I took a little break from the heat of Santa Catalina when i finally had a few days off the second week of April. I went to Boquete in the mountains of Panama. I met up with Steve from Karaka and we climbed to the highest point in Panama, Volcan Baru at 3,474m. We planned to hike up and camp overnight so we left at 12:30pm and got to the top just after sunset around 7:30am, saw the sunrise and we hiked back down. It felt so incredible to be up in the mountains again feeling the fresh cold dry mountain air. I was so glad that we decided to camp on top too.
So i left the crew on Karaka behind and had a great time working guiding kayaking trips to Isla Coiba. Things changed rapidly as they always do and the decision was made for Karaka to go to Panama City and skip Ecuador all together. At first i was upset about this because i had bought a plane ticket to Ecuador but that is the way things go. So i ended up staying longer and there were lots of trips so i worked a bunch and really got to Know Coiba and the town of Santa Catalina. I had a great variety of clientele, mainly from the US and Canada but some other countries in Europe and South America. There were even a bunch of Outward Bound Canada folks that came down who were friends with Michael and needed a vacation away from the cold of Canada to take in the heat of Panama. It was great to have these folks on the trips. I had a small apartment and I pretty much just went and relaxed in the air-conditioning in between my trips and then either had a day or two off in between to chill, surf and do my laundry then I was right back out on another trip.
Paddling in the tropical heat was a whole different experience. It was wonderful but very different to paddle for over an hour so most of the time we paddled very little and spent a lot of time snorkeling. The weather changed from really hot and muggy with tons of bugs to just sunny and hot to sunny and hot with a nice breeze. Camping at the base camp site at Playa Machete was fantastic. We either stayed their or we stayed in the Cabanas at the ranger station depending on what the clients wanted. Coiba is a whole other world to explore! and i felt fortunate to have connected with Michael for the opportunity to work and live in Panama for two months!
Campsite at Playa Machete, Isla Coiba
Kayaking the coast of Isla Coiba
So all along, I had been in touch with Michael McKenzie, who i had worked with at Outward Bound Canada in Toronto. We had talked about the possibilities of me working with him down in Santa Catalina, Panamá where he owned and operated Fluid Adventures Panama guiding kayak trips to the tropical paradise island of Coiba.
It just so happened to work out that Michael needed another guide for the peak of his season and invited me down to work. I just needed to work this out with Tom and after chatting we figured it could work out fine for me to leave and work until the end of March then meet up with the boat again in Ecuador.
I struggled with the decision to go out to Playa Petrero Grande in Santa Rosa National Park with Karaka but decided timing was too tight so i left Feb 13th and made my way to Tres Rios outside San Jose, Costa Rica to meet up with my friend Carola whom I met at Outward Bound Mexico. We went the next day to Turrialba to stay with her family for a night. Turrialba was a nice place in the heart of Coffee and sugar cane country.
I finally had a real Costa Rican experience outside the gringo mess in Playas del Coco. On Feb 16th i boarded the bus in San Jose to Panama City but of course left early in Santiago. I met a guy named Jeff from the US who sat beside me and was also going to Santa Catalina and who also was coming from a Sailboat that was in Belize. We both met up with my Couchsurfers Lena and Rodier late in the night in Santiago and walked 45min to their place from the bus terminal and went to bed.
The next day Jeff took off early but i stuck around and hung out then made my way by bus to Sona where i met Julio a local farmer type Panamanian who invited me to a cantina across from the bus terminal where they had 750ml beers for $1.10! I then got on the bus to Santa Catalina and tried to find Michael. Eventually met up with him and stayed the night sleeping out at Rancho Estero and left the next day for Coiba!