A lot has been happening but not all of it fun. What is it about travelers like ourselves that makes them go hunting after things that cause a lot of stress and upheaval? Crossing oceans, shipping our boat up the Red Sea, traveling through one border after another and at the moment, shipping the truck a long way. I guess its just how we roll.
Backing up, we finished out our last days in Costa Rica in a couple more mountain towns, Canaan and San Gerardo de Rivas. We’d gotten into a pattern of rain each day and often got wet on any hikes we did. The Cloudbridge Forest Park was definitely in the clouds but when the sun did come out it was really beautiful and of course the air was fresh. There were some pretty butterflies there. We camped next to the soccer field in both villages which was a refreshing change actually and one village even had a cheese maker where we got the best cheese we’ve had since leaving the US. It was neat seeing it all aging on the shelves and smelling that aroma. Costa Rica’s highest mountain Cerro Chirripo is there but the weather certainly wasn’t right for climbing it so that was out.
Coming down out of those mountains on the way toward Panama, Jon & I made a zig over to the Pacific coast again to visit Marino Ballena Park in Uvita. It has a very south Pacific feeling beach and at low tide, a bar of rock & sand forms a whale tail shape. We didn’t catch it perfectly and so our pics aren’t anything special. Humpback whales spend the winter in the area but of course they weren’t there at this time but the heat sure was! We took a quick swim but the water wasn’t clear and there wasn’t anything to make us want to stay another night.
So we zagged back to meet back up with Ivan the next day and prepared to cross to Panama. Overall, we really enjoyed Costa Rica and the way they’re taking care of their country is much appreciated from us who love the outdoors and nature! We had kind of hoped Panama would be similar but our memory from sailing here years ago wasn’t that way and indeed, it is not! Back to pockets of nice in what can sometimes be an overwhelming amount of trash. After crossing the border, we bolted up to Boquete, an expat town to greet the mountains and cooler air again. I read that the word Panama is an indigenous word meaning abundance of fish, butterflies and trees.
Boquete isn’t a bad little town and we did some nice walks there but we were honestly becoming more and more preoccupied with shipping our trucks out of Central America. While its most common to head to Columbia, we got to thinking that what we’re missing most is wide open spaces and less population density and we’re just really excited for southern South America and the Patagonia area. So we decided WHY WAIT? You never know your fate anyway. So we went about making a booking from Panama City to Buenos Aires. It’s the same price. The problem is shipping is somewhat unreliable since covid, this route isn’t as common and they wouldn’t confirm the ship until pretty much the last minute. So we decided to just keep moving toward Panama City continuing to explore until we got the go ahead.
Jon & I really wanted to dive in Coiba on the west coast of Panama. Since we’d heard so much about the big life often found there and the fact that this month was hammerhead season, we decided not to miss doing a day of diving because the chances are we won’t pass this way again. So we booked that and drove down from the mountains and out a long, bumpy road towards the Pacific again to the town of Santa Catalina.
The following morning, we took a boat way out to Contreras Island to do 3 tanks on deep underwater pinnacles. The whole area is protected and it being the off season except for the hammerhead divers, it was very quiet. There ended up being a fair amount of surge that day though so we didn’t end up seeing any hammerheads (apparently they don’t like surge) and the dives weren’t relaxing because of all the current and motion back & forth. We did see several reef sharks, octopus, a turtle and a good variety of schooling fish. These were deep dives and straddling the decompression limits in those conditions wasn’t a ton of fun. What it did do was make us determined to carry our own gear with us in the truck because we want to do more diving and we don’t like using rental gear. We’ll stuff it somewhere in there!
From Boquete we headed to Anton Valley, a really healthy seeming town which ended up being my favorite overall. It sits in an extinct volcano with the rim full of trails to hike. An ice cream shop there that had milk shakes became our replenishment stop after hiking. The town is bustling, all of the roads are newly paved and there are even bike paths! We visited a little preserve that breeds the endangered Golden Tree Frog and enjoyed the company of other overlanders in the campground we stayed at. We had quite the international crew with Germans & Dutch there, all shipping soon. It was there that we got word that we were officially booked on the ship!
So we left the next morning for Panama City and checked in to Overland Embassy campground to begin the preparations. No matter whether you’re shipping with IVSS or Overland Embassy, they welcome you just the same. And however full they are, there’s always room for one more. An overlander who had a pet chicken and couldn’t take it on the ship left her behind and the staff has taken her under their wing. She likes people and in the evenings, she would sit on our doorstep asking to come inside the habitat to feel safe. Overland Embassy was incredibly helpful and knowledgable about what we needed to do to ship and they even accepted packages for us. My favorite is the poster with the world map on the wall that says:
“I haven’t been everywhere yet, but it’s on my list”. Its our mantra I think.
And here began a week of nothing really but preparations. A 2 day police inspection process, multiple copies of documents, a thorough truck cleaning, oil change, grease, some touch up painting, errands, shutting down the fridge & freezer and then we were finally ready.
On Monday, we rented a car, drove all the way to Colon on the Caribbean side of the canal to deliver the trucks at the port, got in a massive traffic jam along the way that made everything late, then drove all the way back to Panama City, and checked into an apartment that we rented for the week. It was very hard seeing port personnel drive away in our truck home not to be seen until ???? It felt easier with Evergreen because we brought it up to the side of the ship and actually rode up in it as they lifted it. Then when it arrived in Greece we got back into it on the ship and rode it back down!
Essentially homeless now, we have been part tourists this week but also distracted because we are in a state of limbo. We are waiting on the ship to arrive to pick up our truck (it is enroute but already late). Jon worked really hard finding BCD’s and regulators which we needed to complete our kit but the only problem was they were in Spain so we had to ship them. Well we did finally get them in our hands yesterday (yay!!) but it wasn’t without a lot of stressing out, hassle and then unexpected customs brokerage fees for Panama. Grrrr! We spent a day in the nicer part of Panama City and met up with friends Emmy & Anton that were in Ivan’s dive class in Utila. They are traveling the world as backpackers and we just happened to converge here. It was great to see them again. We’ve enjoyed the apartment, making meals together and it has everything we need but…. Panama City is not a vacation destination for sure! Today, we walked all along the Pacific side of the canal entrance and even to the Balboa Yacht Club where we anchored after transiting the canal on Evergreen in 2012. A trip down memory lane. So much has happened since then!
Because we believe in living each day, and we have to live somewhere during this time, we’re headed over to Curacao tomorrow to do a week of shore diving. Nope, it’s not the on season and there’s even a tropical storm going by right now but with any luck, it will bring blue skies again and give us some underwater time. A good distraction until Argentina. We hope it all turns out OK.