A Travellerspoint blog

Last stop: Paradise island

From Boquete to Bocas del Toro, Panama

semi-overcast 30 °C

On March 8, we travelled into the last country of this trip: Panama. We had to get up really early to catch the one and only bus that leaves from Punto Banco at 5:00, and we switched buses 4 times and find our way through a weird border crossing until we finally arrived in the Panamanian highland town of Boquete in the afternoon. Boquete was going to be a short interval stop on our way to Bocas del Toro. To our surprise, all hostels were fully booked, but we found a room in the end at Mamallena’s, where on our first night we found out that the walls are so thin, every conversation downstairs seems to happen right next to you...we hardly slept...Boquete is the capital of Panamanian coffee, and while the town in itself is nothing special and curiously full of retired, alcoholic Americans, we enjoyed the beautiful lush mountain scenery and went on a coffee tour of one of the oldest coffee estates in the area, Cafe Ruiz. We walked through one of the plantations, the workers’ accomodations, the production plant, learned all about the different coffees and did some tasting as well...
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After two nights, we moved on to our final stop of this trip: the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro. We embarked on our last epic bus and boat journey....
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And after about 6 hours, yes, we arrived in Bocas! We knew already that we were not gonna stay on the main island, Colon, as we heard it was mainly a terribly touristy party island and there are no nice beaches close by. We even gave it a try and checked out Bocas town on one night there but didn’t like it at all. When we arrived we went straight to Isla Bastimentos and stayed there at this wonderful new hostel Bocas Bound which is just a 5 minute walk from beautiful Red Frog Beach and a cluster of other, amazing wilderness beaches where you can relax, swim in the crystal clear waters, and have the place all to yourself as it is compeletely deserted!
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We also did a nice day tour that brings you to some of the best spots around, and we found some starfish, saw dolphins, snorkelled above amazing coral....
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...but best of all, found ourselves on this tiny paradise island that looked like it just popped out of a Bounty commercial!
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On Saturday, for the first time during these 3 months, Pim caught a little food poisoning and had a rough night (what a timing!). But there’s nothing a little beach time can’t cure! :-)

Four days on Isla Bastimentos and we are still not tired of the beach, sun, and chill times. But every trip has to come to an end (it’s sad but true) so now we are going to drink some rum and enjoy our last night...tomorrow we fly to San Jose, and the day after we go back to Amsterdam.

This has been an amazing trip and we feel really lucky to have experienced all of this and to have met all these lovely people and seen wonderful places. Of course we are looking forward to going home and seeing everyone again. But the travelbug is not going to leave us alone anytime soon, that’s for sure....!!!
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Posted by pimenmalka 17:39 Archived in Panama Tagged boquete bocas_del_toro Comments (0)

The surf is up

Punto Banco, Costa Rica

28 °C

Ok, so we want to start this blog entry with a message: THANKS ESTHER for recommending the Rancho Burica to us, we had an amazing time there!
After our three day hike in Corcovado we were tired (but happy), and intensly in need of some chill time on the beach. So we went to one of the most remote places in Costa Rica, the Golfo Dulce, and not only that but also the very far tip of the peninsula...literally the end of the road.
From Puerto Jimenez, where we had stranded again after the hike, we took an early boat across the gulf to Golfito. We were so tired and not happy we had to get up at 6 am again, but then we saw dolphins swimming and jumping in the waves around our boat and yes, that definitely woke us up! :-)
After that we had to take the bus to Pavones, a three hour bumpy ride over tiny bridges (not more than a few planks actually) and dirt roads. The bus stopped in Pavones, but we were not there yet...another 6 km to go!
There were no taxis and basically everyone who offered to take us wanted too much money for the distance, so we decided to just start walking and then see if we could hitchhike. After 3km we took a break on the beach where we had a snack and enjoyed the view!

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And just like that, the local schoolbus came by and the driver offered to take us all the way to the end of the road! So we hopped on the bus with all the local teenagers and in no time we arrived at the Rancho! Rancho Burica is a surf hostel owned by a group of 21 Dutch guys, they run it together and one of them is always there to take care of stuff and run the place.

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And yes, we found ourselves a little paradise there! The hostel is situated on an amazing spot right on the beach, between palmtrees and huge blooming plants. You can hear the waves crashing in day and night, hear the sounds of the jungle and smell the salt in the air. We spoiled ourselves to the most expensive room, this amazing open space abovethe old boat house!

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On our first day we had a downpouring tropical rainstorm for an hour, but after that it cleared up and the weather was perfect for the rest of our stay. Check the Ranco underwater!

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We ended up staying 4 nights, basically hanging out, lying in the sun, reading a book, eating yummy food and drinking beer. On Sunday we even got real Dutch pancakes made by one of the owners of the Rancho, Otto, and oh boy we were so happy! :-)
We had so much fun swimming in the low tide pools and just enjoying the amazing location. Besides that, Malka treated herself to a massage and Pim took some surfing lessons...and we just enjoyed ourselves and were super lazy!

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It was so hard to get going again, but yes, we had to get up real early to catch the only bus leaving at 5am bus to go to Panama....

Posted by pimenmalka 16:47 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged punto_banco rancho_burica Comments (0)

Lucky is lucky, you know

Corcovado national park

sunny 28 °C

Driving into Peninsula de Osa was already something else, crossing rivers on tiny wooden bridges in an old bus, so we were happy to arrive safe and sound in the little town of Puerto Jimenez. After such a strenuous and long ride to this remote place we couldn’t believe our ears when the first couple of hotels we tried were all booked out. After crossing the town for the fourth time we finally found a place to stay...
After installing ourselves we went into town for a drink and a bite and already met up with our tourguide Erick (a.k.a Fuerte!) for the 3day hike in Corcovado. Malka got some ‘cold feet’ after hearing about the long hike for the first day (22km) and after hearing of the wild peccaries (wild pigs) which in groups are known to be biting people that have not been able to climb into a tree...
Since in town there is not a lot to do we didn't do much the following day except for packing our bags and relaxing a bit. Actually, after all the preparations of the last week we were happy that the tour would start soon (apart from the fact that soon also meant getting up at 4:00 in the morning...).

We hoped to be able to sleep some more in the taxi ride up till the first ranger station, but this was a true 4x4 ride, with about 10 (deep!) river crossings and heavy bumps all over the dirt road. But we did arrive at Los Patos as the first group and were soon greeted by the first wild animal of the day, a young puppy. Look how happy (and bit sleepy) Malka is here:
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The first part of the track was the most difficult since we had to climb up quite some time. Soon our guide amazingly spotted the first animal, a spectacle owl, which are nighthunters and rarely seen during the day. Unfortunately he flew off before I could reach my camera. This was a real promising start, but as our guide Erick (from Surcostours) kept saying: “Lucky is lucky, you know, I can never promise you what we will see!”. The next thing we saw were the footprints of the illustrious jaguar in the mud, and they were big… Then we walked quite a bit without seeing much animals, I mean 22km is still a fair walk, but surely enjoying the wonderful jungle scenery. And then all of a sudden we walked over a little hill and surprised a tapir (which is a weird animal we saw later again) who instantly ran away into the forest, then another tapir, then monkeys, then a baby fer-de-lance snake (extremely poisonous), then parrots, then monkeys again (different types) and then also a group of wild pigs (the peccaries that Malka was still scared of and she didn't join us when we sneaked up on them a bit closer). Well, I think you get the picture, we saw so much and so many different animals that we hadn't seen before, and it was one wonderful day!
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We arrived at the ranger station called La Sirena earlier than expected but still quite tired. So we threw off our shoes, installed ourselves on the seats of the porch and watched the other groups coming in for the night. There was much talk over dinner of different groups that had spotted a puma chasing some spider monkeys, so we knew where we wanted to go the next day! After dinner, the electricity went on for an hour or so, and we prepared our beds and packs for the next day and went to bed early, another 4 o’clock rise ahead of us...

Sleeping was slightly difficult in the heat, and at the time it cooled a bit we got up again to go for our sunrise hike. We went to the spot of the puma sightings, but found nothing, and went back for breakfast a bit disappointed. After breakfast we set off for some trails around the ranger station and quickly ran into some wild turkey and wild chicken (which both can fly really high up!). Then, Erick stopped us suddenly and showed us the goosebumps on his arm because he had spotted a puma that was just about to cross our track. We didn't see it right then although it was only 5meters away from us, but Erick showed the location and yes, we did see it! The puma saw all of us, turned away and ran into the forest, we could only see it for maybe 10 seconds and then it was gone again. Such a majestic animal...we wanted more!

After this encounter we walked on over the track until we hit a big river where we made a stop. The funniest thing here, a crocodile came out of the water and literally posed for our cameras. Another guide stopped by and told us of a tapir sleeping at a place close by, so we went over to have a look! We had a nice long chance to inspect it and found that tapirs are the weirdest animals. They are actually closest related to horses and have the hoofs and backs of horses, however their heads look more like those of hippos and they have noses like anteaters. This partcular one was snoring away and did not let himself interrupt by us...
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We went back to the station just for some lunch but finally found us stuck there because some heavy showers kept us from returning to the forest the entire afternoon. We could use the rest, and just played some ´regenwormen´ and removed the ticks from our legs (nasty!) until it was time for dinner and going to bed. Another early rise, because we would be walking over the beach which would get really hot in the afternoon. So we left in the dark, still on the lookout for more animals. We ran into a guide who said he saw a cat, and we waited until it was light enough for our eyes to be able to see something. We were actually standing only about 15 meters away from a huge puma eating his night snack. But since he was eating the didn't go anywhere soon, and we could watch him really well. It was a real magical moment to stand so close and watch such a big cat (one of the biggest pumas our guide had ever seen). And yes, we were lucky, and very happy!
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ASK US FOR THE MOVIE WHEN WE GET HOME!!!

Afterwards, we had a long walk left, but a really nice one in a totally different scenary than before. All of a sudden we were walking out of the rainforest that grows on all the way onto some pristine beaches. Just beautiful.
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Actually just the night before we set out on that hike, hundreds of colourful crabs had come to the beaches to lay their eggs in little holes. They were everywhere!
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And we also found some baby lobsters...
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Some 18 kilometers futher we made it to the La Leona ranger station, and then to the end of our hikes, Carate town.
Tired and extremely happy!!!

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Posted by pimenmalka 18:58 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged corcovado Comments (0)

Monkeys and rum on the beach

Montezuma, Quepos & Manuel Antonio

sunny 30 °C

After our hiking and ziplining adventures in the mountains of Monteverde, we headed for the Nicoya Peninsula for some beachtime in the tiny town of Montezuma. We embarked on what would be another long journey that included a ferry ride across the gulf.
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We arrived in Montezuma and quickly discovered that this was a very touristy place as well - it seemed as if all of Costa Rica is! We must admit though we were a bit disapppointed with the beach there, which was our prime reason to head there in the first place. Somehow camping on the beach is allowed there and people leave all their trash behind which is just really sad. If you are looking for pristine beaches, you have to walk far out of town along the coast through the sizzling heat to get there, and the surf is so strong that swimming is not really an option. We spent one day baking away on the beach (it is just amazing how hot it was there!), just hanging out and relaxing, when we almost got mugged by a gang of white faced capuchin monkeys who really really REALLY wanted to check out our stuff! Monkey thief alarm!
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We ran into our friends Mel and Jenny again and had dinner with them and their German friend Jana at a cute little restaurant to the sounds of an amazing, locally famous band. And we fell asleep with the waves crashing just beneath our window...
Our second day in Montezuma we decided to go on a hike at the nearby Parque Nacional Cabo Blanco, to practice for a long hike we plan to do down south. So we set off for a 4 hour hike through the baking hot jungle where we encountered lots of different wildlife, like howler and capuchin monkeys and coatis, it was very beautiful and all the animals came very close to us. The trail leads to a wilderness beach where we had a picnic and watched hundreds of pelicans hunting for fish.
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After three nights in Montezuma we were off to head south, so we took a boat to Jaco the next day...what a hell of a bumpy ride! But we forgot all about that when we saw a few huge mantarays jumping high out of the water to shake off the fish on their backs, it looked so cool! From Jaco we took a bus to Quepos, where we checked in a surprisingly nice hostel called Wide Mouth Frog - they had the cutest courtyard and even a swimming pool, yeah! Best way to beat the heat!
The rest of the day we spent planning our trip to the Peninsula de Osa and the famous jungle of Corcovado in the far south of Costa Rica. And that was not an easy thing to organize, as you need a guide, reservations for the park entrance, for sleeping there, and the list goes on...they only allow very few visitors...all costs have to be paid at a Costa Rican bank in advance, etc., etc. We were very lucky to find an agency called Surcostours who could help us so we had the time to enjoy one free, lazy beach day in the nearby town of Manuel Antonio. This is actually an incredibly touristy spot but the beach was much nicer than on the Nicoya Peninsula, and we spent the day beach chillin' with Mel and Jenny, getting sunburnt, playing frisbee, drinking rum with Fresca, getting free coconuts and - even better and quite hilarious - free hair decorations from the coconut man!
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After this we had to say goodbye to Mel and Jenny who are off to Rio de Janeiro for Carneval, we could not be more jealous! Enjoy every bit of it, girls!
After this short and we think well deserved beachtime :-) we embarked on a strenuous 11 hour bus journey (and a difficult one to figure out as every single person we asked gave us different instructions on where to go and how and when) to get to one of the last remote and truly wild parts of Costa Rica - the Peninsula de Osa...
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Posted by pimenmalka 14:55 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged montezuma quepos manuel_antonio Comments (0)

From waterfalls to mountain views

Rincon de la Vieja & Monteverde

sunny 20 °C

The end of this journey is closing in on us and we felt it especially upon arrival in Costa Rica about a week ago, the country from where we will fly back to Amsterdam...

We crossed the border by foot with our friend Stephane and after weaving off a lot of ‘good meant advice by locals’ we actually made it through this border without paying one cent too much! Next stop, Liberia, a reasonably sized town from where it is easy to travel but also the center for tours into the national park of Rincon de la Vieja. We were picked up the next morning by 4x4bus and drove into the park while Malka was checked out by a weird ‘French’ guy. Since Stephane (himself Swiss) totally hates the french people this was actually quite funny to watch, especially because we found out afterwards that he was a French speaking Belgian!

In the park we decided to make our way to one of the two waterfalls, at first the one furthest away, and after a decent hike we stumbled upon this wonderful spot. See for yourself!

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We actually had the whole place for ourselves and really enjoyed the view for quite some time, made a nice little swim, ate our packed lunch, and once more the view before setting off again.

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On the way back we decided to also visit the other waterfall in the park, adding some 6kilometers extra to our itinerary. The first kilometers were already tiring because we only kept walking up, and then it became even steeper. Malka took a little rest while Stephane and Pim rushed up to take some wonderfull pictures of the surrounding at the highest point and oh yeah they also found the totally disappointing small waterfall after such a hike...

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The way back we had to rush a bit so we quickly ran past some bad smelling mud pools and geisers before getting into our ride back to the hostel where we found... our friends Melanie and Jennifer sitting across our room!
We went to McDonalds for a comfortable Western meal and said goodbye to Stephane the next morning when we went to Monteverde with the four of us.

Monte Verde = Green Mountain (yes the Spanish course was money well spent!), but we all definitely noticed the fantastic landscapes passing us by during the busrides. Monteverde is way more developed touristically than anything we have got used to the last months, so it was a bit weird to see all the American families sitting in the same hotels/restaurants and booking the same tours as we do...
But then again the surroundings at Monteverde are stunning and we decided to go for a rainforest hike the first day. We took the long scenic route all the way through the park while we saw the ‘oldies’ doing just bits and pieces. We found a little centipeed, and a hummingbird sitting real close to us.

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We felt so blessed with our viewing of a ‘wild’ hummingbird but then found out this amazing hummingbird sanctuary just outside the park. There were so many different ones and it was so cool seeing these beautiful birds up close!

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Sunday we spent as a regular Sunday should be spent, getting up late in the morning, move ourselves to the kitchen where pancakes and scrambled eggs were prepared for us, drinking some coffee... Then Pim had a Skype phonecall with his family and heard that one brother found himself a job and the other has asked his girl to marry him. Congrats again, so apparently things are moving on back home...
We were hushed off the phone by a tourguy waiting for us because we had signed up (read: Malka signed us up) for zip lining over, through and in the rainforest. In the city the weather had been supernice so when we arrived in shorts and tees to find that is was raining like crazy in the forest we got cold right away. The nerves were kicking in now as well, because the ‘suit’ was put on to us and before we knew it we were standing on top of the first platform in the middle of some huge tree ready to be flung away on our first zip line.

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This turned out to be much fun, gliding over the rainforest on different lines while enjoying either the views or the speed of the zipline. Especially the last line was interesting because a) it was the longest one, b) You couldnt see anything through the thick clouds and c) We had to go together which meant that Pim was the only one able to break at the end of the zipline (if he could see that at all...). Well, that was sure another activity neither of us did before this trip!

Finally we had heard that there was one more interesting thing to do before we left, to do a nighthike throught the rainforest. Around nightfall we arrived at our trail and soon after we set off into the forest with our guide. He didnt have to point out the many fireflies all over, but a bit later he did show us many sleeping birds on branches, small frogs, some sort of grasshopper and a tarantula!

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It was a nice little trip and afterwards we went home and Pim kept discussing whether the tarantula was real because the guide acted a bit weird before and after we visited the tarantula spot...

After these two action filled days we left beautiful Monteverde and were on our way to the Nicoya Peninsula...
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Posted by pimenmalka 19:53 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged monteverde rincon_de_la_vieja Comments (0)

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