Thursday, July 29, 2010

Changing plans????

I decided that the most fitting end to our trip would be a change of plans.  Yesterday we had planned to head to Isla Grande for a few days but today, I decided that we will just spend the next week, our last week, here in Panama City.  We are officially at our 1 week mark and I think that there is plenty to keep us busy around here. Mostly, I'm tired of moving my backpack around.

We made 1 final move this morning, from the first floor of our hotel to the 3rd floor where we can have internet in our room.  I'm happy with our hotel (Pension Corona) where for $25 we have a nice room with everything (TV, AC, hot water).  Our room last night didnt have a window and we ended up sleeping this morning until 10am.  We checked out a couple of rooms up on the 3rd floor and chose 1 with a window so that we wont sleep away our last week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Panama City

After a lovely night in David, we took a very long bus ride today to Panama City.  We got to ride the whole way on the 2nd story of a double decker bus.  We have taken all kinds of transportation on this trip but double decker bus was a new one.  It actually just felt like being in a normal bus except was very very bouncy which made it pretty hard to sleep.

Either tomorrow or the next day (depending on how we feel at 6am), we will be heading to Isla Grande for a few days in the Caribbean.  We will be adding another new form of transportation to our list...train!

We will probably be without internet until we get back to Panama City so I just wanted to post a short update.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Future

I wrote this one night last week when I was feeling especially thoughtful....

As our trip is coming to a close, I've realized that the best part of the travel is not necessarily the places that we've been (although they have been great) but really about the people that we have met. We have been touched by some of the locals that we have met although in truth, they have been few and far between. Our spanish just isnt good enough to really connect with them. For the most part, its the other backpackers that have really made our trip. We have learned as much about their countries as we have about Central America. We have met so few people that we dont like. These are all outgoing, adaptable, tough, interesting, intelligent people. The atmosphere of a hostel is so different from that of a hotel. Hotels are full of people who are mostly on short vacations. Hostels are homes for travelers. They have kitchens and a communal sort of vibe. Although we are all wanting to see and do thing to experience the places that we are visiting, we also want to feel a bit of home. We want to kick up our feet and read books or watch movies or just sit around and talk. We have learned to make our home wherever we are and to make friends with whoever is sitting closest. I came on this adventure, hoping to figure out what kind of life and career would really fulfill me and I think that I know. Rob and I have discussed it a lot and coming home will allow us to remove ourselves from this atmosphere to decide if it really is something that we would like to do long term. I think that the perfect way to continue to experience my favorite parts of travel would be to run a hostel. It would allow us to continue to be surrounded by interesting people while still being settled down. I'm confident that between the 2 of us, we have the skills and experience to do it well. I've learned enough to know that maybe we will come home and forget all about it, slipping happily right back into our old lives with our friends and family and jobs and all of the things that we left behind in January. I know that is what our mothers would like us to do and I love them for that. I also remember how I felt, sitting at my desk feeling a little trapped and a lot unfulfilled. Putting this out on the blog makes it seem very real but I'm doing it anyway. My goals when I get home are first, to get some sort of income...any sort of income really. Ideally, I would love to find something that I could do online and from anywhere in the world but that might be unrealistic. Second, I want to continue working on my spanish, since that would be imperitive to running a hostel down here in central america, in this part of the world that we have fallen in love with. Third, to find a hostel, whose owners are looking for a break and would like us to come and take over for a while to get a taste of that side of the life to see if it is really something that would make us happy.


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Treasure Hunt

One of our best days at Lost and Found was spent doing their treasure hunt. We joined up with 2 guys from Kentucky and spent the day hiking around and solving riddles. It was both physically and mentally challenging. I dont want to get too much into the details in case someone reads this who plans on visiting there and doing the hunt. All that I will say is that we enjoyed the day and earned our bottle of rum.




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Hot Springs

One of the days at Lost and Found, we took a day trip to some petroglyphs and some hot springs.



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Lost and Found

I wrote this last week...

After we decided to head here to Lost and Found, Jen drove us all to the grocery store in David where we shopped and said goodbye. It was one of our saddest goodbyes. We only spent 2 weeks with these people but feel like we have known them for years. Our time at Paradise Gardens was amazing for so many reasons. Of course the animals were amazing. Anyone who has known me since I was a kid, knows that animals were always my passion. Interacting with the animals fulfilled my childhood dreams. The whole experience was so much more than just the hard work and the playing with animals. The place is not a zoo and is not run by animal experts. It was run by people who really love animals and people who wanted to learn about the animals. Every day we were on the internet or flipping through books, learning about the animals and what they needed. But the experience was even more than that. We all really enjoyed each other's company and shared more than just a love of animals. We all shared a love of travel, too, and the group was mixed with Brits, Irish, Australians, Americans, Canadians, Peruvians, Chileans, Argentinians and more. Everyone was bright and funny and we all had countless stories to share. Even more than that, we all shared a love of food. Apparently, before we showed up, cooking was mostly done personally. Rob and I showed up so excited for a real kitchen complete with Barbeque grill and oven, pots and pans. We would all start talking about food and the next thing we knew, we were all whipping up delicious dinners and delectible deserts. I'm sure that we all put on 5 lbs over the 2 weeks but enjoyed every minute of it. I will always remember Paradise Gardens as a place of hamburgers, fresh trout and Irish stew made by a real Irish woman.
We were there for the the end of an era at Paradise Gardens and for that reason, I think that we all share a special bond.
But back to our next chapter of our adventure here at Lost and Found. Like I said before, it is up in the clouds, mostly in the middle of nowhere. We are really enjoying the people here and like paradise gardens, it actually mostly volunteer run. It is our 3rd day and we haven't seen the owners. They have left the place to be run by some backpackers that decided to extend their stay by exchanging some work for free beds. They offer some good, inexpensive tours, a scavenger hunt, and free coffee all day.
Yesterday was our first full day here and we spent the entire day just reading and hanging out. The view is incredible. The place overlooks a valley with Volcan Baru in the distance. Its not a huge view since there are trees enclosing it but because we are in the cloud forest, the clouds are always rolling in and out and the view is constantly changing. I took pictures all day yesterday to show it but you really have to see it in person to understand. Sometimes, like right now, the clouds completely envelope us and the view is entirely gone. It rains every day but that isnt too big a deal because everyone will start playing games or reading or talking or whatever.
There are also some great animals. The hummingbirds are always zipping around our heads which can actually be pretty funny. They are so fast that you almost dont see them but you hear the sound. The best is when it happens to someone else and you see them with that look on their face because you know that they are thinking the same thing as you were when it happened to you....crap, that thing almost hit my head! There are also some great little nocturnal animals. Its too bad but I cant take pictures of them since they only come at night and it would be pretty mean to blind them with a flash. Besides the little wild guys that come by every night to eat the bananas left out for them, there is also Rocky, a rescued Kinkajou that lives in an enclosure. We went in to play with him last night and he is a real cutie. He wasnt too active when we went in with him but he was very happy to just be scratched and rubbed like a dog.
The hostel has been pretty full with almost 20 people last night. 12 of us went today to see petroglyphs and hot springs. The petroglyphs and hot springs were great but what made the trip, as usual, was the people. It was another very international crowd and we had a good time making our our explanation for the petroglyphs and then comparing silly dirty words in our languages. I think our favorite ended up being the word fanny, which we americans use to mean butt but the brits use it for the female anatomy which gives a whole new meaning to fanny packs which got us all giggling like little kids.



Alouatta Lodge

I wrote this last week from the Lost and Found Hostel.....

I'm writing this from up in the cloud forest, somewhere between Bocas and David, at the Lost and Found Hostel. I think we will go ahead and stick around here until we are ready to head to Panama City. There is no internet so I'm sure that at some point people will start to worry about us but I think that this is the perfect place to hang out for awhile. The air is mostly cold and since we will be heading back to Dallas soon and it is August, I want to get the most cold weather that I can before we come home to melt. I've realized that I am finally tired of traveling. Its not that I'm tired of being away, I'm just tired of searching out new places, being in new places, lugging my backpack and that sort of thing.
This is one of those camp-like hostels that we always enjoy. We arrived 3 days ago. We left Paradise Gardens with the whole group and spent the day at Allouete Lodge playing with Howler monkeys. Its run by an Australian family. They have both released-rescued monkeys and wild monkeys living on their property. The rescued monkeys are great and are a new species that we didnt have at Paradise Gardens, although some of their monkeys had been released from there. We had planned to stay there but it was a little expensive and the accomodations are tent or hammock and we just werent up for that.




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Quick check in from David

I want to check in quickly since we have been without internet for over a week.  I have about a million emails to go through and then Rob will have a million emails to go through before I will be able to take some time to post a proper explanation of what we have been up to.  The short story is that we spent over a week in the mountains at the Lost and Found hostel.  Today we are in David and then tomorrow we will be headed to Panama City.  We have internet in our hotel room for the rest of the day so I will post more later.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bye Bye Paradise Gardens

Early tomorrow morning, we will be moving on to our next destination.  We will be moving on to a lodge nearby where some of the paradise gardens howler monkeys have been released.  We hear its a great place so we are pretty excited.


Now on to the crazy thing that I'd mentioned yesterday.  Paradise Gardens was sold and is changing hands this week.  Its been crazy.  The resident family had been planning to go to Canada for a month anyway but...surprise...they had to pack up all of their possessions and put it all in storage.  We were all in a little bit of a panic, not knowing what would happen to the animals and volunteers.  We are thinking positively, though.  Two of the volunteers who were planning to stay on and run the place over the next month will still stay on to help the new owners take care of the animals.  They are still planning on being open during the day for visitors which will be nice.  They probably won't take in anymore new rescues.  We hope that the new folks are able to provide at least a fraction of the love and enthusiasm that Jen and all of her volunteers provided.  

As our stay here is drawing to a close, I'm so happy that we had this experience.  We have met great people that we will definitely keep in touch with.  I have really fallen in love with Boquete.  The scenery is magical.

I'm looking forward to the rest of our travels and seeing the rest of panama.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Update from Boquete

I know that I haven't posted much this week.  Our days have been busy working here at the animal rescue and I've been enjoying my evenings with all of the people here at the house.  Everyone has been cooking up a storm and we have been eating like we haven't eaten in weeks.  We have been surrounded by incredibly cook people from all over the world and have been enjoying each other's company.  The nice thing about hanging out with travelers is that there is never a lack of things to talk about.  Sharing knowledge and experiences is always interesting and everyone has a different perspective.  I've also spent a lot of time hanging out with the 11 year old and 8 year old children of the resident volunteer and have been having a blast laughing and goofing off with them.

We will be moving on either tomorrow or the next day and I will post more details later.  There has been some very interesting things going on with the rescue but I'm not quite ready to post it online because they arent ready to publicize it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Manolo & Arjento

We let 2 of our favorite baby animals play together today and they are so freakin' cute that I had to share it.  This is Manolo the capuchin and Arjento the coati.

video

Friday, July 9, 2010

Monkey Business




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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baby Anteater

This evening, someone brought in a rescued baby anteater!!!! They were driving and some guys were trying to sell it on the side of the road. It seems to be in decent health. Look how cute it is!!!

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My guest post

I'm such a pro-blogger now that I am guest blogging on the Paradise Gardens blog.  You can read my guest post here.

http://paradisegardenspanama.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/hello-from-debbie/

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More Pics

I learned today that Paul, one of the owners of this place is a stone mason which explains the amazing artwork all over.




Someone brought in a tarantula today that they "rescued" from their garden. We had a very dramatic release down in the ravine.



When I was cuddling with Minolo this evening, I was trying to take pictures of him. Taking pictures of a baby monkey is challanging. In most of them, he was just a blur because he never sits still. Then he became obsessed with the camera and I took a few of the inside of his mouth. This is one of my favorites.

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Animals

I wanted to post a few more pictures of the animals. This is one of the coolest places that we have been so far on our trip. We worked very hard today but we also were able to just enjoy the animals and the other people here. I spent about an hour with Minolo the monkey this evening and after he was done jumping around and jumping on my head he became very cute and snuggly.

I will be guest blogging on the rescue's blog while we are here so I will probably just be linking to those posts once I am able to post them.

I'm going to get going because I am filthy and very ready for a shower before dinner.





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Monday, July 5, 2010

Paradise Gardens

Today was our first day at our new temporary home in Boquete. We are volunteering at this animal rescue called Paradise Gardens. So far the experience has far surpassed any of my expectations.

This morning we hit the grocery store since we knew that we would have access to a kitchen. I just have to say that the grocery store experience was a nightmare. For some reason, the store had like 20 employees stocking the shelves at 9:00 this morning while half the town were doing their grocery shopping. I hate shopping to begin with and its even worse on during our travels because I am so conscious of every single dollar that we spend and then adding to it that there were carts covering half the aisles, we were very happy when we finally walked out of the store with our groceries.

We grabbed our packs and our groceries and caught a cab for the rescue. The cab pulled into the most beautiful gardens that I have ever seen. We unloaded our stuff and were welcomed immediately and shown our room. From there, we hit the ground running. I was a little worried because they didnt give us a lot of direction and I have never done this before. We read the new volunteer handbook and then headed out to check out the animals. I was expecting cages with animals but I was completely unprepared for just how beautiful the place is. There is a path that winds through these amazing gardens and fountains. Scattered throughout are cages with the animals. There is even an aviary complete with a spiral staircase up to a second floor lookout to checkout the birds within. I'll work on taking pictures of all of these animals so that you can get to know them like I'm getting to know them. There are all kinds of big parrots, capuchin monkeys, tamarins, cats and probably others that I'm not thinking about.

The place was started by a British couple almost by accident. They are bird lovers who moved here with their birds. Over time, as word got out that they were animal lovers, the locals started bringing animals to them who needed help. Some were found as babies abandoned for various reasons and some were kept as pets who because too big, dangerous or expensive to keep. I'm still not sure exactly where that couple went but now the place is managed by a really nice family with 2 kids and run with the help of various volunteers like us. This family has only been running the place for about 3 months and are learning as they go. I think thats what makes the place so interesting. This is not a zoo run by experts, its just a place for these animals who need help and love and everyone is just trying to do the best that they can. I was intimidated at first but after just a day, I feel like we have something to offer and that we are all learning together.

There is another couple that has been volunteering for about week and will be staying until Friday. They have volunteered before at a different animal rescue in Bolivia so we are kind of looking to them as the experts. They were working on a project to add a little pool to the jaguarundi enclosure. The jaguarundi is just baby. The name is misleading because its not related to the jaguar at all. The funny thing is that because it is just a baby and is all alone, they ended up putting some regular cats in its enclosure to give it some company and they have ended up being wonderful friends. They are hoping to release it into the wild evenually so they try not to have any human contact with it. I'm not sure how well that will go, though, since the little guy is learning a lot from the cats who happen to be very friendly. We kind of helped with the little pool which was really nothing more than a plastic sink put into a hole in the ground and filled with water from the hose. I think the animals were a little dissappointed with the water because they had been having a blast just playing in the empty hole. Here is a picture of him.


We were also introduced to Sam, this gorgeous pink bird. He is an amazing bird that sings and talks. He was one of the original birds and is not a rescue. We spent a lot of time today with him since he repeats everything he hears.  He is one of the biggest superstars here.


What I really wanted out of this experience was to spend time with the monkeys and there are bunch here.  I just love the capuchins and they have 3 here.  2 of them are adult males and we were warned that they can be pretty violent with girls so I probably wont get to do much interaction with them.  Lucky for me there is Manolo, who is still just a baby.  Eventually he will join the other 2 in their enclosure but until then he is all alone and needs plenty of human interaction to keep him happy.  After all of the guests left, I got to go in and play with him.  When I first went into his cage he was so excited.  He was literally climbing the walls...and my head and shoulders.  I stayed and played with him for awhile.  OK, it wasnt all fun and games...he totally peed  on me and pooped on my foot but once I got over that, I really enjoyed it.  It looks like I will be doing a lot of laundry here since I will probably get peed on every day but how can I resist this cute little face.


We had a record number of visitors today so I've already gotten a bunch of practice on welcoming visitors and explaining the place.  Hopefully over the next few days I will be able to get enough information to actually help people and maybe even answer their questions. 

I think that we will go ahead and stay here for 2 weeks.  The accomodations are really nice.  They gave us a room in the house and we already feel very comfortable with everyone.  I better get going since we have a full day tomorrow. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Noise Pollution

All afternoon, we were subjected to the worst noise pollution ever. As best as we could tell it was a marching band practicing. The problem was that they only had one little tune and they were awful. It went on for about 5 hours. This is a terrible picture but if you look closely, you can see the drummers. Thankfully, it finally stopped.

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Bocas Town Pictures

I know that I seldom show pictures of the actual towns that we stay in. I hate walking around town with a camera for a few reasons. First, I feel like such a tourist, and second, I dont want everyone in town to know that I have a camera because it makes me a target for theft. Here are a few pictures of the main town in Bocas where we stayed.



This is our hotel.


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Boquete

We left the islands this morning and after 1 boat ride, 1 taxi and 2 buses, we arrived in rainy Boquete.  We've only been here for a couple of hours but so far it is a nice little mountain town.  There are lots of flowers everywhere and feels very civilized compared to the rest of central america.

Way back in Honduras, we had met a couple that had been traveling for a long time who raved about an animal rescue here.  They were so excited about the place that I looked it up online and saw that they are always looking for volunteers.  We decided then and there that when we made it down here, we would volunteer for a week or 2.  I'd been emailing with the place for a while and by a weird coincidence, when we checked into our hostel here, I'd mentioned to the girl at the front desk that we were planning on volunteering and she knew exactly who we were because she volunteers there, too.  She showed us a bunch of pictures of the animals and gave us the run down on the place and now we are even more excited.  Tomorrow, we will head over there and move in.

This is the place if you guys want to check it out.
http://www.paradisegardenspanama.com/

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Poison in Panama

We decided to go for a nice dinner tonight to celebrate our last night in Bocas.  We chose a nice looking open air restaurant on the main street.  Just before our food came, a truck came by spraying a terrible poison into the air.  I assume it is for the mosquitoes of which we have seen none here...so I guess it works.  But it was really terrible.  Its just like Central America to spray poison along the main street at 7:30 on a Saturday evening.    It was actually pretty funny watching everyone try to cover their food and drinks and mouths.

Tomorrow we head to Boquete for some cooler weather and to volunteer at the animal rescue.  We are excited about both but have sadly realized that this is probably the last Caribbean island of our trip.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Snorkeling in Panama

I did a nice tour today...dolphins, snorkeling and then a beach called Red Frog Beach. The snorkeling was the highlight for me. I was really amazed at how different it was from the snorkeling in
Roatan. In Roatan, it was all about the fish but here it was all about the different colored coral. I couldnt believe how many different types of coral there were. The colors were so vibrant! I recommend checking out all of my photos from today on Picasa to see the variety.





Here is one of the little red frogs that gave the beach its name. It was so tiny. That is a normal sized screw in the picture to give some perspective.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Island Dreaming



Here is a map of Bocas del Toro.  We are staying in Bocas del Toro town.  There is a small island between our town and the island of Bastimentos.  Yesterday afternoon, we were just hanging out and decided to take a boat over to that island to check it out.  It was $1 each for the 5 minute ride.  There wasnt much going on over there.  We walked about halfway around the island.  Part of the island is inhabited by poor Panamanians and the other half is inhabited by some very rich people with great taste in homes.  The big houses were all amazing.  We loved every single one and would gladly live in any of them.  We came back here after an hour or so and had a great fish and chips dinner and then laid low the rest of the evening.  My big complaint with Bocas is that this is definitely a party town and every night from about 2 - 4, the drunk kids are coming back to their rooms and are very very loud in the hallways and it wakes us old farts up.  Even the most hostely of hostels that we have stayed in have quiet hours and tell people to keep it down late at night but this hotel obviously does not.  Its ok because we can sleep late in the morning, although tomorrow I am going on a snorkeling trip and will need to be up early.  My other complaints is the itchy insect bites that I have.  I think they are sand flea bites from the other day at the beach but they are a little different from what I'm used to.  I felt when I was being bitten by the little buggers but they didnt leave the red dots that they have in the past.  All I know  is that now I have these little itchy bites that I am trying not to scratch.