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PANAMA 6/4-9/4 DIARY  





 Line is with Nephendis in Costa Rica to save the nature. Between two projects, she has 14 days of vacation; "will I come over and follow her around the country?" Of course, and since I get convinced Morten and Jesper that Laos at the end of the dry season is not a success, they join in the idea of Costa Rica

 After an eventful trip through Costa Rica we get to Panama.

4.6 1999. Up at 6am to have breakfast, and get ready at the border, which opens at 7am. Stops out a bit on the long and beautifully guarded bridge that crosses the river. We have to go back and down in a basement to get the papers arranged. We fill out the forms and are told; we must have a stamp at the pharmacy!

Have a real hell of finding it. Wade back and forth and finally find it, in the back of a newly opened furniture store. Back and across the border. The Panamanian side also has forms, but at least should not have stamps!
A taxi driver is chatting with the passport controller, and we hire him for the ride to Cupereioxola. We buy food and a bag to carry it in, and then drive by bus out to a national park, where there should be egg-laying leather turtles.

We drive through a huge large banana plantation and arrive at a small footbridge, which according to the guidebook should be as smooth as a banana peel in butter on an ice rink. It otherwise seems reasonably easily passable, until we meet a ranger. He says the park is closed, one needs special permission from the office inside the city. We try to flatten him, but he is unyielding.

He followed us back by bus, and all the way to the office of the nearby national parks. Here we are told that only the director can give permission, but "he is coming soon". "Soon" turns out to be after four hours! We tell him how important it is that we get out there, get a lecture on how to behave out there, and a personal ranger. We meet a few of the other bosses and finally we are on our way.

While waiting for the bus, we get to eat a bit and hear (very) little about the ranger's work. Seven hours later, we are at the footbridge again. The first piece is easily passable, but then the quality deteriorates and the last kilometre or two we go in mud to the bellybutton! There are a few rotten pieces of wood, but they sink with us, into the mud. Elsewhere, there are logs that turn. All our stuff is packed in black bags that we carry in our hands. It certainly does not help on balance ability.

Finally, when we reach the ocean, our luggage is dropped, and we head directly into the Caribbean, with our clothes on. Great feeling! We get the food unpacked, clothes hung to dry, and then we are ready for the night's invasion of laying leather turtles. We have been told, we must not disturb, photograph or use ordinary flashlights, when the sea turtles arrive. We put red foil on the flashlights (why am I thinking of the red light district), and wait for the darkness to emerge. The ranger boil water for us and we sponsor Nescafén.

In the twilight, some large black beetles emerge on some palm trunks, a bunch of toads emerge from the concrete slab we camp on, and the air thickens with mosquitoes and horsefly-like flies. In the woods there are fireflies, and later we see them up close, where they light up a cubic meter of bush.

At nine, we walk with another ranger north along the beach. It is dark as in a negro's -ohh coal basement, so our red lights light up well. Their red light reveal one tree trunk at the water's edge after another, but only after two hours of deliberate trotting on the Bounty-like beach do we see a turtle. It is done with the egg laying and by covering the hole.

We ask our ranger, if we can photograph it from behind, an opportunity that someone in the office mentioned. Yes, he says, brushing the sand off its back and sit down on it! That was not exactly what we had hoped for. When he finally jumps down, I shoot the last photo of the movie, and god-help-me if he doesn't even step in front of me - # ¤! * & !!!!

The clouds over our heads get even darker and it starts to drip. We turn around and search into the forest where there is a cabin. There we sit in a cloud of mosquitoes as it topples down. It calms down and we start the trip back. I go down by the water, where I can't get my toes smashed on land-washed pieces of wood. A couple of times I lose touch with the others and the noise of the waves prevents me from shouting them up. Then we lose the ranger and we are far from sure how far we have to go to reach the camp. Well - we succeed, and we sit and talk while the mosquitoes munches on us.

We start sleeping, inside and under the ranges hut, but the insects prevent me from sleeping, so I walk down to the beach. Wearing a rain jacket, two black sacks and shorts all over my face, I sleep roughly, despite two clouds breaking through the night.

4.7. I wake up cold, full of sand and with a giant turtle track beside me. Jesper has not slept so much, but has avoided the worst bites. Line has been gnawed a lot, and Morten even more. He counts over 100 bites on his right hand, under his wrist. I haven't gotten a bite, but look pretty dissolved by the moister. As the sun breaks through the clouds, I suck heat to myself like another lizard.

After breakfast improvisation, we start the long walk through the swamp. This time we packed our stuff in black bags and put it in our backpacks. It works better than on the outing, but it's still a tough hike. On the way in, we meet our taxi driver, he has only been waiting a little hour. He drives us to Cupereioxola and we take the bus to Almirante.

After seeing the city, we take a boat to Boca del Torro, where we are landed on Isla Colón. "Finally" we see tourists. It actually resonates with them, but it's a fair mix of back-packers and charters. Afternoon and evening are spent with relaxation and laundry.
In Panama, Coca Cola sells a dark white beer-like Malta. I manage to consume several of this sweet non-alcoholic beverage. Despite the tourists, you have a good feeling of being out in the relaxed atmosphere of an island community. In the evenings, there are far more locals on the street and in the restaurants.

4.8. We get up early and find the motor canoe to the small island of Bastineros. The island has one town, which is just a collection of cabins along a concrete footpath. We see some single hard-core backpackers, otherwise it is only the local negroes. Their language is a blend of English, Spanish and maybe Swahili.

After a little asking around, we find a place where we can rent some rooms. A quick bath and we are ready to explore the island. We enter the countryside and get to a wonderful area. Large, steep hills with open grassland and dense primeval forests, scattered giant trees overgrown with bromeliads, ferns and epiphytes, swamps and rich wildlife.

After a few hours, we reach 5-10 kilometres of totally deserted Bounty-land beach. 15 meters of white sand, palm trees and blue water. We tumble out into the warm water, body-surf and take a little (too much) sun. Jesper and I get caught by the current, and get a huge tour around the large bay. We were on our way to China!

We get hungry and slowly retreat to the "city". On the way we see the strangest birds. When they sing it sounds like two very different birds at once. They raise the wings with long gold-shining feathers and slide down under the branch. We see a few snakes, masses of lizards, beautiful beetles and grasshoppers, anoles and one of the red coloured frogs that the island is so famous for (it's the only place they live).

Back in town, we find a shady bar where we scramble until darkness. We should have no more sun! We finally find an acceptable restaurant as it has gotten dark. It seems the city wakes up first in the evening. Every other cabin opens as a small grocery store, café or kiosk, and the surrounding small islanders come to shop.

After we have eaten, a somewhat worn Dane shows up. He was caught in the dark in the middle of the island and has had a hell of a time finding out. We hear a little about his vacation and he about ours. There are many ways to experience the same land! We paddle home to a well-deserved bath and an even more well-deserved bed.

4.9. We get up early, provision and a walk across the island to the beach on the other side. We swim and trot along the beach, interrupted by some detours into the meadows and primeval forests of the island. This is some of the closest I've been to Paradise.
After having the lunch we go back over the island. Somewhere we hear the quack from poison dart frogs, and after looking around a bit, we see a few. The red male growls and tries to lure the green female to his pond.
We pick up the luggage and just reach the motor canoe to Isla Colón. Here we wait five minutes and then sail by water taxi to Alminante. Another five minutes and then we are on our way to Changuinola by bus. Here we go shopping and I get a hair cut for $ 3. The rest of the evening, we look at shops, and sit and enjoy one of the many eateries.

10.4. It is time to return to Costa Rica so we take the 10am bus to Sixola-Limon-San Jose, where we arrive at 3.30pm. We pick up Line's backpack and find a coffee shop with an international atmosphere. The neighbour is an internet café and news is brought home. A taxi brings us to Hertz and we drive up to Pontarenas in a new, large 4WD.
The rest of the journey takes place in Costa Rica

Luggage: 1 Kg, Price: 17.000 kroner for Costa Rica and Panama.

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