A couple uncomfortable hours later, and one wrong seat altercation, our bus unloaded us at the border at nearly 9PM. Worried about not having any exit info from Panama, we unsuccessfully tried to buy a plane ticket for me (Maggie was flying out of Panama City March 19) then decided to wing it lest the border closed. Though the border agents were grouchy, we greased through without any info needed. We were the last two people to board the bus down to David. Then I made an executive decision to take a taxi to Boquete that night. It was now close to 11 o’clock and every hostel in town was full or closed for the night. We finally found one up the hill in Los Naranjos.
Free bananas and pancakes for breakfast meant I was going shopping for gluten free eats. But pretty soon i was pimping out my cornflakes and coconut milk with chia and hemp seeds and bananas. The good homie Ryan who owns the hostel had some pineapple cut up for us too. Fortunately this hostel was located super close to a triple waterfall trail. Feeling fueled, we headed up the hill passing pine trees and citrus and everything in between as the cool mountain air got turned up by the rising sun. Soon a bus picked us up and dropped us at the bus stop, but we still had to walk 30 min on the road to the trail head. The air was noticeably cooler up there: perfect for hiking.
The beginning of the trail is beautifully manicured with vibrantly coloured flora and is well worth the small admission price of 5$, which supports the upkeep of the trails. Walking up into the cloud forest is like being shrunk down to a carrot stalk and misted in the produce section on repeat. We opted to hike straight to the third waterfall and hit the others on the return. I thought I might go swimming in the second, but the absence of sunlight made the water too chilly. When we got down to the first waterfall lower down, and out of the clouds, we breaked for a snack and I ate my last can of salmon. A small viewing area was built at the waterfall and we sat there for a while in the sunlight, admiring the natural beauty.
We returned all the way down the hill to the bus stop to wait, but when the bus picked us up it retraced our steps to the trail head to drop off some others and then returned us to Los Naranjos. After showering and changing, we bussed back down to Boquete. Scrambling for a snack before the next bus ride to David, we got a strawberry smoothie and six deep fried empanadas for 30 cents a pop. We were on a mission to get to Panama City for a Major Lazer concert the next night and so had a fair bit of bussing to do to get there.
The bus crawled along for the first bit, trying to fill the last few seats as we descended out of the mountains, witnessing a glorious sunset through the clouds. We got to David and deposited our bags so we could go find some dinner with ease. A sweaty guy tried to sell us some weed but wanted us to pay for a taxi to take him somewhere to get it first. After referencing some gringo’s lonely planet book, we ventured off to a Lebanese restaurant across town using Maggie’s compass. The food wasn’t all bad, but when we got a pasta rice medley after ordering roasted potatoes, I started second guessing my Spanish. Whereas in Guatemala and Nicaragua i could have a conversation in Spanish, I was finding it quite difficult to converse in Panama. Breaking in a park to listen to a little classical guitar, we were almost late for our night bus to the city. When we got to Panama, we jumped in a 12$ taxi to Casco Viejo, and later learned that taxi prices are fairly negotiable. We were dropped off in front of Luna’s Castle, the most popular hostel in the city. It was still very early so we climbed onto a rooftop patio and watched the sun rise over the city. We entered the hostel and were offered breakfast which was nice, but it was pancakes again. Not making any friends, I pimped out my free pancakes in front of the jealous eyes of the plain pancake people, with banana and guyabana marmalade. I realized its good to travel with a fre spreads and sprinkles that can make boring, free food fun.
We took advantage of the free beach cruisers by mobbing around the causeway on a family bike ride. When I tried to navigate our way to the canal, we got on the highway and then returned through the projects to our hotel. The shitshow hostel staff didn’t have our room ready in time so we fussed, and maybe thats why, but we ended up in a closet with a bunkbed as our private room. Collapsing in our room, with no aircon and little airflow, we managed to catch a couple zees before the big Major Lazer show that night.
Doors were from 8-4AM and only Major Lazer was listed on the bill, so I was sure nothing great would happen until midnight, but still had a glimmer of hope that maybe Diplo would do his own set too. We got out to Figali Square, an open air, waterfront parking lot backed by a Colosseum-esque half-built building, at 11 o’clock. In line for the VIP 2-for-1 ofertasimple wristbands, I spotted one on the ground. After donning our own, I went to the street to try to hustle what we bought for 55 USD presale. I only got 10$ for it; capitalism is alive and well in Panama.
We got back inside and fooled around taking photos and trying to bargain for a free Major Lazer tshirt. I ended up convincing a security guard to meet me after the show and give me the shirt right off his back for absolutely nothing. Eventually we made our way right up front and danced like idiots for two hours straight. They played a lot of new tracks including “Lean On“, which I’m jamming on right now.
The next day we killed time until our next overnight bus trip: back up to David, and on to Bocas. In retrospect, it was an expensive decision to come all the way to the city for two days and one concert. But its not every day you get to see one of your favourite bands play down on their home turf.