Monday, May 26, 2014

Bocas del Toro

I can’t believe a whole month has passed already.  Time flies when you are not working and just sitting around doing nothing!!!
Well, after we left Shelter Bay Marina we spent 2 days anchored up the Rio Chagres.  Gorgeous wide river with jungle all around.  Very quiet with no one else around except a few researchers from the Smithsonian Research Center.  We took our boat all the way down to the damn which dams off the water for the canal.
 Then we did go exploring by dinghy into the jungle.  We heard howler monkeys but none were visible.  If you have never heard one, they roar like a lion.  Very loud and scary.  I would have called them Lion monkeys.  We ran into a whole nest of little black bats and saw some beautiful birds.  Unfortunately, we did not get to see Toucans, like our friends who had been there 2 days previous.

The damn at the end of the Rio Chiagres that creates Gatun Lake which is the longest part of the passage of the canal.

We are taking our dinghy in the jungle down the canus .  see our outboard

A nest of little black bats.  My head was right under them as we passed under the bridge.

So then we sailed for 2 days, stopping at islands at night to get to an area called Boca del Toro.  It is a huge archipelago of  islands right off the mainland of Panama, almost to the Costa Rica border.  It is a really cute tourist town, which has become very popular for backpackers.  There are lots of hostels, little local restaurants and gift shops.  Lots to do between surfing, beach stuff, aerial trams, music and parties at night etc.  It really caters to the young.  We had several boat projects to work on so went into Marina Carenero to get the jobs done.  Mary, who runs it is an SSCA cruising station host and was very excited to have us come in.  Together we planned the first ever SSCA GAM here on the island.
A not very good view of downtown Bocas Town.  Sort of looks like small town USA

As usual though you see those gift shops really unique to the Caribbean

Lots of hotels and hostels along the waterfront.  Again not the best of pictures
 After we got several projects done, we decided to go with friends: Jan and Bruce on Celtic Rover for a road trip to Costa Rica.  There is no real harbor for us to take our boat there on the Caribbean side so we took a bus to San Jose, the capital.  It took 2 water taxis and 2 buses and 6 hours to get there but Costa Rica is beautiful and so lush green with rainforest throughout the country.
 One funny  story where the joke was on us.  We got a taxi at the bus station in San Hose telling him we didn’t have any Colones (Costa Rica money).  He told us it would be $50,000 Colones to the hotel and he would take us to a bank machine on the way.  We stupidly let him know we did not understand the currency exchange.  Since we had just been in Colombia dealing with thousands of pesos to the dollar, we didn’t think much about the $50,000 colones.  After he left and we paid him, we talked to the hotel clerk who said it was suppose to be $5,000 colones.  We had paid him $93 for a 10 min taxi ride that should have been $10.  At least we could split the stupidity between the 2 couples.  Boy, did we learn quick.  I am sure he took the rest of the day off and went on vacation.
 We stayed at an old hotel  called Don Carlos, which  use to be the President’s house.  It was just full of Spanish décor, paints, mosaic tile, fountains, statures etc.  (see the pictures).  It is located in the old are of San Jose so we did a lot of walking around to see the parks, museums, old buildings etc.
One of the stain glass windows inside the hotel

Many of these types of statues throughout the hotel but this one greets you as you enter

There swimming pool.  The size on the wall says swim at your own risk, no lifeguard.  I would have trouble swimming one lap.  

View of the lobby.  The second floor window was actually our room overlooking the lobby

One of many mosaic walls throughout the hotel

Outside along the wall were all these paintings of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha

Small ones as well as large ones

I only took these pictures.  There were actually about 10 of these telling the story as we walked down the street

Check out the little red devil sitting on the roof of this house in San Jose

Here it is up close.

 We even went to the zoo.  It’s not very big but really had some exotic birds and animals that are native to the area.

Beautiful Macaws

Mating Parrots

Lonely toucan

Capuchin Monkeys all over the place, playing and showing off.  

He was really showing off, looking at us upside down

Another breed of monkey but not a howler.  They are black

 The next day we bused it up to La Selva, a world famous biological research center deep into the rainforest.  Researchers and universities around the world come there for tropical research projects.  We stayed overnight in a camp like atmosphere and then took a 3 hour tour with a guide through the jungle.  No his name was not Gilligan.  Anyway, our biggest surprise was about 8 howler monkeys with babies came out of the jungles and swung from the trees, putting on a regular show for us.  Unfortunately, I screwed up the settings on my camera and my pictures were not very good.  We saw lots of tiny red frogs that are extremely poisonous.  They are the size of a baby finger nail but their skin reeks with poison.  Tribes used to take the frogs and rub them on the ends of darts for spear hunting.  We had to be careful as they run across the paths that they didn’t touch us.  No open toed shoes for us. (see pictures)

Howler monkey but not a good shot.  They are very black

Jan and Bruce, our traveling buddies crossing the bridge at the campsite

The poisonous red frog

Ugly little white bats found under a huge leaf

We had a long bus ride back to Boca but had a wonderful time.  We would highly recommend Costa Rica and definitely Don Carlos hotel and La Selva.
Mary Robertson from the Marina Cay Carenero picked out 2 restaurants beside each other on the beach to have our SSCA Gam.    For those who don’t know it is the Seven Seas Cruising Association gathering for camaraderie and sharing of information for all the cruisers.  Harry and I have been doing these on all the big cruising areas throughout the Caribbean.  They are always lots of fun.  Well, we ended up with 35 people, a jam session with 3 cruisers who are musicians, playing guitars and bongos  and happy hour drinks all afternoon.  It had rained all morning but the sun came out for the afternoon making for a great party.  We raffled off a bunch of stuff from the marinas and actually acquired new members and renewing members.  So all went well.

Mary, looking very sociable at the registration table

The cruising musicians jamming

Cruisers socializing at the Gam
After that event we were doing boat projects to get ready for our next big passage- 610 NM to the Bay Islands of Honduras and then up the Rio Dulce for hurricane season.  The problem is the weather is not cooperating so here we sit with 2 other boats who are going with us.  We are all getting cabin fever with the non- stop raining.  We do go play dominoes with the other cruisers and walk around town a bit but I have actually run out of cleaning projects and Harry has run out of boat projects.  We are reading book after book.  He just took on a 1300 page Tom Clancy novel and is already more than half way through.
So I will send this out while we have internet and won’t write again until we are tucked away safely up the Rio Dulce River in Guatemala.

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