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South America 2015

Welcome to Paradise

PANAMA | Tuesday, 7 July 2015 | Views [187]

Woo hoo hoo, first dive together over the ship wreck.

Woo hoo hoo, first dive together over the ship wreck.

Welcome to Paradise !

 
The early morning shuttle to the border greeted us on South America time ( late ) and oversold. The sardine shuttle got us to the border and the 16 step process to get across the Costa Rica / Panama border began. Jorje nervous to see if the emergency passport was going to work. It took about an hour all up, filling in forms and paying money at little restaurants on both sides, walked ourselves and all our bags over the river, stamped and smiles we were now in Panama. Dodgy looking bloke with a wad of US dollars, who is apparently the official money exchanger into Panama, gave us a shit rate and smiled like he knew it and we moved on into another sardine shuttle heading to Bocas Del Toro.
 
Interesting fact about Panama, its currency is at parody with the US dollar at all times, this being the case, Panama has adopted the US dollar as its official currency, unless the transaction is below 1 dollar and it involves coins, the you use Panamanian Balboas. So to pay for something thats $1.50 you need to use 2 currencies. Weird but true ! And slightly confusing as none of the coins have a value on them, apparently you just know. 
 
We arrived at our water taxi, piled in, and headed for the islands, torrential rain had started and the boat broke down 3 times but we got there, mostly dry and so very ready to commence island life for a few days. Our Accommodation was called Panamanian Paradise and well, it was. The free welcome beers were a nice addition. We had our own apartment, free rental bikes ( the Blue Bullet and Driving Miss Daisy ) for the weekend and time to chill out. Mid afternoon we cycled into town to check the place out, sussed out some restaurants and bars and dive shops to see what the prices were like, ate dinner at one of the many places built over the water and sipped cocktails as the sun went down. Certainly felt like paradise.
 
The next day we slept in late ( its becoming a theme ) and caught a local bus to Starfish beach, about 45 mins away. You wouldn't have guessed it but at starfish beach there was starfish everywhere and a beach, also a few bars and restaurants on the sand and the greenest clearest water in an idyllic setting, spent the day swimming and tanning and drinking fresh juices. Yep still Paradise.
 
Sunday morning the excitement levels were high as Juanita was taking on her first ever scuba dive. All the prep work got done and we headed to the water to begin the training. Its fair to say that Juanita took a little bit of convincing that breathing underwater is a thing but after a few attempts it was all systems go and we descended to the ocean floor. Swimming past a ferry shipwreck, and lots of coral and fish. As soon as the dive ended Juanita wanted to go down again, the biggest smile and widest eyes discovering a whole new world. We took a break and filled with confidence, headed below the waves again, the visibility better on the second dive and all sorts a fish and marine life. After the adventure we had a celebratory cocktail with lunch then spent the afternoon in hammocks on the balcony of our apartment. Another tough day at the office.
 
Red Frog Beach was Mondays excursion, we slept in ( again ) and missed the morning but headed to a water taxi around lunch time. Its about a 20min boat road to red frog island, then a 10 minute walk through mangroves and jungle to red frog beach, and guess what ? Not a red frog in site ! Despite all the photos around town they are actually very rare and endangered. The fee to enter the park goes to a small group on the island who protect the habitat and sell over priced drinks on the beach. Sadly it also rained but it didn't live up to the hype. We headed home and spent the evening uploading photos and general internet-ing, had a rum on the balcony in a hammock and packed our bags, ready to hit Panama City on Tuesday.

 

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