So, Lost and Found.
After a 2-hour bus ride through the mountains I got of at the Lost and Found sign in the middle of nowhere.
With my backpack and two full bags of groceries, the 15-minute hike to the lodge felt slightly longer, not helped by the “encouraging” signs on the way; “halfway there – good job”, “take a rest and enjoy the view”, “last big climb before the top” etc.
But when I finally got there, the view was breathtaking.
When I arrived at the hostel I met Elwood, Sarah and Cameron; Elwood and Sarah I knew from Mamallenas hostel in Panama City, and I met Cameron in Bocas del Toro. I spent the first night just chilling and having a couple of beers at the bar.
The next day I spent with Ben, Anna, Adamo, Mike and Tyler. We spent they day hiking to the Mirador at the top of the mountain, the Bearded Tree and the river. The hike took around 4-5 hours and left us with just enough energy to prepare dinner and go to the bar.
The next day I was dead tired from the night before and chose not to hike. Instead I just chilled in the hammock with a book all day. I shot this photo while I was having my morning coffee. There are tons of hummingbirds coming everyday to drink the nectar at the hostel.
The next day, me and 10 other people from the hostel went to a small town to shop some groceries and jump in the canyon nearby.
The bus turned out to be full, but we got picked up by two friendly truck drivers that had space for us in the cabins.
We spent the day just relaxing and swimming in the canyon while watching the reckless local kids make crazy jumps and nearly kill themselves.
We spent the evening in the bar; playing kings cup, foosball and Jenga.
I really enjoyed my time at Lost and Found; great people and spectacular surroundings.
Although Lost and Found is a great place to be, I wouldn’t want to spend more than 3-4 days there, as it would be too tedious.
I left the next day with 4 Canadian girls going to Bocas del Toro. After they got of in Almirante I took a cab to the border and crossed on foot. In the east, the Panamanian-Costa Rican boarder defined by a natural frontier; a large river with checkpoints and bridges connecting the two countries.
After going through immigration, I took a bus to Puerto Viejo and hitchhiked the last ten kilometers to Punta Uva, a small coastal town with less tourists than Puerto Viejo. I checked into Walaba Hostel; a nice little hostel only 50 meters from the beach. At the hostel I met three girls from Lost and Found, as well as a Danish girl travelling by herself.
The next day I spent on the beach with the girls and reading at the hostel. In the evening we met Tommy and Emma who just checked in, and we spent most of the night watching movies and chilling at the hostel.
Next morning we decided to go to the Jaguar Rescue Center; a small sanctuary dedicated to treating and releasing animals back into the wild.
It was not before then that I really started talking to Tommy and realised that he was Danish and living in Copenhagen.
The Jaguar Rescue Center was an amazing experience; during the 90 minute tour we were told stories of the fates of the individual animals in the center and experience some of the animals up close.
Playing with the baby monkeys was definitely the highlight of the tour.
We also encountered a very domesticated deer; it literally just came to us and started liking the salt of our legs.
Normally I strife to avoid guided tours and the like, but this center was truly a great experience that I would recommend to anyone.
After some nice relaxing days in Punta Uva, I continued my journey Thursday morning; taking the first bus to San José with Tommy. Tommy was going to the airport to pick up a friend from Denmark, and I bought a ticket to the next bus to Monteverde. I wanted to explore the area and get some food before taking the bus, but I only got 5 meters from the terminal before I got approached by a guy telling me that it was far to dangerous for a gringo with backpacks to walk alone in these parts of the city.
The man warning me told me that he had been robbed of all his belongings 3 weeks ago and asked if I could help him out with a meal. He showed me a diner close to the terminal and told me his story while we waited for the food. Apparently he came to Central America to DJ and live in Costa Rica, but shortly after he arrived he got jumped by some locals and lost everything. At the moment he was living off the street, waiting for a new credit card from the states to arrive. It was interesting to see how Raffi still managed to have a positive attitude and look on the bright side of life; although you could feel that he had a crisis of faith when it came to trusting others. After the short lunch he thanked me, we exchanged contact information and I hurried to catch the bus.
After a few hours in the bus, it became clear to me that the universe thanked my for my good deed by giving me food poisoning, reverse karma.
I met Caleb on the bus, a young guy from Colorado doing a 4-month study abroad program in Costa Rica. He asked me about my plans in Monteverde, and I told him that my sole motivation for going there was the 143 meter bungee jump. Apparently we had similar plans and we decided to do it together the following day.
Unfortunately my food poisoning proved to be way worse than expected, and while Caleb is out bungee jumping I am in the room unable to move, depleted of all energy. Hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow; zip lining and bungee jump awaits.
So, for the past week I have been volunteering at a beautiful villa in Colón. I have been doing fun and strenuous work, met many new people and have had a great time. But after a week I figured that it was time to move on and seek greener pastures. As I have planed nothing for the rest of the trip I decided to go to Panama City and see what happened. The Austrian couple; Thomas and Susi had told me of Santa Catalina, a laid back surfing village by the Pacific. Besides that, I had also been reading all sorts of great things about El Valle de Antón; a small city located in a lush environment in the crater of a giant extinct volcano.
I left the house early and arrived at Luna’s Castle in Panama City at around 3 pm. After checking in I went to my dorm and met my bunk bed partner Matt, a twenty something year old guy from the east coast of Canada. Shortly after two girls entered the dorm and said their hello’s. They were going out for lunch and Matt and I joined them; hostels are simply the best place to meet new people.
On the way to lunch I stumbled into Nisim – he hadn’t been able to go to Columbia yet, but stayed at hostel waiting for an open spot on a boat to Cartagena.
During lunch I learned that the girls were Astrid and Nicole; of Swiss origin but living and working respectively in Canada and London. They had both taken two weeks off work to travel around Panama. We spent most of the afternoon walking Ave Centrale, eating ice cream and people watching in a nice small plaza.
On the way back to the hostel we went past a kid with an Iguana on his head. I just took it for a toy and took no further notice until Astrid suddenly said “Wow, that’s a real Iguana”. I ran back, had to take that photograph.
The police in Panama City are more like a small army.Later we decided that rum would make the night a whole lot better. We got Flor de Caña and Coke at a small street shop, put it in the freezer and went to eat at the Coca Cola Café. After transforming the hostels table tennis into a beer pong arena and substituting beer with rum, the rest of the night was kind of a blur.
View from the hostel balcony at night.
The day before I had convinced the girls that they should go to Santa Catalina instead of Bocas del Toro. So at the moment I am lying in a hammock in El Valle de Antón, listening to music with the girls and drinking red wine. The valley is nothing short of spectacular and the cabin we have checked into is luxury compared to the hostel. We live at a family owned property; they have a monkey, a tucano and a talking parrot – heaven! Tomorrow we are going hiking to explore the area, bathe in the waterfalls, soak in the hot springs and visit the orchid garden, maybe roast some marshmallows at night. After that Santa Catalina and surfing awaits!
We met José at a restaurant in El Valle, a really happy 4-year old who played at the restaurant while his mother worked.
All the best