Adding Another Country to the List…Panama

After 5 days on a boat around amazing and beautiful islands, I was sad and also excited to be on land. I didn’t get sea sick while on the boat but once I was on land, I had serious drunken sailors walk (I couldn’t get my equilibrium back on land). I had a feeling this would happen to me so I basically spent two days in Panama City relaxing and cooking. I booked a hostel with a pool thinking I could relax and read in there but just looking at the water made me feel a little woozy. #mybad

Fast forward to to 2 days later and I was on a flight to Bocas Del Toro. You would think that after the Rosario Islands and San Blas islands, I was done with islands, but this was not the case. I stayed on a little island just a quick boat taxi ride from the main island where there was an opportunity to participate in so many activities except for one problem…it was pouring rain!

Finally, after 2 days of rain, there was sun and time for an activity and I immediately decided that zip lining was in order! Let’s not forget that I was on an island in Central America surrounded by rainforest and water which means awesome animals!

This little guy popped in for breakfast

These guys are ALL over the island and super tiny. I wouldn’t pick one up but the guides did.

After so much rain I went back to the main island where my friend from high school had just recently opened a new bar called Tequila Republic. I spent the day hanging out with him and his wife and the locals and just catching up. If you are ever in Bocas Del Toro, this bar is literally walking distance from the airport and close to just about everything. It’s a must!

I did’t see much of Panama and would like to go back but like I do with many countries, I pop in to feel it out if it is on way to somewhere and then plan a longer trip for another time!

A Quick Stop in Medellin

Just a quick flight from Cartagena to Medellin and we were in an entirely different climate and different part of the country. We had 1.5 days to explore Medellin which was not nearly enough! We got to our hotel and we were able to have an early check in which is always nice. We dropped off our stuff and walked around the neighborhood to try to figure out what was around. It turns out it was hot and we didn’t really know where we were so back to the hotel we went for some relaxation and napping. The adventure was going to have to wait until the next day!

I decided to take the 4 hour free walking tour from Real City Tours and I am glad I did! Our guide was called Monsa and she was a super enthusiastic Paisa with personal stories to share at every stop.

The history of Medellin starts well before the written history but since there are no records, people don’t know much about it. Because of the location of Medellin, the people were cut off from the rest of Colombia until the train tracks opened up. Basically they are a mix of the Basque and Jewish people that all came together and were “discovered’ by Christopher Columbus and that is how you get the Paisa people from Medellin.

Unfortunately many people associate Medellin with Pablo Escobar or Narcos and we think that what we see on Narcos is the truth. Medellin is very conflicted with Escobar and find that it is a generational thing for the feelings towards Escobar. The younger generation looks up to him while the generation that lived through his reign, think he is absolutely awful. Then there are those who are in between about their feelings for him because even though he murdered lots of people, he built houses and gave back to the community. So how many houses allow you to atone for one murder?

Anyhow, Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world and they have worked very hard to clean up and change their image. Although the government was in charge, Escobar really ran the city and you either took his bribe or you were killed.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton and President Andres Pastrana signed a bill called Plan Colombia. Basically this was foreign aid we were giving to Colombia to help clean up the cartels and the left-wing insurgent groups that were reigning over Medellin. While this seemed like a great idea, the government was paying people per insurgent killed and some of the less honest people were murdering innocent people and dressing them in insurgent clothing to collect the money. Nothing is ever a perfect system.

While the cartels have moved out of the city and Medellin is working to turn once dangerous areas into beautiful parks and hangouts, there is still a lot to be done!

For example, this church is a common hangout for prostitutes. There are a lot of hotels around the area that are rented by the hour and after the men have sinned, they come to church and confess and all is forgiven. You have to love how forgiving religion can be. šŸ˜€

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at are these large out of proportion statues? Artist Fernando Botero donated these and many more to Medellin in an effort to show how Medellin is changing. It is said that each statue is worth $2.2 million USD. You can tell where people like to touch the statues because of the difference in color. Apparently, no one ever actually grows up!

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e tour was over but a few of us were not ready to leave. Out guide took us to a little local bar and we all chatted and listened to music being played from vinyl and enjoyed a few beers. It was a great end to a very long day of history.

From One Island to Another

The Rosario Islands are really known for the day trip crowds to Baru from Cartagena. We chose to spend three nights on Baru and experience the best part of it! We took a crazy little boat ride to our island and started our new adventure!

 

So what does one do on an island with just a beautiful ocean? Wake up at sunrise and go for swims and then swim some more!

If I was to only experience the island as a day trip, I would think it was crowded and full of vendors pushing something on you to buy. But really that is only form 10-3 and before or after that the island is nearly empty! Limited to no Wifi! No ATM! Nowhere to go except in the water or down the beach! Just pure relaxation. I finished my book so luckily there was a library just down the beach where I was also able to buy some books in english.

This was truly another amazing few day getawat!