After nearly a year in a half in Guyana, I made my first trip back to the states to surprise my family and friends in Oregon. It took nearly 36 hours for me to arrive home from Guyana, sleeping in airports, eating $6 hot dogs, almost missing one of my flights with a 30 minute layover, and drinking my first Starbucks Coffee in a year in a half. Once I arrived, two of my closest friends picked me up at the airport and took me to a nice breakfast at a small restaurant outside of Portland, Oregon where I enjoyed some delicious Cinnamon Apple French Toast, Sausage Links, Bacon, and Over-Easy Eggs, followed by a delicious White Chocolate Mocha from Dutch Bros. I arrived home, about 2 hours later, and the carefully orchestrated plan of surprising my mom worked, and I spent the next few hours catching up with them and Heather.
The next two weeks flew by… In the two weeks that I didn’t really have planned prior to coming home, I had went to the Oregon Coast and it was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen there, went to the Foo Fighters Concert with a close friend of mine, Isaac, went to a Portland Timbers game and got a pretty smooth haircut by my close friend, Jenni, enjoyed some good homestyle cooking mixed with a nearly endless amount of IPA’s from Oregon’s Best Breweries, visited with my Cousin Jess and her husband Rayko, sharing news that they are expecting, and lastly, one of my cousins getting married here in a couple weeks. It was a lot of good news, and although I feel like I’ve missed a lot, it was nice to be around family and here of all of the amazing things that are going on back home and what I will be coming back to.
Leaving was pretty hard, but not as hard as leaving for the Peace Corps initially. I did have a mix-up at the airport in Los Angeles when I had to recheck into my next flight, they said my visa wasn’t valid and they wouldn’t let me on the airplane. Luckily, I talked to a different airline attendant and was able to get checked in and board my international flight within 25 minutes of it leaving to Panama.
A few hours later, I arrived in Panama where I would be spending the next week traveling around, trying to get back into my routine before heading back to Guyana. In Panama, I spent roughly 3 days in Casco Viejo, where I ate at small local restaurants, walked around Old Town, went to the Panama Canal, and chatted with other travelers from Holland, Australia, Canada, United States, and Chile. The next couple of days I spent in Boquette, which is a small town north of Panama City that is the starting point for the Volcan Baru hike, among many other hikes and waterfalls in the area. Boquette is a very nice little town and I stayed in a very accommodating hostel named, Refugio del Rio.
In Boquette, I had the opportunity to do the overnight Volcan Baru hike, which is the highest point in Panama at 11,398 feet. We started this hike around 1:30-2:00 AM and reached summit shortly after 6AM to see the sunrise. On a clear day, from the top of Volcan Baru, you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Unfortunately, the day I went to the top, I was only able to see the Pacific Ocean, but was told that typically individuals can see both Oceans if they go in February. I definitely recommend this hike to anyone who plans on visiting Panama. From here, I took the public transportation back to Panama City where I spent my last night, before catching my 8AM flight back to Georgetown, Guyana.
Here are just a few travel tips for those planning on trips through Panama:
- Practice your Spanish, not a lot of Panamanians speak fluent English.
- The food in Panama is good and cheap, try to find cheap local restaurants to eat at, you’ll spend $3-$5 USD on meal; it’s even cheaper if you go to a Supermarket to purchase and cook your own food.
- Don’t take a cab to the Panama Canal, there are shuttles that offer the same service for 25% of the cost of the cab, same goes for the airport on your way out of Panama, Airport Taxi costs $30 USD, shuttle cost $7 USD.
- If you’d like to see a ship go through the Panama Canal, call ahead for their schedule, once in Panama.
- If you’d like to go to Bocas del Torro, go to the Albrook Bus Terminal one day in advance and talk to them about a bus ticket. Bus tickets are cheap in Panama, not the most comfortable, but cheap and perfect for the budget backpacker/traveler.
- Have fun, take in the culture, chat with some locals, and take some time to go hiking through the trails and waterfalls of Chiriqui.
As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I would be posting a video with photos/videos from the Amazon Jungle trip I took back in March/April of 2015. Here is a link to that video! Hope y’all enjoy!