Time for some Adventure Activities

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Flag of Panama  ,
Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 1 - Transit
Caught the morning boat back to the mainland and just as it was pulling out of the dock I decided to rember that I had left my board shorts hanging on a clothes line located on the hostel balcony. Later found I had also left a pair if jocks. Had thought of taking them down the night before but wanted them to dry first. Even remember first thing in the morning but foolishly didnt go straight out and grab them before forgetting about them again. Lost to many damn things this trip and I especially like these board shorts.

At the dock planned to catch a minibus but ended up getting a taxi with another couple to the bus stop with the buses to David. Guy wanted $15 but ended up only playing $10 since I was sharing the cab and we were both heading in the same direction (they were going onto the border). cabi didnt see it that way. He rather saw it as getting to collect 2 fares in one trip and said I should have said something before getting in but beyond that did nothing. Guess he's going to charge the couple in the cab the full fare for the trip to the border even though their part of the trip really only started from the bus station.

Had a short wait for the bus to David and once there tried to look for the stop to San Jose but had no luck before I had to get on the chicken bus to Boquette. Nice ride through the country side to get out to Boquette but with lots of people.

Found town to be packed and later found that the anual fair (bit like the adelaide royal show) was on and lots of people from the countryside and around Panama were visiting town. Also found that the hostel I wanted to stay at was full. For that matter the next half dozen places I tried were also full. Would have had to have gone back to David if I hadnt been lucky enough to have been offered a bed on the pull out sofa by the owner of the first hostel I tried.

After dumping my bags wandered around town a bit which was packed and looked for a tour. Had planned to go white water rafting the next day but no groups were going so had to wait an extra day. Also found aplace offering rock climbing and was considering doing that.

Ended ip heading back up the valley for a view of the town which is enclosed by a number of mountains. Looks like a nice spot to hang out for a few days and for once the suns decided to come out. Considered going out to the fair and nightclub there but wasnt really in the mood so called it a night. Unfortunately could here the duff, duff, duff of the nightclub til 5am and since the hostel was by the main road the honks and loud engines of the buses every hour or so (running 24hrs a day on the weekend due to the fair).

Day 2 - Canopy Tour, Hot spring Caldero
Decided to head to the canopy tour place to see if I could get on a trip today. Ended rocking up just before a trip was about to head out and managed to join it. After a short ride in the back of a lorry, we reached the site, got kitted up and had a short intro to riding the cables. All in all seemed simple enough.

Had to sign a waiver (unlike other places in Central america) which once again shows the influence of americans in this part of the world. While talking to an american got into a discussion about safety and how some people (americans in particular) want to do adventure or risky activities but arent willing to take responsibility for their own actions. Cant see why you should be able to hold someone responsible for what you do unless there is some sort of neglect on the part of the provider. Unfortunately with the american sueing system being seen as a way of making fast money, people no longer seem to be willing to take responsibility for themselves.

Ended up heading down 13 cables run with the longest being somewhere between 400-500m. Some runs were slow while others were a bit faster. Even managed to get a half decent video of one run. Basic idea is to have one hand in front of the chest and one holding the cable behind you (arm fully stretched). You are then suppose to ride the line without spinning and grip the cable with the leather glove to slow yourself down. idea is to only squeeze the cable at the end of teh run before hitting the end of the cable.

On the first run didnt have much luck breaking at the end since cable was wet and the glove didnt stick much. Should be noted that on the faster runs there was an auto braking system connected to the cable. That is a rope was tied to some contraction on the cable that when pulled by a guide helped to slow the person on the cable down before they reached teh end of the cable.

Had some nice views along the way but given the short time spent the cables, there wasnt much time to enjoy them. Talking to some of the other guys on the tour who had been to Monteverde (which was were I had originally planned to do it before getting side tracked) I found out that these runs had been longer and slower so you could take in the view.

All in all most people seemed to get an adrenaline rush out of doing the runs whereas I, even on the fastest one, didnt. Guess it wasnt fast enough or maybe its the fact Im willing to trust the gear and myself enough that doing these sort of adventure things doesnt really give me the rush that it does for some other people. Guess I dont see any danger involved in taking a well calculated risk that has had safety taken into consideration.

Only half the day gone so decided to fork the money out and do the tour to the hot spring. Sat in a jeep with another couple and had  a short stop at a lookout overlooking a river and canyon. Seems like anice place for a hike. From here continued onto the falls but along the way came across a local rodeo. Not something I had expected to see. Ended up stopping for a look and saw some local cowboys lasoing bulls. On top of that saw how the horse around here is the local means of transport. It must be, otherwise why would anyone want to ride a horse wearing high heals.

Made it to the springs after a short walk from the track. These spring were basically a couple of holes in the ground surrounded by a rock wall and a few trees. Also extremely hot. Ended up soaking for a bit and then jumping into the nearby river. Found it to be an interesting sensation to have the cold water hit my skin while my core temperature was so hot. especially since I wasnt in the water long enough for my core to cool down to much and I seemed to heat right back up shortly after getting out.

On the way out came across a spider monkey who had been taken in by the family on whose land the hot spring popped up on. Monkey seemed to be use to people and pretty friendly. Especially when foo was being offered.

After getting back had a short wander around town but didnt do much else. Was also considering heading up the volcano but given I wanted to do the white ewater rafting, Decided i didnt hace the two day I needed (didnt feel like doing it in one) before i would have to head out to San Jose in order to catch my flight. Also found that the people who had planned to head out the next day for white water rafting had postponed their trip by a day and so I would have to wait an extra day if I wanted to do it.

Day 3 - Rock Climbing, Town Festival
Since the white water rafting trip I had originally planned to do today was postponed, I decided to try out the rock climbing I had been thinking about doing. Guy who did it was out for the morning but managed to organise something for the afternoon. Ended up just wandering up the road to a cafe that was up one end of the valley and tried the local coffee. Given it was Sunday, unfortunately had no chance of doing a cofee plantation tour.

Found out that the guy I was climbing with was the central american champion and sponsored by some climbing company to do climbing demos around the world in order to promote climbing and their climbing gear.

Climb site had an interestin rock formation with what seemed like horizontally curved square beems of stone stacked on top of each other to form a wall. One part was the side of the beams and the other was formed by the sqaure ends of them. Wall was good in that it had climbs of many different grads on it with the ones I did ranging from 6-8.

Prior to this had done indoor climbing once so had some idea with what was involved with belaying. Basically the guy climbed up to the top of the wall with the line which he secured and then came back down. I was then attached to the rope and he did the belaying.

Definately hard work trying to lift this body of mine up a wall. Not so bad when you can find both hand and foot hold to use as pivot and reference points but a lot of the time its hard to find both of these near enough to each other to make lifting myself up easy. Found that going up a vertical wall was not to bad. Bad part for me was trying to get past an over hang which forced my upper body to be further from the wall than the lower part. Guess my arms just dont like having to support all my body weight since they are not use to it.

In any climb the hardest part of a climb is known as the crux. Unfortunately on the first and most easiest climb this crux is right near the start and involves an overhang. Took me around 15 minutes to get past this first part and was wandering if I was going to spend my whole climbing time trying to just get past this one point which was so close to the ground. Thankfully once past this point the rest of the climb was easy.

Did about 5 more climbs up various parts of the wall and managed to get to the top four out of five times. Second climb was the only one I ended up giving up. The crux here was near the top and after 20 minutes was getting tired. Since I didnt feel like going down to rest and the climb all the way back up I ended up giving up and deciding to try another climb. Found I just didnt have the upper body strength to get myself past the overhang on this climb.

Third climb I also had trouble getting past the overhang. In this case though a bit of the wall next to the route had some tree branches growing there and I managed to get myself up a bit higher. From here I guess I cheated a bit since once I got up a bit higher I used the belaying rope to swing back to the route and the extra bit of hieght I had gained was enough to help me get past the crux and to the top.

Had similar experience with the last 3 climbs. I definately dont like the overhangs and I sort of wandered away from the predefined route in order to try and gain a bit of hieght before try to get over a crux. In these cases though I used just the rock wall rather than the rope to get myself up the wall. It should be noted though that I cant remember how many time I fell from the wall and had to be caught by the rope or just hung there resting.

Should be noted that during the fourth climb I tried climbing for 10 minutes than decided to stop and rest. Found after having a short break climbing up the first part of this climb became a lot easier so I'm hoping this means that with a bit of practice even the cruxes I had problems with all day would slowly get easier.

At the start of each climb the guy I was climbing with run up the wall to set the line. Definately easy climbs for him though he was saying that he uses opportunities like today to practice his climbing. At a couple of points he was even holding onto the wall and hanging out vertically from it. Also while I was resting he gave a few demo climbs for some locals wandering past who also gave climbing a bit of a try. He mentioned he did the demos in order to promote climbing as a sport in Panama.

All in all lots of fun climbing the wall even it was a bit tiring.

After getting back decided to should check out the fair. Given its a work day no where near as many people at the fair. Main attraction for the fair seems to be the flower display and the shops selling their wares. Also lots of food stalls around the place, as well as bars and the disco that had been pumping out the music a couple of night before. Given it was so quite decided not to hang around into the evening and called it a day.

Day 4 - White Water Rafting
Activity for my final day was white water rafting. Was told 7:15am was my pickup time but my pickup showed at 7am. Heard the horn but didnt think it was for me given the amount of traffic that seems to pass the hostel at all hours of the day and night so ended up missing my ride. After waiting 30 minutes decided to head to the tour office which ended up being a good idea since everyone else was there. If I hadnt decided to wander down I'm guessing no one would have shown to pick me up and I would have missed my trip.

Meet the other doing the trip and after getting the gear hoped on the minibus for the ride to the river. Along the way we picked up our guide.

While some of the guys found it exciting it was a bit tame for me with the exception of a few 3+ sections of the river which were fun. Should be noted though that even in these sections the guide who was controlling the rudder and so direction of the boat tended to pick some of the less challenging parts of these bits of the river.

While heading down river had some nice views of the nearby jungle and canyons. Took few photos but the problem with a waterproof camera is that it works OK in and out of the water but not in between. Unfortunatley get drops of water sticking to the lens of the camera which distorts the picture.

Also tried to take some video but this is hard when you have to paddle hard to avoid rocks or just move the boat in a given direction. Managed to get one good video and a bunch of others where the camera is bouncing around. Probably have enough footage with which to piece together a sort viseo that doesnt have to much crap.

As a result of my trying to video stuff and not paying attention to what was going on around me, I managed to get thrown out of the boat (hitting water caught on video) when the boat went up the side of a rock and push me up to a 45 degree angle. Unfortunately I also managed to knock the other person who was in the front of the boat out with me.

For me it was probably the most fun bit of the whole ride. Sort of drifted down past the rocks and swam across the current to reach the boat and shore. Unlike Nepal, guide hadnt explained what to do if you get out of the boat and I went down head first. Had forgotten that in actual fact you should go down feet first so that you can use you feet against any rocks you come against. Unfortuantley the guy I knocked out was a bit less relaxed about being in the water and a bit stressed. He managed to get hold of a rock but after yellling at him for a while we got him to let go and swim towards us. Ended up throwing a rope out to him and hauling him in.

Anyways. Lots of fun for me and wish I could of seen how I had gotten thrown out of the boat on video.

From here had a couple more interesting parts of the river before stopping on the riverside for lunch. We then continued on after a short break with another short stop at a riverside waterfall. Also before reaching the exit point managed to jump in the water (in the less rocky parts) and float in the current alongside the boat.

Also had learnt my lesson fron getting thrown and the next time the boat went up the side of a rock I managed to slide inside the boat so I wouldnt get thrown. Guess paying attention to whats going on helps.

After the river trip headed back to town along a road that gave a few nice views of town and didnt do much more than visit an internet cafe where I burnt some of my photos onto DVD, among other things.

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