8/18-8/23 Boquete, Panama

We had done a bit of research and decided that the best way to get a new digital camera (I donated the other one to Poseidon in Honduras) was to take a 4-hour bus ride to David. We figured if we were going to make the bus trip we might as well take a trip to Boquete. We had heard a lot about how beautiful Boquete was and were dying to check it out.

I’m all about public transportation, but this was the toughest public transportation experience of Ted’s, and by proximity of bus seating and our relationship status, my, life. We knew that our knees would be smooshed into the seat in front us. We’ve been in airplanes and realize our ginormousness. We did not know that the bus would stop every 1000 feet (a slight exaggeration but felt like it at the time), and that a bus of this particular size (about 30 feet long) could fit approximately 50 people and their luggage onto it. I don’t want you to envision a clown car, because there was nothing funny about this.

At one point on the bus ride home I had to sit sideways on the floor in between two large men as Ted kneeled on the floor with his armpits in some poor man’s face. Okay, I said there was nothing funny about this, but Ted and I were giggling the entire time we were on the floor at the absurdity of the situation. At another point, I got to sit shot gun- with three other people, and I was the only one facing the rest of the bus. I was in a makeshift seat and the stick shift was pressed against my back. It was a little awkward because the people in the row behind me were so close, and facing me, that if I would have extended my arm I would have touched a face (not an exaggeration). Okay, enough about the bus. It was inexpensive and an experience. Also, the countryside was absolutely beautiful. I counted three waterfalls on the way, and the bus climbed so high that my ears popped.

In David we were able to buy a new camera and caught a 45-minute bus to Boquete. As soon as we stepped off the bus the cold, fresh air made us both smile. We checked out a couple of hostels and then decided on staying at Hostel Mamallena. It was a great hostel. We dropped our stuff off in our room, walked around town, and picked up some 33 cent Panamas (local beer). We were pretty tired from our travels so we called it a night after eating at a Panamanian restaurant.

The next morning we overdosed on the hostel’s free pancakes and tea and headed out to hike the Quetzal Trail. We were told that a good portion of the trail was closed due to heavy rains, but that you could still hike an hour or two of the trail. The trail was amazingly beautiful. We had to remind ourselves to look up while hiking to try and spot a quetzal which is a rare and colorful bird. Parts of the trail were really muddy, so this was hard to do. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a quetzal. We heard that if you got a guide your chances of spotting a quetzal were far greater, but no guides would go to the trial because it was closed. Lucky for us, closed just meant muddy. No parts of the trail were actually blocked off or anything like that. There were no vendors or things of that sort and the only other people we saw were a couple of girls from our hostel and two older, locals who lived and worked on the trail.

After several hours of hiking and a shortage of signs telling us how far the end of the trail was, we started to get concerned about how far we were from the end of the trail. After much debate, we decided that we should turn around. We were losing sunlight and didn’t know if there was a town at the end. A town would mean we could find a way back to our hostel. No town meant a long hike back in the cold rain or in a mosquito-infested rainforest. The upside of our decision to turn back was that we got to hike the quetzal trail twice, once nice and dry and once in the rain. The downside of our decision was that as soon as we got back to the hostel we looked at a map and figured we were about 10 minutes away from the end of the trail and that there was a good-sized town at the end. Oh well. The trail was beautiful and a must do if you are ever in Boquete.

The next day it was raining, so we decided to skip a day of hiking and checked out some thrift stores and went on a coffee tour. There are several tours to chose from, but we picked a tour of Cafe Ruiz. We don’t usually do organized tours and Ted and I aren’t big coffee drinkers, but the process really intrigued us and Boquete is famous for its coffee. Our VIP tour (we were the only two willing to brave the rain) lasted about 4 hours and took us through the whole coffee process- a tour of the farm, processing plant, and distribution warehouse. Our guide was extremely knowledgable and fun. He had worked in the Boquete coffee industry since he was 10 years old. I’m so glad we took the tour. It was awesome, and I actually learned a ton.

That night we went out to a restaurant on the river, the name of which I can’t remember for the life of me, that had some of the best live music we have heard on this trip. The guitarist told us that he sometimes plays with another band in Bocas and that we should check them out. I’m writing this way after our trip to Boquete and we have seen his band play a bunch and we love them. The food at the restaurant was great. We talked to the owner for a bit, and he told us that all of the food on his menu is local. He even sold a mango beer brewed by a young guy we had met at our hostel the night before.

The next day we took the bus to Hostel Lost and Found. It is located in the rainforest and you have to hike to get to it. The view from the hostel is breathtaking and the weather was perfect. By perfect I mean that Ted could sit and eat breakfast without breaking a sweat. This doesn’t happen in Bocas. The air was so fresh and cool that I wanted to put it in a jar and take it to Bocas. We spent two days meeting new people and hiking around the property.

I loved Boquete and wasn’t ready to leave the perfect weather, but my thoughts were with the Salty Dog. Leaving the boat just feels…wrong. It is not at all like leaving a house when you go on vacation. I was so happy to see the Salty Dog floating and anchored where we left her when we got back. Thanks Con and Meg for watching Gimp and our boat while we were away!

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