Wandering Central America, we arrived in Panama searching for a place of relaxation. After all, backpacking is tiring. We had finally arrived on a beautiful Caribbean island off the coast of Panama called Isla Bastimentos. It is located in the Bocas region on the east coast of Panama. This exotic island was home to a small population of people who lived a simple lifestyle. One thing that sparked my interest was that the locals on the island spoke Creole, an interesting dialect between English, Spanish and the Caribbean native language. Majority of the houses and shops lied along the small island coastline with old wooden docks that led out to waiting water taxis to get to and from the mainland. Although most locals appeared to live in poverty they were generous to share their paradise surroundings, known as home, with us.
While soaking in the relaxing vibe of the island, we settled into our new home for the next four days. The guest house that we were staying at was called Tom’s Guesthouse. It was located right on the coastline and was built over the water. The owners of the guesthouse were an older couple originally from Germany. They had moved to Panama to spend their days basking in the Caribbean sun. The guest house was perfect, containing the normal essentials but I would suggest that the best part were the hammocks overlooking the clear blue water. After settling in, we spent the first day in the hammocks, drinking beer and interacted with other guests. It was only a matter of time that I had fallen asleep from the rocking of the hammock caused by the light coastal breeze.
(My evil boyfriend capturing my nap)
The next day we decided to move our bodies further than our hammocks and wander the island for small hidden gems. We set forth to hike to the top point of the island. We packed our beach towel and sunscreen with the mindset of reaching the other side of the island as the locals told us of the amazing beaches. Walking along the pathways we noticed old abandoned homes in the mist of the shrubs, that at one point in history, shared beautiful stories and viewpoints. As we continued our journey we began to see hand painted signs in English stating “Up in the Hill”....
With our curiosity, we followed the signs.
As we followed the old painted markers...it led us to a wooden building with a patio fit for any backpacker daydreamer. It was home to a small local and organic café known as the ‘Up in the Hill’ Cafe. At the highest point of Isla Bastimentos was this quaint business with the best view in all of the Bocas del Toro Region.
Of course, we stayed for a cup of coffee and a chocolate brownie. Unfortunately the brownie contained coconut, which I am allergic to, so you can only imagine how upset Thomas was that he had to eat the brownie all by himself. Once we finished our afternoon snack, we started our trek down the windy trail leading to the beach. After approx. 45 minutes walking downhill, we had arrived again to another hidden gem called Wizard Beach. With no one in sight, we were alone. The crystal clear, light blue, water was ours. And as we marked our spot for the rest of the day with our towels, the perfect little grains of sand buried our feet, exfoliating each individual toe.
We had arrived.
While we were lucky to have the beach to ourselves for hours, we were not surprised when other people (both locals and tourists) came to explore this magical beach. Our day became disrupted when a Russian couple arrived completely 'smashed'. As the middle aged man stumbled his way over to us, we knew our day was going to get a lot more eventful. Of course, his intentions were innocent, as he slurred his sentences talking about very “meaningful” and “deep” things about life. His wife continued to try to redirect him from us but I have to admit he was very entertaining. As the day moved forward, we observed this middle aged Russian running up and down the beach like an episode of Baywatch… wearing a light green ‘banana-hammock’ swimsuit and a typical hairy chest….we couldn’t help but laugh for hours.
As soon as the sun began to set, Thomas and I realized we allowed time to pass without planning how we were going to get back. We had only seen one water taxi arrive at the beach to drop of a group that was located at the opposite end of the beach. Fortunately, that water taxi came back to pick up the group. Thomas and I quickly grabbed our belongings and ran for the boat. The once soft, beautiful sand that snuggled between our toes, now limited our ability to run. It felt like we were escaping from quick sand, making it appear as though the beach continued to stretch out for miles with no end in sight....I was worried we were not going to make it.
However, we did luck out and reach the boat. The taxi driver was kind enough not to charge us an arm and a leg for the ride back ($2US) giving us the fair price. Once we were on the boat, I had a strong gut feeling... a moment of concern that… there were too many people on this boat! The water line began to get closer and closer to the edge of the boat…and I began to worry about the possibility that this boat may sink!!! As I looked at the taxi driver for reassurance he just smiled without a worry. Finally, the last person got on and the taxi driver began the engine and started to reverse for sea. We were only a couple of meters away from the beach and out of nowhere the Russian couple grabbed the boat, trying their best to climb in for a ride!!! The driver yelled out in the creole language to what I believe was “You IDIOTS!”...
…the waterline crept up higher, only 6 inches to disaster. One small wave… we would sink.
As the boat slowly made its way to each destination, ours thankfully being the first, we got out and waved goodbye to the boozed, sun-burnt, dazed individuals. As I turned to walk away, I noticed the Russian man passed out in the back seat. While the boat pulled away, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself and think it was the perfect ending to our relaxing day in paradise.