Car obscenely stuffed with stuff? Check.
Podcasts and audiobooks downloaded? Check.
Reservations made to sleep in a couple of Panama's most sought-after little towns? Yup.
We took advantage of the November week off to explore a bit more of Panama. First was an eight-hour drive to Boquete, a small town in the highlands of western Panama. Our Airbnb was a tiny house in the huge backyard of a larger house. The grounds boasted dogs, chickens, and a decent amount of evidence of the aforementioned dogs and chickens.
We had the week off because Panama was celebrating its multiple independences (first from Spain, then from Colombia, and finally from its contractual obligation as back-up bassist for Van Halen). This means that there are quite a few parades during Mes de la Patria (Patriotic Month). The kicker is that participating in the parading is mandatory for all Panamanian students multiple times in their educational career (if our kiddos want to graduate from school here they will have to march when they get older) so it's quite a big deal. Our first morning in Boquete was the (first of multiple) Mes de la Patria parades, and we of course were there to document it all
The town itself is nestled in a beautiful valley, and its graffiti is nestled in between expat restaurants.
We were all looking forward to coolish weather and some outdoor adventures. Our first stop were the "lost waterfalls." (Not really, they had a map.)
Next we headed over to the local honey farm for an extensive tasting of honeys and a look at a local coffee plantation.
It was time to kick it up a notch, so we headed out with Boquete Outdoor Adventures (highly recommended!) and tackled some whitewater rafting on the Rio Chiriquí Viejo, skirting the Costa Rican border en route. It brought back awesome memories of our other whitewater trip with the kiddos on the Colorado.
While we did see some monkeys in the trees while we were munching our lunch, we wanted a closer look at the local fauna. Jungla de Panama Wildlife Refuge has that covered!
After exploring the expat-heavy local Tuesday market (I actually overheard someone utter, "where's the Paleo guy?"), we took a few more pictures of the mountain town and headed to sea level: Santa Catalina.
The long, audio-book heavy drive wore us down and we were happy to reach the end of the road. Literally.
Our hotel, Santa Catalina's Oasis Surf Camp, really is at the end of the road in the small surf town of Santa Catalina. Except it's actually just past the end of the road. On the other side of a river. Which doesn't have a bridge.
Luckily, it does have a guy who walks across the river pulling a rowboat full of our luggage and twins. (It also has The Eldest helping to push.)
Here's the "in-boat" view:
Every other time we had to cross the river it was low tide so the water just made it up to our calves. But the place was pretty gosh darn cool. We were mere feet from the surf.
A mural by our old friend Insano greeted us in town. (We actually don't know him, but he visited our school last year and taught us how to make a mural at Artsfest. So we feel like we know him. He just doesn't know it.)
Our first full day we headed out for a long and spine-rattling speedboat ride to snorkel with the tropical fish and sea turtles around Coiba National Park. Unfortunately my GoPro wasn't cooperating so I only have a few pics via Sarah's cell phone. Of course, given how many pictures are in this post, it's probably a good thing.
The next day was our beach day with an afternoon full of surfing. Since we'd taken lessons a month earlier in Venao, we were experts. And by experts I mean that we took another round of lessons.
But it really is a great beach to learn to surf. The waves are forgiving and last forever, and we all did well.
I must warn you that there are many, many photos below documenting our few days in Santa Catalina. I pared it down as much as I could, but it was incredibly photogenic.
The beach was super shallow for quite a while (a kilometer perhaps? That's approximately 7.2 miles for you 'Mericans), which meant that the tide went out forever at low tide. The wet sand was a mirror for the sky, making for amazing pictures.
And the sunsets. Oh the sunsets!
In the end, Oasis Surf Camp was pretty amazing. While the restaurant wasn't fabulous (and a bit overpriced), everything else was great, from the location to the service to the small but air-conditioned and clean rooms. We'd definitely recommend them.
The rest of November was a tangle of learnin' and Panamanian celebrations. Oh, and The Eldest ran the microphones again for the secondary musical; this year it was Shrek! (But we don't have any pictures...)
The final day of the month was our school's Mes de la Patria assembly.
Like last year, I joined in on the fun as well. (Your's truly cutting a rug third from the right.)
Again like last year, I Movembered it.