After 2 days of grueling travel, a morning run made me ready to face the world again. As I entered the guest house, tattooed Juan was bustling around like a colorful humming bird cheerfully flitting about. He stopped suddenly when he saw me, “Want to go on a boat ride today? It’s free, lot’s of fun.” I grinned – if he had a tail, it’d be wagging. “Will we be back by 5? I have orientation and a placement test for Spanish School at 6.” Pause. “Uh, Five? Uh, sure, sure”. Hmmmm, not very reassuring… but, hey this was an island, I figured the school might not even start on time, why not go? I was not sure what I was getting into, so I figured I’d better let Warren know in case I met an untimely demise. I’m a decent swimmer, but I had a feeling we’d be lucky to have life vests. I had 2 frantic hours where the internet was unavailable and wondered if something happened to me, would anyone ever find the passport and money I’d stashed behind the picture in the room…
Juan said we should meet at noon so we could all go to the store and stock up on food and booze for the trip. He brought out a creaky, wheeled cooler and then returned with a can of WD40 with which he proceeded to oil the retractable plastic handle. We joked as he leaked oil the entire way to the store, that he should be careful not to blow a plastic tire or break an axle. At least he left a 400 foot straight line breadcrumb trail back to the hostel in case we got, uh, lost.
Back at the hostel, a boat was waiting right at our dock. We each paid a $1 for the 10 minute trip to Isla Carenero where we pulled up at a dock hosting a huge, Kermit the Frog green catamaran. The covered middle section had 4 booth style tables (which were claimed quickly) and speakers mounted on the wall through plastic cutting boards blaring island music. When the world ends, look for plastic cutting boards to be the new subwoofer.
We cruised the sea between the islands and the boat seemed to attract stragglers like flies to, well, you-know-what. It was amusing to watch small boats race up along side and spew their passengers onto our boat. One person had a pack of cigarrettes that I could not resist taking a picture of; it had a graphic photo of a belly-up rat and cochroach (like they’d been hangin out and WHAM!) – the warning states cigarettes contain the same carsinogens we use to poison rats and cochroaches. I think I heard that same thing not too long ago about hot dogs, cell phones and whole wheat bread.
When we stopped we got to dive off and swim around the boat. One little boy seemed to know all the best spots to jump off the boat, so I followed his lead, communicating through “thumbs up” signals on his efforts. When he went off the captain’s roof, I was the only adult that the captain hoisted up onto the roof of his lookout to dive off. Scary as hell, but well worth it. Later, as the kids and I jumped up and down on the netting between hull and center part, through Spanish, I learned the child’s name was Jose, his brother Ricardo and his father, William.
At the end, they passed a hat around for costs to run the boat. Knowing it wouldn’t be a free thing for long, I regretted terribly not having more on me to give. I immediately ran the last beer up to the captain and thanked him for such a fun trip. As I dropped into an awaiting water taxi in the hopes of showering before my Spanish schooling commitment, William bent down with a grin and extended his hand. All I could muster was a hearty “Mucho Gusto!” as we shook hands. We waved good-bye and as the boat pulled away, I remembered why I loved to travel.
Next up: Spanish School and Carnival – Bocas Del Toro, Panama