Panama City

Hi and Bye Costa Rica…hello PANAMA!

Having eaten our body weight in Nicaraguan bus food, seeing stunning waterfalls and volcanoes, and experiencing torrential rain like nowhere else, it was time to move on. A quick bank balance check saw that our trip to Costa Rica would have to be a short one (pricey much?), so we made the snap decision to come back to it, but first to hit up the very beautiful (and cheaper) country, Panama!

We stayed in San Jose for a couple of nights, before facing our final overnight bus trip…..HOORAY! The 16 hours felt every bit long as we unfortunately were not seated together, experienced A/C that could have rivaled my freezer, were bombarded at the Panamanian border for proof of sufficient funds and future travel plans (we had never been asked for this prior), only to arrive at the horrible hour of 4am. Nevertheless, we made it safe and sound to our hostel (which might I add was one of the best we stayed at all trip!). Free waffles and pancakes, hello! And so our Panama adventure began.

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Panama City turned out to be BEAUTIFUL! Staying in the Old Town of Casco Viejo, we explored the cobble-stoned streets and quaint stores before heading across to the most popular tourist attraction, the Panama Canal. We visited the Miraflores, which is one of three locks that form the Panama Canal connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The tourist centre itself was extremely well set up, with multiple viewing platforms, a theatre to show a 3D movie about the construction of the canal and several interactive displays. It was fascinating to watch the locks filling and emptying to let giant container ships pass through, and was easy to see why this country was making a substantial more amount of money than other Central American nations. Apparently one of the most expensive tolls charged for passing through the canal was to a Dutch cruise ship in 2010, at $375,000! Crazy! Nevertheless, we had a good time (and Colin Johnston, we thought that this might be your kind of place!).

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That same day we headed out to the Natural Metropolitan Park, which was a lovely rainforest only located about 1O minutes from the city centre. This was a bird-lovers dream, where we saw all kinds of flora and fauna, including turtles, very colourful butterflies, lizards and even a SLOTH (Jess Whattam, I’m looking at you!). Although it was sound asleep, and my camera failed to get any decent pics, we were just a tad excited to see one in person. It was refreshing to spend some time wandering through the giant park and getting some fresh air and exercise. I think our bodies were really quite in shock…

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After an extremely heavy downpour of rain, the mall was really just calling our name (bad I know). And here we discovered that leggings can be bought in random colours, and that it looks as though my parents may have bought two cafes….

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EL VALLE DE ANTON

We left the city to arrive to the very small and country-bumpkin town of El Valle.  This seemed like a fabulous idea, and whilst it was quite stunning, we ran out of things to do quite quickly. The following occurred here:

-       wandering around our hostel, which was really an Orchid Farm and pretending to know what they were talking about when showing us the different species

-       bouncing across the suspension bridges to a local waterfall

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-       spreading mud on our faces at the hot springs and then rinsing it off in what looked like dam water

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-       a beautiful dog who adopted us as friends, and insisted on walking with us through town EVERYWHERE!

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-       a snake scare when a hostel worker armed with a machete came running in yelling “Culebra, culebra” (yeah that apparently means snake). No pics I’m afraid.

-       cooking up a storm for about $4!