Guest blog post: Sebastian takes the Panamanian floor

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Kate noticed that there has been a lot of viewers in Switzerland, so she suggesred that I write the post about glorious Panamá. Unluckily I have to write about the Country where we confessed the most sins. The days around Christmas and New years where when we upturned all our efforts in abstaining from alcohol.
So we came into Panama on the 24th of January. We had the Fondue, the chocolate and the presents in our bags that my mum brought from home. The border was probably the coolest in the whole world and awakened a lot of good feelings when we crossed it. It is an old train bridge with wooden boards nailed onto it, so that you don’t fall between the gaps.
We arrived already in the afternoon in Bocas del Toro because we treated ourselves for once to a shuttle instead of a converted American schoolbus. A Panamanian guy called Johnny brought us to our hostel but as usual when you book a Hostel online you get disapointed (that’s why we normaly don’t!). But at Christmas you have no option to risk not having a bed on a tropical island. The light in the room wasn’t working and the ceiling had to be fixed. It took an hour until “the boy” had sorted it and we were able to enter our room.
Immediately we put our swimming gear on and took a collectivo to Bocas del Drago. The beach was nice but I started moaning and dreaming a bit that I’d once really love to see a beach like they have in the holiday brochures. We got around the corner of a resort and there it was, absolute paradise! It made it easily in my top 5 beaches I’ve ever been.
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The palms lean into the water, the white sandbank is no wider than 3 meters and behind it the green jungle starts. The sand is soft as silk and the water smooth and turquoise.We walked along the beach and watched the sunset before we headed back to the main town. As Kate was under the shower the hostel manager decided to put a new wardrobe in our room and install curtains. So “the boy” who wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer began working. He put the pole for the curtains so low that over 20cm of the lenght was touching the floor. The dust of the holes he drilled was all over our bed. Please don’t forget that Kate was at this point still under the shower metres away from the noisy drill.
Our traditional Swiss Christmas eve dinner was at least delicious. We ate the fondue and had a good bottle of red wine with it. After we opened our presents we went to Iguanabar. There we accidentally met my friend Valentina from home! We spent the rest of the evening in the sitting area which was open and on wooden stilts out in the sea. We dangled our feet in the water and drank the best beer so far we had on this trip, Balboa.
Christmas Day we started classy with peanut butter jelly toast, boiled ham, homemade cake and Mimosas. English folks might know this under the name bucks fizz. The only other hostel guest joined straight in when he saw us on the balcony. Together we took a watertaxi to Isla Carenero to the famous Aqualounge. The outside area was also on stilts and had an amazing trampoline and swings to jump directly into the water.
Back on our island we met two other guys who told us about a party at Estrella beach, the paradise beach we went the day before. One of the guys, Jordan, told us that he used to date one of the main characters in the series that we’re watching right now, Treme. Kate Googled his name the other day and found out that he was the producer of the Black Dahlia!
We grabbed some Balboas and took the collectivo. There were a lot of people there but I wouldn’t have called it a party as it was so relaxed. We sat in the sea and enjoyed life catching starfish. As we sat in the shallows there two men staring at us. When i asked them what’s wrong I got a curious answer. They questioned back to ask if I am a glasses model and if not, that I should become one. First I was a bit confused about that statement but when I realised that they really meant it I was quite flattered. Back in town we met my friend again for a Christmas dinner. The food wasn’t great, it took hours to be served but at least Valentina was good company.
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The next day we took a watertaxi to a beach at Hospital Point and spent our afternoon snorkeling once more on this trip. We both saw squid for the first time in their own environment. They are actually really cute with massive eyes.
We returned and were quite surprised that people had actually checked in at the hostel. The simple reason that this happened was just, that it was the only one with beds left. The rest of the island was fully booked. After we had cooked and eaten dinner we got to meet some funny people from the hostel. Three other Swissies were part of that too! We played drinking games together and discussed ways to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the States via carrier pigeon for hours. Way too late into the evening we decided to swim to the Aqualounge where there should have been a party. On the way to the pier we met Johnny again who really reminded us of Mr Chow from the Hangover. We dragged him along for the ride. There one of the group had to take the watertaxi to carry all our belongings. We found a volunteer who joined Johnny on the boat.
The distance between the two islands is no more than 120 meters. We swam under the stilts and got directly to the swings and the trampoline. There was not a single soul there, absolutely no party, but what happened there was unreal. All the six of us turned into children. We shouted and laughed when we used the trampoline and the swings. It was so loud that the night guard came. He put half of our group on a watertaxi. One of the Swissies, Kate and me jumped off the deck and swam directly to our island again. Unfortunately the other half of the party had our clothes and room keys. On Isla Colon we weren’t able to find anyone from the rest of the gang. We searched in clubs, the hostel and the park. The only guy we found was crazy Johnny on the dancefloor in Iguana bar. The people were staring at us because we were in our swimming costumes and wet from head to toe. He told us that everyone was there two minutes ago and that they went to another club. He wanted to bring us there. Naturally not a soul was in the other place too at this hour. Disappointed by Chow we got back to the hostel where everyone was waiting for us. They filled us in that they hadn’t been to any clubs and had left Johnny straight after the ferry…
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(The distance we swam!)
Next morning we had to check out because our room had been reserved. We tried to find a hostel all morning without any luck. There was absolutely nothing available due to the arriving NYE crowd. There was no ther way than leaving the island. So we went to Isla Bastimentos which has a completely different atmosphere. It’s relaxed and quiet. We tried paddle boarding that day and landed on another beautiful beach. Bocas del Toro really is paradise.
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Before we headed to Panama City we had a stop between Bocas and David in the rainforest. We heard about the Lost and Found Hostel with a funny treasure hunt there. It is NOT worth going there for the hunt as its just impossible to finish. They claim it to be around three hours. It took us already almost four just to get to clue number three out of seven. At one point we nearly gave up completely when a massive snake blocked our path. I poked it with a stick before we both ran away. At least they have Rocky the bear, but be warned the bunk beds are crazy, the top one is 4m high.
We arrived at 5 o’clock in the morning in Panama City. That’s the worst time you can wake up in a capital. Too late to find a hostel and too early to start the day. So we slept a few more hours in the terminal before being woken up by security. Then I called my friend Sebastian who is a good friend of my Costa Rican exchange brother Andres. He showed us a big part of the city. We slept at his house outside of the city centre. The next morning he brought us to the canal with all our stuff that security kindly looked after. The museum itself wasn’t too spectacular but the canal is an impressive construction.
We checked into a really cool hostel in the old town. It had a terace which was perfect for the upcoming fireworks that night. We prepared ourselves well for that night because it was new year’s eve. It was good fun to watch the fireworks and to celebrate with all the guests on the roof. We knew it wouldn’t top Christmas because that was just perfect but we had a great night out in a really cool club that was a derelict warehouse.
The next day when we went to downtown it was eerily cool. It’s tradition for Panamanian people to go to the beach on the first of January. This meant that the city was completely empty. It was like being in a ghost town. Our first meal for 2014 was McDonald’s. Not because that was our desire but because it was the only ‘restaurant’ open. It was just dead. Sometimes we walked for about ten minutes without seeing someone else. And that was right in the city centre! At least we had fun watching the police catching pregnant lizards and a crazy old man making meow noises in the park.
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We slept again at Sebastian’s that night and the next morning he drove us to the airport. We were sad to say goodbye to Sebas but really excited for the second half of our Journey. New year, new continent!

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