Quite recently, I left little Northumberland and my lovely job at Katie Kerr on a small adventure. It was an amazingly varied trip with a few interesting destinations.
First stop was the capital of Colombia, Bogota; an exciting flurry of cars, museums and street art. The entire city is a spectacle; a mish-mash of old Spanish and postmodern architecture. There is a huge mountain named Monsterrate which dominates the centre of Bogota. One amazing thing to do (if heights don’t scare you!) is to go to the top of this mountain. You can choose between using a cable car or train to reach the top. It is extremely steep, making the journey a slightly anxiety-ridden experience. However, when you reach the top, the view is totally worth it. There is a beautiful church up there, which can be spotted from most places down below in the city thanks to the domineering quality of the mountain. Bogota is a fantastic place to see street art, and especially in the neighborhood of La Candelaria, there are some truly stunning pieces of work adorning the area. If you are a fan of beer, there is a great company named the BBC (nope, not the British Broadcasting Company) who are a local and lovely Brewery. Their selection of beers is fantastic and can be found in bottles in most bars around the city. Alternatively, you can visit their pub/restaurant in the city and try their produce on draught and enjoy some pub grub. There is a very traditional British/Irish feel to this pub, and stepping back out onto the streets of Bogota feels pretty surreal afterwards!
Next stop was Panama City, Panama. The climate here feels more tropical, humid. Beautiful and warm though. The city centre feels very commercial; a fascinating show of high rise buildings and amazing contemporary architecture. Sitting in a roof top bar in the evening is quite something. The views are literally amazing, taking in the city lights and traffic below is definitely an experience. However, on the other side of the city, it is a different story. Down the Cinta Costera, a lovely ocean side walkway, you pass a bustling fish market. Enormous birds sit above the busy scene below them looking upon it all very greedily. Once you pass the fish market, you will find yourself stumbling upon an older part of town, made up of much lower buildings, older architecture and a much more relaxed vibe. This is a gorgeous place to visit some gorgeous bars and restaurants and sit by the water, taking in the opposing view of the city skyline. It is also an ideal place to eat seafood, specifically ceviche; a delicious fresh dish made from raw fish in lemon juice. The Cinto Costera walk way also extends past here, looping out into the sea, which is lit up in the evening, and can be seen as an enormous illuminated circle when it gets dark.
After the amazing couple of days in Panama City, it was time to retreat to a more beach-y holiday destination. A tiny plane (with propellers!) took us to a tiny island just off mainland Panama called Bocas del Toro. Whilst flying into Bocas, there are so many other green jungle-like islands scattered around to take in, and take your mind off the slightly bumpy flight. Arriving on the island is like walking into paradise. Palm trees, beautiful skies and perfect temperatures. The nature is stunning, and all the houses are small and humble, as well as the locals. The nightlife on the island is impressive and varied on the main strip; it’s comprised of a long line of waterside bars and restaurants. The cocktails here are incredible, especially the ones which have local fruit in them. The maracuya (or passionfruit to most of us) is a local fruit which tastes amazing here and crops up all over food and drink menus. A must have drink is a watermelon mojito, made from fresh watermelon and mint and of course, rum. You can choose the type of evening you’d like to have so freely on the island, whether it is a quiet meal by the waterside, or taking a water taxi to a bar or club. During the day, the best thing to do is rent a bike (or quadbike!) and explore the island. Surfing is also a fantastic option here, there is such a variety of beaches to pick from, depending on your skill set and there are so many instructors to choose from. Boat trips to various islands are incredibly fun. You can choose to discover so many breath taking places such as Red Frog Island or Sloth Island and see the animals in their content and natural habitats. Part of a trip we took in a boat included seeing some gorgeous coral reefs and having some beautiful dolphins come and swim by our boat. It would easily go up as the most stunning and special place I have ever been. A highlight would have to be waking up in the morning already on the beach and finding a coconut for breakfast. All the islands are very tiny, and there is only one ATM machine on the biggest island of Bocas, which can prove interesting when it is temporarily broken! There is something so liberating about being on this island, there is certainly enough civilization to be entertained at all times, but a short water taxi costing only one dollar to a smaller island can take you to a really primal and simple way of living.
After the gorgeous time spent in Bocas, it was time to get back to mainland Panama via a very rough water taxi, in order to travel to the border between Panama and Costa Rica. A taxi ride drops you off at immigration. Here, a cheap visa is bought and you can cross a very old and dilapidated bridge into Costa Rica, where suddenly there is an hour time difference and a whole new currency (and again – no ATM to be seen!). A bus station is located right outside of the entrance to Costa Rica. The next leg of the journey was a long bus ride to San Jose, the capital. The beginning of the bus journey was alongside the sea, where you can sit and view the tropical white beaches and more coconut trees. As time progresses, the drive passes many sugar cane plantations and eventually more jungle like surroundings, until all of a sudden you have arrived in San Jose. The weather has cooled slightly now we’re further from the equator. San Jose is slightly more run down, and perhaps not the best city to wander in past dark. However, during the day there is a fantastic theatre you can have a tour of in the city centre, and some really nice restaurants to eat at in the evening including local cuisine, but also French and Italian food.