A Travellerspoint blog

Panamá Ciudad

sunny 25 °C
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Paulo, a bloke from Saõ Paulo I had met in Santa Catalina, and I arrived in Panamá on Sunday afternoon. Paulo had to catch a flight and I took a taxi to the International Voyager Hotel, a lovely hostel in the heart of the new centre of Panamá. I got to know Skynnie and Stephan, two blokes from near to Cologne, the moment I arrived at the hostel. We sat down at the terrace on the 8th floor with a brilliant view over the new part of Panama with all its skyscrapers, played some guitar, well at least Skynnie did and sang a bit. Apparently, Skynnie knew quit some traditional songs and some gipsy music as well, which was of course lovely to hear again, as I am not carrying any i-pod, nor discman with me. A lot of Cerveza Panama flew, it was a lovely night, with the music, the warmth and the beautiful view, I felt at home straight away.
Next morning, it was time to go on exploring a bit and that is what I did! I wanted to go to the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal and for that I had to catch a bus at Plaza cinco de mayo. So, I caught the bus at Via España, near to our hostel and tought I would recognize the square when we would arrive there. As you guessed I did not and when we arrived at the final busstop after a while I realised that I had missed it and did the rest of the bus tour, asking the driver to warn me when to get of this time. Well, to look at it from the bright side, I had a lovely two-hour tour around the old part and the new part of Panama City for only ten dollar cents!
In the end I managed to catch the bus to the Miraflores Locks where there was just a couple of boats going through and it was really interesting to watch one of the technical wonders of the world from that close.

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The bus back took quite a while, too, in the evening traffic, but at least I had seen a good part of the city, from the bus, and the canal! The buses are so cool and kitchy, you cannot believe it. They are like American school buses but on the outside, they are all covered in flashy paintings, flickering lights and spoilers and on the inside, there are red lights, stickers saying Jesus is great and cheezy music playing at times.

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Next morning, I had planned a visit to the old city centre, Casco Viejo, but as it did not stop pooring down, I could only leave around 3 p.m. Despite Lonely Planet warnings and warnings of the hostal´s pesonnel, I did not find Casco Viejo a dodgy area, on the contrary. It is a nice part of the city with quite some beautiful old buildings and houses and with a good view on new Panamá from the beach. There is not a lot of tourits walking around, but there is loads of guards, so I did not feel unsafe for one second. I walked all the way back on the Avenida Central and Via España, which was a nice experience, very busy.

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On wednesday, in the morning I had a flighth to catch that would take me to Lima.

Hope you are all doing well!

Pura vida!

Posted by Gitan Jean 14:27 Archived in Panama Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Boquete y Santa Catalina

sunny 26 °C
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After a bit less than a week in Bocas, I felt like it was about time to move, cause I still had to do a lot and was running out of time again. So, early in the morning we took 2 boats and a bus to get to David where I said goodbye to Anna, Janina and Alexandra, the muchachas I was travelling with from San-José. They wanted to stay in David and make a daytrip to Boquete, a small village in the mountains. So, for the first time, I was travelling solo, but on the bus from David to Boquete I already met two nice Aussies, Jess and Jason. When we arrived in Boquete, we took a room together in a cool hostel owned by a crazy, but very friendly, hyperactive guy called Pancho. We went out eating in a typical Panamanian restaurant, for about two dollars, yep, pollo con arroz y frijoles. By the time we got back to the hospedaje, the girls had arrived, too, they did not find anything to stay in David so they decided to come to Boquete as well.
In the evening, I met Wladimir, a Russian guy who had planned on walking up the Barú volcano, the highest summit in Panama. I was thinking of doing that, too, but I read in the Lonely Planet that it is quite a though walk and that it is only for trained hikers, but I figured we could give it a try and see how far we would get. What I did not know then was that you have to leave around midnight to make it to the top in time for the sunrise. So, after about 20 minutes of sleep and a bit of shopping: bananas, biscuits, water etc., we took a taxi to the entrance of the Parque Nacional del Volcan Baru. Well, at least that was the plan. Unfortunately, the taxi driver did not even know the way to the entrance and tried to drop us of at some private houses saying aqui esta la entrada. Luckily, we did not believe him and than in the end he left us at some slope where it looked like it could be the entrance, but of course it was not. We walked up to see if it was the entrance and by the time we got back down, the taxi driver had disapeared, so a free taxi trip for us. Anyway, in the end, we found the entrance, after walking a few kilometres and hence we left half an hour later than planned. The hike was though, 15.5 kms and going up from 1600 meters to 3400 meters, but we made it after about 4 hours and 45 minutes. It was so quiet and dark on the way there, and there were so many stars, more than I have ever seen in my life. We arrived about half an hour before the sun rose and it was freezing up there, but the sky was clear so it was okay.

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Of course, by the time the sun really rose, the strong wind had moved some clouds to the volcano, so we could not see the sunrise in the end, nor could we have a glance at both oceans, so we decided to go back down. Again, we were walking in a nice tempo, until the last 6 or 7 kilometers when tiredness struck and the tempo dropped. The last kilometers were really though, but with sour legs and blisters on our feet, we fought against tiredness and made it back down just before 10 pm. Then, we had to wait for ages before we found a taxi and when we got in, I fell asleep immediately.

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Next day, well actually the same day, I did not do a lot. I slept from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm and than took a quiet walk in the village, still with sour legs and painfull feet. A good day to update my diary a bit, to relax in a rocking chair in the lovely garden and to socialise a bit. In the evening we all went to a nice Mexican restaurant, with the newly arrived Suzanne, the first person from Liechtenstein I ever met. Funny story, apparently she had a lot of problems to get into Panama, because the customs officers did not know of a country called Liechtenstein and were studying her passport for a long time before they let her in.
On friday, we all took the bus to David very early and then it was time to say goodbye, the Aussies and the three girls took the bus back to San-José and I took the bus to Santiago and than to Sona, where I had to wait for 2 hours, time to eat a lovely dish of local food for about $ 1.50 and write in my diary a bit, before the bus that took me to Santa Catalina arrived. Santa Catalina is very famous for its good swell and it attracts surfers from all over the world, mainly from the States but also from Brazil and other Latin American countries. As it is low-season now, the waves were quite okay, but not as big as I have seen them in videos. Santa Catalina is a very quiet, little village with a few restaurants, a few cabiñas, one bar with juke-box that closes at 22.00 pm, a little supermarket and a lot of beaches. I shared a room with Hayden, a bloke from New-Zealand, in Cabiñas Rolo. Rolo is the name of the friendly owner and very good surfer. All the pictures of him surfing that were hanging there made good proof. Santa Catalina is the village where I met the second person from Liechtenstein, Evelyne, only one day after having met the first one!

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Next day, Hayden and me went to check out the sand beach, that did not get as big waves as the rocky beach just next to the cabiñas does and we figured we could rent a surfboard and give it a go. Unfortunately, when we wanted to walk back to the cabiñas, it started pouring down and it did not stop raining until late in the afternoon when it was too late to catch the high tide waves. So, unfortunately no surfing for us. Just an afternoon reading and relaxing in a hamock. Next day, I had to move on to have some time left in Panama City.

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Posted by Gitan Jean 10:04 Archived in Panama Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bocas Del Toro

sunny 32 °C
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Buenas dias a todos!
Another breef bit about life in Latin America, from Panama this time. At 4.30 am friday morning, the 20th of october, I had to get up and say goodbye to my Tica mum and Tico dad. It was a bit awkward, because after breakfast and packing it was after 5 already and we were going to meet in San-Jose city centre at 5.30 to take the bus to the Panamanian border at 6.00 am. So I had to say goodbye and thank them for everything in a few seconds. Bueno, the trip was long, but nice. We followed the Carrabian coast and passed by Limon, Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. The latter two looked like very nice little villages which I will certainly visit next time I go to Costa Rica. When we got to the border in a little village called Sixaola, we had to get of the bus and walk our way into Panama, over a bridge. Fortunately, they did not ask us for any return tickets, we got in quite easily. I have heard stories about people having to buy a ticket back to Costa Rica, just to proof that they were going to leave Panama again. Then, we took the taxi to the boat and after a beautiful 40-minute boat trip, we finally arrived in Colon, the most touristic island of Bocas del Toro. It was lovely there, but there are a bit too many tourists. Next day, we rent bicycles and cycled our way over sand paths with puddles and mud. A few did not make it without falling, but it was good fun. In the end we arrived at Playa Bluff, which is a broad tropical beach. It is very beautiful and in the beginning, we were alone there.

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Next day, sunday, we took the boat to Bastimentos, another island of Bocas that has less tourists on it. We found a lovely little hostle, owned by a Sicilian, where it was so quiet and the view was wonderful. There were three hammocks on our terrace, brilliant for relaxing a bit. We walked our way to Playa Wizard, which was about 20 minutes from our hostel, on the other side of the island. Again, this was a lovely beach, it was a bit crowded though, as it was sunday, so there was a lot of locals playing football and volleyball and drinking.
On monday, we took a boat tour that took us to the most beautiful island I have ever seen. Zapatillas is a very little island and it looks better than any island you have ever seen in magazines, on television or in films. We walked all around it, took a long swim in the chrystal clear water and ate some fresh coconut before we were picked up by our taxi boat again to go snorkling. The snorkling was quite cool, too, a lot of fish I had never seen before, and seastars and reefs. To finish, we passed by Playa de las ranas rojas, Red frog beach, which was a bit of a disapointment, as we only had time to stay there for 40 minutes and it was not as beautiful as Playa Wizard, although it is much more popular among tourists.

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Tuesday was our last day in Bocas and we did not do much more than relaxing. We went to Playa Wizard again to take a swim, a walk, to lay in the sun and read, just relaxing. I went to search for a coconut as well, and found one. After a lot of time and hustle and a woonded finger, I finally managed to open it, and it was well worth the hustle.
Bueno, eso es todo. More to come soon.

Que les vayan bien. Pura vida.

Besos

Posted by Gitan Jean 05:47 Archived in Panama Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

San-Jose ultimo dia

rain 18 °C
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Buenas tardes a todos.

A final little bit about San-Jose, because today is my last day in C.R. I really feel a bit sad to have to leave everything behind, the family, the school, the people I got to know here... Too little time left to do everything I wanted to do but that seems to be the story of my life. Anyway, the future perspectives are not so bad either, Panama and then South-America. Moreover, there is quite some people going to Panama, so I will only have a few days on my own in Panama Ciudad.
Bueno, last week and this week we explored the night life in San-Jose a bit. We went to a place called el Pueblo, which is like a sort of little village with only restaurants, pubs and clubs in it. It was interesting to get to know the musical traditions, reggaeton is really big here, it sounds a bit like ragga, but it is different and of course it is in Spanish as well. For women, Wednesday nights are the nights to be there as they only pay 500 colones (1 dollar) to get in and they drink for free until 10.30 pm. For men, it is less interesting as they pay 2000 colones entrance and only get two drinks. Of course, if you know any muchacha there it becomes interesting again. It was nice, but it felt like after two times I had really seen it, the second time was exactly the same as the first time.

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And then, we discovered the Jazz Cafe in San Pedro which is a lovely cafe with live music every night. On monday we saw a wicked Senegalese percussion band, on tuesday there was a lovely jam session and on wednesday there was an American woman singing, she was fluent Spanish and did some somgs in Spanish as well. The best part was at the end when the electricity fell out and she continued singing Killing me softly and everyone sang along. On thursday, we felt like we needed some change, so we went to Castros, somewhere in a dodgy area in San-Jose. I suppose if you know how to dance Salsa, Merengue and Cumbia, it is the place to be and it was nice to see all the people dancing in pairs, but after some time you get the feeling you have seen it, so we went upstairs to sing some karaoke, well everyone sang except for me! Karaoke is really popular here! Last Monday, we went to a pub in the San Pedro mall that was quite cheap, definetely if you compare it to the Jazz Cafe, which is a bit expensive. Later that night we went to a Tico club called Terra U. On Tuesday night, we went to the Jazz Cafe again. There was a jam session, like every Tuesday, and Rafael, a guy from our school, was playing drums for a while, it was lovely.

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You can even get Belgian beer in San Pedro's Jazz cafe, quite expensive though!

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Yesterday evening, we went to watch Amigos salvades (Open Season) in Spanish. On Wednesday, cinema is half price, we paid 800 colones which is about 1.6 euros, which they had the same prices in Belgium!

For the first time I explored the city of San-Jose a bit last weekend and there is not very much to see, really. The most beautiful building is el Theatro Nacional and than there is the cathedral and that is about it. It has got some good shopping facilities, I suppose, on the Avenida Central and in the Mercado Central, but they are both very crowded. Amd than there is the Mall de San Pedro, where you can meet a lot of Gringos and where you always bump into people from the school. So, I would recomend people travelling to C.R. only to stay in San-Jose for one day at the most and then leave because everything outside San-Jose is so much nicer and mas tranquilo.

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Today, last day at school, last super with my Tica family and than last time at the Jazz Cafe where a very popular Costa Rican band called Malpais is going to perform. Mañana, I will have to get up around 4.30 am as our bus to Panama leaves at 6 from a bus stop somewhere in the city centre. Entonces, manana, tendra que madrugar, what a lovely word that is, madrugar, to get up early. It is going to be a short night!
Pase buen fin de semana! My next mail will probably be send from Panama! Que les vayan bien.
Pura vida

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Posted by Gitan Jean 15:29 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

El volcan Poas, Grecia and Sarchi

sunny 23 °C
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Hello again everybody!

I am doing well writing my blog recently aren´t I? So, today, Linda, a girl from Holland, and me went on a trip offered by the school. This morning, they picked us up at 7.30 am and than we picked up some other people from luxury hotels around San Jose. On the way to the volcano, we stopped by in a coffee sowage and it was nice to see what a coffe plant looks like, I did not really know what it looked like before. It was all a bit touristic though, busloads of tourist being dropped of. Moreover, the coffee we got to taste was not very strong, it was more like a cup of warm water.

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We stopped over at the side of the road again to watch a sloth hanging in an electric cable eating leaves from a tree. I had never seen it from so close and I can tell now sloths are very strange animals.
All the way from San Jose to the volcano Poas, our guide was talking a lot but not really telling much. He made some very bad jokes, he makes the same ones every day I suppose. Anyway, when we finally arrived at the Parque nacional del Volcan Poas, we walked for a little bit and could then peer into the crater, where fumes come out. We were very lucky because there was not a lot of clouds and hence we had quite a good view. Most of the times, the crater cannot be seen very good because of the clouds. Volcano Poas is the biggest volcano in C.R. with a length of over a kilometer and a depth of about 400 meters. We walked a bit to the highest point of the national park where we had a look at a lake that used to be a crater as well.

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After that, we went for lunch in a ´typical tico restaurant´ which was more like a tourist trap but the food was still good and it was free with the tour, so it was ok. After lunch, we held halt in a little village called Grecia, where the only thing worth seeing is a little church in metal. It was constructed in Belgium and it was supposed to be shipped to a harbour somewhere in Chile, but by mistake, it was sent to a little village at the Costa Rican coast with the same name as the Chilean harbour. As it would have cost a lot of money to send it back and as in Grecia there had been an earthquake destroying the local church just before, they decided to install it there.
Then, it went on to Sarchi where they only dropped us of at a massive tourist shop. Sarchi is very known for its woodwork and cheap souvenirs. I expected the souvenirs and woodwork to be sold on a nice little market or so, but unfortunately that was not the case. To finish, we paid a visit to a company where they paint ox carts in all colours of the rainbow which is quite nice to see. They have the biggest ox cart in the world!

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Anyway, that was about it, I would not recommend this tour to anybody. I think one would better take a bus to explore another volcano like Irazu or Arenal on his own and explore the surroundings a bit as well.

That´s all, amigos

Take care

Pura vida

Posted by Gitan Jean 20:40 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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