Must have been an early start for the neighbors in Bocas del Toro today since the music seemed to stop sometime past midnight. Somehow Melanie and I drifted off before then and I only noticed the music was off during a nighttime pee. We slept up until 5:58AM…and two minutes later our wake up alarm went off.
Finishing off the last of our cinnamon loaded oats, we added some black tea to that and packed up the last of our items. By 7:20 we were ready, dropped off the keycard with our landlord Frida, and were off to the Coconut Hostel. The guy at the desk was saying we had to be there for 7:30, but when buying the return tickets…it was written on there as 8:00. Better early than late, so we headed out into another overcast morning…heavy with dew in the air which felt almost like rain. Dry enough for us.
We made it to the hostel and there were those kids from Melbourne again. I kind of expected them to be on this shuttle, only because they mentioned they were returning to Puerto Viejo the same day we were. We chatted a bit more than our day together on the tour to Zapatilla and were able to piece together a bit more of their story. All three of them spent the last couple years in Fernie, and now are headed home to move back in with the parents. Money is exhausted, so resuming normal Australian life is their plan. It doesn’t sound like a super plan…but after a couple years away returning to some familiarity can be nice. With now all the bodies rounded up, we departed for the water taxi.
A boat loaded to the maximum. We thought we might have wised up to the best spot in the boat to minimize the bumps and spray, but with a boat loaded up thus much we were one row too far back. As soon as the throttle was opened and that first wave hit, we got a nice splash in the face. An early salty start to the morning. 25 minutes later we arrived in Almirante to some eager kids looking to help with our bags in exchange for change. Aggressive kids too, muscling their way in to grab your bags and help you from the dock to the road all of 20 feet away. Highly unnecessary, but everyone is looking for ways to eek out a buck or portion of one. We stood waiting at the roadside for another 20 minutes before our shuttle arrived. 5 minutes of loading bags to the roof and we were off to the border. 12 passengers packed into this little van and the engine struggled to get us up some of those hills. Melanie and I were stuck in a couple of little fold down seats with no cushion, back support or legroom. Over the course of an hour and a bit, we bounced around in the hot little van just waiting for it all to be over.
We arrived at the border. So far the day has gone as scheduled…just a lot of waiting up to this point. Waiting at the hostel, waiting for the boat, waiting for the shuttle at Almirante. At the immigration office for Panama, again no line so no waiting for us. We walked right up to the window, offered up our passports and got our stamps. Perfect. Just a quick walk across that Sixaola bridge and come Costa Rican entrance stamps will speed this right along…or so we thought. As we got off the bridge you could see the line was a bit longer than the first time we encountered this crossing. No matter, we just line up and wait a little more.
Well, we waited. The line would inch forward a little every 5 minutes. The overcast sky cleared and sun started beating down on us. The line grew longer and longer with very little movement. I commented on our way down on how this was a very inefficient crossing with only a couple of officers dealing with both entry and exit stamps. Those inefficiencies were magnified today with their computer system going down and now everyone having to fill out paper forms in addition to the rigorous interviewing of foreigners. After an hour and 45 minutes…the line started to move quickly…and we made it in the office. The computer system came back online and they didn’t even bother asking for outgoing itineraries. Everyone got 90 day visas just to move people through. All told a 2 hour wait for this border process and we were off.
We hopped in our shuttle with the Aussies and departed for Puerto Viejo. 45 minutes later we were dropped at the door of Hotel Pura Vida and ready for checkin. By this point we needed lunch, a pee, and really big bottle of water. We dropped our bags and headed into town to visit some of our haunts from a week and a half ago. Tuesday, and of course many of the places we would have gone to choose today as their day of the week to be closed. We did grab a couple greasy empanadas from that beach spot though. No smoothies though as for some reason there was no power along the beach.
That no power situation also messed with the guy selling bus tickets. No electricity stopped him from selling and printing out any tickets, so we would have to swing back a little later. Back to the room for us. An early start to the day and terrible sleeps meant a nap was a great option…we also shifted back a time zone if we needed an excuse to justify a nap.
On waking, we headed down to the water for a few minutes of splashing around in the Caribbean. It will likely be quite a while before we make our way back to these waters, so a swim was in order. Suits on, we wandered back through this stinky town to the ocean and Playa Negra. There is a certain beauty about the fine black sand on this beach. Everyone seems to be in search of white sand beaches and yes, we will agree that the white sand is pretty and makes it really easy to see the clarity of this Caribbean water…but white sand gets littered with dead leaves, logs, all kinds of dark debris that makes that pristine white sand look dirty. A black sand beach kind of hides all that debris. I also like the clean blackboard look of that freshly deposited sand with each wave. This is a pretty spot with some gentle waves.
We spent a couple hours out there on the beach. Watching the waves. Striking up a conversation with an old Air Force pilot from the Gulf War…something about B52 bombers is what he did. When we saw there was no chance of a sunset due to the clouds rolling in, we headed out for dinner. Bikini Restaurant again, after a 10 night hiatus, and Melanie ordered another green curry. I added a chicken dish and we dined before the tour groups arrived.
Now that we are in for the night, I can outline a little about our accommodations here at Hotel Pura Vida. This seems to be a bit of a compound on the back streets of town. Certainly much less traffic noice than our last place here in Puerto Viejo. We have a freshly oiled wood floor, wood paneling on the walls, no windows…only screened openings to the outdoors, and private open air bathroom. We had to pay a little extra for the private bath…we had no idea that it was a stand there and shower while looking out that the world kind of bathroom though. A neat place and it looks like tonight we will be sleeping under a mosquito net while listening to the geckos yell at each other and large critters scamper on the roof. Jungle music.
Tomorrow, we have tickets for an 11AM bus to San Jose. A single bus ride which should be a whole lot simpler and faster than our ordeal today. Let’s hope so anyways.