Central American countries have come and gone, but Panama stands as a land of distinct variety. Inland volcanoes rise high above necklace chains of Caribbean islands, tropical jungles give way to the order of a modern metropolis and the midsection of the country is threaded by a massive canal that does its part to keep the world running. Fittingly, our time in the country was equally diverse. A handful of nights spent living “la vida loca” in the island oasis of Bocas del Toro, climbing unique rock formations in Boquete, sorting out logistics to ship Beckey in a cargo container and exploring what Panama City has to offer.
An evening border crossing from Costa Rica brought us right to the heart of Chiquita banana country in Panama. Our path was en route to Bocas del Toro but the late entry forced us to spend the night in Almirante as the water taxis had stopped their service for the evening. The following morning the Bocas chain greeted us with open arms and only an hour after stepping foot on the largest island of Colon we had secured lodging and a full day tour for the following morning. The tour exceeded expectations as we explored mangrove forests via boat, watch dolphins surface and dive, snorkeled above a coral reef, kicked back on a deserted barrier island, floated atop a starfish habitat and last, but certainly not least, scouted out sloths on a small island sanctuary. All for $30 a person – deals. Common traveler knowledge dictates that you can’t visit Bocas without sampling the party and it just so happened our Canadian companion had a birthday to celebrate, we were without an excuse. The following evening pulled our party-selves toward a local fiesta magnet called Aqua Lounge for one of their notorious bi-weekly parties. The sun woke a mere two hours after we called it a night, but after the coffee cleared the fog the next morning we again heard the call of the road and decided to press on.
It’s important to make sure you still have your dignity when departing Bocas…lots of people leave it behind. After a collective check to make sure it was still in our possession, we piled into Beckey and crossed back to the mainland en route to the town of David. There we dropped off Terry G, our travel companion for the last 4 weeks. What a gem Terry was. Somehow he was able to swing just over 30 paid days off from work, nearly all of which was spent cruising from El Salvador to Panama with us – 5 countries for those a bit rusty on the Central American map. Goodbyes are never easy, but we were confident this one was more of a ‘see ya later.’
With time to kill before heading toward Panama City we turned our wheels toward the mountain town of Boquete. Rumors of sport climbing in the area had piqued our interest so we decided to investigate. What we discovered was rock unlike we had ever seen. The technical name for the formation was horizontal columnar basalt, but we had to ask around to lock down that fun fact. The ~15 sport lines were enough to keep us busy a couple days, make a few friends and meet the local climber who set the routes. Time flew by in the cooler temps of Boquete and soon we were headed south to Panama City.
The modern skyline and seemingly thriving economy of the country’s namesake city came as a bit of a shock; we had not seen anything like it since Mexico City nearly three months prior. Getting Beckey all packed up and on her way to Colombia was a two day process requiring one full day of customs inspections and a second driving to the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal to load her into a container for shipping. Three days were spent in Casco Viejo or ‘colonial town Panama’ catching up on loose ends, reading and sleep. Before long it was time to head to the airport and make our less than direct flight to Cartagena, Colombia via Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Soon we would reunited with ‘Beckey Blue’ and begin the next leg of our southern journey on a new continent.