Friday, March 26, 2010


Look! Civilization! Bocas Del Toro Panama

We've been enjoying civilization again and I thought I'd share with you where we've been over the last 3 weeks. Yesterday, we paid our $60 for permission to leave the country of Panama (zarpe, immigration, port captain, agent fee) so we are committed to leaving - and losing internet access. We filled up with diesel fuel this morning, the freezer & fridge are full of fresh food and now we are just waiting for the final paperwork. So, I thought I'd do a little blogging while I can.

Bocas Del Toro is another comarca (state) within Panama on the Caribbean side bordering with Costa Rica and is rich in jungle islands. We love it! Some folks call the town of Bocas on the island of Colon "Velcro" because it is so easy to get stuck here and stay forever. Young backpackers have been aware of this sweet spot for many years and it has only been in the last few years that more people have noticed.

Why is it so popular? I guess it's because Bocas offers everything; a town with lots of well-stocked stores, wonderful small and inexpensive restaurants, funky bars, hostels, and hotels. Then there are the many smaller islands with beautiful beaches, green and flowering plants everywhere and warm water and weather too. The waterfront of Bocas Town is lined with buildings which all extend out over the calm water protected by outside reefs. The restaurants and bars are outdoors for the most part which lets the breeze flow thru - and allows you to people watch too. What people? All the folks taking water taxis to the other islands, other cruisers in their dinghies, or tourists going out scuba diving. This photo is of our favorite place - Lili's Cafe. Great food! Plus, they have a special floating dock at the end of this structure just for us cruisers - free.

Thanks to a good WiFi signal from the Calypso Cantina in the Bocas Marina, I've been able to catch up on the knitting scene - and to post a new knit 7x7" square to the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo Group. This one has just knits and purls - so easy and it is reversible.

So besides a whole lotta knitting, eating, and socializing we also explored a couple of interesting places on this island. My favorite was the Finca Los Monos (Monkey Farm) which is a private botanical garden. The owner, Lin, guided us through her hilly 11-acres palms, heliconias, orchids, and much more.
Check out this GIANT bizarre flower called a Etlingera Elatior Red. It's "petals" felt like heavy plastic or wax. Yep, that's Jonesy in the background waiting to move on and go see the howler monkeys, which we did see later, plus some beautiful Montezuma Oropend. No photos, they were sighted thru binos.

This is the lily pond where the frogs and crocs live. We didn't see any that day and we were not there at the right time of day (night and early morning) to see the lilies blooming, but it was still pretty.

Now this is a type of banana. Yep, a pink banana which grows upside down (when compared to normal bananas). Because of this position, when it gets ripe it self-peels. The bananas, which are the seed pods for this plant, then can open up and disperse the seeds. Wait!! We have self-peeling bananas on the boat! See? When we sail through rough seas, our bananas just peel themselves. But they aren't the special pink color - although we have eaten some delicious tiny red bananas.

And speaking of's how we buy them in Bocas del Toro. The farmer pulls his canoe up to our boat (Jonesy was in the dinghy at the time getting ready to go to shore) and we buy a whole stalk at a time. See the bananas in the dinghy? Those were $2.50 total. Once they started ripening, they were delicious! This little type of banana is firm and sweet. Unfortunately, they tend to ripen all at the same time - which is good for our boat neighbors as they all got "hands" of ripe bananas later.

Anyway, enough about bananas. Another field trip we took was a hike from the Bocas Marina over to a butterfly farm. Along the way we came across this big tree covered with "houseplants". It sure must have been there for a long time. The butterfly farm was interesting, but the only photo I could get was of the teensy tiny frogs in a special terrarium. These little guys are only about as big as my index fingernail. What are these Ryan?

Enough nature already. We quick-stepped it back to the marina and into the Calypso Cantina for a cold drink. This great little outdoors bar/restaurant was our home away from boat. We spent a lot of time here knitting, socializing, and eating fantastic meals. We could feel ourselves getting more "stuck" to this place by the day. Must. Keep. Moving. Bocas del Toro is now on our list of favorite places and potential "settling-down" spots if ever that becomes something we want to do.

This photo is for Renate who asked about the "socks" that the Kuna woman was wearing. These are BEADS - strings of glass beads that the women wind around their legs. They arrange the beads so that they make a greek key type of design. All of these leg decorations are yellow and red for the most part. Then they will have some blue and other colors for the "cuffs" and ankle bits.

Thanks, Terry. You must admit, however, that us sock knitters always look at the feet first. LOL Nice inspiration for a pair of socks, however. Renate
Thank you so much for all the pics of the island and different cultures that you visit. I can't tell you how much fun it is to be living vicariously through your adventures. I'm so envious! :)

By the way, I'm curious. What do your kids think of you guys selling everything and living off of your boat? My family would think I had lost my mind if I did that.
I am always so excited to see a new post from you and as usual, I am not disappointed. What wonderful pics and I love how you write, as if you were my personal tour guide. Im so happy that your able to live this life that others (us landlubbers) just dream of. Keep safe and happy, Darrell
What a great life you are living! Enjoy your knitting where ever you are!
Hello, great description. I love Bocas as well I think like you say it has alot to offer in every aspect. I thought I would comment though that the Comarcas are autonomous indigenous states, such as the Kuna Yala, and Ngobe Bugle Comarcas. Bocas del Toro is not actually a designated comarca, its a province of Panama and doesn't share the autonomous legal status of the Comarcas.
I love the little Poison Arrow Frogs~! how cute~! I use to have a tree frog mom would not let me have a Arrow frog because they are Poisonous lol. Question I have to ask did you find out why the ladys wrap their legs with the beads? How fasinating that is.
I LOVEEEEE the red Flower ... think we can KNIT one? lol
Hostels tend to accommodate any kind of travelers internationally.

Pousadas em Arraial Do Cabo
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