Monday, 11 July 2011

Last days in Boquete and Tortuguero [Travel Update]

We ended up booking yet another tour with the Boquete Outdoor Adventure company. This time, it was a secluded island tour including snorkeling gear, sea kayaking, lunch and transportation to a remote island with a beautiful beach. We left in the morning with a bus and after 2 hours on the road and a beautiful 45 minutes boat ride, we reached the island in question. The island is part of one of Panama's national parks and is not inhabited. The beach is breathtaking, the water pristine and the sun, very strong. We spent a relaxed day there, sunbathing among the many tiny beach crabs, we spent some time in hammocks and we kayaked around the island for a bit. It was a lot of fun and well worth it! The pictures are beautiful and I'm a couple shades darker now :p (I did burn like a lobster while we were there even though I kept reapplying sunscreen, now that the redness is gone though, I have the closest thing I ever get to a tan, a medium beige color XD).

The next day, we went rock climbing on the only spot in Panama for rock climbing. The granite textured walls, with climbing difficulties ranging from 5.7 to 6, are the beautiful result of a lava flow that came from the Baru Volcano many hundreds of years ago. At first, our guide went all the way up (with no harness or anything) to place the rope for the climbing. It took him no more than 2 minutes to get to the top and he made it look really easy. It isn't! I could barely climb two different routes, both of which were 5.7 in difficulty (which is supposed to be quite easy according to the guide) and my hands had blisters all over them. It was a great feeling to conquer the wall of rock with nothing but your arms and legs though, so even though it was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun! That was our last day in Boquete and in fact, in Panama.

The next day, we took a bus to San José (about 9 hours) Costa Rica to continue our trip. The border we passed through to get here has got to be the most unpleasant border I have ever seen (and at this point I've seen quite a few). It took forever just to get out of the country, let alone get into Costa Rica. Officials were also searching very throughouly the suitcases of locals going through the border and we found that a little shocking (the man spent at least 5 minutes groping in the underwear bag of a girl there, touching everything and asking what everything was in the suitcase). When they saw our passport though, they let us go through without even opening our bags.  It might be that they are extra careful because of possible drug smuggling out of the country, but it still seemed quite excessive.

Upon arriving in San José, we booked a tour for Tortuguero, a national park on the Caribbean side of the country which is the home of nesting turtles during the months of July through October.  I will review that package in depth in another post because there were some issues in management which I cannot ignore, but overall the experience was fun. We did a jungle boat tour, saw a banana plantation, a walk in the rain forest and we watched turtles nest at night. We saw tons of wildlife, including caimans, tiger herons, toucans, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, sloths, green iguanas, sea green turtles, rhino beetles and more. It was nice to see the wildlife up close like this! The tour however, was very touristy and had a pretty rigid schedule, so other than the planned activities, we couldn't really explore much of Tortuguero. We booked this package because the national park is not exactly easy to reach independently (many buses and boats to take to get there) and since we are leaving soon, we thought we would save time by doing so. We definitely saved time and had a great time!

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