After spending time on the Caribbean side of Panama, we decided to check out an interesting hostel within Panama’s cloud forest. We heard about this known ‘jungle’ hostel from some gringos we had met in Costa Rica. The hostels name “The Lost and Found Lodge”. So as we packed up our bags and headed south... only to realize that we had
no clue where we were going...
While we walked down the busy streets of Bocas Town (Isla Colon), we were misguided to the wrong bus terminal which, of course, had to be in the opposite direction of where we actually wanted to go. After turning around and walking for another 30 minutes we finally arrived at another bus terminal. We asked some local bus drivers if they were heading towards the city of David or if they knew where this mysterious hostel was located. One of the workers claimed he knew what we were talking about; however, he spoke a dialect of Spanish that was too confusing to understand. Now, for all the backpackers reading this blog, you may already know the key to communicating is with your hands and going off facial expressions. This is an important asset when trying to get from place to place. As we hopped onto a small local bus (holds about 15 passengers) we took our chances that we were going in the right direction.
With our bags shoved underneath the crammed seats and with a crowded bus, away we went on the 2 ½ hour journey. The co-worker of the driver began to hang off the outside of the bus to collect the money of the individuals who were already on the bus. When it was our turn to give him our fee, I asked him in my broken Spanish if he knew where to get off for the Lost and Found lodge. In response, he rapidly blurted a bunch of Spanish back at me, which in short, I took as a yes. At this point we were in the hands of this local worker and hoped we would get to hostel that day.
While observing the locals, I quickly noticed that the bus would never come to a complete stop. However, when an individual would want to get on and/or off the bus the co-worker would reach out his hand to the person and grab them into or out of the vehicle as the driver would just slow down. It was nerve racking to watch as I was worried that someone would get hurt. And as time passed and the space on the bus became smaller and smaller I began to wonder when our turn to get off the smelly, sweaty, squished vehicle would be.
When we were approaching to our hopeful destination, the concern of us having to possibly do a “drop and roll” effect out of the moving vehicle was beginning to look truthful when the driver was not coming to a complete stop for us. Although I had been watching locals do this kind of routine for the last hour, I was worried that I would cause serious injury to myself. The co-worker suddenly began to grab our bags and as he leaned out of the vehicle it looked like he was going to throw our bags out of the bus first!!! Thomas quickly grabbed onto our backpacks ensuring that this wasn’t the case. Fortunately by this time the bus driver had come to a complete stop and turned to us with the hand motions of “get out”. We were relieved that the driver understood we were not accustomed to the “hop on, jump off” routine. While we focused on getting off the bus quickly we both looked out at our surrounding environment only realizing we had a new concern. We were on the side of a mountain. With no real civilization around us and with hesitation we still began to get out.
As the co-worker helped me off the bus, we realized the driver was becoming impatient but not at us. Meanwhile, at the back of the bus were two blonde gringos who were slowly hesitating to get off as well. When all four of us grabbed our backpacks on the side of the road, we watched the bus drive off into the distance of the mountain side. Our newly made backpacking friends were from Sweden and had told us they had overheard me talking about the hostel that they too, were trying to locate. They only got off the bus because we got off!!! While standing in the middle of the cloud forest beside a quiet road with no traffic, Thomas and I explained that we too had no idea where this hostel was located. When we all looked at each other with faces of “what do we do next?” it was then we all broke down and started to laugh.
Walking around the quiet area we all looked for some kind of sign that stated what direction we needed to go. I suddenly noticed a small painted sign nailed to a tree ,on the other side of the road, with a small yellow marker indicating Lost and Found with an arrow pointing up. With excitement we all realized we had made it to the right destination!!! As the other couple decided to readjust there bags, Thomas and I grabbed our bags and started to hike (approximately 20-30 minutes uphill) following the markers made available. When we reached the end of the markers, we found the hidden gem within the middle of Panama’s cloud forest. Since, Thomas and I were the first of the two couples to check in we lucked out and were able to book the last private room. Thomas was determined to get the private room after hearing what the alternative option was. It was a room that held 24-30 people. I still remember Thomas trying his best to contain his excitement as the Swedish couple sighed with disappointment.
Finally, as we settled into our quiet room, I relaxed in a hammock that overlooked the mountain side where this amazing hostel was located. I watched the beautiful sunset that night with one of Panama’s Volcanos in the background. I knew at this point we would stay here for a couple of nights. It was a perfect ending to the day where we truly were lost and found.
(The perfect view from my hammock!!!)