage of tourists, going to great lengths to disguise themselves even when traveling.

We went to have some drinks by the sea, before caving in to the french restaurant next door (first french dining in 50 days of travels, second time eating bread that actually tastes like bread !). It was original and nice, with some tapas boards loaded with french-feeling stuff (and homemade bread !)

Yes, the pitcher of sangria was cheap !

We didn’t stay too late at the Halloween party, but still went to have a beer long enough to listen to an eclectic music band (clearly, it was organized late with the people found around) with a very diverse repertoire (Eurythmics, James Brown, Bob Marley and Amy Winehouse in a few minutes !). It was nice, though.

Here we are for today (well, for yesterday, because I was too lazy to write this when we got back late in the evening !). More news in the next post !

P.S : Today’s game : find the frog !

Easy Level (2 frogs) :

Harder Level (1 frog) :

Bocas del Toro – Day 5 : paperwork

Edito : Urgh ! We forgot to post last night ! Text was ready but just didn’t push the big red button… Sorry !

Today, we took care of boring stuff that had to be done, but interests no one. For example, we applied for ESTA, which is the authorization for entering US territory. It should be asked for as much in advance as possible, preferably before buying plane tickets, and costs 14$ per person.

It’s funny because now, we have biometric passports, we don’t need Visas anymore since are electronically trackable. But it wasn’t funny anymore, so they invented ESTA. That, or the American immigrations officers were jealous of all their colleague around the world who get kickbacks so they are making it official and payable online, please use banking cards or Paypal (by the way, well played Paypal for having become an official means of payment for the US government, Elon Musk is definitely in fashion these days).

We also did some laundry, informed ourselves about our next destinations (we’re past the half of the trip now), and did some accounting. Tonight we also ate in a nice restaurant, serving incredible fish, for example marinated in ginger and lemon with coco-fried veggies and coco-milk rice (coco is everywhere around here, but it also grows like a weed and fall on the floor when ripe, so really convenient !). If coco oil wasn’t so expensive in Europe, we should all start to use it more, cause it’s delicious, healthy and prevents the no-see-um from biting, these sandflies that bite your ankles and drink your blood, leaving your legs itchy and red.

On this charming note, see you tomorrow ! X

Bocas del Toro – Day 4 : adventure time!

Today, we got a lot to tell you guys !

Let’s go on an adventure

Well, the day didn’t exactly start as planned. We had met the tour guide yesterday to organize a day trip today starting at 10pm (well, apparently, it was supposed to be 10:30). But the guide only came around 11:30. Ok, it’s the Caribbean, we know everything takes time out here. And here you’re much better treated than on the Colombian coast (well, I guess the tourist coming here are richer and thus more demanding). The guide offered his apologies and a reason as to why he was late (and it was not because he was hungover!), and immediately told us the trip would last an hour longer to compensate for his lateness.

Old Bank

So we left our small village of Old Bank (on Bastimentos island, for those of you who don’t follow the blog regularly!) to go to sloth island. It was actually a good thing to start late as the sky started to clear up in the late morning, and the whole trip was done under great weather. To get to sloth island, we followed Bastimentos island and some other neighboring islands but also lots of mangroves. So we took the chance to shoot an awesome video for you guys (and for us, of course 😉 ). As you may notice, there is a small finger in a corner of the video at some point. That’s because Alice shot it lying on her stomach at the front of the ship, thus she had to hold on to her Smartphone to avoid any any unwanted immersion of the electronics (no, we’re not hipster enough to own a GoPro :p ).

On sloth island we found… sloths (you don’t say!). Well actually, our guide found sloths and showed them to us, because the sloths are actually very well camouflaged, as their color is very close to the trees they hang on to. So thanks to our guide, we managed to see a few of them.

Do you see the sloth ? This is the easy level!

So for those of you who like Discovery Channel, a sloth sleeps about 20hrs a day (now we feel much less shame about sleeping in in the morning!), but he also only comes down from his tree once a week to relieve himself (well, I guess with 4 stomachs and an average digesting time of a month, it’s never a very urgent problem 😉 ). Sloths also actually swims very well, although they only do it in the mating season and around their island, and not to go from island to island (I guess it would be too tiring for such a lazy animal :p ).

We then went near Hollywood beach, were like in Hollywood we saw lots of star…fishes! For those of you who didn’t know it’s not cool to take a starfish out of the water, even just for a selfie (it seems obvious, but some tourists are quite stupid). A starfish can survive outside of water only about 12 seconds. It will also die if you touch it (even underwater) with your hands carrying a bit of sunscreen. For us it wasn’t a problem, the water was shallow and very clear, so we could see them easily from the boat!

So yes, you can see stars even by day!

After this, we went near the Zapatillas island (the whole national park with a couple islands and most of Bastimentos is also called Zapatillas). There we did some amazing snorkeling, much more amazing than in Sapzurro. Well, the equipment here was much better, but also the corals were far more diverse and colored (I guess the water is less polluted here), and there was an amazing number of fishes, some shy and some less shy.

We didn’t take any picture while snorkeling, so instead here’s a beach 😉

Then we moved on to deep boarding (not sure this is the official name..). It was quick but very fun. You take only the mask, leave the snorkel, and hold on horizontally to some sort of half surf board that’s pulled by the boat through a rope. The board makes it easy to move beneath water and get up for some air from time to time. The only drawback was that if the boat is going a bit fast and your swimming suit is loose, it can quickly become naked deep boarding! Good  thing we had the tight swimming suits on today :).

After deep boarding, we landed on one of the two Zapatillas islands. The islands are quite nice although very small, with nice beaches around and a small forest inside with a wooden path. Most of the interesting stuff is found underwater around the island (where we saw lots of corals, fishes and even dolphins!).

The hammock spot of the restaurant

And then it was already mid-afternoon, so we were starving. We stopped by a restaurant on stilts build near a mangrove island (so the only access is by sea). We ate the traditional rice with a mix of octopus, squid, cuttlefish and shrimps with a beer (because it was all they had left 😉 ). And then it was nap time (well, we had done all the planned activities), so we laid back in the hammocks with a stunning view over the sea and the “human construction free” surroundings.

Life is sooo hard!

Once back in Old Bank, after a quick wash up at our hostel, we went for a walk just in time to watch the sunset. Even though the sun itself was hidden behind clouds, it created amazing colors over the clouds above the very calm sea (here too, the island are protected by a coral reef).


Bocas del Toro – Day 3 : snorkels and frogs

Today, we were set to go on an excursion ! But we didn’t anticipate how long it would be to find people and talk to them about itineraries and prices : people around here are relaxed, so very relaxed…

So we took information here and there all morning, looked for a snorkeling guide who, in fact, went back to live in Germany a long time ago, met a diving instructor, and the certification + 2 immersions are tempting but expensive… We walked along the village and then ate. We finally found a nice local restaurant that is not too expensive (until now, we mostly ate at the cabin, considering the prices) so the dining room is on stilts, covered but open, on the sea, with view on the low-flying pelicans and some very tasty creole chicken. It was really nice.


We then walked outside the village to a place where the beach is big round rocks and the hostels are classier, so talk about their excursions, timetables, prices… Turns out they aren’t full enough these days to have reliable information (but at least they are trying !), and it’s true that we can feel the low-season vibe : there are few people everywhere, which is nice, but a lot of places are closed, which is less convenient. On the way back, we found 3 coconuts that looked approximately ripe so we went back for a snack !

We all know the legends of the guys opening and preparing a coconut with a machete in 10 seconds. We also know the stories of drill-accidents and other disasters. Well, we had a machete but no disaster and it took us a long while to get to the holy grail. We hear it’s very healthy and full of minerals, well, good ! Because with all the sport and sweat necessary to eat them, it wouldn’t be worth it otherwise ! Anyway, we could drink the water before opening them completely and get the flesh out, half of which went into piña coladas (are we in rum country or what ?) and the other half is in the fridge for tomorrow.

We then went to talk with a lancha pilot / tour operate, advised by our host, in the bar of another hostel in which we ate on our first night ! This guy isn’t stressed out either, and it was really hard to know how much we were going to pay – well it depends on how many people come – but no we can’t know how many will be there – it’s low season you know – but it’s not expensive either ! We will see tomorrow morning, but if all goes well, we’ll go around in a boat and see lots of stuff ! More about it tomorrow !

We didn’t tell you yet about the frogs ! On Bastimentos island, there is a rare species of tiny colorful frogs ! It’s the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, dangerous only when eaten. On Red Frog Beach, they are hard to spot despite the name of the place, but on the hillside, it’s another story ! We see a lot of them, and they are so cute ! We find them even better now that we know they make this sound we thought was done by crickets (you can hear it on the wikipedia page)

Last bonus, our cabin among the trees ! It’s not luxury design but still very nice to live in !

wp_20171028_16_49_37_rich_r wp_20171028_018_r

X, see you tomorrow !

Bocas del Toro – Day 2 : TV shows and cleaning

Today we did absolutely nothing!

Alright, it’s not true, we did do some stuff, but we also did watch a few episodes, so we don’t have much to tell. What we can tell you is that the local food stores are called “chinos”, and that indeed only Chinese people seem to own them.

So this morning we were at the Chinese to buy some food (because we didn’t have anything to eat for breakfast). As expected, prices are high (well, we’re on an island after all…). But there are also some traps! For example, we bought some pineapple marmalade, but actually couldn’t use it for breakfast. We didn’t see it at the shop, but the ingredients include vinegar, cloves and mustard, because it’s supposed to be used on roasted pork! And yes, we do think this is absolutely barbaric 😉.

Luckily, we also had bought some cornflakes, so we didn’t have to cook ourselves a pork roast for breakfast. We also bought a few basic items to cook easy meals, so that we won’t have to move our asses from our superb jungle cabin to eat.

This afternoon we managed to clean the kitchen, because the appliances date back to the fifties, but the place probably hadn’t seen a broom since then either! The task was a bit complicated because there was a power outage most of the afternoon, and we’re running on rain water here, so no power means no pump which means no water!

We were also distracted by some kids form the nearby school that came to get some of the very ripe cacao fruits that grow near our cabin. They were very nice, and at 11 years old they already natively speak their home dialect, but also fluently speak Spanish and are starting to have a reasonable English level. It does seem English is more taught here than in other places we’ve been. But I guess as the island mostly lives from foreign tourism, it does make sense.

Small drawing from Alice for those of you who don’t know the cacao fruit very well (only in French, sorry).

They did give us some of their findings, and we found out that it’s actually quite complicated to open the fruits with your hands to get to the beans. So of course, we cheated, we used our pocket knife 😉. The beans are currently drying, and we’ll roast them tomorrow and let you know how they taste!

Let’s hope they will taste good!

Well that’s all I guess. It’s raining now, so the water reserves are being replenished, and we’re eating on the roofed terrace from the cabin while enjoying a cold beer 😊.

See you tomorrow for more adventures!

Bocas del Toro – Day 1 : palm trees and ukulele

Here we are ! We have found our tropical island with turquoise water and wood houses ! Granted, we also have a party next door and a few mosquitoes, but nothing can ever be perfectly perfect, and we will feel very good here ! We can see the sea from the wifi-hammock space and we hear the frogs from our room, which is inexpensive and still has, hold your pants, a mosquito net, a fan and a multi-socket !

We started this morning by a last breakfast in the common space of our forest-hostel, talking with travelers and volunteers. This place was really super-nice and I think we’ll miss the company (and the themed evenings at the bar with ridiculously cheap cocktails).

So we took another bus with limited reliabiliy and we arrived at Almirante, main harbor of the Bocas del Toro archipelago.

Starting point in Almirante

From there, a lancha with a roof took us to the islands, and by this incredible coincidence the captain was at the front of the boat AND we were much less shaken by the waves than we were in the San Blas, and as a consequence, the ride was much nicer. Bocas-Town (capital of the archipelago, on Isla Colon) seems like a touristy and festive city, and since we won’t be sleeping there, we took another boat.

Seaside Bocas-Town

We arrived on Bastimentos islands around sunset-time and got to our hostel, in which we will stay for a week. The city is separated into two parts by the only street, along which you find only pedestrians and bikes, since there are no cars on this island. The lower part of town is at the edge or on the sea, and the higher part is in the forest, yes, landscape change pretty quickly around here ! All buildings are on stilts, and since tourism only developed recently and towards eco-tourism, you can only find rain-water and solar-power. For electricity, it’s hard to check for now, but every building has a few huge water tanks connected to the gutter-system, so we confirm about rain-water.

Our principal activities for next days will be tourism for one, like saying hello to corals and observe endemic endangered red frogs, and resting : we need to do laundry and maintenance of our stuff, but also needle-work, because our backpacks are getting old faster these days, and some craft and drawings would be welcome, it was complicated lately…

Forest is everywhere outside the city. Do you see how trees are all the same height ?

We also noticed that, even if we could find some cheap accommodations, it’s another story when it comes to eating. We arrived a bit late and found some tasty burgers, in a Belgian-owned hostel, but the prices were a bit discouraging, so we will try to cook ourselves, with what we have here, which isn’t much.

That’s all for tonight ! Kisses !

Chiriqui – Day 4 : Muddy Clues

Today, it stopped raining, but it’s still quite muddy around here!

And it’s still really foggy. We were eventually thinking about making a detour to Boquete, higher up in the mountains, because there a volcano you can climb on with a 360° view over both atlantic and pacific ocean.

But that’s only by clear sky days, and the weather around here isn’t going to improve in the next days, so we’ll probably jump directly to Bocas del Toro to tan our lazy asses on the beach 😉 . And we’re also already at half-trip, so we do need to get going.

This morning we managed to finish the Indiana Jones treasure hunt (good thing the last part was only on hostel grounds, because we were to lazy to do the uphill hike again :p). And as we’re so good, we won a free snack by deciphering the “ancient” petroglyph telling the story of the lost gold of the “Valle de la Mina”.

An ancient petroglyph

After a very British lunch (canned beans, sausages and eggs, we make do with what we have!), we did the Sherlock Holmes treasure hunt, based more on enigmas than hiking (so yes, we didn’t leave the hostel ground today!).

At one point we were stuck because one of the clue is hard to see without a black light, and apparently the black light has been “lost”. But as the clue is in the bar’s mezzanine, supposedly the reading place (more likely the shagging place), it’s more than likely that a black light up here is a bad idea (unless you’re a Jackson Pollock fan). So I guess the black light’s disappearance was no coincidence :p

One of the clues, but don’t tell the others !

We did manage to finish the hunt, so we did win a shot at the bar. As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been writing the last articles the next morning. This is mainly because we’re up at the bar every night, so we’re too lazy to write the articles afterwards 😉

So, that’s all for today. More news in the next post (we’ll try to write it tonight this time!).