El Valle de Anton –
The Space Unicorn-alarm-tune is reliable. We pack our things and leave quietly the hostel. At 4:30 we stand on the roadside. Between 4:30 and 4:50 only a handful of cars are driving past us of which from one “Welcome to Panama!” is shouted from. Nice – must be the usual procedure, waiting across the hostel for the bus! “Thank you!” . The girls in the car have probably just left the discotheque down the road. A little later we see 2 guys, which probably also come from there. They welcome us and ask what we are waiting for. Unfortunately, they have the bad news for us that the coletivo most likely – because it is Sunday – has a different schedule. We should better go to the bus stop near the marketplace. As soon as we want to head in this direction, we see the bus approching. Lucky! We wave at the bus driver to stop and hop in.
Junction for the Interamericana –
At the junction for the Interamericana we get out and pay each 1.5 PAB (1.50 USD). Did we miss the bus to Santiago since we are a little late? The bus to Penonomé arrives after some time. Shall we go? It goes in our direction. We decide to rather wait for the bus to Santiago, which also comes about 15 min. later (6 PAB (6.00 USD) for the ride).
In Santiago we just go to the backside of the bus terminal to find the colectivo to Soná already waiting there. The small bus gets filled up noticeably on the way. Although I had assumed that the colletivo doesnt pick up more people when the seats are full, more people get it. It sure gets cozy. Also, the landscape is changing here here, it almost resembles African plains.
We get off at the bus terminal in Soná and just as in Santiago we get promptly asked by some folks where intent to go – even before we can even have a look around. It looks as if foreign travelers are rare here, and there isn’t much interest in to sell them stuff – rather just the thought: “You are a stranger here, I’ll make your time in my country but as comfortable and easy as possible.” You feel very comfortable and welcome . The colectivo to Santa Catalina starts in half an hour. The landscape is changing again. The further south we go, the “greener” it gets. With us in the bus there is also a German guy – Panama sure is full of German travelers.
Santa Catalina –
“Wow, we are really there yet?” – It’s just after 14:00. We get out and take our things. “That’s typical for Germans …” says Verena. I do not get it at first what she is talking about. “This ‘I’m better than you’-behaviour … The guy we sat next to in the bus just has sighed and rolled his eyes when you were surprised that we are there. This is so typical of German backpackers – Always the comparison, where they have been, what they have done, how much greater they are as the other travellers.” Hmm. Never really realized this, I mean, yes everyone somehow wants to not go with the mass tourist crowds. On the other hand: I do not care how other tend to plan their holidays. As long as they don’t fuck up my own plans. *Shrug* .
The hotel room at “Iguanito” will be ready at 15:00, so we first leave our stuff there. Christine, the owner, an emigrant Frenchwoman, is very laidback and provides us with some information about Santa Catalina. The place is really tiny and consists of 2 parts: The part with the whole population, markets, diving centers… and the part with the Surfer accommodations, combined with a 1km long road in between. Both, however, have their own beach. Between them is “La Punta”, the “real” surfers beach. We also get the info that there is no ATM in Santa Catalina. Either pay by credit card where it is possible, or try to withdraw cash at the supermarket from your credit card for a certain fee. We will somehow work it out. At the hotel bar fridge there is a flyer for shuttles to Boquete – priced probably twice as expensive (35 PAB (35.00 USD)) as with colectivos but it sure is way faster – we would not need the entire day for the trip.
We pack our bathing suits and are off to the beach (5 minutes). On the way we see 4 scuba dive centers. It is high tide just now. We throw our stuff in the shade of some palm trees and tiptoe on the black, glittering sand into the sea * hot hot hot *. Wow. I had expected to have some temperature difference here. This is by far the warmest water temperature I have experienced. Bathtub. We stop at the first dive shop at the shore (Scuba Coiba) and ask for the next day’s plans. Tanea, the girl in the office is – now no longer surprising – also German. We simply book a 3 dives day trip to Coiba there, pay the National Park fees (20 PAB (20.00 USD)) in advance and head back to the hotel. A much needed shower and a power nap later we are again back at the beach and go to the restaurant next to the scuba dive center to eat. Spicy chicken with salad and patacones and some fresh pineapple juice .
Initially, the plan was to stay one night in Santa Catalina and stay at Coiba while on the diving trip. As this is not possible, we therefore still need an extra night at the hotel. However, since all the rooms are occupied, we get to stay at the “Santa Catalina Inn”, which is managed by a friend of Christine. The hotel is not listed in any Booking Portal and has accordingly also hardly any guests.
Since the sky is here starry and we have a new moon, I have the perfect opportunity to do some night photography, so I walk again to the beach. *
*Although the photos seem good, at one of the next few days I somewhere lose my SD card with all the RAW files (Zapatilla?) and just have some JPG files left I copied onto my mobile phone .