We flew out of Saskatoon Thursday evening and landed in Toronto. Had a very short night at a hotel and got up early to catch our flight to Panama.
Don had arranged for a tour guide to meet us and transport us from the airport to the bus depot. Denny was great and gave us lots of info about Panama during the ride. Like they only have 3% unemployment!! He dropped us off at the bus depot and then the fun began!
We bought our tickets to Santiago but we didn't know we needed a little Rapidpass card to get thru the turnstiles out to the buses. And we could not understand what the woman was telling us - so it took awhile, but we finally figured it out and got on our bus in time. Not as nice a bus as the Mexican ones we have been on. It was a double decker and we were up on the top level. Not much leg room, but fairly comfortable. We arrived in Santiago about 7:00 pm - to find our hotel was almost right next door to where the bus stopped. Good planning, Don! We then tried to find out if we could take a bus directly from Santiago to Bocas del Toro, or if we needed to go to David (big city) to catch a bus there. Don knew we had to arrive in Almirante, the town on the mainland where you take the water taxi, before 6:00 or we wouldn't make it due to darkness. At the hotel we had a couple of Spanglesh (half Spanish/English) conversations that were pretty funny. We also met a Texan man, with his Spanish friends who gave us some advice and directions.
After a comfortable night, we went back to the bus stop and found the bus that had just pulled in was full and if we waited for the next one, we likely wouldn't make it in time. So with the help of a taxi driver, we went to another bus terminal and got on a smaller bus, filled with locals. So they took us to David (sitting in the back row, jammed in like sardines in a can for 3 hours). We got to watch violent action movies in Spanish the whole way!! Very friendly people with cute kids sitting so patiently during the bus ride. At David we only had to cross the street and go a block to find the bus to Almirante. This was another small bus, but we got seats close to the front and had such a helpful conductor. When he found out we wanted to go to the water taxi, we made sure we were taken care of quickly once we arrived and were transferred into another taxi to take us to the water taxi. The road winds up and over the mountains, thru cloud forest. Some lovely views lower down, but soon we were so high that we could only see clouds!
View from the road
One of the food vendors
At the height of the pass, we stopped and food vendors came on board. Had some of the best pineapple ever!! A little farther on, we had a 10 minute rest stop, so we could use the washroom and get some food at a restaurant. I put my camera away so I could eat my revel and so when we got to the sloth, I didn't get a picture of it. We stopped because a vehicle going the other direction had stopped. Two men were outside and one had an umbrella. He had the sloth hanging onto the handle with one hand and he was dragging it across the road. I guess they take so long to cross the road, they are in real danger of being hit, so they had stopped to speed him across the road. Unfortunately, we only have a memory picture of this! We haven't seen a sloth in the wild before.
So we made it to the water taxi and had a fast ride across to Bocas del Toro.
. We took a regular taxi to our accommodation, which proved to be very nice and they gave us a free beer on arrival! We walked towards downtown to have supper and luckily took along a flashlight. We thought we might need it to find our way back. We did!! While we were having supper at La Casbah, in fact, after we were done the appetizer, the power went out all over town!! They still managed to serve our meals, by candlelight, and then we started to walk back with the flashlight. It had started to rain, just a light drizzle at first. We stopped in at a grocery store to look for something for breakfast, and when we came out 5 minutes later, it was pouring. So we waited in the shelter of an awing, although we were already soaked!, for about 15 minutes until the rain let up and then made it the rest of the way back. So luckily, we always travel with a little flashlight and our headlights, so we could manage to find our stuff and get into bed. Of course, around midnight the power came back on, fridge cutting in, lights on, etc. so we turned them out and back to sleep.
So now it is Sunday morning, I'm sitting on the lovely veranda, being distracted by hummingbirds coming to the feeders, and other birds in the foliage!
We survived our trip here, actually enjoyed lots of it, other than some physical discomfort from so much bus travel and had some great adventures and met great people already. Can't wait to see what will happen today!