End of the trip: Costa Rica and Panama; Stuck between countries, Mountain villages and Cloud Forest Trails

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Central America Caribbean » Panama » Chiriquí » Boquete
September 27th 2009
Published: October 10th 2009
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Panama childrenPanama childrenPanama children

In traditional dress. In Boquete, Panama

Costa Rica

We took a very long (18 hour) but comfortable bus ride from San Salvador to San José, Costa Rica, crossing the El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua borders. We didn't stay too long in Costa Rica, just exploring the town center . We spent a few nights in Cahuita, which is a surfer/tourist paradise in the north of Costa Rica. We went walking along the beach with sections that looked like a dried up coral reef. The water was crystal blue and slight green tropical waters, and there were water plants and small tropical fish living in shallow pools on the shore. We had been planning to go to the very touristy Bocas del Toro, Panama afterward, but then realized neither of us really like beaches! And we really don't like any of the popular tourist destinations. There were lots of snorkeling opportunities in Cahuita which i would have absolutely loved to do but forced to do alone because of the snorkeling excursion in Belize; so now Step refuses to snorkel ever again and he hates the water! (It messes up his hair...) So we ventured into Panama to go to David and Boquete...


So crossing to Panama was an adventure in itself... We took a bus to the border and stopped at the Costa Rica side to get our Exit stamps. That was painless. We then scurried across a very long, very old bridge/railway tracks made of old wood with huge gaps between the planks and a very long way to a shallow river below. On the Panama side we were greeted by an annoying tour guide man who we didn't listen to as you can never trust anyone on the borders- they usually are just trying to get money. We tried to get our entrance stamp but they wouldn't give it to us with out proof leaving Panama. Our $500 flights from Costa Rica in a week wasn't good enough. They wanted us to buy a bus ticket from this border crossing to San José. We said we were leaving Panama from a different border crossing. They still wanted us to buy the $11 bus
Statue in PanamaStatue in PanamaStatue in Panama

I thought he was cute
ticket from down the road. We tried to ask the woman giving tickets to the bus if we can get a ticket cheaper for anywhere else. She got angry at us thinking we were calling her dumb as the tickets were ALL $11 whether to go 20 minutes in the bus or 6 hours to San José. She said something to the tour guide man who was furious with us, irrationally yelling at us saying Panama people aren't stupid... well... no one said that... but if they think someone feels more compelled to leave the country having spent $11 when a flight costs 50 times more, they are either very stupid or very sly to con people out of money to take an unnecessary bus journey...

So we left. Well, tried to leave Panama... We (without a Panama stamp) crossed back over the ancient bridge and tried to get back in to Costa Rica. But he couldn't give a stamp to Enter because we had exited Costa Rica but hadn't entered anywhere. We had to enter and exit a country before we could get back to Costa Rica. And Panama wouldn't let us in without getting the bus ticket...
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The attempted river walk in Boquete
damn you Panama!!!! So we had to do it. Step was being very nice and polite to everyone as they could still deny us entry and we'd be stuck and not really in ANY country. I wanted to punch the tour guide man in the face and light the bus ticket booth on fire. Then, finally gotten through and purchased the $11 bus ride we weren't going to take, the guide told us to get on a waiting mini-bus that cost $5 ; we immediately found a chicken bus that cost $0.80 for the same journey. He tried to con us again! i think if i would have saw him again after that i would have thrown a chicken wrapper at him... But that sort of thing happens... and we didn't let it ruin our time in Panama.

We took buses to David and planned on staying a night there in transit, but it's a very ugly city, costly hostels; it's just a transportation hub where people stay when they have a bus to catch. We took our chances traveling at dark to get to Boquete where
View over BoqueteView over BoqueteView over Boquete

Richer houses
we wanted to go originally. It's a very quite, nice looking town, very cool and drizzly, surrounded by forested mountains. There were Panamanian women in traditional dress. We tried to walk along the river in town but they had it fenced off for much of the distance so no one could get in. We walked around town toward the mountains and uphill to a view point overlooking the city. We took a trail called "Sendero El Pianista" where we walked through country side for an hour looking for a trail that wasn't marked but just ended up finding fenced off areas. We trudged up a hill where someone kept his horses penned up, trying to get to the cloud forest, but when i walked into shrubs of prickly plants and got stuck, we walked back down in search of a different route. Another hour and half later, we were about to give up when we found the path to the cloud forest. We walked into the forest for awhile before turning back. It was a very lovely walk and the highlight of our stay here.

Costa Rica

We returned back to Costa Rica after a few days
Mountain housesMountain housesMountain houses

In mountainside, Boquete, Panama
in Panama, which with the exception of the awful time crossing the border, was a very beautiful country where we were. Many tropical plants and mountains, much cooler weather, and i love the cloud forests. We took a big bus going from David to San Jose and crossing back was painless, but took SO LONG as the border crossers checked our bags on the Panama side. We then boarded the bags up then had to take them out to search the bags again on the Costa Rica side. After over an hour of waiting at the border, we got to San Jose and took another bus to Orosi valley, which is a valley surrounded by lush green mountain sides all around. The people were all very nice and the town is very pretty; some lone houses positioned within the hillsides overlooking cliffs, which i quite liked. We found a comedor that offered large portions of food for very cheap and so we enjoyed a filling typical Central American breakfast and dinner.

Orosi valley is also known for it's hot springs. We walked to the nearest one, with a sign even advertising "aquatic thermal", but when we dipped into one
Pianist Trail BridgePianist Trail BridgePianist Trail Bridge

Old planks of wood attached by a telephone chord over a small stream
of the 4 pools of water, it was pretty cold, which would have been refreshing anywhere else in Central America when it was very hot, but here it's very cool and often drizzly. Another 'thermal pool' was warmer but still not hot. The water was mountain spring water and supposed to be very refreshing and rejuvenating with all the minerals, but i didn't feel any different, revived or younger- just wet and a bit cold.

After a few days there, we spent the remaining days in San Jose walking around, looking at the markets bartering prices for souvenirs. We walked around Parque La Sabana looking for a science museum which was closed, and went to Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. There was a room of Pre-colombian History detailing how people migrated to Costa Rica and life for the first inhabitants in the Americas, displaying artifacts and models- typical museum stuff. Another room displaying religious paintings and political figures, another room with old gold ornaments, and another with watercolour paintings done by a recent artist. We stayed the last night in a dorm in Alajuela although we originally thought to stay the night in San Jose airport, but as there
Trail GuardianTrail GuardianTrail Guardian

Some wooden thing apparently made by a child or monkey...
was nowhere to stay and we were afraid of being kicked out in the middle of the night with no buses around, we just went to Alajuela, which is a very dodgy place, at night, so we practically ran to the nearest hostel. The flight was early morning to New York. After a few days there, i am off to England after 105 days in Central America! It's been an amazing time

^Út Í Óvissuna^

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 27


Blue bugBlue bug
Blue bug

Found on the trail
Cloud ForestCloud Forest
Cloud Forest

At the start of the trail
Cloud Forest CrabCloud Forest Crab
Cloud Forest Crab

Cute lil' creature
Beach in Cahuita Beach in Cahuita
Beach in Cahuita

Dried up coral beach where the water line receded
Sea creatureSea creature
Sea creature

Hard shelled sea creature stuck to the rocks underwater

Looking at fish and creatures in the small pools of water
Shoe treeShoe tree
Shoe tree

Soles of shoes were nailed to this tree in Cahuita, Costa Rica
Orosi valleyOrosi valley
Orosi valley

Local football pitch, town houses, surrounding mountains
Orosi ValleyOrosi Valley
Orosi Valley

View from a hill of the village below

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