We arrived to Carenero Marina early afternoon with a truck load.. slash that, I mean a boat load of crap that we purchased in David... 28 boxes in total. The breakdown ~ $80 for shipment, $20 for the boat taxi and help. . . But that's what it's like to provision here in Bocas town, Panama.
Info for those traveling to Panama
October 17th, 2011
Panama City, Panama
This is just as much for us (a record of events packed with useful information) as it is for those reading....
Here's what we've learned from our trip back to Panama.
Some Do's & Don'ts.
1- Day of departure:
Pack a sandwich in your carry on, bring a book and $2 CDN (toonie) for the cart.
2- Leaving T.O. International, arriving Panama, first stop-over Newark Liberty International, NJ, USA:
Don't arrive at the required 3 hours ahead as suggested by the airlines. After collecting your ticket, you directly enter US Customs. Once you've done that, you sit & wait. Eat the sandwich here or next stop (we took ours all the way to Newark and ate a late lunch).
3- Plane to Newark (50 minutes): Refreshments only.
4- Newark airport:
Don't buy duty-free liquor. Everything is cheaper in Panama City but in the San Blas you can only get rum, beer, box wine called Clos and sometimes vodka (buy Scotch for Steve).
5- Upon arrival to Panama City:
Follow the crowd through the airport (no-one seems to direct you) and line up for Immigration.. "Tourist" (don't mention the boat); just put down the name of your hotel in Panama and the complete time frame of your stay.
Next, you collect your bags and line up for Panama Customs. Your bags get scanned one more time. Once done, walk through to the street.
6- Getting a ride to your hotel:
The guys at the airport (with the vests on) will direct you to a van type cab. There are plenty of yellow cabs and other cars dropping people off and they will try to get you to go with them. We don't think that's a problem but I believe they are not supposed too. The guys with the vests are very adamant that you go with whom they suggest. We did, and cab fare $28US ($25-30 is normal). No tip.
7- Your hotel:
We arrived late. Don't be surprised if Panama looks like it's sleeping. When you arrive to your hotel, the baggage guy will take you to your room and do the regular routine..tip $1US is normal.
8- Stay at the Hotel Milan:
Just trust us! This is the best for your buck, safe and clean.
We've checked out Las Vegas & El Parador (we stayed here this trip) all on the same street, all ~$65.
The Costa Hotel is closer to the Albrook Airport (Air Panama) and we have stayed here too. It's a good location to get to Air Panama (next day, 6 am flight to the San blas). It was okay (carpet floors and an old, deteriorated bathroom) but it's not near the down town area and it's hard to find a place to eat. We ate at the hotel.. the free breakfast was top notch for Panama/US standard hotel breakfast fare but we did not like the dinner menu. The staff are great.
9- Getting next morning flight from Albrook Airport to the San Blas Islands:
Taxi should cost $2 to $5US. The Costa Hotel has free shuttle but only at certain times. Getting a taxi is easy, but if you want help the staff will call you one. Make arrangements the night before.
10- Air Panama:
~$39/person to get to the San Blas Islands. Bags: 25 lb. bag limit plus a purse and/or knapsack carry-on. The flight ~1 hour.
Sit back and enjoy the ride. We have only taken Air Panama from Bocas del Toro to Panama City (and we had a short stop in Costa Rica..unannounced). It's beautiful countryside views for a while and then clouds as you pass over the mountains.
*I would like to take the opportunity to thank Mum for getting out the bread in the morning and suggesting that we make ourselves a sandwich. Our plane was delayed and we enjoyed eating our sandwiches at 2:30 pm in Newark (after arriving at T.O. International at 10 am to fly for an hour). However, our connecting flight was also late, so our stop-over was reduced (our stay in Newark was only 2 hours instead of the original 4 hours).
So far, our trip to Panama has been great.
The weather sucks but rain is to be expected this time of year and it is living up to expectations. However, as you all know, Steve and I are not made of sugar and we are happy to be back in temperatures of 26 °C.
This photo is of our day's work (9 hours of shopping). The first truck load to be boxed and shipped (via another larger covered truck) to Bocas Town. Unfortunately we found out today, that this load will arrive before us... the truck left this afternoon. We called Toby (a Texas born X-Pat who helps cruisers out with this sort of thing) to remind her that she forgot to pick-up the stuff stashed at our hotel. Stuff we brought from Canada and stuff we purchased at another grocery... No worries. the next truck load will be shipped next Tuesday.
the Multi-National Cafe, right next door... cheap and muey bueno!
The next day was supposed to be a rest day but we ended up at a fabric store a short walk from the hotel where Marg impressed the owner with her knowledge of fabric and we purchased the Sunbrella canvas for our sun awnings. In the Caribbean it is wise to have a large sun block over the whole boat or you roast. After lunch we took the long walk up to a major shopping area. I prefer to walk if we can just to get a look at the city, unfortunately David has very little to recommend it for. It seems to be a dirty dilapidated place. But it does have the shops that we need and between the two large Home Depot style hardware stores we were able to tick off all our items on the hardware list. So with a full taxi and Spanish lessons from the friendly driver we arrived back at the hotel after a successful day.
Panama City to David
Our flight arrived in Panama City late Sunday night and we arrived at the hotel well after midnight, although we were tired we couldn't get to sleep until three am. After the complimentary breakfast at the hotel we walked a couple of blocks in the rain and decided to that it would be a waste of a day in Panama City and that we could rest in David. We took a taxi to the bus station and we were just in time for the 10am bus. It turned out to be the premium bus so it was a little more expensive at $15.25 each for the 8 hour trip. It was a beautiful, new double-decker highway bus and we were assigned seats in the top cabin. Since no one was sitting in the front, we soon moved there and sat over the driver with a panoramic view of Panama as it went by. We had a lunch break about half way at a bus stop which served cafeteria style food at very reasonable cost. The food was surprisingly good. We arrived in David about 5:30 which was nice because it was sill light out and grabbed one of the many taxi's at the station to the Hotel Castilla and after a good meal at the restaurant next door and a trip to the super market down the street for necessities (beer) we called it a night.
Hakuna Matata... We're good to go back to Bocas Del Toro, Panama!
We've decided to wait until after our Canadian Thanksgiving .. gotta get one more sweet cob of corn and fresh green beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, new potatoes, sugared yams, sausage stuffing, succulent turkey and one last piece of pumpkin pie!
Can't see them. Here's the close-up pic. of mum and baby monkey.
Bocas Del Toro (Bull’s Mouth)
Photo from Galivant.. monkey mum and baby in the trees..
Hope I'm not plagiarizing .. here is some info I gathered along the way..
Located 32km from the Costa Rican border, the Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro consists of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, Panama's oldest marine park. Bocas is Panama's principal tourist draw card and we found, while talking to many X-pats whom have lived here for the past 10 years, there have been quite a few changes and some wonder where it all went wrong. However, a fair measure of authenticity still remains even though there is the presence of development... mostly low key. We notice the absence of mega hotels and perhaps that has helped preserve the archipelago's idyllic beauty. Even the most developed of the islands, Isla Colon, has an appealingly slow way of life (avoiding a small stretch along the main street that follows the water front, full of salespeople flogging a reduced rate for a dive boat or a sail around the islands for a snorkel etc..). We have enjoyed the anchorage outside Bocas marina which is closest to town. It's not noisy at all except for the occasional band coming from a nearby restaurant. We have not gone to Isla Carenero yet, but it looks like it may be a lovely, peaceful haven... lying just across the bay from Bocas. It is there that we will leave Lion's Paw to visit Canada soon and i will write about that later. For now we are enjoying Bocas.. the not so big town.
All the joinery finished by hand with a little artistic flair using bamboo for kitchen pot lights, lamps and flower vases...
Let's talk a bit about living on the water.. We had a lot in common battling salt air and salt water (bolts rotting away), solar and wind power, batteries etc...
Michel's home was on stilts .. surprisingly no screens (no chitra's.. they stay in the mangroves..nice!). Unfortunately his thatched roof needed replacing after 2 years.. shelling out another $4000 US.. it is quite a job bringing in the fresh bundles, each frond has to be cut in half and folded.. etc..
A Warm Welcome to Bocas
Anchored of Bastimentos Cays, Michele came alongside to welcome us to Bocas Del Toro. He was originally from Montreal, lived in Florida for a number of years and at present, lived in a home nestled next to a mangrove island which he may or may not own.. long story.
just another nice photo taken along the way from Tobobe to Bocas..
June/10/2011, Tobobe, Panama
Tobobe is an isolated village on Peninsula Valiant, part of mainland Panama. There is no electricity or roads. The town is connected by a long well built concert side walk that runs the length of the village that is built along a bout a mile long stretch of shoreline. We walked the length of the sidewalk passing well kept houses built on stilts many constructed with board and baton. There was no garbage on the ground and the lots around the houses were landscaped with the grass and weeds cut short. It was great to see such a well organized village after all the dumpy towns we have been through. Finally people who don,t thing the ground is a garbage dump. Along the pathway where bread fruit, lime and banana trees As well as pineapples growing in a small plot. The trees seemed very communal.
We had been visited by young boys in there dug out canoes when we first arrived and had given then packs of Ritz Crackers. Most dry goods are sold here in perpotion sized packages so when you buy a large package of chips, cookies or crackers the contents are packaged in smaller portion like we buy for halloween. This is a great idea because with the humidity down here an open pack of chips would go soft within minuets. When we returned to the boat after our outing in town their where two canoes with women and baby's in them , Mrag practiced her Spanish then we gave them a package of powdered milk to get them to move on. Soon a man arrives in his canoe on his way home from work in the fields with his machete. We talk to him for a while and he is thrilled to death when we send him off with some Barracuda that we had caugte on the way in. At one point during the evening we had 6 canoes positioned of the boat. Luckily we finely realized that the didn't want anything from us and we were just the nights entertainment. They would drift off Lion's Paw staring and pointing and discussing what they saw some staying for over an hour. I guess we do the same when we are in their village but I hope we are more discreet. It was great to see them having fun and I hope we were more entertaining than some of the movies they make these days.
Fishermen huts on Isla Escoudo de Verges