[:en]Getting to Bocas del Toro was pretty simple, though quite a long day of travel. We crossed from Uvita, Costa Rica, all the way to Bocas in one day. After getting a shuttle from the border to David for $2, we bought tickets for the public bus to Almirante. The ride was 4 1/2 hours through rugged mountain roads and cost $8.50 per person. From the bus terminal we took a taxi for $1 to the water taxi terminal, rushing in order to catch the final ferry,$6.50 for the half hour journey, at 6 pm which we barely made.
After a very long 13 hr day, we finally arrived on the Island of Bocas Del toro, the main hub for jumping off to any of the other Islands of the Bocas Archipelago. While we were in Monteverde, we met a Chinese couple, Franky and Diana, that had been traveling for a year, when they heard we were going to Bocas, they said we had to try and stay, or at least meet their Coushsurfing host. Franky’s enthusiasm about the whole situation was quite clear. His name is Graham Hughes and he holds the Guinness Book of World Records for going to every country without flying. Shortly after finishing his world tour, he won SOS Island, the british version of Survivor which awarded him with an tropical island. After contacting him, he kindly said we could stay, so the next morning we went shopping for all the food we would need at the Island and then took a water taxi to Jinja Island.
As we pulled into a small bay hemmed in my mangroves, greeted at the end of the dock with a warm welcome from our friendly ginger host and his island dog, campesino. The next five days were filled with jokes (some bad, some good), lots of laughter, and plenty of beers to boot. Graham was by far the most interesting and most generous host I’ve ever surfed with and he made our time in Bocas really memorable.
Though Island life is wonderful and relaxing, things can be complicated without a boat. The first few days, Graham’s boat was being fixed, so we couldn’t wait to go pick it up. However, how do you get a boat, without a boat? You paddle. Graham and Oscar detached the broken motor from a small unused boat he had tied to his dock. Then, we collected 3 wooden paddles and began our arduous journey to go pick up his proper motorboat. Aside from the main Island where Bocas town is located, there is a large network of smaller Islands that make up the Archipelago. The result of a volcanic eruption, they are very fertile and make the perfect environment for mangrove to thrive, so rather than beaches all you see are trees rising out of the ocean. Since Graham’s was one of the closest Islands to the Bocas proper, we started our paddling through the calm, shallow water around the mangrove islands. After about an hour, we made it to a wide bay called Dolphin Bay. After several breaks, we finally made it across the bay. Though our muscles ached, we were encouraged because Graham said we were almost there! Almost as soon as we exited the bay, a local boat about 2 and a half times the size of ours with a huge motor pulled up to our rather pathetically zigzagging craft. “Do you need a ride,” he asked, “its a very long way.” We accepted his offer with relief, and were about to tether our boat to their’s so they could tow us, when he shook his head no. “Just throw it on top!” so we climbed in and then hoisted out entire boat on top of theirs. Even with all that weight, we sped along all the way to the Mechanics. Even with our speed, it was a very long way, and I looked over at Graham who sheepishly grinned, “maybe it was more like half way.” Even so, as we pulled into the dock, we felt very accomplished and ordered a beer.
The next day, Graham took his new boat out for a spin and took us to Dolphin bay in the morning. We waited patiently for a dolphin to show, scanning the boat on all sides. After a while, we spotted one and sped off in its direction. The dolphin came nearer, playing in the boats wake, and teased us for a while, leaping around the boat as we spun around rocking the boat as we tried to take a photo.
After our fifth day and second attempt at leaving (we tried once, but the ATM was out of money so we had to stay, and Graham was kind enough to extend his hospitality) Graham drove us into Bocas. We arrived just in time to Catch the last ferry off the Island and it was a bittersweet goodbye. Bocas was a special place, full of unexpected friendships, adventures, and beer.