How to (or maybe how not to) buy a bike in Bocas

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A guest post by Kyler

Three weeks of biking to the surf, possibly twice a day, requires not only heaps of grit and determination, it also requires a bike. Bikes can be rented here at 5 dollars a day. Three weeks at five dollars a day is, carry the one, $105. Seems smart to buy and sell. I asked my friend Sam at the dive shop where to find a used bike. He said, “I know a guy. His name is Junior, he has a small ‘shop’ across from the billiard bar. He is cheap, but very unreliable. You will likely have a flat tire the next day.”

Junior's 'shop'

Junior and his “shop”

Siri and I thought we would find Junior to see what he had on offer. It is a small “shop” with many bike frames, wheels, tires, gears etc., but no full bikes for sale. “No problem, tengo dos bicycletas lista a la manana a la ocho, $60 cada una”. We think “sweet, 60 bucks each, ready tomorrow, boom!” So, we pay the deposit and ask for loaner bikes. Junior gives the una momentito pinch

un momentito pinch

un momentito pinch

and arrives back in about fifteen minutes with a sweet ride. Siri’s yoga is close, so one bike will do for now. Psyched to have a bike to get surfing, I peddle the 8km out to Punch Beach the next morning. My friend and I are almost there and “POP!“, blown tire! Flat tire the next day, I should have seen it coming! I surfed then had to start the long walk back. A long walk it was.

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“You will have a flat tire the next day”. Sam was right.

Siri and I later return to Junior to pick up our two bikes. Junior is not to be found, check the pub. He comes out and says they are almost ready and to come back in the morning. I come back the next day early and after the second mementito pinch and am given another loaner. Luckily, I made it to the surf and back sans flat tire.

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Second loaner bike

On the fourth day of Junior trips, we are presented with two snazzy cruiser bikes and are super psyched.

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Two snazzy cruisers

Can you guess what happened the next day? Flat tire. A one hour momentito later, fixed and back on the road. Couple days later, a bent rim and another 8km walk back from the surf. Next day, loose chain on loaner bike, lots of walking. Now, 2 weeks into our 3, I just got my Black Beauty back with a new, old rim and Siri’s Pink Panther is also in full operation. Well, Siri’s bike does have a pretty major bulge in the tire….

Will it burst?

Will it burst?

All and all, it has been a frustrating, funny and time consuming affair; a travel experience that I would never trade for an unreliable, rental bike in Bocas.

Christmas in Bocas

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Being away from home on Christmas makes for a different one. First of all, it is hot here, as opposed to the below freezing temperatures in our native countries of Norway and Canada. Second, we do not have a kitchen to cook up traditional Christmas meals. And last, we are far away from friends and family. It was not the usual Christmas, but it was a good one anyways.

Bocas Town really got geared up for the holiday season a couple weeks ago with a grand Christmas parade and fireworks. Since then, the festivites got toned down and the crib on display in the central park was empty in anticipation for the arriving baby Jesus. Unfortunately it had been raining for days leading up to Christmas. The decorations in the park were luckily wrapped in plastic for protection. It was not their first display!

Christmas decos Bocas park

The rain made our 9$/night room rather damp and when we woke up on December 24th, we did not say it at first, but we both knew we were thinking of the coziness of a warm house, a fireplace, friends and family from home. Santa (aka. Kyler) proceeded to surprise us with the very welcomed surprise of one night at a nearby hotel!

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So Fresh and So Clean for Christmas

Room with a View

Room with a View

In Norway, the big Christmas celebrations all take place on Christmas Eve, the 24th. We had a wonderful day, in spite of the rain. We went to yoga and had a wine-lunch on our private balcony in the day. At night, we went out to an Italian restaurant serving homemade pasta and fresh fish. After dinner, we had drinks and gift exchanges at our lovely balcony. Kyler (aka. Santa) surprised me with a Kindle! I will never carry 35 books when traveling ever again!

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Eve Pressy Time

Christmas Eve Prezzy Time

Just like Canadian kids, we woke up early the next morning for our stockings! We did not have our real stockings with us, but Kyler’s tennis socks made do. Yes, they were clean! It was a peaceful morning in the rain. We ran out to get coffee and wonderful breakfast sandwiches and enjoyed the last of our little vacation from our vacation on the balcony.

Alternative Travel Stockings

Alternative Travel Stockings

At night we met up with our friends, Jasper from Australia and Cheche from El Salvador. We met and got to know eachother a while ago in El Tunco, El Salvador and randomly met again in Bocas! Earlier in the day, Kyler and I had bought a full chicken (somewhat similar to that of a turkey..) However, they only had ham-flavoured chicken and we all agreed, it was weird! Cheche had made wonderful mashed potato, gravy and salad.

Chef Cheche

Chef Cheche

Four other friends joined in on the festivities and it suddenly felt like Christmas! Great food, friends and all the time in the world! What more can a person wish for?

We checked, and yes, Baby Jesus arrived. (I wonder who kept him for the past month!)

Baby Jesus arrived at the central park display

Baby Jesus arrived at the central park display

Christmas Came to Town

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Friday night was the night that kicked Christmas into to town. A major Christmas prep celebration got everybody and their dog out. There was music being played and santa hats and bunny ears (I didn’t quite get this one) for sale. Some had lights on them, some were covered in glitter, some a little of both. Kyler got a Christmas hat with the usual white fuzzy rim, then imagine a spring going up in the shape of a Christmas tree with a little ball at the end. It was a hit with the kids who would sneak up behind him and either 1) Hit the ball so that the spring would dance back and fourth or 2) Push the ball down so that the whole spring would bounce back up. Cheap and fun entertainment. Also, the hat made Kyler so insanely tall so that his hat would hook on to anything and especially made him stand out in the popcorn line up! Very funny. See photo below.

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Oh, and then later than late, was the grand parade! I will describe some of the floats: Santa on top of a car throwing candy all around. Next to him is a fairly massive foam statue/picture of The Little Mermaid covered in glitter. Another one was a pick up truck with a cage on the back. In the cage were several kids dressed up as disciples and between them was a live calf! Of course, there was! Another one was a car covered in Christmas decorations and balloons pulling a trailer with more decos and five clowns on it! Another one was a car decorated with Angry Birds. They love them! Aaah, it was just hilarious. Look closely at the photos below and you will see.

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The Christmas season has been inaugurated! It is all quite different from the Christmas’ we are used to from the cold, snow-clad North, but the joy and happiness of the season is no less apparent!

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We be Cruisin’

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No better way to check out the island than to rent a bike and go cruisin’! We are based in Bocas Town on Colón island and headed for the nearby beaches, Paunch and Bluff. Our bike ride took us through town, by the local airstrip, from narrow asphalt roads to sand and literally biking on the beach.

Just stunningly beautiful and really cheap fun! $3.75 bike rental – Yes, please!

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Aaaah! Cold coconut water, some air between the toes and a nice view – We are two lucky folks!

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From Coast to Coast in One Day

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Change in plans!

We decided to hop, skip and jump over to the Caribbean side in search for sunshine and blue skies. Our chosen destination: Bocas del Toro archipelago.

Bocas del Toro are islands located close to the border of Costa Rica and were discovered by Mr. Cristopher Colombus and his crew in 1502. There is no road connection to the island. In order to bring a car over one must catch the once-a-day-ferry at 8 am. The other option is to pay for parking ($3/day) on the mainland and get across on a smaller boat. We figured we would decide what to do after we got there. Meanwhile, the climb up and across Panama made for a beautiful drive with stunning scenery. It was very green, lush and wide angle views.

Playa las Lajas - Almirante 233 km

Playa las Lajas – Almirante 233 km

We had heard of a hostel called Lost and Found halfway there and figured it would be a good spot for lunch. Lost and Found prides themselves of being harder to reach since it is a 15 minute hike to get there. As an employee stated: “It weeds out the fucktards.” (Please excuse the language, not my words.) We thought there would be a cafe serving food at the hostel. As we got there we realized this was not the case. However, the Lost and Found crew were really nice and avoided a case of hangry (hungry+angry) by letting us buy groceries off them and use their kitchen. Voila – and we had spaghetti for lunch! After the hike back to Honey, we saw two Dutch girls waiting for the bus. We offered them a lift. They very happily accepted and hopped in!

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As we reached Almirante, we soon discovered it was not the type of place we would like to spend the night waiting for the morning ferry. It was a rather sad place with garbage here, there and everywhere. Being a port town and somewhat of a border town it unfortunately gave you the feeling of wanting to leave. We made a tough decision of leaving Honey on dry land (tear!) and scoot over as a team of two. Hopefully everything is fine – Knock on wood!

So, here we are! Funlovingliving Island Style. Stay tuned!

Scenes from Playa las Lajas

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A short drive from David, Panama’s second largest city, we found Playa las Lajas. Unlike Costa Rica, the road leading there was a dream to drive on! The scenery was beautiful, the cattle along the road was well fed and due to rain it was green and lush. The town of Playa las Lajas is actually situated 8 km away from the beach. In an attempt to really pump up the beach feel on your way to the ocean, they have invested in some highly decorative bus stops. Best bus stop I have ever seen!

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As we arrived at the beach area, we realize there really is not much there. Appearently crowds come in on the weekends, but we did not see a single person, it being mid-week. We made a left turn at the T-intersection by the beach and eventually came to a property with some colorful cabins on it. Some people were sitting under a palapa roof, not doing much. The cabins must have been wonderful, a long time ago. They could have needed some attention five years ago, are are still longing for the upkeep they did not receive. Imagine how incredibly cute the little cabins could have been if they did not pose a danger to stay in! We payed $5 to park Honey on their property and camped there overnight. The weather was somewhat gloomy and some rain would come and go. We played frisbee on the beach, went for a swim and a surf, followed by a fish dinner.

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We had a good time, but somehow we both ached to move on and look for something else. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the humidity and heat, maybe it was the general lack of energy, maybe it was us just not quite figuring the place out. Either way, we decided on a massive change in plans and changed coasts! More on that in the next post!

Border Crossing #8

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The last border crossing going South – We have reached Panama!

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Pavones had no cash machines and not many places accepted cards. Since we were buying Popsicles and lollipops at the local store, our stack of cash diminished and our stay came to an end. Monday morning we hit the road and headed for the Costa Rica/Panama border.

Compared to other border crossings we have made in the past, this was easy breezy! Only an hour and a half to figure out the usual game of “which office where and what papers there.” A quick evil eye and anybody trying to take advantage of us were gone. Easy!

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We are now in David, Panama’s second largest city. Honey is safely parked for the night, a massive load of laundry is in the dryer and we are getting ready for dinner! We will be moving on tomorrow morning, full of excitement to check out a country we have heard many great things about!

Tropical 3-0

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Kyler’s 30th birthday celebration was a bit of a different one. It was the two of us in the most beautiful location one can imagine.

The celebratory birthday flags were already swaying in the slight breeze as we woke up in the early morning. A full day of birthday fun was about to commence!

We kept ourselves busy and the day went by fast:

– Jungle cabin birthday breakfast: Kyler had requested bacon (he really is Canadian) and pancakes. A bit of a weird combo if you ask me, but it was not my birthday!

Pavones jungle cabin interior deco

Kyler birthday

– Gifts: One of the gifts I got Kyler was a Nixon Supertide surf watch. It has 230 beaches (including Pavones) with corresponding high- and low tide information programmed into it. It is a really cool, little thing! Unfortunately, the watch does not create waves!

Nixon Supertide on Kyler

– Walks on the beach (Are we getting old?)

– Lunch with beer(s)

– Frisbee fun

– Swimming and frolicking (Never too old!)

– Bird- and wildlife sightings: The usual monkeys, as well as a wild array of birds. Even our untrained eyes could point out 20-30 different types.

– Hammock time: One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Wildlife sightings can also be done from hammock.

– Dinner time: As it turned out, we got take out.. Not exactly as planned on the big birthday, but when the restaurant we had eyed out was closed and the second one (of two in town) did not serve celebratory drinks, we improvised! We brought the food home and had it with wine, music and jungle sounds.

Pavones day scenes

Traveling, being active, having fun – What a great way to start a new decade! Happy Birthday, Kyler!

A Worthy $35 Splurge

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We splurged! It is Kyler’s big 3-0 birthday weekend. We have moved into the loveliest jungle cabin up on the hill for three nights. It is rediculously awesome! Our only neighbours are howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and 250 species of birds including tucans and parrots. Two times a day, the monkeys come to eat the fruits of a nearby tree. We can watch the whole spectacle from the comfort of our hammocks on the balcony. They come in teams of about 20, fearlessly hopping from tree to tree. It is quite the sight!

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Our days are spent with a morning surf/yoga/run – Choose your own adventure! Then, at about 8 am we have breakfast with glorious coffee. After re-charging in the hammocks, we venture out for round two of activities or a walk in town.

Pavones is a very relaxed, little village down at the end of a very isolated road. It has a main intersection consisting of one surf shop and one grocery store. Other than that Pavones has a school, a soccer field, a police hut and many places to stay. They are currently empty. The village swells up when wave is really working. We have met the one other family traveling here, and bump into them what seems like every hour. It really is a small place! Everytime you walk by someone, you are greeted with a smile and a time appropriate greeting. Koselig!

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This afternoon, we went on a hike to the top of the hill behind our jungle cabin. The view was spectacular. Due to heavy rain all night the path was really muddy and we slid more than we walked back down.

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There are several types of fruit trees surrounding our place. We picked oranges, bananas, star fruit and lime. The lime will go nicely with some 7 year Flor de Cana rum tonight. The oranges will make for some tasty, fresh orange juice in the morning and the star fruit will look good on top of banana pancakes for the big birthday breakfast tomorrow morning!

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