Denise and I made it to our little slice of paradise, Bastimento, an island off of Bocas Del Toro, a province of Panama. How we got here from my last post in Santiago was one awesome journey.
Starting in Calama, Chile, we hopped on a 2-hour taxi drive through the desert on a paved road (the reason I say paved road is because who knew this would be our last paved road for at least a week) to our hostel in San Pedro De Atacama. We stayed for a few days and visited geysers and went stargazing, and later we found out this was one of the best spots in the world to see the stars. Next, Denise really wanted to see the Bolivian salt flats, but reads too much, not a bad thing, and was a little skeptical about possibly putting our lives in jeopardy. The reviews that caught her eye were occasionally drivers under the influence of alcohol. Going to the salt flats takes 2 days of driving on unpaved nonexistent roads, so your driver is the key to your trip. We decided to visit with the top three companies in Atacama and see where fate would bring us. The first company, the one that was the top of everyone’s list, didn’t care if we went with them or not. They were very cocky and we didn’t have a good feel for them. The second group was very laid back and I know Denise well and laid back is not a quality she would have liked especially on this trip. The third tour group, Estrella del Sur, and the one we went with, was very structured and already had four frenchies signed up for the trip. A huge plus for Denise. Our trip through the salt flats took 2-and-a-half days. Our driver was Pedro, and he was the best. We highly recommend if you’re going to the salt flats to make sure he is your driver and there are four frenchies.
We arrived in Uyuni, Bolivia, on the third day and planned on taking the overnight bus to La Paz. The bus ride took 11 hours and we were both exhausted and planned on sleeping for most of the trip. About 15 minutes into the bus ride when I assumed we were jumping on the interstate, I remembered that we were in Bolivia and they don’t even have streets. So we were on a bus riding on a makeshift road through the mountains and deserts at night during a rain storm at speeds around 45 mph. We stopped every hour or so in each small town. We made it to Bolivia, kissed the earth and jumped off the bus to catch plane #14 to Cuzco, Peru. Here we took an hour and a half cab to Ollantaytambo, a small village a couple of hours before Machu Picchu, our final spot before Panama. Macha Picchu my brother (how Denise refers to it) can only be reached by a two hour train or a 4-day hike. Thank God my ankle was sprained and more importantly we only had 2 days or Denise would have chosen the hike. I spent 5 hours looking for some magical healing by the Incas while Denise took pictures from every angle from every mountain. We headed out of Cuzco, Peru, to Lima, Peru (flight #15), to Bogota, Colombia (#16), to Panama City, Panama (#17), with only one more quick flight (#18) to the islands the next day. By this time I am almost 100% healed and ready to hit the ground running, but when we landed on the island of Bocas and told the cab driver the name of our resort, Firefly, he said he’d never heard of it and dropped us off at a bar with wifi so we could contact our hosts. In the bar, we met two Americans that knew of our resort and had a great time talking about dodging the cold weather unlike all of our family and friends back home In the States. We finally jumped in a 15-foot boat, which was really small especially with all of our luggage. It brought us to our island (we didn’t realize we had to go to yet another one) and we were greeted by the locals at the bar, who grabbed our bags and led us through a dark unpaved path in the jungle to our little hideaway. We saw our names on the welcome chalk board and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw a rum punch as our welcoming present. We found paradise once more. Hallelujah!!!