Saturday, November 29, 2008

whitewater mania!

I left the Lost and Found lodge in hopes of getting to Boquete for the western union transfer. Originally I was going to go to Panama City, but the fondue-making Dutch flight attendants at the L&F told me that Boquete was fine, it had opened up again to tourists. I really wanted to see it anyway, so I decided to go. It´s so easy to travel here, I´ve never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus. Andrew from the lodge dropped me off in David, then I got on a yellow schoolbus for $1.45. 45 minutes later, we arrived in Boquete. A pretty little town up in the mountains with a river and pine trees, it reminds me a lot of a colorado town. The western union office was easy to find, and the transfer went though so I treated myself to a nice hotel on the edge of town. They cut me a great deal because the town was basically closed a week ago due to the massive floods. One block from my hotel is a big washed out bridge. Tourists are a stil a little sparse. Unforntately I´m still not going to be able to go to Bocas Del Toro, the devastation there was just too bad. I REALLY had wanted to go to Bocas del Toro. Oh well, sometimes you can´t tell mother nature what to do.
The restaurants in this town are either uber-panamanian cafeteria type places, or tourist places with english menus. There are a few nice places, but I still miss the Libertad restaurant in El Valle. A place with a menu in spanish, but with ambiance. The town itself is cute, though. I´m not complaining. I arranged for a full day whitewater rafting trip for today, then had dinner at a bistro place, then an atlas at a jazz place.
The guide, Tini, picked me up bright and early. ¨Tini¨is supposed to be like the nickname ¨Tiny¨. But unlike an ironic mobster name, he actually was sort of tiny. Also in my boat was a Californian family: Herb, Wanda and their son Sam. They were great, very adventurous and well travelled family. We were joined by a kayaker (who picks up paddles and helps with rescues in case something happened to Tiny) and we drove about an hour and a half up to the Costa Rican border to the Chiriqui river. This is the same river that flooded last week, so the water was VERY high. While we were unloading into the river, we saw toucans (my first) and some monkeys. I was really excited about the Toucans. Growing up in Battle Creek, I always pictured Toucans with big smiles like a bowl of Fruit loops. Ive been rafting a good 7 times before (class 5 in West Virginia and a very cold class 2-3 with my dad in Colorado), and never once fallen out of the boat, so rafting does not really scare me, although my chiropractor 5 years ago made me promise that I´d never do it again.. oh well. a good minute after put in, we already had a class 4 rapid. I know what a class 4 rapid feels like, that was a class 5 rapid. We had class 5 rapids for the first hour of the trip, one after another. I sat in front and was actually scared, which was fun (hey, I´m getting my money´s worth!). When you sit in front, you drop into rapids and just see a wall of water coming at you. Everyone was soaked the whole time. I was screaming, but it was really fun. Each rapid is named for something, usually for who falls in it or who´s boat tips in. For example, we approached one and Tiny said ¨Thees rapeed es called Mexian family!¨ meaning that a mexican family fell in not long ago.
About 45 minutes into the trip, when we were going over a class 3 rapid (which is actually class 4), I was tossed out of the boat. I don´t actually remember falling out, I just remember all of the sudden being UNDER the raft, looking up through the muddy water and seeing yellow, and thinking, holy crap, I actually fell out of the boat and Oh, I hope there are no rocks! When that happens, you are supposed to claw your way over to the side of the boat, and have someone pull you up. Which I did. We were moving so fast, it was actually pretty terrifying. Herb pulled me up, and we were still going over some rapids. I was all disoriented for a minute, I couldn´t tell which end of the boat was in the front.. then after a few minutes I stopped shaking and was all fine. SO much fun! Tiny said now we can call that one ¨Chicago rapid¨. haha. It was truly the most exciting and rough rafting trip I´d ever taken, which to me is a good thing. And the hot shower and hot coffee I had after getting back to my hotel was life-changing!

Arriving back in Boquete, it started raining again and I had to go to the Lavanderia to wash my clothes. It was a busy laundry day and the lavanderia wouldn´t take me, and the women were really bossy and kinda mean, so I had to find the OTHER lavandaria, on the edge of town. I kept asking people where it was and not understanding the answers. I almost gave up and took my laundry back to my hotel, which I know would have been expensive. One guy took me to the river and pointed at it, and said that I could wash my clothes there. A half hour of walking in the rain later, I found the other lavanderia that was run by the world´s nicest woman. I talked to her for awhile, then another guy who was washing his clothes. Finding the second lavanderia just made my day. That´s what´s fun to me about travel. Sometimes you try so hard to do the simplest thing like find a laundromat. Then, when you do, it´s just so satisfying. You feel like such a winner.
During the clothes-washing I stopped at a cute mexican reastaurant for a taco and a beer. On the window near me I was horrified to see the biggest wasp I´d ever seen. I backed away from the table and got the waitress and asked if the insecta was a vespa. They killed it for me. I tried to tell them that it was the largest wasp I´d ever seen in my life, then I realized later that I kept telling them that there was a ¨wasp in my life¨, haha. Which sounds kind of metaphoric, doesn´t it?

Tomorrow I think I´m going to go to David in hopes of catching a bus or plane back to Panama City. The weather forecast for the whole country is BAD. I seriously might fly to Costa Rica and just go to my old town of Montezuma for the beach, where the weather forecast is good. I don´t know. I might not be too tan when I get home but I´m definitely having lots of fun adventures here in Panama.


Kate C. said...

The Chicago Rapid sounds terrifying. I am so glad you had fun and you got your money.

Enjoy Panama and don't worry about being tan - your skin will thank you later.


Liz said...

There is a wasp in your life. That does sound more profound than it probably was. Glad you are doing well....finally able to read all your entries as I am back from MI. Drove through some blinding snow today near Kalamazoo, but home safe and warm now. Love you saw a Toucan. It's another fun word to say. Like Flounder. Enjoy whereever you are now!! Liz

Trisha said...

Don't worry about being tan - you're always darker than me anyway! So, this entry was very exciting - love the Toucan and the Chicago Rapid. I can't wait for a reenactment when you get home! And life changing shower & coffee - ooh, I'm so jealous. Nothing that exciting back in Chicago right now except lots of slushy snow.