Yet more fun in the sun

Trip Start Jan 23, 2007
Trip End Dec 24, 2007

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Flag of Panama  ,
Saturday, July 14, 2007

Another day, another beautiful Caribbean beach - its a tough life!

Got to Isla Colon in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro reasonably easily - 3 buses and a boat all connecting when we needed them too, although Sam tripping and nearly falling off the big bridge at the border crossing added a touch of drama!

The road from about 10km from the border, to the boat landing in Panama, went through an almost unbroken sea of banana palms. Save for the Chiquita company houses and hospital, there was just mile after mile of these palms, with each tree having a huge bunch of bananas covered in a large blue bag full of insecticide.

Sam was naturally interested in the processing plants, but unfortunately didn't get any photos to show you on an excruciatingly boring slide show evening later (phew!). As most of them were very 'open air', on account of the stifling heat, one could see everything that was going on in there as if you where watching some kind of banana factory promotional video!

Bunches of bananas were cut in the fields, then immediately hooked on to overhead conveyer belt which took them right into the plant. They were then quality sorted, with the bad ones being biffed, before being packed in boxes and loaded directly into a container, from where they were no doubt driven to wharf. It will be kind of weird seeing bananas in the fruit and vege aisle at home now (as we scurry through it to get to the alcohol and snacks) having seen where they are grown.

The town of Bocas del Toro was charming, with large veranda lined buildings lining the waterfront, and a really wide main street, despite there never being enough traffic of any sort requiring it to be that big! It was kind of the Caribbean charm we were expecting from Belize City.....

The first afternoon we had some lunch, before going back to our room and watching a kids movie on cable - we were just generally chuffed at ourselves for finding such good cheap accomodation!

Next day we intended to go on a snorkelling tour, but couldn't get our lazy selves out of bed on time, so spent a good part of the morning watching Bush give an update on the war in Iraq and field questions on CNN. Having seen so many out-takes of Seņor Bush being made to look like a complete bumbling idiot, we were actually pleasantly surprised to see him actually respond to questions quickly and effectively - just goes to show those damn unionised lefty journo's are sometimes as bad as Fox News (ok that's not quite true!!).

In the afternoon we went for a long, and sometimes very muddy, walk to a beach about 5km away. Didn't end up going for a swim despite the beautiful weather, as the water was either too shallow, too rough, too murky or hiding dangerous creatures - at one spot where we sitting discussing what we are going to do with ourselves over the next few years, Sam saw a stingray jump clear of the water a short way from shore!

Back in town we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner of blue cheese or chicken curry rolls, washed down with some of the local brew, sitting by the water - far more delicious and atmospheric than a restaurant dinner!

The next day we did actually manage to wake up on time for our 9.30 snorkelling tour. Our first stop was 'La Bahia del Dolfines', we motored around with about 10 other boats trying to see a dolphin - not very tranquil at all - we felt like a pack of dogs after the fox.....

When we finally did see one, it seemed our driver was trying to motor around in front of it in an attempt to cut it off! However, our revulsion at this animal taunting turned to joy when we realised the driver was creating a circular wake which the dolphin started cavorting in - leaping around and leaving bubble trails where its fin grazed the surface of the water under the waves. This was repeated several times with the same result - it seems this youngster was addicted to wake surfing, and just couldn't refuse the chance to have fun!

We zoomed off to the next stop after about 10 minutes of this, and were soon snorkelling in the clear waters over vast areas of colourful coral. Unfortunately it was pretty overcast, so we didn't get the brilliant blaze of colours underwater like we did in Belize, but it was beautiful just the same.

At the lunch stop, we admired/felt sorry for a nurse shark and big groper kept in pens for our viewing pleasure - at least they were penned in the open sea, but their quarters were a bit cramped. While we lazed on the dock, the cheerful American father on our tour did a spot of fishing. Clearly he was a bit of a pro, because he only had his lure in the water for about 30 seconds before he was reeling in a small Barracuda!

In fact he was a bit of character all round - his running commentary of events was pretty annoying (I'm sure you've all met someone like this), as he pointed every little thing to anybody who was in earshot, and told endless fishing stories about various species he had caught on his boat off the coast of Florida. However, after a while his enthusiasm for everything was a real tonic - when he saw the dolphin jumping in the wake he was full of 'Wow - look at that', 'Look at him go!', 'Nice job Captain!!', despite having seen dolphins numerous times before.

After this we motored around to a nearby island, and after a quick bush walk, where we were shown some tiny orange frogs, we headed over to the beach on the other side of the island and went for a swim.
Sam body-surfed in the waves for a good hour and a half despite the huge amount of seaweed present - he was to pay for this later with an aching back and speedos full of seaweed (very itchy he can inform you).

Our last stop was at 'Hospital point', a spot where the banana companies had a hospital for isolating Malaria and yellow fever patients before it was discovered that transmission was by mosquitos in the early twentieth century - it closed very shortly afterwards....

The snorkelling here wasn't as special, but was still good - big brain corals, and hundreds of fish in every direction. We returned back to Bocas shortly afterwards - enjoying the same dinner as the night before, at a spot by the wharves.

It will be sad to leave the Caribbean after the last 10 days - sniff! This section of the trip is definitely rapidly drawing to a close!
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