Panama 1: Bocas Del Toro

Exiting the pit stop early, Ang and Simon were joined by Simon, the remaining half of Team Belgium last seen in León, and another Team Israel.  Together they walked over to the bus station where they waited for the bus to the border.

Soon, all teams were on a bus travelling through kilometre after kilometre of banana plantation.  They arrived at the quiet northern border and completed Costa Rican formalities before crossing a rickety old rail bridge to the Panama side. Simon remarked “that it was coolest crossing in a while, mainly because it was so unsafe.  They crazily even drove a semi over it”.

On the Panama side, immigration was completed with no real difficulties, other than the staff wondering why Ang did not have a Panamaian flag on her backpack.  A shared taxi was negotiated for a 50% reduction in the fare and team raced into Panama.

After an hour long ride they were deposited at Almirante where the team boarded a water taxi for the ride to Bocas Town, the largest settlement in the Bocas Del Torro Islands.   Without having any accommodation booked, the team walked around town and checked out the accommodation options.  By doing this, they were able to discover that a hostel had recently opened on the Island of Bastimentos.  They quickly booked this accommodation and then purchased some supplies.  Team Belgium, also received this clue and joined Team Australia on the water taxi to Bastimentos.

At the ferry dock near Almirante Banana ship
A lot of crane for such a small island Main street, Bocas town

They arrived at the water taxi dock and walked into the centre of the island where they checked in and raced to the beach.  There the Simons and Ang completed the swim at Red Frog beach challenge then, after spotting Team Ireland in the back of the shuttle truck, they enjoyed drinks and snacks at the nearby Punta Lava beach bar and grill.

Wildlife outside of the dorm Red frog beach from the bar

Their next challenges were to survey the beaches of Bastimentos and to spot red frogs in the wild.  Once again both teams set off to Red Frog Beach, then headed north.  Soon they were in a muddy rainforest area where they spotted tens of red frogs.  After completing this part of the challenge, the teams continued working their way along the coast until they arrived at the spectacular Wizard beach.

Panorama of Wizard beach
Simon takes a break from racing on Wizard beach

Not wanting to retrace their steps, the team headed across the island to Old Bank town, where they negotiated a water taxi ride back to the hostel dock.

Old Bank town flower Old Bank town trike

The next day the team continued their survey of the beaches of Bestimentos by heading east.

Ang crosses a jungle stream Plantain flowers
Abandoned beach bar
Panorama of a little cove east of Red Frog beach
Simon from Team Belgium follows close behind
Rainbow panorama

With the Bocas Del Torro challenges completed, the team rested for the remainder of the evening, socialising with Team New Zealand and a combination Team from Canada and Sweden.

Waking early the next morning, along with Team New Zealand, Simon and Ang raced via water taxi back to Bocas Town.  They then said goodbye to Team New Zealand and walked to the airport.  There, twenty minutes before departure, they purchased tickets for a short flight to Panama City.  Again after removing excess weight from their check in luggage, they were on their way.

Flying into Panama City the team took in the view of the hundreds of ships waiting to enter the lock.  They took a taxi ride through the congested streets to their hostel in the old town.  There they met up with Team Ireland, and received their next clue to make their way to the Miraflores lock.

Ships waiting to enter the canal The view from the hostel towards Panama City

Owing to the previous accommodation requiring the air conditioning be on 24/7, both Simon and Ang were unwell.  Ang opted to remain at the hostel to rest while Simon set off to complete the task. After two bus rides, Simon, along with Teams Ireland and America 3 arrived at the locks.  Their timing was perfect and they were able to watch three ships transition the locks before they returned via taxi to the hostel.

Miraflores lock Ships in the lock
Miraflores lock panorama

There at the hostel Team Australia checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race.  Once again they arrived in first place. To celebrate, they had an excellent dinner of sushi and traditional deep fried Panama fare before returning to their accommodation for the optional rest period.


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