• devon

Bursting into Boquete

Boquete, Panama

It is an unusual feeling, knowing that the next two weeks of our trip is planned; normally we plan one to two days out. From Dominical Costa Rica we will be going to Boquete Panama, Panama City, sailing through the San Blas Islands, and then spend a couple days in Capurgana Colombia. Normally we spend two to four hours every other day planning accommodation, activities and transport, so to have the next two weeks dialed-in saves us a substantial amount of time. Our first stop on this leg through Panama is Boquete. We didn't have high hopes that we were going to be marveled by this place, but it was mentioned enough in blogs and travel websites that we thought we should check it out. Not to mention it is a convenient place to break up the journey to Panama City, from Uvita, Costa Rica.

We took a thirty minute bus from Dominical to Uvita, waited in the bus terminal for three hours, got a four and a half hour bus to David Panama, waited another hour in a bus terminal, and then got a forty five minute bus to Boquete, Panama. A long day. Days like this make you wonder why you can't just be content with visiting one beautiful part of our planet. Uvita and Dominical were beautiful, and if we had the luxury of a vehicle we could've spent weeks exploring the coastline of Costa Rica. However, there are so many incredible places to see so we continue our trek South. Panama will be our fifth and final country in Central America. Our first stop in Panama is a little town Called Boquete - apparently a hot spot for retirees. WOOHOO!

Going from Costa Rica meant another border crossing. Our experience with the border crossings has been very similar - none of them have posed any real issues for us, but they all have terrible signage. Like zero direction. I guess people just know what to do because they have been through before, but for newbs, like us, we feel completely lost. Often we aimlessly wander about looking for any hint of what our next step in the process might be - not unlike one of those escape rooms - and eventually some employee will stumble across us and treat us as if we are complete morons for not knowing what/where we are supposed to do/be. At first it was a little stressful, but has now become a bit of a running joke. There are literally (like actually literally, not "millennial" literally) no signs at many crossings. Some border crossings it seems as if nobody works there. They feel like ghost towns. Other times you are told to sit in an empty room for what feels like an eternity, and have no idea what the point of it is, but everyone else is doing it, so you follow along... Pretty much every border crossing there has been a moment where I wonder to myself what the point of the particular procedure is, but we follow obediently, like sheep. My best advice for getting through borders quickly is pick someone on your bus who looks local and try and follow what they do. Otherwise, just accept the fact that you stand out like a sore thumb and you're going to be labelled as the "dumb gringo". Travelling is funny in that it's a great form of mental exercise. It really makes you realize how much you take for granted in your own culture. When you are thrust into a new culture where you are subject to new cultural and social norms, it becomes painfully evident that you don’t fit in. No matter how smart you are (or think you are), you are going to be pretty dumb in these situations, there is just no way to prepare for them. Embrace that feeling and harbour that empathy for the next time you are teaching someone something new.

I digress, let's get back to Boquete. We rolled into the bus depot in David at around 4:30 pm and searched out the next bus headed to Boquete. As we watched hoards of people pile onto our bus with drums, batons, and costume attire we realized something was up... The bus was crammed with people headed to Boquete. Now, I want you to imagine a thirty degree celsius night, 100% humidity, and about two hundred people crammed like sardines onto a school bus - the school bus is so full of people the suspension is slammed and the bus is raked back. The windows have to stay closed because it is raining buckets outside and water will come flying in otherwise, so the bus is hot and really dank. If you're claustrophobic, this is not a situation you want to be in. Finally our forty five minute bus ride was over and we burst out of the back of the bus. As it turned out, we arrived on Boquete on the day of celebration of independence from the Spanish. What a happy accident! This was by no means planned. This celebration wasn't even mentioned in our Lonely Planet book (which has been terrible, forget the books and use the internet). Marching bands played in the streets well into the night, and food vendors were scattered up and down the main streets. What an incredibly lucky time to visit the otherwise sleepy city of Boquete.

The city of Boquete is nothing special. In fact, I don't understand what all the hype was about in the books and some blogs we read. That being said, we have seen a lot of cities throughout Central America, so maybe if this was your first experience dipping your toe into Latin America, you might get more out of it than we did; we weren't enamoured with it. We spent our day in Boquete hiking to waterfalls, and experiencing the city. It was nice, but not worth the trouble of getting here from David. There are so many incredible spots to see in Central America, you can leave Boquete off your list.