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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The three lies of Bocas del Toro

They say there are three lies of Bocas del Toro:
  1. “I’m not drinking today”
  2. “I’m leaving tomorrow”
  3. “I love you”
In Bocas those first two lies are hard to avoid. With a constant in-flux of backpackers looking for action and party-hearty locals promoting the venue of the day, it’s damn near impossible to avoid a handful of drinks by noon, especially when a beer rarely sets you back more than a dollar. And the party inevitably leads to a hang over, and who can bring themselves to leave an island paradise when the only way out of your miserable state is another $1 beer. It’s a vicious cycle.

We arrived in Bocas Town by boat - the only other option is by plane - after a 40 minute ride from the mainland at about 6 am. 

view while boarding the boat from the mainland to Bocas
We saw our hostel, Aqua Lounge, beckoning to us with its bright green exterior, just a short island hop away from Bocas proper. 

When we entered the hostel acid jazz thumped as a long-haired, goatee’d pirate-hippy poured himself shots and set up the bar (it was 7am). The whole hostel was built on top of the turquoise of the Caribbean, and the massive patio outside had three swimming holes cut into it, one of which boasted a trampoline and three swings as entry points. 

deck swings for water jumping
deck trampoline for water jumping
relaxing before our buddies arrived
We killed time, feeling old and tired and barely able to get ourselves up for a beer and a game of Scabble, as we waited for our friends Jake and Tyler to arrive. When they did arrive, with our soon to be new friend, Reese, the energy immediately lifted. We gathered ourselves and took on night one at Iguana’s. It was a great night, arriving to the bar via water taxi and dancing salsa with the locals, although Tyler did have an unfortunate run in with a suspect islander that ended in a scar on Tyler’s chin and a great story.

water taxis--these things were ALL over the place
The next day was beach day. There are many to choose from near Bocas. Because we got a late start and were on a slightly smaller budget, we went to Reg Frog which is a bit closer to Bocas Town and costs less for the water taxi. Tyler complained at the state of Red Frog as we zipped across the shimmering ocean highway, telling us how much it sucks and how much better Zapatia is. When we landed at Red Frog, we questioned Tyler’s assessment because the white sand, palms, and bath warm ocean water was literally the image of island paradise. If this was the shit beach, the good one must have been heaven. We got an early start to our party on beach day with rum and coke, poured straight into our mouths for extra class. 

Fortunately for us, the venue for the evening was our hostel so we had an easy time continuing into the night. That night the outside patio was packed to the railings with Ticos, Argentinians, Yanks, Brits, Panamanians, Dutch, French, Venezuelans, Columbians, and more, and eventually they all began spilling into the water. We made friends with the lovely Jose and Yene from Panama City, whom I met up with them a few days later when we returned to PC and had a nice evening at my favourite Central American brewery, La Rana Dorada. The night at Aqua Lounge was an incredible party and an insanely fun night, only slightly dampened by the casualty suffered when I went swimming with my clothes on and forgot to remove my phone from my back pocket.

Tyler and Jake making mouth cocktails. Not as gross as it sounds
Tyler, Jake, Justin, and Reese
Justin and Crystal on hideous Red Frog Beach

The next day was The Worst Hangover Ever (we still talk about it that way, four months later)! It was the most beautiful, sunny day of our stay in Bocas, and we literally could not enter the sunlight due to the severity of our headaches. We hid in the shade on a hammock the entire day, and barely spoke to anyone until the evening came around and we could stomach a few drinks (yes, that kind) to bring us back to life a little bit. Hair of the dog that bit you, right?! As far as hangover days go, it could have been much worse. For instance Jake and Tyler and Reese had to leave at 4:30am - basically when the party ended - and Jake fell victim to the corrupt border officials between Panama and Costa Rica. So we didn’t have the worst of it. I’d say it was a miserable but worthy write off of a day.

bocas del toro, panama
View from Aqua Lounge 
The night after hangover day was our last party day in Bocas. We did some pre funking at the hostel with Remi, our English mate who preceded our almost exact entry into Brazil and gave us a few good pointers for our upcoming Amazon cruise and and arrival in Menaus, the Hermanas Ticas, Sylvia and Paula, who I talked football with a bit and am currently congratulating on Costa Rica’s performance in the World Cup, and Sebastian and Francisco, the most charming and sweet Argentinians ever. That night we ended up at Iguana’s again where the most excitement of the night was when Neil dropped his wallet in the water and stripped to his knickers, handed his shorts to Crystal, and dove in after it. Good thing the water is so clear. It was the perfect evening to bid farewell to Bocas. 

With hugs and kisses and utter contradiction for the third lie of Bocas, we packed up the next day to return to Panama City to retrieve our passports, fresh with Brazilian VISAs, and prepare for the next stage of our journey.