29. Nov, 2016

28.11.16 Cahuita, Costa Rica to Santiago, Panama, via Fortuna, Panama

It was Paul’s birthday yesterday, and as a special treat we made another border crossing!  We left the sanctuary of bird and wildlife, waving cheerio to the many dogs and monkeys before setting off the 40 km to the border.


As we got nearer, the faces of the people began to change and grew much more Caribbean looking, with darker skin and much bigger hair!


There were also many more banana plantations, with workers houses within the perimeters.


As we headed into the inevitable no-man’s land that circles any border, the people just seem to be drifting, hanging about for what, I’m never really sure. Perhaps just in case you need something, and they might be able to help you, or sell you a drink for a small amount of change.


We had read that this was a small border, and it was, not busy, especially on a Sunday. There were a couple of extra things we were required to do at this border, pay exit taxes for leaving Costa Rica, and Municipality Taxes to enter Panama.


Paul does as much of the running about to the various offices as possible (why can they not all be together?), whilst I guard the bike, this time we disappointed a young boy of about 10 as he was hoping we would pay him to watch over it for us.  This time my umbrella system was utilised to make much needed shade, it was sunny and so very humid again.  It runs at around 95-100% humidity most of the places we have visited in the last few days, and in goretex trousers, it can be very uncomfortable sometimes.


All went extremely well, in fact I began to think, that’s it, it must be record time, when Paul turned and said, the Customs Office power is off………. So there we stood, and waited and waited for another hour, whilst the very important little man from Customs flounced in and out of his office, saying ‘Wait’, ‘un momento’, etc etc.


Eventually, he was ready, and once again the crossing had taken two hours, but hey, we were on our way.


After some confusing directions leaving the town, with my maps phone app trying to take us up a front path or something, we were off.


We rose higher and higher, on some really twisty roads, with views across the Caribbean ocean and Boca del Toro in Panama.


It all seemed a fairly remote place, again populated by so many banana plantations, where we were humbled to see the workers living in houses that were very run down, some even looking as though they were made from pallets. The injustice of life that we have encountered on some of our travels is a very difficult thing to digest at times.


Paul had had some difficulties finding places to stay when researching, but we had decided on one called Fortuna cabins.  Well, it looked nice in the pictures……….


Higher and higher still we went, until we were in the clouds.  I could see the place marked on my map, but I was thinking, ‘hmm, there’s not much around here’, then on an extremely sharp bend, we caught sight of the sign……..


……… and then it was that we entered the twilight zone! We arrived, and were shown down an extremely steep grassy bank to the ‘cabin’. I was taken inside to our room, and the guy grandly pointed out ‘towels, hot water’, which should perhaps have warned me.


Outside we paid the fee for the night, which did seem quite expensive, but hey, we had chosen it, and what else was there? The guy then asked ‘what time would you like lights?’  We looked at each other inquiringly, but I told him, ‘erm, half past four’?.  Perhaps this would have been ok, if we had known the correct time, but it appears that the clocks have changed for us again.


We settled in, realising that as the described restaurant was probably the manky looking kitchen with bottled gas, and after a quick shower, accompanied by the flame throwing entertainment of the pilot light for the bathroom boiler, we used the JetBoil to cook some rice and tuna.


The space of the building was great, there were sofas, and a huge viewing window, with hammocks attached, it was just a shame that the view for us was only cloud.


At 5.40 pm, with no ceremony, the lights were suddenly ablaze, and we carried on with our evening, watching some tv on the laptop.


At 9.40 pm, with no ceremony, apart from the sputtering cessation of the generator up the garden, we were plunged into utter darkness!


We spent the rest of the evening using phone torches, and head torches (thank goodness for them), trying to light extremely damp tealights, and gather all our things together in the darkness.


In this utter blackout when it was time for sleep, I was extremely pleased that our little headtorches give out a tiny green glow all the time, so I could at least see that. We locked ourselves into our room, trying not to think about the unlocked front door and seven other empty bedrooms…… What a special birthday treat.


This morning, we awoke to the sounds of breakfast being made, the cheerful guy was back, cooking breakfast up for us, eggs, mystery meat sausages and deep fried plantains, with a side of as many bananas as you could eat. We ate this while enjoying the full view of hills, valley and lakes laid out below us, and with hummingbirds buzzing around at the many bird feeders.


When it was time to leave, Paul made it back up the hill, despite the wetness and steepness of the ground, and we went on our way, slightly saddened that we feel we must leave a poor review for the cabins, as they were just not as described.  The guy had been nice, and friendly, and was trying his best to give a good experience- but 4 hours electricity and damp candles!? It certainly hadn’t mentioned any of that in the write up on Booking.com


We were away by 8.30 am, hitting the road, and riding 5 hours in torrential rain like we’ve never seen before. We rode along the Pan American highway with the water sloshing over us, and arrived at a hotel riding through rivers of orange mud to reception.  Of course, within an hour of arriving the rain had stopped, but as we sat watching the kingfisher, hero, turtles and swifts on the lake we are one, we soon forgot about the rain.

Oh, and the red fuel cans fell off the side of the bike today, due to a snapped bolt.  Luckily Paul heard them as we weren't going very fast, so he leapt off and went back for them. We were able to use straps and strap them above the top box of the bike. Just another small issue to be dealt with in some way.