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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Cold day in Bocas

PANAMA | Saturday, 13 November 2010 | Views [1041]

Today I was actually shivering! Despite the fact that I'm only 500 miles or so north of the Equator, I was cold! It was stormly out there in the islands that mean "mouth of the bull" in Spanish. As I got a bottle of water and some tasty papaya I was set to go on the "JAMPAN" tour. There was this drunk-high local who was causing trouble at the tour desk, but the owner's wife was a bit patient with him. Apparently he isn't so bad when he's "clean". Anyways, I wasn't ready to float around and wait on that, I was ready to see more! So far I've been to three islands in Bocas: Islas Colon, Caraneros, and Bastimentos. Today I would visit two more! As our boat crashed through the waves with a dark grey sky above us, we first visited Isla San Cristobal. Our guide told us that JAMPAN visits in support of the local school. The school has no windows, and you can see the chalkboard right through it. The classroom appears to have hardly anything other than desks. What's sad is the amount of rubbish I've seen lying around on some of these islands. Why am I in Panama and seeing Cheetos bags and Coca-Cola cans cluttered everywhere? What's worse is seeing batteries in the grass when it's raining. The other day I went to Isla Caraneros and there was garbage everywhere! After 15 minutes I was off that island, but San Cristobal is better, and is less visited than Caraneros and Bastimentos. As we cruised around the archipelago I was actually freezing! For awhile I was beginning to wonder if I was still in Panama! What made it even more bizarre was when we disembarked on the lovely Isla Pastores (Sheppard Island). There I saw buddhas; it looked a bit like something out of Japan or the Philippines. I'd better check my passport and make sure I'm still in Central America and not in Asia! When someone suggested that I pose in front of the buddha for a photo, I taught them that the rule with buddhas is that you don't pose in front of them for photos (taking photos of the buddha is okay though). However, the island is BEAUTIFUL!! Very different to every other island in Bocas! It's definitely the "Garden of Eden" of Bocas, if not Panama. As we walked through a light rain, we ate starfruit, and our guide cracked open a pod of cocoa beans. Whilst the beans are bitter, there's a milky sweet substance that tastes great. Passionfruit is the best fruit we tried! I've always thought the inside of passionfruit looks a bit like caviar. In complete awe of this little island I was admiring trees that were so big around! For those of you video gamers, one of these trees reminded me of the Great Deku Tree in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was really wet out but this island is so green and lush. What I needed though was a warm fire to sit near. It was cold enough that it was what I felt like after whale-watching in Iceland or after walking on a cold day in Invercargill. A little green and black frog caught my eye! The other day I saw some red frogs that were no bigger than my thumbnail. Frogs are among my favourite creatures, and I'm very thankful that I chose to visit Bocas because I've seen some beautiful frogs. I felt sad leaving Isla Pastores, but our next stop was pizza at an outdoor restaurant across the bay. Run by an Austrian couple, the restaurant has a great setting, and the pizza oven was a great place to warm up after being out at sea. The pizza must've taken only about two minutes to cook; it cooked lightning fast! And it tasted great! I'm far away from Italy but I've had some fabulous pizza out here! A mojito on top of that felt great on this un-Panama-like day. However, I have to be careful with drinking. Alcoholism is extremely rampant in my family, and I noticed the other night that I tend to act differently when I drink, so I'm going to going to learn to saving those already uncommon drinking occasions to rare occasions. The pizza was so delicious! The other day I had pizza at a restaurant called the Black Olive, on Isla Colon, and yesterday I had pizza at a little restaurant on Isla Bastimentos, and they've all been excellent! It'd be safe to assume that pizza is probably the most common/popular prepared food. Rice is the most frequently consumed food, but I'm guessing pizza is the most popular prepared food. Pizza has been around for thousands of years! And it's amazing that you can be in small towns (even in the U.S.) that don't even have a McDonald's, yet they have a pizza place or at least one place that has pizza on the menu. My favourite pizza is plain cheese, or "margherita" as it's often called. It has the colours of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella), and green (basil), and was named because a pizza of this type was served to Queen Margherita of Savoy when she visited Naples. There so much info on pizza that a book thicker than any Lonely Planet guide could be written about it. However, I'm in Panama, not Italy, and it's cold, not hot right now. Back to Panama. After our Italian feast by an Austrian couple, it was time for some Panamanian (not so weather-wise) snorkelling. As we cruised across the choppy waters underneath the grey sky, I was the only one ready to go snorkelling. Since there was a storm brewing, I couldn't really see much! It's not like the Great Barrier Reef where I can see 50 different colours of fish and 30 different types of coral. After swallowing some seawater, some juicy papaya and fresh water felt great. We went to one other area to go snorkelling but again, I was the only one to have a go, and I couldn't see much. After an exciting day, we headed back to Isla Colon. In total I've now visited five islands in the Bocas archipelago (Colon, Caraneros, Bastimentos, Cristobal, and Pastores) and Isla Pastores is definitely the most beautiful! Colon has the greatest vibe and nightlife, and Bastimentos is the quietest. When I headed back to Bastimentos after getting back to the dock, I went for a stroll and tried to figure out dinner. While I was tempted to get another tasty pizza, what I really wanted was some comida caribe! When in Rome, do as the Romans do....When in Panama, do as the Panamanians do. So I went to a restaurant that's built over the water and feasted on some fabulous fresh-caught fish marinated in garlic sauce with a side of beans, salad, and coconut rice. As I chatted with an expat named Joaquin as I endulged my sumptuous dinner, he invited me to his home for a cup of tea. Damn I've eaten really well out here! Joaquin is originally from Northern California and moved here about five years ago when he met his wife. He said he never thought he'd leave Northern California but he really loves it out here. Personally, I prefer the Corn Islands but Bocas del Toro is extremely special in its own right and I'd love to spend even more time out here! Eventually I walked slowly back to Hostal Bastimentos. When you're out here, you learn to walk slowly and not hurry! Tomorrow: Red Frog Beach!


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