Panama Pacific Style, Sailing Away...

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Thursday, March 8, 2007

There is much less info on Boca Brava and much less tourist infrastructure than Boca del Toro. You take a bus south from David to Horoncitos, and then a taxi down to Boca Chica along a rough unpaved road. A privately owned collectivo used to service this route until it broke down, so now the locals are also held to ransom and pay $15 dollars for the ride.

Boca Chica is a tiny place on a river estuary with a couple of hotels, and the small island of Boca Brava lies just across the channel. It seems a very peaceful place with the locals in their fishing boats and a few foreign owned yachts moored near the shore. We meet Mitch, owner of one of the moored yachts and his son Brian. They give us some good information on the area and also try to soft-sell a cruise with them. Both musicians, Mitch offers to drop off a guitar to the island for me later.

Frank is an aging Austrian hippy who married a local in the 70's. They run the only budget hotel on Boca Brava and to their credit, provide good value accomodation and fresh seafood. The island itself is tree-covered with a few quiet stony beaches and at least one family of howler monkeys that lounge in the trees near the hotel in the late afternoon. I was also excited to see an armadillo around midnight, so much so that I dragged Anna out of her sleep to see it.

We pass a couple of peaceful days walking round the island, swimming in the warm waters, me playing guitar, and watching the giant frigate birds circling the local fishing boats.

Anna and I make a last minute decision to take Mitch up on his offer of a couple of nights on the yacht cruising around the national park. This proves to be one of the best decisions of our journey.

The following days we are in paradise. Here are some of the highlights:

* Watching dolphins in the bow wave, sting rays leaping out of the water, and yellow seasnakes pulsing through the waves.
* Catching tuna from the yacht and having the freshest sushimi in the world.
* Snorkelling over coral reefs in the middle of the ocean.
* Spearfishing reef fish (outside the park of course) - ceviche for lunch (pieces of raw fish in lemon and lime juice, a little chile, and spring onion) and grilled fish for dinner.
* Solo diving with a hookah (without BCD) around a pinnacle rising off the seabed.
* Swimming in warm, blue, pristine waters to small sandy beaches teeming with orange coconut crabs and other crustaceans.
* Meeting the whole family and seeing them operate together - Mitch, Vicky, Brian and Ethan.
* Listening to some great music - the family live on the boat for 7 months of the year, and tour the US as the Roe Family Band for the remainder, performing bluegrass music. Brian is a prodigy bluegrass guitar player, Ethan a mountain dulcimer player, Vicky takes bass and Mitch, rhythm guitar. Think Brady Bunch meets Dixie Chicks.

We got along with Mitch and Vicky well. Mitch has an attitude towards what he referred to as "glitter" - the money, materialism and self promotion of western society - from which he tries to insulate his boys.

In the end Mitch gives us a lift back to David in his noisy aging Saab. From there we're able to catch a bus to Panama City.
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