And it's not like we actually left the beauty, the animals, or the great beaches behind when crossing the long metal bridge of border between the 2 countries.
(yep, this is the boarder crossing from Costa Rica to Panama)
As we headed out to Bocas del Toro (now, did anyone actually think that we ate a bull's mouth?) by boat, we quickly relaxed into the assurance that Panama has nothing to regret in comparison to it's more tourist developed neighbour.
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago in the Caribbean coast of Panama consisting of 6 main islands. We stayed on the Isla Colón, the most developed of the islands but still a place with a cool, local feeling, in the main town Bocas (there seems to be a certain red thread to the naming of the different parts of this area...). With loads of tourists strolling the street, but equally mixed with locals and without any big hotels, this is indeed one of the more touristy areas of Panama, but a down-to-earth one where nature never feels more than a stone throw away.
So we were very lucky to have selected this place as our first stop in Panama. And as everything in life needs balance, we lucked out in terms of weather for the first 2 days as the sky opened wide open for one of the more efficient showers that I have seen since the beginning of my 3 months of travel (yep, it has almost been 3 months already!! One quarter of the year!
Hence we started the stay with a nice lazy morning sleeping in and then lounging on our balcony, protected from the rain, in the hammock. Ah, and I read another book. Of course. In the afternoon, Nuno started to get really antsy as he could not take being closed in any longer.
Taking advantage of a 10 minutes break in the rain, and of the fact that I was getting hungry, he managed to convince me of the idea to face the rain and go for lunch, followed by a 2h bike ride stunt in the rain. It was great in fact. Yes, we got soaked through as our rain proof jackets stop being rain proof after about 1h30 or so of constant rain. But with the warm rain of the tropics it does not really matter.
Did I mention that the beaches are wild here and that the jungle carries down all the way down to the beach? Sometimes all the way down to the water, with some palm trees then falling over as somehow they were probably not made to live off salt water. Wild, crazy, savage, beautiful. Not always with the easiest access to the beach. Not always with any real beach to lie on. But beautiful. Different.
After a hike through some wild, water-drenched jungle, we came out on the 'beach' a bit higher up on the island that face the open water. Another well-liked surfing spot.
Nuno was by this time going mad with frustration that he could not find any body boards and fins for rent anywhere as he had set his mind on bodyboarding during our stay in the islands. After I convinced him on the way back to 'civilisation' (an area with 1 bar, 1 restaurant/surfing school, and 1 hotel) that surfing might be a good enough option, he rented a board and made his way barefoot back through the jungle.
I had enough of jungle trekking for one day and stayed in the restaurant, sitting above the sea, reading yet another book, while being eaten alive by sand flies (1000 times worse than mosquitoes, these tiny bastards hurt you with their bites, attack you in big groups, are so small that they are difficult to spot, and leave super itchy spots - aargh). We had forgotten the insect repellent spray (the best friend of any traveller in these regions). Luckily the restaurant owner soon took pity on me and lent me some of his spray. Miracle, they all left me alone.