Friday, 20 July 2012

Welcome to Panama!! ... slick border crossing plus Bocas del Toro ;-)


I need to return to Costa Rica for a moment because the border crossing is such a classic.

First is the crossing on the Costa Rican side.  One little skinny road and one very long bridge to Panama.  I think it's my turn to do the paper work and I left Kevin to watch the bikes.  Good news, ALL of the immigration and customs officials are on their hour long break.


Ugh!  The process takes long enough when you don't have to add an hour of downtime to it. Always a tricky issue really.  I would say if I could do border crossings my way, it would be first thing in the morning.  The down side to that is most border towns are the dirtiest and most dangerous for thieves.  So we opt to stay far enough away and get there when we get there, but that always seems to be during one, two or three hour breaks for lunch. Last night we were in our little hut on the beach in Puerto Viejo.  Having a look around this town, that was a good decision.  However, there has not been one office that staggers the workers so the process continues throughout they day.  They simply close down..... ;(


While waiting we think to find something to drink, but I found a starving dog instead.  So it was more about finding a place to buy food for the dog and keep it's attention so it stays around me long enough to know I am looking for food to feed her.

She loved the food, so I gave the big bag of remaining dog food to the owner of this cafe and begged and pleaded that anytime he sees this dog, to feed her.  I can only hope.


It's raining so much and even though I have a waterproof camera, there seems to always be drops of water on the lens.  The camera isn't built to have a lens protector of any kind.  So sorry for the blurry bits.  Even though it's my camera, Kevin kept it with him most of the day as I was either on a paperwork mission or dog feeding mission.


Finally the immigration process started again. After waiting in the long line of backpackers, we were free to cross the bridge.

This bridge is as slippery as they come.  It might as well have been ice. Kevin went first. He chose the middle, I chose the planks the big trucks use.  I'm not sure one choice was any better than the other.  There were big gaps in the wood, and the rushing river below.  These have always scared me.


He stopped to laugh about the choice he made, but it's not like we can get the bike over the railroad rails very easy, so he's going to have to stick with it.  He wanted me to go past him and he took my camera back again when I did.



I see now why he took my camera away from me.. he wanted to take pictures of himself... ha!

This is one slick and dodgey bridge!!!


Once we made it to the other side, I was soo sooo happy.



Now, we found the lovliest place to park in our new country of Panama and the document process begins for this side of the river!


Standing in line.. my favorite part.


Once we get up to the counter we realize why this line is especially slow.  The man behind the window is the one and only agent.


He is wearing a jean jacket that has Mickey Mouse on it from Disneyland in the United States.  The worst part?  He types with not two fingers like many I know, but one finger!!!!  He has one hand on the passport and one to type with. He is processing that entire line of people, entering their passport information with one dag gone finger!!  We are having such a day that we can't help but laugh about it.  We wondered which family member got him the job, as he certainly wasn't trained to be a typist!  Welcome to Panama!! ;-)


I carry copies of all the documents I own to prove who I am and I own my motorcycle.  But still!  It's not the copy they want.  They need the copy of the page within my passport that proves that Costa Rica just stamped me out.  A photocopy?  Who analyzes everyone's copy of a passport stamp each day.  I bet nobody.  So I have to go in to Panama illegally and find the grocery store that has a copy machine. I take Kevin's passport too and leave him to guard the bikes.  Can they not just put a photocopy shop next to the border!?   They'd make lots of money and it would be so convenient.. but Noooooooo....

Back to the office for customs (aduana), the boys wanted us to pay a fee equivalent of $5 USD.  We pulled the money out thinking it was a processing fee, but Kevin wanted a receipt.  The men wouldn't give a receipt.  Kevin said then he wasn't paying until you tell us what we are paying for and give us a receipt.  They argued for a while about it and then just told us to go without paying.. Good on ya, Kev!! ;-)

Eventually, we are FREEE!!




Now the plan is to go to Bocas del Toro, Panama.   We've been recommended to go here by several backpackers we've met along the way in Central America.

The goal is to get to Boca Town on the main island of Colon.  We parked the bikes in the best place we could find on the mainland to feel safe, and took a water taxi with enough gear to last 3 days.

Leaving the mainland of Panama

The Chiquita Banana Boat!


I am a worrier, and I think Kevin enjoyed taking a photo of me in super worry overload about leaving the bikes in a car yard.  It has a fence and gate and a couple Rottweiler's, so technically it should be fine.. Fingers crossed!


We arrive the island with no plans, and the first job is to find a hostel so we can drop the bags off and explore.





The octupus I just found in Kevin's photos from this day.  I'm not sure where he took it, inside the boat or a restroom.. But I thought it was cute...



We had a couple ideas.  There is supposedly a good hostel on another island, but we would have to move again. And then there is a Butterfly farm close by we were told not to miss.  It was a bit too late in the day to keep organizing things, so we opted for the Butterfly (In spanish is Mariposa) garden first. 


It's only a $2 water taxi ride in to the mangroves of this island paradise.


The attendant seems thoroughly joyed to see us!  It's a bit late in the day, no other visitors, and he was probably hoping he could shut it down.  Oh well, we're here now! ;-)

The majority of Mariposas in the farm are these gorgeous and very colorful butterflies called the Blue Morpho.  We find many of them feeding on banana.  I like this close-up Kevin took, how they evolve from a caterpillar to have such a cool wing design, I don't know.


The colors on the outside are impressive, but the blue on the inside of the wings are just brilliant! How does such color come 'naturally' in nature!  Absolute magic, but they only live about 30 days.

It was so hard to get a photo of one with the wings open.  I waited.. Kevin gave up.  Had my lens focused on that banana and surely a mariposa will land here any time now.  When I got this photo I ran jumping up and down to show Kevin, who had already left the enclosure.  "I got it, I got it!!"  Somebody was not as thrilled as I was, but he did warn me he'd be using it on his facebook page... and he did! The glory of sharing photos.. ;-)


There are a few more varieties of butterfly which I will quickly show below.


I called these the KTM butterflies..  of course!



The next day we made a big plan to explore more of the islands on a water taxi tour. We tried to work out how to have our own water taxi guy, but to keep cost down, we went with others.

We first saw the dolphins.  I love dolphins and this made me a bit sad.  There were heaps of water taxi's full of tourists.  Every time a dolphin would surface, all the taxi's would surround them for the guests to take photos.  It was full-on harrassment and I didn't like it.  But, I can only hope as I do.  The dolphins seem to be happy as they appear to play.


We leave the dolphin cove and head to another spot for snorkeling.  Kevin grabbed my underwater camera again, while I stayed on board for a while.


Kevin had heaps of photos of this little fish.  It's a bit blurry water here, but this fish became Kevin's best friend.  He told me all about this little guy staying with him the entire time. It was so curious and wouldn't leave him alone.


I just went for a little swim, no snorkel. Lovely photo Kev!  I forgot I had those sunglasses.  Gary found them in Mexico and gave them to me. They are Arnette's, which are supposedly good glasses but a bit too big for me.


But I got Kevin back for his lovely photo.. check out the mask face! ;-)))


One last stop is on another island and Red Frog Beach.



It appears a lot of tourists are keen to be on the same small beach.  After a couple of beers in the pub we set off to find a less crowded place.


And we did!  A perfect beach with not a soul on it but us. 'Pearfekt'...!





We were very late getting back to our water taxi group and embarrasingly got back on to the boat with several angry looking faces...  sorry!

It was a great day though, and I feel that even though we could stay longer, we got a lot out of the short time we were here.

Adios Boca Town!


Kevin is always taking self-photos of us both.  Anytime I try, it comes out bad, but here it is anyway.


 Gotta get rid of those sunglasses. ;-/


Back to the yard park in Admirante.  If you are coming this way on your bike, I would be happy to recommend this car park. I don't know the name but it's the only one across from the water taxi's.  The lady lives in the house, was super nice and accomodating in keeping our gear in her living room, while we went to Boca town.  Super high fences and guard dogs.

It is a very busy little yard and very tight.  So we found it easier to pull the bikes out to the street to pack up.


A local boy walking past was really really curious about the motorcycles.  You should have seen his face when I asked if he'd like to sit on it.  One proud future Panamanian motociclista!!!


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