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Published: November 12th 2010
Ah, once one gets behind on a travel blog, it just snowballs. So, now I'm in Panama City, but I spent the better part of the last two weeks on the islands of Lake Nicaragua. Headed with the group from San Juan Del Sur to Isla de Ometepe, which required a pleasant one hour ferry ride on the lake. Third world ferries are always interesting. I remember laying on the roof in the sun, somewhere between the bananas and a motorcycle. The island itself is beautiful - two volcanic cones rising up with a land bridge connecting them. We decided to stay on the distant, more remote side of the island. The bus rides on the island are incredibly slow and bumpy, but one just gets used to this sort of thing. Stepping off the bus that evening to walk the final 15 minutes to our chosen guest house was fairly dreamy, as we were walking along the shore of the lake as it got dark, and thousands of fireflies were hovering amongst the grass.
We were the only people staying at our guest house, which is a totally family-run affair. We were all in the dorm, which was a
cavernous concrete building that felt like a barracks and was totally overrun with spiders and various other critters. After a certain amount of time in a place like that, you just constantly feel like something is on you. We made the 8 hour round trip hike up the smaller of the two volcanoes, which was not a leisurely walk in the woods. We didn't get a view from the top because of clouds, but there was a pleasant little lagoon in the crater where we ate lunch. Evenings consisted of cards and rum and bugs.
After a couple nights, we moved on to a different hostel where they let you order food any time during the day, rather than only have three set meals like the first place. This place was great, as it had a concrete dock extending out into the lake, and as the water is so high this time of year, it was under six inches of water. It was perfect for lounging around on in the middle of the day. Overall the people on the island are extremely friendly, and the main mode of transportation is still horseback. While walking down the road one evening,
we were invited to a local birthday party. We went with expectations of... I don't know, a little fiesta with some guitars and singing or something, but it was actually a huge dance party with a big rickety sound system on someone's front lawn. They even had strobe lights and a disco ball. There were at least a hundred people there. We were the only foreigners there, so we were in a little huddle at first, a little huddle of security, but the guys throwing the party came up to us several times to make sure we felt welcome and kept offering us food and drinks, so that was nice. Turns out it was a party for a 1-year-old girl. I'm sure she had a great time (aka cried in the house as the reggaeton thumped outside.
Eventually our little group split up, and Resy and I decided to check out a really remote spot. To get to the Soletiname Archipelago, we had a 12 hour ferry ride to San... Carlos (I think that was the name), a five or six hour wait, then a 2 hour boat ride to the islands. Boats only go there twice a week,
so the timing was actually pretty good. Again, we chose the more remote of the options and ended up on an island called San Fernando. The people out there are almost all artists. It said in the guidebook that one would be likely to find a woman painting in nearly every house, which I didn't really believe for a second, but was actually not far from the truth. We were the only tourists on the island for most of our stay, and we had a little bungalow right on the lake. Perfect for laying in a hammock and reading. The people there were a little different. Mostsly just shy, I think, but at times it did feel like we were intruders. It was all one big family on that island, and some were less enthusiastic about tourists coming there (that's just my theory). Getting a meal was truly a mission. There are two restaurants on the island, but one was missing their cook for our entire stay, so we always had to go to the other one, where we had to basically convince them to cook for us, and where prices would fluctuate wildly depending on their mood. I would
ask 'how much' and the woman would look to another woman who would shrug and look to the guy who would decide on the price. Same food every day, sometimes $2, sometimes $8. Overall the island was a good, tranquil experience, but we were ready to leave when the time came.
Got back to San Carlos and I had a massive case of indecision about where to go. Somehow ended up making a mad rush south on ferries and river boats and buses and taxis and vans to Panama. Made it through all of Costa Rica in about 20 hours, including staying the night in the capital. Resy and I went to Bocas del Tora for one night, the main island of which is just a total touristy party town full of the Costa Rica vacation crowd, as it's just below the border. Headed the next day to an island called Boca Brava on the Pacific side. We were on our way to Panama City, but met some people in the van and ended up there instead. It was a resort run by a great American couple. It was glorious glorious glorious to have delicious meals. We went out
on a boat for a day to a distant island that had a beautiful beach where we lounged around. They sold us on a whale watching trip, but there were no whales around. Rip off, but the beach was still nice. Did some cloudy snorkeling as well. The next day I rented a kayak, which was interesting. It was a river kayak, which means you sit inside of it rather than on top, but it didn't have a spray skirt. Which means that it is very, very sinkable. Luckily I was in about three feet of water, playing around in the waves, because it mostly definitely flooded and sank to the bottom. Wasn't easy getting it back up. I turned it back in with several pounds of sand still inside that I couldn't get out.
So now, I'm in Panama City. I was here exactly three years ago. Staying in the old part of town called Casco Viejo at a massive hostel in an old mansion (Luna Castle). Panama City is the only decent capital in Central America. I think my favorite part about Panama is the scenery when traveling from one town to the next. The landscape is
just pure rolling hills of greenery, and is somehow quite unique. Hard to describe, but I'm really wishing I had a motorcycle to just putter around on the dirt roads out there.
Tot: 2.602s; Tpl: 0.043s; cc: 12; qc: 64; dbt: 0.0274s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb