Saturday, March 03, 2012

More Panama - Week 1 (Part 2)

While we were escaping Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnivale was happening in Bocas. Little did we know. As we walked through town to the water taxi, there were large costumed characters in the town square. There was dancing and gaiety. Bocas is part of the heart of Panama's Carnivale culture.

We were out on Red Frog Beach, most of what we saw were large crowds on the beach. (Many kids, it was a school holiday...) The day after Mardi Gras, we ran into one of our fellow travelers to the island from the airport. She had spent a day or so on Isla Bastimentos and then went to Bocas Town. She asked how we did with the power outages. They had happened two nights in a row, apparently, and in both cases at the height of the celebrations. Our reaction? What outages? The island we were on must have had its own power, because we did not notice it. It made us happy to have been where we were.

After a happy few days, it was time to go. We had not made any definite plans for after our stay at Red Frog Beach. I made a plane reservation for what I thought was the right day, and we took the water taxi back to Bocas town. Once we got there, we looked again, and discovered that the flight was for a week later! I called both airlines, and neither had ANY seats out for a week! Plan B....we took a water taxi ($5 each, 20 minute ride) to Almirante (a large banana and oil shipping port on the mainland) and then a cab to Changuinola ($20 ride to a big banana center) where we rented a car.

The drive was interesting. 2-lane, winding roads through the jungle and coast to Chiriqui Grande. That is where we turned to go through the mountains and over the continental divide. This road was also two-lane with the added "adventure" of having not only more curves than the coastal road (which had a bunch), but also some steep grades. Oh, and there were the potholes. Some were really large! Part of the road goes through the Ngöbe–Buglé Comarca (territory governed by the indigenous people).

On the water taxi, one of our fellow passengers was an ex-pat who mentioned that the President (of Panama) was talking on TV that night, and that if he did not say the right things, there could be road blockages, as there had been earlier in the year. This was an impetus to get to David that night.

It took about 5 hours, but we made it. We got a little lost in downtown David while looking for a hotel. Our only prior visits to the city had been "through trips" to and from the airport. We had a good night's sleep and headed to Boquete in the morning.

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