there's someplace like home
Bocas del Toro Travel Blog› entry 14 of 14 › view all entries
Am sipping a strong, delicious coffee from Lilly’s café, which is catty-corner from our home base at Hotelito Del Mar in Bocas Town. It’s t-minus two hours until I hop on a Nature Air puddle jumper back to San Jose, and my heart hurts. I am using the time I should be using for proper goodbyes to write about my week here, as it’s one of those places that I feel like writing about it after I’ve left, in retrospect, would be cheating.
When Sarah and I made the decision to fly to Panama for the last full week of our trip, we did so with the intention of squeezing in a couple more dives, procuring better tans to return to the real world with, adding one more stamp to our passports, getting a strong dose of Caribbean water that we agreed is the best soul medicine.
When we first arrived in Bocas Del Toro exactly one week ago and dropped our bags at Casa Verde, we learned three things. One – that there were no beaches right here in town, nor was there really a place to swim. Two – that Bocas seemed to have some decent food. Three – that there had been a robbery (which we were told was commonplace) the night before in the very room we were supposed to sleep in. And so we moved house to Hotelito Del Mar and started sussing out the local dive shops so that we could get some dives in before relocating ourselves to the nearby island of Bastimentos.
After inquiring at each of other three dive shops, we walked into La Buga and met the owner, Ricardo Porras – the very same man who, when I called from Monte Verde Costa Rica, had convinced us book our tickets to Bocas in the first place by saying “It’s not the best diving in the world, and we’re not right on the beach, and it could potentially rain the whole week when you’re here, but right now it’s sunny and beautiful and I wish I could show you through the phone what I am seeing right now, because it would make you want to be here next to me.” And so there we were, less than a week later, looking out from La Buga’s dock at the clear green-ish playground and plethora of islands from which we could explore it.
I don’t have much time to write, as I need to pack and say some tearful goodbyes, but the highlights of the week are as follows:
Befriending Lilly. We had eaten in her café several times before we met her, although we were already big fans of her ‘Killin’ Me Man’ homemade hot sauce and had grown quite fond of her daughters, Shayda and Frida, who had served us. On Sunday morning, which was our first rainy day on the island, we planted ourselves at a table on the dock for breakfast, and asked the charming owner if she’d come sit and chat with us for a while. This chat quickly secured us a new friend, and Lilly invited us to come cook in the kitchen at her home later that evening. “Just tell any taxi driver to take you to casa de senora Lilly.
Diving. After our first dive, we hopped back onto the boat a little disappointed by the visibility and lack of marine life. We agreed that it may not be worth it to continue diving, and instead soak in the beaches.
Six hour boat tour. This day started out as a clusterfuck, trying to organize a semi-private boat with some friends who wound up flaking on the tour…and just as Pilo, the boat captain, was about to turn Sarah and I away, Robin, who lives in New York, showed up, and we were able to talk Pilo into taking the three of us for a few extra bucks apiece. The tour started out at Dolphin Bay, where we hung over the egde of the boat laughing excitedly as flipper and his buddies raced with the boat, jumping over each other playfully. Next, snorkeling at Crawl Cay, which had some of the richest, most vibrant coral I have ever laid eyes on. And finally, Cayos Zapatillas. Uninhabited powdery beaches surrounded by clear aqua bath-like water.
There were so many other magical moments – a bike ride to starfish beach, we powered thru thirteen kilometers of hilly, jungle roads before Sarah unfortunately busted ass as the result of an inadequate bike chain – listening to and playing music in Toro Loco – a midnight boat ride to a party on Red Frog Beach, where we danced by moonlight waist deep in the crystal-clear sea.
There’s so much more. Bocas Town is so full of flavor and color and art and music and it’s surrounds are truly paradise. It is the first place on my trip that I think I could live, and a place that I know I’ll return to. It’s time now. I’ve had my coffee and I need to get my shit together so we can make our flight. Insert long, sad sigh. Pics to come.