We arrived in the area of Bocas del Toro after taking the freezing overnight bus from Panama City. Bocas del Toro is a collection of islands off the east coast of Panama. Most travellers and tourist head for the island of Colón which is home to Bocas town. All boats leave the mainland to Colón and from there you are able to catch boats to further islands. We had been recommended by Mads, who we had previously met in Boquete, to go to Bastimentos. Bastimentos is a much smaller island which has much less development and a more laid back atmosphere. We very easily navigated our way over to Bastimentos and settled down in Hostel Bastimentos. We walked around the area for a few minutes and were treated to the sight of a pig paddling in the water. We then stumbled across a restaurant which sold tradition Caribbean food. I accompanied my chicken and coconut rice with rum, when in Rome... After lunch we decided we would take a walk over to Red Frog beach. Red Frog beach is accessed by walking to the other side of the island to Wizard beach and then following the shore line until you stumble across Red Frog. We set of up the hill in our flip flops trying to find the start of the trail. We walked up to and then through a graveyard where we were pointed in the right direction by a couple of police men. With the correct trail in our sights we set off. We had a very early minor setback as I managed to trip over the barb wire that had been conveniently strung up about an inch of the ground and covered by grass. With a little moaning about my bleeding toe and a lot of sympathy I felt able to carry on the route. The walk we estimated would take about 20 minutes across the island to Wizard beach. About 10 minutes in to this walk we started to find the ground was getting very muddy and heavy underneath our flip flops. More worrying signs were to come when we saw abandoned single sandals pointing out of the mud and curious angles. Still we persevered and eventually stumbled across Wizard beach, muddy and exhausted. Wizard beach itself was a beautiful beach but rather than stay there we decided to continue on our journey to Red Frog. We walked right along the shore line, enjoying feeling the warm water and sand between our toes. This enjoyment was relatively short lived due to the shore line disappearing and turning in to a more rocky terrain. This would have been fine to walk along but unfortunately rock turned in to a muddy hill. We clambered over the muddy hill with our flips flops almost bursting apart as our feet twisted and turned at impossible angles as we climbed over the thick slick mud. We made it to Red Frog beach at around 4pm and found it to be much the same as Wizard beach. Having made such an effort it felt like a bit of an anticlimax. As we walked the length of the beach we came across an American woman. We happened to ask her what time the boats go back to the main town on Bastimentos. She informed us that, due to the length of our walk, we had either missed the last one or it was leaving very soon. We raced to the dock where we found no taxi boats waiting. Fortunately after a couple of minutes a group of people emerged who had booked a taxi to pick them up at 4.30pm, after Sue did a bit of sweet talking we found our way on to the boat for the short ride back to the Hostel. Once back at the hostel we settled down in a couple of hammocks to read our books and have a couple of sunset beers. As Sue got up to replenish the drinks she found Mads by the kitchen. He had made it over from Boquete to spend a couple of days on the island too. He had also organised a trip out on a non-tourist boat the following day. The deal was $30 for an all day trip and a cooler full of beer. Knowing we had a long day coming we took the evening fairly easy and got a relatively early night.
We were up early enough to have some breakfast before having to head off to the boat. We found Mads down by the grocery store stocking up on supplies with the owner of the boat. After rushing our breakfast we headed for the pier where we were officially introduced to Boy the driver. Once all safely on board the boat our first stop was to Dolphin Bay. Dolphin Bay is, fairly obviously, the place to go if you want to spot dolphins swimming in their own environment. We were extremely lucky to spot many dolphin swimming in the waves. The clicks of cameras were accompanied by plenty of 'ooohs and aaahs' as they leapt from the water and came close enough to us to almost touch. Our next stop was a jetty a short ride away where many local people went to enjoy the crystal waters. It was a little overcrowded for us so, as we had the luxury of no itinerary, we decided to move on to somewhere a little quieter. We headed for a nice quite beach where we primarily enjoyed swimming. We also happened to bump in to an American woman and her naked husband. There is not a lot I can say about that - it was a weird as it sounds, thankfully he was underwater and we weren't snorkelling. After this we headed to Red Frog beach where we hung out for a while swimming, I also tried to climb a coconut tree but was unsuccessful. I fell after reaching the grand height of about 18 inches. With the day coming to an end we visited one of Boys friends at his waterfront home. His friend had recently sold a large plot of land for $1.5m so was pretty flush with cash. He was in the process of building a large home on a quiet spot of Bastimentos. When we arrived he was with some friends sitting around drinking, we were welcomed with open arms and offered a beer. We stayed for about ¾ hour before making the trip round the island home. The trip was without doubt the best $30 we had spent so far (with deductions for the beer we drank!). The only downside was we didn't realise how burnt we were getting. All of us were sporting rather tasty sun burns as we went to bed that night and there was no improvement by the morning. In the morning Mads was heading back to Boquete and we decided to head to Colón, the main island. We stayed in Bocas town where we had an extremely quiet Sunday night. We wandered around the main town then headed back to our hostel where we both took sizeable chunks out of the remainder of our books. We went to bed early, partly in recovery from the last two days and party in preparation for the following days travel to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Our journey to Puerto Viejo was fairly straight forward apart from having a driver who tried to charge us more on arrival at the Border from Panama than we had negotiated on our departure. After a few minutes arguing the man we originally negotiated with turned up and was able to put the record straight. It was then just a case of crossing the border to Costa Rica and catching an onward bus to Puerto Viejo. Puerto Viejo was a nice little town, very much geared towards the surfer. It is not due to our inability surfing that we didn't explore much of the area, it was more due to the fact that we had resolved to go to the Galapagos Islands when we get to Ecuador and this needed organising. We spent two full days trying to organise a trip and then reroute our flights accordingly. We rerouted our flights in South America so that we flew in Guayaquil, Ecuador and then out of Rio De Janiero, Brazil. Our three nights and two days were therefore rather uneventful although we enjoyed the run of a hostel to ourselves with a kitchen and lovely dining area. After having spent a few days in Puerto Viejo is was time for us to head to San José for one night before leaving for Ecuador on our newly reorganised itinerary. We arrived in San José is pouring rain and quickly ran from our taxi to the hostel where we dripped all over the foyer floor whilst sorting out our room for the night. We went out for a bite to eat then had an early night as the next morning we had to be up at a reasonable hour to catch our flight via Miami.
We got to the airport without issue but little did we know about the issues we were going to face. Having rerouted our ticket we had to pay for the reissue fee at the airport ($120).On doing this the man behind the counter said the rest of our itinerary had been cancelled off apart from the rerouted flights. He accused the flight centre of having done this and after a quick phone call we found this to be absolutely untrue. You need not know the length of conversation and the other issues we came across, suffice to say he recitified the problem and issued all our new flights - or so we thought. Once boarded I checked the print out he had given us and noticed that one of our flights was missing completely from the itinerary - it was one of the flights that we had paid for with the rerouting fee. Obviously I was pretty unhappy but thought I could sort the problem out in Miami. In Miami we only had a small window of time to try and rectify the problem. Once we got to the AA desk we were told that the reason the flight was not issued was because we had gone over our mileage, this annoyed me greatly as I had specifically asked the question when rerouting and had been told at San José that there was not a problem in issuing the tickets. With no time to sort anything out and my annoyance increasing we had to catch our flight down to Guayaquil. On the flight, just to test my patience further, the vegetarian meal the gentleman in San José assured me had been requested had in fact not. Still, the good news was we were soon to be landing in South America for the second part of our adventure and very soon we would be exploring the Galapagos Islands. I will update you on all that very soon, and let you know how the flight situation pans out.