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  • Joanna

The Mouth of the Bull

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

After having endured tropical storms at their worst, I was eager to experience the blissful and unspoiled beauty the Caribbean had to offer.


I had booked Bocas del Toro for 5 nights. Why five? Because it just looked so incredibly idyllic, I had heard rave reviews… and there was so much to see and do. I had to have a piece of it.


Five days also appealed to me, as it meant I could finally have a much needed & well deserved rest from hauling my burdensome luggage around.


Pesado. Heavy.


Heavy equaled annoying.

Annoying equaled miserable.

Miserable equaled no-fun Jo.


I had gotten rid of as much as I possibly could from my pack, and now had only to cart the rest of it around… everywhere I went. My goal is to eventually become a packing pro… but unfortunately I have not achieved that status on this trip.


Of course, by now, I should’ve learned my lesson about booking accommodation for more than one or two nights in a row. It never works out in my favour. Never.


My Panama Princess hotel called me a taxi to deliver me to the airport, and honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that there might be two different airports in Panama City.


One domestic. One international.


Oops…


Of course, I made it all the way to International before the driver realized I needed domestic. Rookie mistake on my part… and I can only fault myself for not paying enough attention to detail. Time was not of the essence as my flight was a few hours away… but my taxi driver was not impressed with turning around and driving all the way back to the other side of the city.

Sorry…not sorry…

The domestic airport was nothing more than a single airstrip, and my small plane looked as though it had recently been in a fire. I was assured it was only exhaust, and absolutely nothing to worry about… but alarming, nonetheless. There were still old ashtrays located between the seats, so I had to give credit for the plane having survived so long.


I arrived in Isla Colón just mere moments after the rain had stopped… and I took it as a sign that, despite the abhorrent forecast, I would surely have sun.


*Little foreshadowing here… no, I did not.

I checked into Hotel Bocas Town… a charming 4-story boutique hotel overlooking both the main street and the ocean. It was a warm welcome and exactly what I had been hoping for. From the moment I walked in, I was enamoured with it, and the lady who ran the hotel was nothing short of delightful.


I liked it here and I got a good vibe. My bright blue room was everything beach boutique should be. Inviting. Likeable. Cute.


I was enchanted.


It was good feels.

The colourful buildings of Colón were all very unique, each with it’s own distinct Caribbean-colonial design. I knew I would be perfectly happy here for 5 days.


… if it didn’t rain…

It rained. It rained and rained and rained and rained.


And then it rained more.


That evening, I found refuge from the downpour, in an empanada bistro and feasted on savoury fried turnovers. The next night, I escaped the drizzle in a taco joint… and then a sushi restaurant. In the morning, I watched the pitter patters of the grey & gloomy skies, from either the comfort of my bedroom balcony or the bamboo shelter of the hotel bar.

The entire town was drenched.

It would stop temporarily to allow a brief opportunity of exploration… but it never let me get too far. I would eventually have to run and take cover in some random pub or cafe, until the storm had passed.

Every harbourage came with a certain degree of obligation to contribute to the business… and I suddenly realized I was doing nothing but over-eating and drinking too much wine.


Exercise was limited due to the weather conditions and the sitting part of my journey had become abundant.


Everywhere I went, everyone I met kept assuring me that it would be sunny… tomorrow.


Tomorrow came and went.

Came and went.

Came and went.


No sun.

I resigned to sign myself up for an all day tour of the surrounding islands, thinking surely the weather would improve…


I was wrong.

Two minutes in the boat and we were all soaked and cold. Actually, two minutes is being generous.


The painful and rapid raindrops pelted us, as we raced along the waves. Although there were numerous occasions throughout the day, where I berated myself for having jumped on a boat during this storm… at least it was something to do.


My only other option would have been to sit in my room and wish the day away.

At Bocastorito Bay, there is a resident population of about 100-150 bottlenose dolphins. When we first arrived, it was still fairly early in the day, and we were the only boat there. We managed to see quite a few of the dolphins, very playful in the water.


It wasn’t long before more tour boats began to show up… and suddenly the whole bay was a little too overcrowded for my liking. Afterwards, I read that these tours are not recommended or encouraged, as the dolphins do not respond well to the aggravation of much engine noise.

Lesson learned… though I should have done this first of all.


There was the opportunity to do some snorkelling, but it was chilly… and not overly appealing. I opted to remain in the boat, as I had not really prepared myself, clothing wise, to jump into the ocean.


It wasn’t exactly suitable conditions for changing into my bathing suit, and the thought of removing my rain jacket was unimaginable.

After lunch, a couple hours was spent on a deserted island, splashing in the turquoise waves and exploring the jungle beachside path. We saw starfish and jelly fish.… and as enduring as it may seem, it was exhausting.


No one on the boat spoke English, and although that would normally be fine, my Spanish knowledge and ability rapidly decreases when I am miserable, wet and cold.

The day wasn’t a complete loss at all. The young kid helping out with the tour, had the audacity to ask me how old I was. I responded with, “How old do you think I am?”


He guessed 30.


So the trip was not a waste.


Our boat was full of overly intoxicated Argentinians. They drank ALL day long, and by the end of the tour, half of them were singing at the top of their lungs… and the other half were passed out cold.

I have never been so happy as I was to get back to port. I was saturated. Head to toe. My phone had gone into emergency lock down because it had gotten so damp. My pack was filthy & wet and smelled like a homeless camp. My shoes were completely waterlogged and of absolutely no use to me. Even my passport was dank and doggy.


I got back to my hotel… stripped down and immediately jumped in the shower to clean up and, more importantly, warm up.

The last thing I needed was to get sick.


I just couldn’t take it anymore

I could not take one more solitary moment of rain.

It was over.

Over.

O.V.E.R.

Once out of the shower, I lied down on the bed and my wheels started spinning.


Weather forecast; Bocas del Toro.

80-100% rain, thunder and lightning.

Every day for 2 weeks.


Weather forecast; Miami.

SUNSHINE ~ Every. Single. Day.


My original plan was;

5 nights Bocas del Toro, Panama.

1 night Panama City, Panama.

1 night San José, Costa Rica.

2 nights Miami.


No more. It was changing to;

3 nights Bocas del Toro.


… and the rest?


Miami.


Of course, I had a few hurdles ahead of me.

  1. I had to negotiate a refund from my current Bocas hotel.

  2. I had to change my return Bocas flight from December 5th to December 3rd.

  3. I had to change my flight from Panama-San José to Panama-Miami.

  4. I had to cancel my San José-Miami flight and try to get my money back.

  5. I had to try to book additional and reasonable accommodation in Miami.

  6. I had to book a Covid test appointment.

  7. I had to pass that test…


Was I up for the challenge…?

It was a lot of hassle…

I hate hassle.


But I hated rain too… right?


Should I?

Shouldn't I?


A lot of hurdles…


Ok.

Go time.

Ok…


~ I went to the lady who ran the hotel and explained my predicament. She was initially hesitant… and even tried to tell me that credit cards take half my payment, so she could only give me some… I fervently pleaded my case, and by the morning, I had a full refund.

~ My Bocas flight was easy. I made a phone call to customer service and a nice lady helped me with everything. My current flight status was eligible for one complimentary change, but I was required to pay a $25 service fee. Done,


~ Changing my Copa flight proved to be a little more treacherous. I was on hold for about 45 minutes, and when I finally got through, I spoke with a man who made everything easy. He was helpful, good-natured… and just as he was about to tell me the price difference I would be required to pay… the phone call cut off.


Of course it did.


I had to get myself dressed appropriately and head out into the rain. My phone call usage had dried up… and if I wanted to call back, I needed to add more money to my data plan. I found a small store and a gentleman to help me… and then headed back to my hotel to return the call.

While I was on hold for the second time, I did a little flight research and found the flight I wanted to be on.


11:59am from Panama to Miami. Easy enough. It was currently selling for $177 one way… and as I had paid $400 return from San José to Panama, I couldn’t imagine the difference would be any substantial.


Wrong again…


I finally got through… but was not lucky enough to be with the same agent again. I went through the entire rigamarole again… and managed to get everything almost sorted.


The agent kept asking me to hold while he confirmed pricing with his supervisor. It actually became quite worrisome. When he eventually got a confirmed answer, it was $157 before taxes.


Inconceivable…


Booking an entirely new flight, was only $20 more. It was hardly worth my time on hold or the price of my new data charges.

I couldn’t believe it. He kept explaining it was the price difference, but that was nonsense. At the very height of our discussion, the call cut off again…


Shit.


I was hardly in the mood to call back now that I knew the prices. I could just go on Expedia and book another flight for $20 more.


Next best thing???

I contact the airline that I had originally booked San José to Miami to see if I could change that from Panama to Miami.

The answer was yes… but it came with the penalty of a 3am flight and a price tag of $124. I could swallow both of these inconveniences, as the entire transaction was done over WhatsApp and I didn’t have to venture back out to buy more data.


As soon as my flight confirmations hit my inbox, I was on the hunt for Fort Lauderdale accommodation.


I had lost out on some money and one flight… but I was almost set. I could feel the sun… Just a couple more hurdles to go…


Damn global pandemic.


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