David to Bocas del Toro

I used to have a list of the three prettiest places I’ve visited. After today I either have to make it the four prettiest places or knock one off the list.

In no particular order, the first list was:

  • The haute cornice from Villefranche, France, west to Nice.
  • The beach south of Quepos, Costa Rica where I stood and as far as I could see to the north and south there wasn’t a footprint in the sand.
  • The gorge into the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.

On Friday I got to the bus station in David just a few minutes before nine and got on the bus which departed exactly at the stroke of nine. Within a half hour we started to climb into the mountains. We climbed and climbed and the views were absolutely spectacular. Breathtaking. We were crossing the Continental Divide and at the top of our climb we were actually looking down on some clouds. You had to yawn to clear your ears from the altitude like you do when you’re taking off in a plane.

About two thirds of the way up the driver pulled over to a small, purple-painted house, kissed the girl who came out on the front porch and left his back pack with her. I sort of assume that it was his house and the view he had was a million dollar view.

There weren’t many people on the bus making the ascent. Seven of us to be exact, not counting the second driver and the conductor. All but the smallest busses in Panama have a conductor. He takes care of luggage and collects the fares when people leave.

Several months ago there were torrential rains in Chiriqui Province, especially up in the mountains causing several deaths and sweeping homes into the rivers. There are half a dozen places along the route that had been wiped out and only a single lane existed. In a couple of places it was just barely a single lane and one little slip up and we would have fallen at least a couple of hundred feet.

Unfortunately some snag downloading the pictures in the mountains but will be going back on Tuesday and try again.

On the down slope we started to pick up additional passengers who would ride for a few miles and students here and there. They came out of homes that, if you called them “shacks” you were being generous, but the kids were always clean in their white shirts/blouses and dark blue pants and skirts. All of them Indians.

These shacks are raised off the ground four to six feet. The siding is planks of wood and most often there are gaps between the planks. I’m sure that when it rains, and it rains a lot here, wind would drive it right through the sides of these people’s homes. They aren’t tight fitting. Roofs are most likely to be palm thatched and my guess would be that while rain comes through the sides of these people’s homes very little of it comes through the roofing. Occasionally you see one thatched with banana leaves or tin. Windows are simply spaces cut into the sides of the houses, or framed out and planked around the openings. The better “quality” shack might have shutters that can be closed at night. None of them have glass in the windows. I caught some pictures on the fly out the window of the bus but had to be circumspect because I’m sure the people don’t want gringo touristas snapping pictures. Sometimes there are small, I would presume nameless, villages of these shacks. The majority of these shacks are probably ten or twelve feet square though some of them are quite large. Maybe 25 by 10.



Got dropped off in Almirante and picked up the water taxi out to Bocas Town. Naturally I used my Pensionado discount. It’s a twenty minute boat ride on a fast boat. Staying at the Dos Palmas Hotel. Run by a black lady. Speaks English. Very pleasant place. Built out over the water as so many are. Look down the shower drain and it’s direct overboard discharge. I don’t think the toilet is, though. Almost all of the “facilities” in Almirante are simply outhouses built over the water.

The area itself is beautiful, but I’m not impressed with Bocas Town itself. Someone had told me, or I had read that it was very similar to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize, a place I detested. I stayed there exactly one night before pulling anchor and dropping down to Caye Caulker which was a cool place.

This is the view from the back porch at Dos Palmas:



A not untypical house in Bocas Town


But there are some places with a view


Main drag in Bocas Town Saturday Morning 10:30 a.m.


Concrete “pumping” Bocas Style


But my hotel is cool


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