A Travellerspoint blog

From Skyscrapers to Island Paradise

Panama City/ San Blas

sunny 28 °C

I arrived in Panama, not without making a friend at the airport. Chris and I chatted our way through the mundane routines that have become a regular part of my life, customs, baggage claim. We shared a taxi to the city and parted ways with plans to meet up that night. I made my way to my hotel where I met up with Audrey, my latest travel partner. Audrey had contacted me through aSW since we were both traveling S America alone. We met once in NYC before I left to see if we would be compatible travel companions. When I decided to leave BsAs earlier I piggybacked on her trip.
Panama city was not as exciting as we had heard..but maybe that is because we were there on an Monday and Tuesday. We explored Casco Viejo, the old city with its crumbling buildings it has some old world charm but also doesn't feel very safe.
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From Casco Viejo you can see the shiny high rises lining the bay making an interesting panorama of old and new.
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Nothing much to do in Panama city except to shop and to eat so that's what we did! There is a strip of nice restaurants in a section called the Causeway which way constructed using the rocks cleared when making the canal.
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San Blas

We booked a tour to the San Blas islands. We woke up at 4:30 am to await our 5 am pick up. 5:30 came and went and we sat wearily waiting. We called the woman who was supposed to pick us up and she didnt seem to know about us. She sent someone to get us. Lucky to survive, our driver weaved in and out of cars at double the limit. He dropped us off at a supermarket where we were met by glares from young and scruffy backpackers, who appeared to be waiting on us. The confusion continued and we just went along with what they told us, hoping we ended up on an island with somewhere to stay. We crammed into a 4x4 which led us on a bumpy journey. We got out at the river and waited for a boat. At that point they figured out who we were and where we were supposed to go. Audrey and I had our own private boat through the mangroves to our island.
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We arrived to our island elated to see crystal clear Caribbean waters. The island was roughly the size of a football field, perfectly placed palm trees, woven hammocks swaying in the breeze. Truly paradise. It felt even more like survivor when alliances were formed. We decided to play water polo with 2 Israeli guys that apparently ruffled feathers before our arrival. Our association with them led to mistreatment from the local Kuna people and some other island guests. We were always last to be served at mealtimes and often had to ask for things several times. Amazing to me that people can be so small minded. Rather than taking the time to get to know us as individuals they formed an opinion of us based solely on the company we kept.
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There were around 30 people staying on the island. Mostly camping. We stayed in a hut with nothing but two beds and a sand floor.
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We spent the day luxuriating in the tranquility, chairs in the warm sea water,the occasional disturbance from a coconut falling from a nearby tree.
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There was no electricity on the island so we had to make our way by the light of the moon. There were no insects so it was the perfect place to lay out under a blanket of stars. I sat for hours outside and contemplated sleeping in my hammock. Orion watching over me, my warrior angel in the night.
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We spent 2 ½ days in our island paradise before reluctantly returning to Panama city. We made a quick obligatory tour of the Panama canal before heading to the airport.
San Blas held dearly in our hearts.

Posted by jackiekslp 12:59 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Playa Santa Theresa/Tamarindo

Costa Rica

sunny

Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to wake up and it be dec 26th.
I met my family in Florida for Christmas for several reasons. It was too expensive to go back to NY,too cold and snowy there and I didn't have any warm clothes, if I went home I'd inevitably upset people that I didn't have time to see or call, I would be stressed trying to tie up loose ends, and last and most important reason..this being the first Christmas without my brother and the pervious Christmas being the last time I had seen him, I knew it was going to be a rough ride. I figured if we had a change of setting it would feel less like Christmas and therefore easier to cope. I'm glad that we made that decision though I cant say Christmas was joyful or merry. This Christmas there was no tree, no smiles...

I flew to San Jose Costa Rica on Christmas day. I went with absolutely no plan. The past few weeks had been so scheduled and planned I needed to just show up and take it from there...although Xmas day was probably not the day for spontaneity. Everything was closed so I just found a hotel nearest the bus terminal. San Jose is a dodgy city and I had no desire to explore it. Emotionally drained from Xmas and physically exhausted..I set my alarm for 5am in hopes to catch the first bus to the Nicoya peninsula, pacific coast.

I had been to CR a few years back and wanted to see a different part of it. I wanted to go to the Osa peninsula but it is quite far. I decided instead to go to Santa Teresa. It was peak season and I spent three hours the night before trying to find a room in a hotel or hostel and everything was booked. The only thing I found was an oceanfront cabina on the beach.

Over budget but with no other choices I moved into my new beach house. Santa Teresa is a beautiful beach. Far from pristine raked white sand, this beach is raw and natural..littered with driftwood and sea grass. The trees encroaching on the tawny sand. Rough surf makes it a playground for surfers. I took the opportunity to do nothing and be ok with that which for me is a difficult task.
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I witnessed the most magnificent sunset on my first night there. Like nothing I have ever seen. The sun, a perfect sphere with defined borders, crimson in color (although it looks pink in the photos it was actually a deep red), descending rapidly in the cloudless sky, like a balloon. Swallowed up by the horizon.
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I arrived in Tamarindo..a touristy surf town and went to the hostel that we had reserved. It exceeded my expectations of a hostel with its hammocks, pool and laid back vibe. I was immediately welcomed by David who was at the desk. I became fast friends with Mike and Josh, two cool guys from Toronto. I explored town with them until Dawn arrived. Dawn is a friend of mine from NY that I met at a speech therapy conference. She is living in CR studying at the University for Peace.
It was NYE and what better way than to ring in 2010 than on the beach under a blue moon?! I don't know why I have spent all previous NYE in bone chilling NY. This is the way to do it!.
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We spent the next few days relaxing on the beach, dancing salsa and proving to those a decade younger that there is life after 30.

Posted by jackiekslp 12:52 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Pucon, San Martin de los Andes, Route de 7 Lagos, Bariloche

Lakes, Volcanos, and lots of driving

Continuing on our blitz of Patagonia, we drove up north to Pucon. We blew through there not having the time to see it properly. It was a cool town though we arrived late and just had dinner and hit the sack. We drove in the morning across the border into Argentina. The loveliest border crossing I have seen, it's shrouded by trees in the middle of a national park with views of a massive volcano.
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We then drove to San Martin de los Andes. We spent the night in a quaint cabin in the alpine-esque village.
Throughout our travels in Patagonia, Christina and I saw the same two guys, a gay couple from Spain. Wherever we went they were there. We wondered why they couldn't be twin single guys.

We ate out our final dinner at a steakhouse. I have seen many funny spelling errors on menus due to use of translator programs but this was the best yet!
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The fourth line down appears to list children under 12 as a prime cut!

The following day we drove to Bariloche by way of the Routa de Siete Lagos (7 Lakes Route).
More beautiful scenery that I have run out of adjectives to describe. We became a bit jaded...another lake, another volcano..

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Kevin had a small wooden toucan that served as the mascot for our trip. I decided I needed one as well and found a small owl..though he didn't last long..dropped by the hands of a baby.
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We took the ski lift in Bariloche to see the view of the lake.
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On the way down we saw a peculiar view of the sun.
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I was happy to meet up with Deborah, my Belgian friend that I met in Buenos Aires before we went our separate ways.

From there Christina and I flew back to BsAs.

Posted by jackiekslp 12:40 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Torres del Paine National Park

Chile

sunny

With a new addition to our team we flew to Puerto Natales Chile. A quaint little port city with interesting restaurants. I ran into Fidel, the artisan jewelry maker that I met in Buenos Aires. Small world! His workshop was across the street from where we were dining.
We were super excited to kayak the Fjords..mainly because Fjord is a fun word and none of us actually knew what a Fjord was. Essentially it is just a canal formed from glacial erosion. We expected to be surrounded by walls of ice but in this Fjord it was just mountain. The winds were quite strong so paddling into the fjord was strenuous. We relished the return where we barely had to paddle.
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We then went to an estancia for lunch followed by horseback riding.
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The landscape we rode through was so incredibly beautiful it looked fake.
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I've been horse riding a few times on this trip and was eager to go fast while everyone else crawled behind. All of my fears of galloping subsided.
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At the end of the ride, my whims were indulged. We sped off faster than I had ever ridden. It was thrilling darting past lakes and trees, leaving everyone else behind.
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We rented a 4x4 and set out to hike in Torres del Paine National Park. Not having much time we carefully selected the portion of the W trail that we could see the most scenery. We spent the night in a refugio. We were prepared for a very basic hostel but were pleasantly surprised when we had our own room with a view of the Torres. The dining area resembled a ski lodge and the food was terrific. We even had wine and mousse for dessert. We sat around the fire and the Christmas tree drinking Carmenere.
We set out for the 8 hour climb to the Torres. I let the others go ahead as my knee was killing me. Horseback riding the day before a big hike proved to be a foolish idea. It had been the first time I'd ridden a full on galloping horse and had no idea how painful it would be on my already damaged joints.
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It wasn't long after the initial ascent that I noticed that my camera had fallen off my backpack. Enlisting the aid of anyone that passed by I combed the trail retracing my steps almost back to the starting point. Frustrated, I resigned myself to the fact that I'd likely never see it again and would have to capture the beautiful scenery in my mind. I had lost so much ground I wouldn't catch up to Christina and Kevin so I went along at my own pace enjoying the company of other hikers. I didnt have time to make it all the way to the top but I met up with them on the way back. Hungry and exhausted, we dragged ourselves back. On a whim I decided to ask the hotel at the base of the trail. To my delight a kind hiker had turned it in.
The following day, sore and tired..we decided against a second hike and that we would see more by driving the park. Sure its cheating..but it enabled us to see so much more when we had limited time.
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Posted by jackiekslp 08:22 Archived in Chile Tagged foot Comments (0)

Perito Moreno

El Calafate

We went to El Calafate to see the Perito Moreno glacier in the Southern Patagonian ice fields where we ate lunch on a rock in front of the monstrous wall of ice. We met a British guy named Kevin who we convinced to follow us through Patagonia.

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The highlight of the day and quite possibly the trip so far was strapping spiky crampons on our feet and trekking on the glacier.
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We climbed single file up the blinding white ice.

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The glacier had beautiful turquoise fissures and crevices. We refreshed our selves drinking the purest water. At the end of the trek we enjoyed a whisky "on the rocks".

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We followed the path to see the spectacular views of the front wall of the glacier. You can here thunderous cracks as pieces of the glacier tumble into the water. Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the world that advances as much as it retreats.

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Posted by jackiekslp 08:09 Comments (0)

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