[Continued from Bocas del Toro - Part 1]
After our sloth encounter, we continued on another 45 minutes to an hour to the town of Almirante. It is a small, uninspiring town on the coast, best known for being the place where you park your car and take a water taxi over to the islands of the Bocas del Toro. We didn't know exactly where we were going, so I just kept driving toward the water. Four Gringos in an SUV, driving slowly and looking around is a sure sign to the locals that we were looking to go to the island. I noticed we were being chased down by guys on bicycles, waving and hollering at us. Once we stopped, they told us (in English) to follow them, to get to Bocas.
They led us to a nearby fenced-in parking lot. It happened to be the one that had been recommended to us by friends in Boquete. We pulled in and parked the car - the lot was nearly full. We took out our bags (Tina and I only had a small "underseat" bag and a backpack) and followed our "guide" down the street to the water taxi office/dock. He pointed us to a small office, where we bought our tickets ($6/person) and we waited for the next boat. I asked our "guide" about a restroom and he pointed me to a small "closet" on one side of the dock (see picture). It was the size of a clothing store dressing room (OK, a little smaller) and the "toilet" was just a board that was missing (water below, get the picture?) - aim carefully.
It didn't take long before they had enough passengers to fill the boat and we climbed aboard. Once we reached open water, the driver cranked up the large, noisy outboard motor and we flew across amazingly calm water for our 25 minute trip to Isla Colon.
As we approached Isla Colon and Bocas Town (the capital of Bocas del Toro Province), it struck me that it looked much more Caribbean than Latin. The shore was lined with brightly colored shops, restaurants, and hotels. Tourism is, as you would expect, the #1 industry on the island and they were ready for us...
We departed the water taxi and exited onto a street, not having a clue which way to go. The weather was quite warm, with the temperature probably in the upper 80s). We felt very conspicuous, carrying our bags around. Our friends, Terry and Cheri, had brought a roller bag with them. We walked a few blocks, schlepping our bags with us, looking for a place to have lunch. Tina had gotten a recommendation for a place called Taco Surf and, with directions from some locals, we found it. It is a combination surfing school and restaurant. We were very hungry (breakfast was about 6am) and the fish tacos, rice, and beans hit the spot. It was very tasty, although a bit pricey (about $25 for two of us, no alcohol).
After lunch we all shared a taxi to our respective accommodations, which were only a couple hundred yards apart. Our B&B was part of a group of properties called Bahia del Sol. We were in the upstairs unit of a 2-story house, built over the water on Saigon Bay. Friends who had stayed here told [warned] us that it was "rustic" - so we were prepared. We entered through the main house, where the owners live, which also has several guest rooms. A short walkway/dock connects the two buildings. We found the accommodations were, indeed, "rustic" - with a great view of the bay (and the sunsets).
The view was even great from the bathroom and shower, with the large open window to the outside (no curtain, screen, or shutters). Of course, that means the view from outside, looking in, was also good. It was a little strange taking a shower...
When we ran the shower or the sink, you could hear the water splashing into the bay below. Like I said, rustic. Fortunately, the same was not true for the toilet. It was on the city sewer system.
A few more pictures from around the neighborhood:
When dinner time rolled around, we all decided to walk into town. It turned out to be about a 25 minute hike but the temperature had cooled down (to probably around 80 degrees) so it was pleasant. We found the restaurant we were looking for (again, a recommendation) and managed to get a table next to the water. As it got later, the restaurant packed out - obviously very popular. The food was excellent, but, again, more expensive than we were expecting. For Tina and me, it was $41.
After dinner, we walked back through town. Bocas Town is colorful and fun and pretty lively in the evenings. We wandered around for a while, then walked back to our accommodations. That's about an hour round trip of walking. We were ready to hit the sack. We planned on taking a boat tour the next morning, so we needed to get up early.
To be continued...
Posted by Mark