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Category Archives: Panama

Spanish by the Sea in Bocas del Toro, Panama

WHOA!!! Fritz The Cat sank!!!

Breaking news, hold the presses!  Fritz The Cat, the infamous vessel which ferried us and hordes of other backpackers from Colombia to Panama SANK!  That’s right, the catamaran is at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.  Colombian news website El Tiempo has a video in which you can hear the captain, Fritz, yelling in Spanish for rescuers not to take his picture as you see The Cat half-submerged in the blue water.  Everyone came out alive, but how rough it must be for those 14 backpackers who lost everything.  Here is a link to the video and news article:

http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/cartagena/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIOR-11995415.html

Our boat trip seemed pretty crazy, but it’s hard to imagine going through that whole ordeal.  Needless to say that it would have ruined our trip.  I can’t wait to hear more details about the wreck.  I feel like their will be a mention of captain’s error somewhere along the line.  They probably hit an iceberg.

We end where we began?

The beginning

Summing up La Aventura Project in one post has left us here staring at a blank page for weeks now.  The same questions run through our heads: “What did we do?” and, “What did we accomplish?”  The jump back into life in the USA was quick, and we were immediately left with little time outside of work, back to normal US life.  The world we came from was stuck in the backs of our minds, left to dwell in occasional yearnings and stories misunderstood by their listeners.  When I have a street food craving at 11pm there is no friendly woman selling tortillas across the street.  Saddening, but it’s also nice to have a kitchen.

Here is a quick list of answers to some of the more popular questions we have been getting from friends and family:
Yes, they did in fact have electricity in Latin America.
Yes, we got sick a few times from the food.  But it was all delicious and we don’t regret trying everything!
No, we did not notice any drug cartel activity.
No, we don’t plan on settling down now or buying a house or anything like that.

Trying to make a list of our accomplishments sounded corny but I did it anyways to brag a little bit:
Learned Spanish to an intermediate level in which we could have decent conversations.
Traveled to 10 countries without flying.
Got engaged!
Learned much more about Latin American history than we did at school, more than most North Americans know.
Hiked the Inca Trail.
Built our blog into a resource for other travelers.

Regrets:  I wish we could have done more volunteering, but maybe you could say that we were more like scouts, examining the playing field.  We did have two stays at WWOOF farms, one in Colombia and another in Ecuador.  It would be fun to check out some more WWOOF farms in Central America someday.

The travel at first was much easier than I expected.  The roads were paved and the buses as nice as the Megabus that we took in the United States.  But as we entered Bolivia our luck was about the change.  It was there that we experienced transportation strikes and washed out highways.  Bolivia was by far the most “out there” country we visited.

La Aventura Project started as a film project and a longing to escape from it all.  Along the way we wrote more and more and eventually were able to use the website to make the adventure last longer.  We passed through phases of preferring writing over filming and vis-a-versa.  Near the end we really dreaded the thought of returning to the grind of working class society.  Here everyone makes little problems seem like the end of the world.  There there were real problems.

The future: We will continue adding to the website and will be posting hostel reviews by guest writes.  (More info if you are interested.)  Our goal is for the website to grow and continue as we start posting our travel tales from the States.  We’ll be beginning the US section of the website in September when we take a road trip across the northwest in the process of moving to California!  We’re also working hard to edit the documentary and we’ll post updates on that front as it gets done.

Ending where we began: So now we find ourselves in much the same place we were in when the seed of the idea for La Aventura Project began.  Making the most of the US and working hard to save money for future adventures.  Dreaming and trying to decide which continent to conquer next.  Asia?  Africa?  Europe?  South again to finally make it all the way to Patagonia?  We have no idea where we should go, but luckily we have awhile to decide as we work to replenish our bank accounts.  The only sure thing is that we can’t stay here for too long, so una nueva aventura is unquestionably on the horizon.

“There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” -Christopher McCandless

Chau chicos.

The Final Superlatives

We’re still working on a big, cleverly and intelligently written sum-up of the whole darn adventure.  It’s hard though!  It is coming soon, but for now enjoy the final edition of our La Aventura Project superlatives!

Days in South and Central America: 217

Dollars Spent: $10,586.14

Average Dollars per day: $70.45

Countries Visited: 10

Books Read: 22 (Carrie), lost track (Zach)

Doctor visits: 1 (Zach), 0 (Carrie)

Things We Lost: More random stuff than we remember

Favorite Food: ceviche (Zach), pupusas (Carrie)

Favorite Beverage: Colombian coffee, Campos de Solana vino tinto from Tarija, Bolivia, and Flor de Caña rum from Nicaragua

Best Wildlife Sighting: dolphins on the cruise from Panamá to Colombia

Nicest People: Colombians and Salvadorans

Most Touristy Countries: Perú and Guatemala

Most American Retirees: Panamá

Scariest/Coolest Experience: the eruption of Tungurahua Volcano

Most Liver Damage: Loki Hostel

Biggest Personal Changes: dreadlocks and eating meat (Carrie), actually speaking a second language (Zach)

Longest Bus Marathon: 3 days almost-straight, Trinidad, Bolivia to Arequipa, Perú

Best Hostel: Hostal Las Olas in Copacabana, Bolivia

Best Place to Open Our Bar Someday: Canoa, Ecuador

Most Sobering Site: civil war museum in Perquín, El Salvador

Most Life-Changing Moment: getting engaged

Sweatiest We’ve Ever Been in Our Lives: Nicaragua

Most Expensive Country/Most Fast Food Places: Costa Rica

Most Breeds of Potatoes: Perú

Best Shopping: Panajachel, Nicaragua

Creepiest Hotel: the Auto Hotel in Sonsonate, El Salvador

Favorite Country in Central America: El Salvador

Favorite Country Overall: Ecuador!!!!!!!!!!!!

Write for La Aventura Project/Stay in hostels for free

A big announcement today, everyone!  Since we are back in the US now, working real jobs again (boo) and editing the documentary, we don’t have as much to post here!  Thus, we are looking for current travelers in South or Central America to write hostel reviews for us and keep our directory growing!  If you are a good writer (in English), good photographer, and would like to stay in hostels and hotels for FREE, please contact us about an opportunity to write for our website.  We will also gladly feature a link to your own personal blog or website on all of your hostel reviews.  Again, we are only looking for travelers currently in South or Central America to review hostels in those regions.  Leave a comment or email us at laaventuraproject AT gmail DOT com if you are interested in more information about this awesome project!

Panamá Financial Summary

Hola chicos!!!!  I just realized that although I wrote this awhile ago, I never posted it!  Better late than never though!  Here are the stats for Panamá!

Days in Panamá: 10

Money Spent: $286.88

That means we spent $28.66 per day, or roughly $14.33 per person per day.  So we were just barely under our target budget of $15 per person per day.  I’m very proud of us forfinallybeing on budget again after going over in the last few countries.  Rock on!!!!

A side note: I didn’t count our passage on Fritz the Cat here, as I consider that to be between countries and it was so expensive it would totally throw the whole skew off.

As you can see, our spending only fell into a few categories in Panamá.  Despite how small the country is, buses are not cheap in Panamá.  They seem to run about $2+ per hour of travel.

Food is also more expensive than in South America.  The cheapest meal we ever had was a $1.50 plate of rice and beans in Las Tablas.  In Panamá City and Bocas del Toro, you can expect to pay at least $3.50 for a decent plate of Panamanian food.  We did have hostels with kitchens most of the time so we tried to buy groceries and cook a lot to keep costs down.

We didn’t pay for a single place to stay in Panamá!  That’s right, our Lodging cost was absolutely ZERO!  Yeah hostel reviews and Couchsurfing!

FYI, Panamá’s currency is the US dollar, although instead of just calling them “dolares”, they are also called “Balboas.”

Life in the banana-lands

Awesome tractor-bus outside Las Tablas

Other long-term travelers out there might be familiar with the feeling of “the travel grind.”  To me, it’s how you feel when traveling becomes too routine and nothing feels fresh anymore.  We were kind of suffering from it in Panamá as we were mostly sticking to big touristy sites due to lack of time.  Nothing was feeling authentic or real.  Everyone spoke English and everything was too easy.  We were feeling too much like tourists instead of travelers.

Then, we found the perfect remedy!  Thanks to Couchsurfing, we hooked up with a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small village in the rural mainland of Bocas province.  We stayed with Doug in Las Tablas for two nights, getting a taste of life in “el campo” and meeting some real off-the-beaten-track Panamánians.

Las Tablas is in the heart of the banana-growing lands, where it’s very hot and rainy.  Chiquita Banana is headquartered nearby and thus almost everyone in this area is employed growing bananas which are shipped to the US and Canada.

Miles of banana trees. The sign says "Don't enter or you might get crop-dusted."

Since I did a stint in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, it was really fun for me to reminisce and to compare Doug’s situation with how my life was.  Panamá is a lot further along development-wise than Tanzania, but big parts of the Peace Corps life are the same everywhere.  Doug was definitely a local celebrity known by everyone in town.  Kids would yell, “Hello, teacher!” as he walked by, and he always had to stop to talk to all his fans.  Add Zach and me to the mix and we created quite a spectacle.  Three gringos in town, oh my!

Kids in Doug's host family

Hanging out in Las Tablas helped us feel more connected to Panamánian culture.  It was refreshing to be in a place were there are never any tourists and the pace of life is slower.  The best part of our stay was just walking around the village, greeting kids and practicing our Spanish with all of Doug’s friends.  Las Tablas welcomed us with open arms and we couldn’t stop smiling while we were there.  The Peace Corps life is truly a challenge, but the rewards of being so totally accepted by a completely different culture seem abundant.

Doug and some of his students

We realized that we need to do more of this stuff!  The problem is that there’s just so much we feel like we HAVE to see and we have so little time left!  We’re definitely going to try to hook up with at least one other Peace Corps Volunteer though!