Mamallena Ecolodge to Santa Catalina
Good news everyone, Brett is back in Panama! We are happily reunited even if it was after a canceled flight and a extremely delayed taxi due to an apparent parade. Within 3 hours of his arrival, we made plans to get the hell outta Panama City (this is a recurring theme on the blog, can you tell?), and this time hopefully with our truck! We have never experienced such an exciting, yet anxiety ridden drive in our lives. Would Pablo make it? Would the engine overheat? Would something else go boom? Its a difficult feeling to describe, trying to keep your hopes down while at the same time they are soaring with each passing mile. But we couldn’t get too excited, just in case the engine fell out or something else awful happened. This time though, Pablo held his shit together and we rolled into Mamallena’s Ecolodge without any exciting events to report (exhale).
The storm clouds have started rolling across this part of the planet, and the landscape has changed from barren farmland to lush tropical paradise. The drive in and around the Ecolodge is absolutely stunning this time of year, and although these pictures were taken a few weeks ago (before the rains), I think I should share some of them so you get the idea. Also a sense of the Ecolodge grounds
Photos on the hike up the little mountain, including areal view of the ecolodge and spectacular mountain shots.
The volunteer house, a little rough around the edges, but home sweet home.
Smallest, most adorably annoying puppy being baby sat by us volunteers. The locals seemingly abandoned him for their weekend getaway. Seriously, they didn’t even feed him. But I promise we did.
We stayed two additional nights at the Ecolodge, and spent a day volunteering for our keep. We unpacked and repacked the truck, tested out some gear including the roof top tent. I packed up my life at the Ecolodge, which seemed much longer then the 22 days I actually stayed there. To be fair, I was starting to get a little stir crazy at the Ecolodge, not to mention a little stir crazy in Panama…If the Ecolodge has taught me anything though its that there is more to Panama then our basic stereotypes and our current perceptions. Without having any real plan of where were were going we struck out North along the Pan-American highway looking for Ocean.
Our destination ended up being Santa Catalina, a sleepy surf town at the end of the road from Santiago & Sona. The village is built around two surf beaches, one of which is breaks on rocks (not for us) and break along sandy Estero Beach. There is one tienda, many hostels and little else here. We drove Pablo through the river (!!!) and over the beach to camp out at Oasis Surf Camp which was absolutely dead (much like the town) as May 1st brings the low season. You can’t deny it wasn’t beautiful, but it was lacking a little atmosphere and excitement departments.
We tested out more of our set up, figured out what we are missing and what was working well. The bed we built in the inside of the truck is comfy but absolutely SWELTERING. Also not bug proof. Obviously we need some improvements unless we are camping in a windy and cold area. The tent is also only big-bug proof, which doesn’t do anything for the hordes of no-see-ems that thrive in the tidal zone. We also discovered that the whisperlite is malfunctioning, also (foolish us) you need multiple tips to use multiple fules. *Warning, do not try Kerosene*. So we have a little work to do, but we have a few months to work it out. Thankfully communal kitchens are bountiful here.
This is us doing a few important test runs…
What we have discovered so far about Panama, is that despite a few pockets of expat developments, its really and truly wild. Jungle and desolate beaches and more creatures then either of us have ever really seen in our other travels. It has some added benefits of having a few modern developments like hardware & department stores & Kraft Dinner… but otherwise its completely destroying our expectations in the best way possible.