Part 4

Isla Boca Brave, Volcan, Las Bocas del Toro, back in Panama City

Our destination after visiting Boquete was Isla Boca Brava.  There's a (very) rustic lodge there.  It's way off the beaten track, and as we were slowly driving down the dirt road there, we found a cashew tree!  I first noticed the red fruits hanging in the trees.The red part is the called the cashew apple, and is edible.  This was the first time I'd tried it.  It's very juicy, but a little on the bland side, with a strange taste.  The thing hanging down is, amazingly enough, the cashew nut!  No wonder cashews are so expensive, if it takes a whole fruit to produce one.

We had to take a boat to the island.  This is the boatman's nephew.There were really rustic bamboo lodges to stay in (pretty dark inside)

...and cabins that were quite a bit more comfortable.  There was a fantastic breeze blowing through the room during the day, but unfortunately it died down at night, so it was very warm.You could also rent a hammock to sleep in, for $3 a night.

There was a pet parrot there, Keeri.  He was really intrigued by Eric's cap.We met Quincy and Patrick at the lodge, from Idaho.  They drove down from Idaho in a pickup truck, sleeping in the covered back along the way. She's going to be guiding fly fishing trips this summer, and he's a carpenter.  They live in a small yurt that he built (a hobby of his).  No running water.  You meet very interesting people while traveling!

A wasp nest on the beach.  The beach wasn't spectacular, the water was very murky and warm.Steps down to the pier that we landed at.  We went down there at night to swish a stick around in the water, and see the bioluminescent plankton.

Eric relaxing before dinner.When the lights were on, geckos congregated around them, gorging themselves on the moths that hovered around the lights.

The lodge on Isla Boca Brava was on the northeast edge this this marine park.In the morning, we saw the monkeys that had woken us up.

I had fresh passion fruit juice for breakfast.  It was amazingly good!Lots of hammocks around were made very simply of a piece of strong cloth, folded together, and then tied at the ends.

The bar/restaurant.We did a day long excursion with Patrick and Quincy, as well as Vince and Peter.  The boatman was Elvis, along with his son Elvis.  They  brought us to 2 snorkeling spots, and 2 beautiful deserted beaches.  The snorkeling was poor (cloudy and not much variety).  The beaches were great, though.

This is Vince, climbing up a coconut tree.  He had just spent a couple weeks in the jungle near Columbia, living with an Indian tribe.  He's trying to make this type of travel into a business.  Here's his web site.Drinking the green coconut juice.  Very tasty.  I'm pretty covered up from the sun here, but I still got sunburned (upper thighs).

Eric chops up a brown coconut for meat.It ended up being a little on the overripe side.  Some of the other coconuts we got were great, though.

Hermit crabs were everywhere on the beaches.  We held hermit crab races, making a circle in the sand, putting the hermit crabs in the middle, and seeing which one got outside the circle first.  These are the tracks of hermit crabs.Coconut palms sprout just like this.

Bromeliads in the trees on the beach.Beach scene.

A close-up of the hermit crabs.Quincy made a sand sculpture of a mermaid.

Riding back in the boat.Form the left, Quincy, Vince, Elvis (you can barely see him), Patrick, and Peter.

The next day we got an early start out of Boca Brava.  It was a long dirt road out...

And along the way, we were stopped by this cattle drive.We drove up to the Volcan area, again in the cooler central mountain region.  It's a beautiful area.

There was a Swiss settlement in this area some time ago, and you can still see there influence in the houses.

If you look closely here, you can see giant thistles.Scenes from along the road.

I think this might be a cocoa tree, but I'm not sure.

We drove up to the Amistad park area.  We drove over this bridge without realizing the huge hole it had!On the way back, we were more careful.

Some areas here look very alpine.We also visited a trout farm.

Dinner that evening, at Hotel Cerro Punta, was a solitary experience (we were the only ones in the large dining room) but the food was wonderful.  I had fish "a la criolla", with a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and capers.  Eric had a tasty peppered beefsteak.  Service was amazing, too--it seemed as though our waitress had been trained at a very fancy hotel.  That's VERY unusual for Panama.

Leaving town the next morning, I just had to get another bridge picture.  We didn't have to cross this one, thank goodness.It was fixed up with barbed wire.  Better watch where you put your hands!

Volcan Baru is in the background here.  In the foreground is the local trash dump.These are the, to my eyes, very unimpressive lakes of Volcan. They were listed in our guidebook as being very picturesque, but they definitely weren't worth the 20 minute drive on a very bad dirt road.

On the way out to David, we stopped at the workshop of Jose de la Cruz.  Here he's writing my name into a piece of wood with a chisel.  We ended up buying lots of scraps of interesting tropical woods for my dad.Flying out to Bocas del Toro.  We saw many shallow reef areas like this, just under the surface of the water.  I wonder what the snorkeling would have been like there.

In Bocas del Toro, a quiet old banana town.

This is the plane we flew in on.Bocas del Toro is undergoing a tourist boom now, with lots of talk about investors buying property here.

Bicycles in Panama need to have license plates.There was an interesting contingent of Spanish speaking hippies here, from places like Argentina and Costa Rica.  Most of them made and sell beadwork on the street.  It seems like pretty hot work, being in the sun all day long.

Some typical houses here, on stilts.

We rented some bikes and took a tour along the coast.I think these tires were dropped here to prevent erosion from eating away at the road.

This octagon is for sale.

Lots of beaches here are like this--lots of trash that the tide has deposited.There's some okay surfing spots here, too.

This boy knocked a coconut of the palm tree for us.  Apparently climbing is not the way to do it, you need to use a big stick and knock the coconuts down.

This is the only photo I got of a horse and rider, but it was very common here to see people using horses for transport.Houses around town.

We took a boat to Isla Bastamiento to visit Russell, an American from Cincinnati that we'd met on the plane.  Fare was $2 each for about a15 minute ride.

Isla Bastamiento is very quiet, with no roads (only a concrete walkway).

This is the one of the houses that Russel had built.He has a system to catch rainwater, which fills up in about a 2 hour downpour.  However, his previous renters had used up all the water, and so they were buying water in town.

Here's Russell.  He was real character, full of off-color jokes and stories.This is the boat he uses to get to the village.  It's not very far on land, but it's hard to walk, being all swamp and mangrove.

His pier...We kayaked around the bay in a sit-on-top double kayak that we rented for $7 a half day, getting some nice views from the water.

Russell's place from the water.Outhouses here are built on top of the water.

One of our favorites--the ice cream man.  All over Panama, you could buy a small cone of decent ice cream for 25 cents.  There was only one flavor that I didn't like, called grape nut.  It was vanilla, with little things that looked like grape nuts in it.A pier back on Bocas del Toro.

Another pier, in not so good shape.The view of town from the plane the next day.  You can see the airstrip we took off from.  This is one of the few places in the world where you can actually walk from the airport to the hotel.

On the way back, we got a good view of Isla Taboga.  The small island in the middle is Isla El Morro.Back in Panama City, school supply sales were in full swing when we walked around the main shopping street.  Kids here have to wear uniforms to school.

Shoplifting must have been a serious problem.  Most stores had security guards on ladders at all corners.Shoes, only 10 cents!

We tried some sugar cane juice.  It would have been pretty good, but I think the sugar cane that was used was a little dirty.Kuna indians on the street.

This group of young people, doing a dance on the main street were traveling evangelical Christians from Taiwan.  I asked some of them what church they belonged to, but they didn't understand English or Spanish.We met Ron again, the guy we met first at Carnival in Las Tablas.  Friendly guy, doing what he said he does here--hang out.

Selling beans on the street.The fruit on the right is water apple.  We tried some of these, and they were interesting.

The cat colony next to our hotel. They were pretty scrawny looking.We're home! The sun is coming from the wrong angle here, but this is Lake Sammamish, and somewhere on the left are our houses.

A view of Seattle, including Mercer Island, Seattle, I-90, 520, Lake Union, Downtown.