Archive for June, 2014

The border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama was very smooth. All you need is 500$ cash, and an outbound ticket or at least a proof of some ticket that takes you home from either Panama or Colombia.

I left Corcovado at 7am and arrived in Sona at 7pm. Sadly from Sona there was no bus anymore to Santa Catalina but I met a taxi driver who gave me an acceptable price..i did try to look for accommodation is Sona but sadly it’s not a backpacker town so there is one or 2 hotels there for about $25 so I thought why not pay this for the taxi instead and stay in Santa Catalina. The reason I went there was to dive in Isla Coiba. In the end I stayed in a lovely place called Hibiscus Garden which is about 10km away from Santa Catalina. It’s owned by a German couple living there with their kids and there was a lovely Argentinian couple volunteering..they made my stay excellent! So diving was awesome there..I was with the dive master only. He is from Oz…I got slightly annoyed though cause during first dive he touched a coral and he panicked so after 45 mins we had to go up….even though my tank was half full but hey..rescue diver was doing what she was meant to do;-) On second dive he lasted 50 minutes (again half full tank)  cause he had to pee!!! I mean bloody hell pee in your wet-suit if you are a dive master and you are with only one person on the dive! I was really annoyed. But hey ho, we saw sharks, turtles, rays and amazing schools of fishes so it was satisfying in the end. In the hibiscus garden I also did some horse riding and engaged with the locals working on the farm. The food was excellent! Price was 11$ a night or so.

Hibiscus Garden Brekkie

Horse riding on the beach

You can actually stay on Coiba ..and I would recommend it as it’s beautiful:

Coiba Coiba Coiba coiba Coiba

After Catalina I headed to Panama city to spend the weekend there before starting my epic trip to San Blas and Colombia on 26th May. Panama City was about 7 hours away from Catalina, so I arrived there late afternoon. I got recommended to stay in Casco Viejo, so I picked the most popular hostel there called Luna’s Castle. It was a party hostel but I wasn’t too bothered as I stayed only 2 nights and I wanted to go out.

I really liked Panama city. It had a great vibe, nice buildings, nice people..and I felt very close to Colombia..In the end I opted to rest cause i was tired but at least I did some sightseeing:

Tom and Jerry Panama City Panama City Panama City Panama City

There is a great fish market where you can eat fresh fish and ceviche, there is a lovely Modern Art Museum that I visited, and I just walked around. It’s advisable to buy Metrobus card for 2$ and top it up with a few $. You don’t need much as a journey is 0.25$.

Panama City


I also visited the Canal. It was interesting to understand the history behind it.

Panama Canal Panama canal Panama canal

I only spent 4 days on Panama mainland. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit Boquete- fantastic place to do some trekking (although a few people went missing there recently) or climb the Baru volcano (where you get to see the 2 oceans on a clear day) or to visit Bocas del Toro..the Caribbean paradise of Panama. Knowing though that I will shortly go to the San Blas islands during my 5-6 days of sailing to Colombia made me feel ok about not going to Bocas.

So..the sailing trip started on the 26th May on a Monday. We got a transfer from Panama city to the San Blas islands by 4×4 and a little speedboat where our catamaran was waiting for us (Nacar 2).

Nacar 2 Nacar2

The name of the first island where we spent the first night (never on the island, always on the boat) was Analunega. This was a fairly developed island with the indigenous community (kuna) living there. If I compare them to the Tayrona people in Colombia the kunas are much more commercialised and charging tourists a lot for a necklace or any kind of handicraft.

Analunega Analunega Analunega Analunega

The first lunch was on the island, then Jonathan (sailor) cooked our dinner. Our captain was super cool- Jose. I almost forgot the story of how I got onto this particular sailing boat. I have a friend called Danila whom I met 2 years ago in the Bolivian jungle. She is Argentinian and she is still travelling since 2012! I can say without any exaggeration that she is a master of life! She found a job in Quito last year that allowed her to go to the Galapagos islands twice for free! And now she is working on the sailing company called Blue sailing (highly recommended if you are planning to do a trip either from Colombia to Panama or the other way round) so she booked me onto this boat as I had fixed dates.

So I got a fantastic bed outside..I knew this would be my best bet cause inside the boat you are more likely to get seasick during sailing, plus it can be a bit stuffy.

My bed

On the second day we moved after breakfast to the second island called Chichime. On this island I swam a lot! I was always in the water with my snorkelling gear and what you can see down there is a miracle. Not particularly because of the marine life as I was spoilt previously on my dive experience allover the world but this place is famous for its stunning sea stars..tons of them in the bottom of the sea and you can see them perfectly as the water is crystal clear.

sea star

On the 3rd day we sailed to the 3rd island called Huaisaludo. This was the least developed island, only one family lived here Julio and Laura. They moved 5 years ago from Panama City…cannot imagine a bigger contrast..but can perfectly imagine how a person can get to the point living 50 years in a big city to move to a deserted island. They are living from selling coconut to tourists for $1 each. They also sell empty beer cans to different commercial boats. They haven’t got much but what they have is worth more than any Versace bag or a super car. They see the sun rising above the Caribbean sea every morning and they see it setting every evening. We spent an afternoon with them drinking Coco Loco (rum in the coconut water).

Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo

This 3rd night was the best night in terms of the group. Lobster dinner…(some killed the a diver I didn’t have the heart)



We all got to know each other by this time, all the alcohol appeared on the table which everyone brought with themselves, we made a fire on the island, instruments came was a superb night which ended with some skinny dipping in the 28 degree water.

Next day everyone was hungover and we all knew that we would pay for last night this day…We started sailing on the open sea..We all took our seasickness pill which helped but everyone was silent and sleeping most day.

The 5th day was the longest..we had enough water and food but the fact that we couldn’t move just sit or lay made it a bit hard. Also that we didn’t have wind! So the max speed of the sailing boat was 4.5 knot and we had 230 miles to do..That’s an average 5.1 mile/hour…Therefore we knew we wouldn’t arrive on Friday to Cartagena. On the last night people were taking turns in guarding while he captain and sailor were sleeping. My turn was from 10pm to midnight ..I had to check lights around, check the monitor to see if there is any boat nearby, check is there was a storm coming. I enjoyed this task immensely. I have never felt more free in my life than on this boat surrounded by only water and sitting by the steering wheel under the stars..I had time to think. About my life, and about the world. I felt incredibly grateful that i had the opportunity to travel such a big distance…already the second time ..And I was heading towards he country that I most loved on my first trip..Colombia…


I felt the excitement in my tummy..this was the first time for me to return to a country that I visited before as a backpacker..and because I had very strong memories I was very curious about how it would feel being back there.

On Saturday we had still a long distance to cover..sadly the engine stopped about 37 miles away from Cartagena. The captain knew immediately what to do. The dinghy boat pushed us until he called for help..and then we just got pulled into cartagena by a fishing boat.

being pulled by fishing boat

We arrived at 4.30pm.

In my next post I am going to write about Colombia, the last country I visited on this trip.

At the Costa Rican border we said goodbye to each other with Nikki, she went to Monteverde and I went to Playa el Coco..Mistake! The only reason I went there was to dive but it was like a worn out ghost town..100% americanised and low season..if you happen to be there do not go with Summer Salt dive centre! They stood me up by saying they would have a trip to the Bats Cave (best dive site where mantas and hammerheads are common ) the day after, so I waited, but when I appeared at the dive centre at 5.30 in the morning it was closed and nobody appeared up until 6.30 am (trip was meant to be at 6am) so I packed all angry and left.

The next destination was not any better: Jaco. The only reason I came here was to see a friend of mine Gil, whom I met in the Corn islands. The town is full of expensive beach shops, surfers (mainly gringo), but it was nice to hang out with the girls for a night.

After this I spent a night in Quepos so I could have an early start to Manuel Antonio National park the day after, which did not quite happen cause the girls took ages to arrive from Jaco but it was ok. I saw my first sloth!! Mission completed for Costa Rica:)


Sloths are incredibly slow..they live high up on the trees and only come down once a week to poo. They made me laugh. I saw one with the baby!!

Sloth baby

The national park was nice but way too touristy and half of it was closed because of maintenance. Raccoons are cheeky, they attack the backpacks while tourists are chilling on the beach.

Next stop was Uvita. Now this place is less touristy and beautiful. I stayed in a wonderful hostel called Flutterby House where I met a really nice girl who worked there. I had a tree house just for myself..very much enjoyed this jungle house!

Tree house Tree house

It´s a bit scary to get to this hostel after dark as the bus drops you off about a kilometer away and I was walking on a dirt road for about 20 mins with my iPhone´s flash light but in the end I made it.

Next day I visited the Marino Ballena National Park ..I have never seen such a stunning beach! It was low tide and you had to walk about 200m to reach the water..


On the way back I chatted to a lovely Tica lady (this is how Costa Ricans call themselves, Ticos) who fixed a nice lift for me to the waterfall where the rain got me and I walked back in pouring rain. Was fun:)

After Uvita I headed to the Penisula Osa (Bahia Drake) where I wanted to stay in the national park 1 or 2 nights..I haven´t made any arrangements yet and I chose to go to a hidden gem called Jaguar´s Jungle which is a hostel in the real jungle ..with nothing nearby (town is 4 hours walk among poisonous snakes ). Let me tell you about the way to Bahia Drake, cause it´s not that straight forward. In Costa Rica buses are not great. You have to change a lot and they are not frequent at all. So from Uvita I took a bus to Palmar Norte where sadly there was no bus to Sierpe so I took a taxi for $15. In Sierpe there is a morning (11.30am ) and afternoon boat to Bahia Drake (around 3pm). I made the 11.30 one and requested a lift to Jaguar´s Jungle..they wanted to charge me more (regular price is $15, so they said cause it´s way further out than Bahia Drake I need to pay $25 which I refused so they called Leo, the owner who wasn´t in the hostel but on holiday and he arranged the lower price for me.

As the boat dropped me off, Osvaldo and David greeted me. David was a volunteer, Osvaldo was a Tico. They had lovely seafood coconut soup so I had lunch and just wondered around..I was the ONLY guest. Which seemed kind of cool at the beginning..things got complicated when I told them my plans..I wanted to dive the next day in Isla Caño, then go to Sirena (the ranger station in the National Park with the most wild life) for 2 nights…sadly Leo did not leave them phone numbers..even if he did there was only one spot by a coconut tree where there was reception…but yes not having contact with agencies made things complicated. They tried to call Leo several times but Leo was happily surfing somewhere instead of picking up his phone and trying to help Osvaldo and David (who hats off,  tried everything to get me on tours).

Jaguar's Jungle Jaguar's Jungle Jaguar's Jungle

Next day the diving boat did not come to pick me up and i felt stuck! It was a paradise but I only had 4 days left as I had to leave Costa Rica within 12 days (I could have stayed longer but I wanted to spend 3 weeks in Colombia so I planned it this way) and I did not want to ´waste´these 4 days by not doing why I came to this amazing wild national park.

Osvaldo walked with me to the next place which was a biological centre with similarly no guests or students at that moment. At least the guy there had one agency´s contacts but sadly that agency wanted me to go diving with them so because they didn´t have trip for the next day they did not made a phone call around other agencies and dive centres if they had a trip ..

Also spending 2 nights in the national park would have cost me a fortune..(around $350) cause the guide was obligatory and expensive, camping there was expensive, food was expensive, so I decided to do a day tour at Sirena which was rated average in Lonely planet as to see wild life you really need to wake up early and catch the animals. There are tattoos, tapirs, monkeys, ant eaters and many other animals to observe..I just wanted to see a tapir! So I was very lucky cause we had an excellent guide who was a marine biologist but knew a lot about the animals in the park too. We found fresh tapir tracks!!! So we followed the footprints which lead us to the big male tapir who was having the nicest dreams:) We woke him up. He is not afraid of humans. It was superb and exciting to see a tapir for the first time!


We saw 3 type of monkeys, excellent birds, a deer, coaties, Cayman, crocs..and on the way dolphins too! This tour was incredibly good!


I decided to move to the town (Bahia Drake) to arrange my diving, so I stayed in Casa Murillo with excellent ocean view, and I managed to go diving in the end to Isla Caño where I saw some great sharks ..actually the place reminded me of Richelieu rock in was a great day! we did 2 dives, lunch at the beach, and I walked back to town through the jungle (3 hours).

Sadly I had to leave as I only got 12 days stamp in Costa Rica, but I wouldn’t have time to stay any longer anyway. The border crossing went just fine.

In my next post I’ll write about Panama and the 5 days sailing trip on the San Blas islands to Colombia.