. I crashed out whilst Dan went out to have a wander around town, and came back a couple of hours later to inform me that we were booked to go diving in the morning...wicked! We spent the evening making the most of the delicious caribbean food whilst we still can, enjoying rice and beans with chicken for next to nothing from a plastic chair joint, and having a beer on our balcony overlooking the main street in this very chilled out town.
The following morning we were ready and waiting at the civilised time of 9am for our dives, and once we'd sorted our gear out we set off to the first dive site which was only a 5 minute boat ride away. There was absolutely no current at the dives sites, which are all surrounded by bays and islands, and as the boat was so tiny we had to put all of our diving equipment on in the water. This is new for us and that little bit more dignified than trying to balance on a rocking boat, wearing flippers and a mask and carrying a heavy air-tank on your back that makes your legs buckle. Both of the dives were really nice and even though the visibility was not as good as we'd gotten used to in Honduras, there was plenty of variety of fish and coral and the water was warm enough to dive without a wetsuit. We saw some things that we hadn't seen in Utila, like sea-horses, squids, jellyfish, hog fish, and toad fish, and the usual beauties like spotted drum fish, rays, moray eels, lobsters, lion fish etc. We also got given a 10% off card for diving in Colombia which is a bonus, so all in all a lovely morning followed by beans on toast and an afternoon nap!
Our third day in Bocas del Toro was spent exploring the other side of Isla Colon. We made our way by bus (we were debating cycling the 15km but after seeing the state and gradient of the roads we were relieved that we didn't) to Bocas del Drago
. This side of the island is completely uninhabited apart from hundreds of colourful starfish that cluster just offshore. The beaches are lined with palm trees and the 15 or so other people that were on our bus soon disappeared and it was like being stranded on a desert island. Dan found a half-finished raft that provided entertainment until it sank, and we lazed around on the beach until it started raining. Even though we are trying to save the dollars at the moment and cook whenever possible, it was too good an opportunity to miss when we saw that the starfish cafe was doing a special on english fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper and complete with salt, vinegar and ketchup. So, we indulged and spent the evening sitting on a wooden jetty overlooking the bay and making plans for tomorrow which go something like 1) boat to Almirante at 6.30am 2) direct bus to Panama City at 8am...easy.
We overslept and ended up missing the 8.30am bus to Sixaola...a hazard that comes with having a dark, quiet, clean and comfortable room. Never mind, the 9.30am bus got us there just in time before the border crossing closed for a couple of hours, and a quick, cheap ($1 entrance tax) and hassle free border crossing meant we were soon walking over the Rio Sixaloa into Panama via a very high and very rusty metal bridge. With no chicken buses in sight and a good deal of bargaining with a driver about the cost of a ride in his minivan, we took the easy option and paid 5 bucks for a direct journey to Almirante, from where we could catch a boat to Bocas del Toro. Sure enough we were literally dragged out of the minivan as soon as we arrived and shoe horned into a tiny speed boat heading for Isla Colon - the largest of the 6 islands that make up the carribean archipelago of Bocas del Toro. The boat ride only took 45 minutes and as ever a helping hand was waiting at the dock to ensure that we were soon booked into a nice and very cheap place to call home for a few nights