One of the many thrills of traveling is the spontaneity and flexibility it requires of your mindset. Even with the best plans and preparations, mishaps and mis-steps are bound to happen. Today's post is a narrative piece that recounts one traveler's journey from Costa Rica to Red Frog Beach in Panama, and shares how he overcame obstacles to finally arrive at the beautiful destination of which he had been dreaming.
A special thank you to our guest-post contributor and professional photographer, Alexander Gekiere!
Alexander lives in Brussels, Belgium, and is a licensed photographer specializing in outdoor, adventure, and travel photography in a storytelling style. Traveling and a connection with nature are both important parts of Alexander's life, and he is also passionate about board sports. Fueled especially by his love for surfing, Alexander roams the planet in search of waves to ride and beautiful places to capture through photography. His upcoming work includes projects in The Swiss Alps and South Africa. Today, he shares his experience traveling to the beautiful Red Frog Beach on an island in Panama. To see more of Alexander's incredible work, follow him on Instagram @ag_shotz or visit his website, agshotz.com.
As our trip through Central America had been up and running for quite a few days now, we decided to depart Jaco, Costa Rica and head for Panama. That morning, we rose at 6AM, packed up our things, paid for the room, and were off. We took a cab to San Jose. Upon arrival, we paid the driver and began walking to the bus station (in 95-degree weather at 9AM). When we got there, no employees, busses, nor cabs were to be found, but only people hiding away in the shade to avoid the scalding heat of the sun. We were promptly told that the biggest strike of the year had just started, and that there wouldn’t be any public transportation for the next 8 days. We were screwed. Not only that, but my friend had become ill during the cab ride to the capital, and by now he was feeling very nauseus. Not exactly the best start to a 560 mile trip.
Luckily, a local man stopped his car and asked us where we were heading. “To Panama," we responded. He shook his head and started to make the same frustrated face you make when your finger gets jammed in a door. He said that we had no chance of getting to Panama because of the strike. As we stood there, sweaty with the weight of our backpacks, we hit a strike of luck - this man offered to give us a ride himself to Limon (on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica,) and from there, we could take a bus to Sixaolo, a town situated right at the border to Panama - exactly where we needed to be. We negotiated a price and hit the road.
After a good 3-hour drive, we arrived in Limon. The kind man helped us find the correct bus to Sixaolo, and insisted on paying for our tickets. Thirty minutes later we were up and rolling again.
Once we safely crossed the border, we headed to Almirante, a village located at the waterfront in the province of Bocas del Toro, an area known for its water taxi services. Maybe water taxis don't sound that thrilling, but I was a huge fan of the adventurous atmosphere it created.
We bought our tickets and began the last stretch of travel to our destination: Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos. This "Isla" is one of the mangrove islands in the northern part of the country. As we slowly sailed towards the island, I turned my back and saw the dramatic clouds piling upon the horizon, covering almost the entire sunset. A storm was coming, and you could feel it in the air so cleary.
I had read on the internet that it wasn't a good idea to arrive on the island after 5 pm, as predators came out after dark. Believe it or not, we had to cross swamps that were marked with signs reading, "Beware, Alligators!" Luckily, I had at least packed a flashlight. It was pitch black when we arrived, and we had to walk 20 minutes through the mangroves, following almost exclusively the sound of music, which we were told would lead us to the beach. As the music's volume increased, we realized that we were getting closer, and finally, we emerged from the darkness and stumbled upon a beautiful golden beach. There we found people laughing, singing and enjoying bonfires.
After getting out our tent, we too joined in on the relaxed atmosphere - a perfect ending to a long, hot day of travel.
The next morning, I woke up early and began exploring the island. I found myself standing in the shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea for the first time in my life. Crystal clear water, a vibrantly blue sky, and only one cloud. It was a perfect first experience of Panama.
For more beautiful photography from AG Shotz,
check out his Instagram @ag_shotz or website agshotz.com
I believe in God's grace through Jesus. I love to learn, in a variety of contexts - reading God's Word, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds around the world, and as a student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Western Washington University. Pages of My Passport is dedicated to sharing this journey of learning through written and visual content.