White water, Zip lines, and Secluded beaches
Trip Start Jul 09, 2008
5Trip End Ongoing
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Chris and I made it from Venao to Boquette in one day, and checked into a nice little pension/hostel that is owned and run by a German guy and his Panamanian wife... heīs done very well for himself given sheīs about half his age and one of the hottest girls Iīve seen here in Panama.
Once again, we met more travelers from around the world, including a wonderful family from Spain, a couple from England, friends from Colorado, and sisters from California. Minus the Spanish family, I just described our white water rafting team. It had rained a lot the day before so the river was raging, and we couldnīt go down the most extreme sections. So we ended up doing one section twice, which consisted of mostly class 3 and 4 rapids. It was a blast, though in the end I was wishing we could have tried some class 5s. The first time down, we all flipped out of the boat on one section, but the second time through we tackled the same rapid and made it through without losing anyone... pretty exciting. http://www.panamarafters.com/ So of course we all had to celebrate that night, and found a jazz bar I really liked called Zanzibar. The next night, most of us met up again at another place where Chris and I taught a Salsa lesson. Good times.
At one point while walking down the street, we ran into Mike and Pati again, which was quite a surprise. Up to that point my plan was to head to Bocas del Toro after a few days in Boquette because itīs fairly close. Mike and Pati were planning on doing the same thing, until Mike checked the internet surf forecasts. Mike surfs as well, and had not caught any good swells in Panama so far. So their plans of going to Bocas changed when he found out it was gonna be flat. They invited me to go with them to the "surf capital" of Panama, Santa Catalina, where it looked like some waves were on the way. Of course I opted to go surfing, and it was also great because theyīre wonderful people and I was again immersed in an almost Spanish-only situation (now and again Mike and I enjoyed escaping my broken Spanish and rambling for a while in English).
So Chris stayed behind in Boquette to continue with his photography project, and off I went with my Chilean friends to find more waves. I hadnīt planned on going to Santa Catalina because I had heard that the only really good spot for surfing was a point break where at least 30 guys are sitting in the same small spot charging for every good wave that passes through (try saying that three times fast). Nonetheless, I was trying to stay optimistic that it would turn out to be different, and a little more friendly of an atmosphere. When we arrived in Santa Catalina I found out that the only really good spot for surfing was a point break where at least 30 guys are sitting in the same small spot charging for every good wave that passes through :-) So on the second day, we had plans of taking a boat organized by some other surfers, out to a secluded island to find some uncrowded waves... that is until those other surfers met group of cute girls that also wanted to go to the island. Needless to say, we lost our spots on the boat and ended up hiking 45 minutes to another part of the coast where we heard there may be good waves. We arrived hot, sweaty, and tired, and youīll never guess what we found!.... shit; absolute shit. Well, at least in terms of waves. The view was beautiful, but the waves were shit. So after hiking back, we finally settled on surfing a beach break that ended up being better than it looked from the beach, but still nothing to write home about (though ironically, here I am writing home about it).
That night, though we were resistant to pay the $150 for a boat ride, I recruited another surfer (Casey from Hawaii) and organized a ride to Isla Cebaco. We were told to show up promptly at 6AM, which we did, and then waited till 7:30 AM before we finally left for the island. Such is always the case in Panama. Though Iīm sure that the one time I test that theory and show up late for something, it will be the one time they are actually on time. At any rate, the boat ride out was absolutely beautiful and once we arrived, I experienced another "first"... paddling up to a surfing spot from behind the waves rather than through the waves from the beach. I felt like a pro surfer.
Till I caught my first wave and remembered that Iīm just Jarod the Kook. The waves werenīt incredible but they were fun, and the water was the nicest I have seen since I arrived in Panama. Add that to the tropical paradise setting, and the fact that there were only three of us in the water, and we were happy men.
Weīd had enough of Santa Catalina, with itīs agro surfers and locals, so we headed back to my slice of Paradise... you guessed it: Playa Venao. Of course we stayed at Eco Venao, and the waves had picked back up since we had left for Boquette. The next few days consisted of early morning and late afternoon surf sessions split up by lots of reading in hammocks and general relaxation. At Eco Venao there was a friendly group of Swiss surfers as well as a guy from Italy named Rocky (donīt say it; I know youīre thinking it, but donīt say it). As far as I know, heīs never been to Philadelphia (Did I just say it?). Sorry Rocky, I couldnīt help myself.
I only had a few days before I had to head back to the city to pick up two more friends joining me to explore Panama. I didnīt take any pictures while they were here, so Iīll pick back up at this point on my next blog cause theyīre supposed to send me some pics soon. Iīm currently back in Panama City, trying to take as many Salsa lessons as possible, and I leave tomorrow for the San Blas islands to finish up my days in Panama. With only a week left, Iīve already been entertaining the idea of extending my stay but donīt think thatīs gonna happen (for example: I was a mouse click away from booking a sailing trip to Colombia this morning but decided I just couldnīt afford it). Look forward to seeing many of you soon... and I probably wonīt post another blog till after Iīm back in Austin. But I think the last one will be a must-see, based on what Iīve heard about the beauty of San Blas.