Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Island time

On Friday afternoon we hopped a little plane to the town of Bocas del Toro on Isla Colon.  We were set to meet Danny’s sister, Debbie, and her family the next day so we checked in to the Hotelito and had dinner out on the main street taking in the Caribbean vibe of the area.  The streets were crowded with people and different kinds of music filled the air- reggae, Latin folk music, and America rock.  Danny even heard some John Prine as we walked along.  Bocas town had a really nice vibe to it- the people were friendly and there was a nice mix of locals and tourists.  Some grubby hippie types selling braided bracelets, some vendors peddling fruit out of the back of their trucks, some over zealous touring companies begging you to take their ride out to another island.
For Ted Frisbie...
In the middle of the afternoon on Saturday as Cal sat on the sidewalk looking around calling, “Bruells!  Bruells!” we spotted Debbie, Marc, Emily and Renee.  Pulling their rolling suitcases along the bumpy street they were easy to spot and we all ran in for a big hug.  It was great after seven months away to get everyone together again.  Harper and Cal were especially thrilled to have their big cousins around.  We did a hectic grocery shop, found the boat dock at the Barracuda restaurant and crammed all of our stuff into a tiny water taxi.  And we were off to the island house we had rented for the week!

We had a great time on Bastemientos Island.  It was relaxing and mellow.  Here are some highlights we want to remember.  I am sure the Bruells could add on more to our list!

-Dinner with an indigenous Ngobe family.  Connie and her mother cooked us a big feast of red snapper, coconut rice, purple taro puree, banana cream drink and orange tang.  We ate on the floor (the custom of the Ngobe people or just a funny trick they play on tourists!) Danny and Cal played catch with the two-year old boy and all the cousins and Angela got take a sunset (motor-powered) canoe ride home through the mangroves. 
Not a great photo, but it captures our boat ride home through the mangroves
-Cousin time!  Holding hands on walks, drawing and coloring, reading aloud, collecting urchins, petting jellyfish, building sandcastles, teaching new tricks (like how to draw a beaver and how to flip yourself in your inner tube and stay dry!)

-Sea Kayaks- Cal loved pushing them off, pulling them in, trying to paddle, and jumping in off the side to swim in the shallows of the Caribbean.  The rest of us loved just paddling along in the calm waters and looking for rays, starfish and jellyfish.
Debbie and Renee head out
Danny and Cal follow
Emily paddles Harper and Marc out to the various shades of blue

-Eating local- We bought fresh-caught shrimp, coconut-oil bread, maracuyas, and an 8-pound fresh tuna from the Ngobe people over the course of the week.  Danny had his first experience of preparing a whole fish while I read directions from a cookbook we found at the house.

Fresh tuna!
Our first time filleting
Okay...so the brownie mix wasn't local!
-Emily’s photography lessons- Emily gave us a tutorial on composition one afternoon and we put it to practice on our hike.  She taught us about balance, movement, and lines to name a few.  I believe she took the ones below.  They are better than any of mine!
Our model, hubba hubba

-Hiking through the jungle- We saw mini red frogs, 3 sloths, a cayman, an owl, oropendulo (sp?) birds w/bright yellow tail feathers and wings that beat loudly as they flapped over head.

Renee sports some snazzy hiking footwear.

Two spider monkeys
For some reason Cal can't see them.
Sloth with her baby
Poison dart frog (I think)
Leaf-cutter ants
Moss love
-The open ocean- On our last full day we kayaked down the coast and hiked through the jungle to get to a beach on the north part of the island.  It was a beautiful beach filled with conch shells and shady palm trees.  We spent the day riding waves, building whales, boats and sand castles, kayak surfing the ride home and swimming “way out” (for Cal’s standards) in the warm, clear water.

We really only had a couple low lights.  The animal life was beautiful and wild and in a couple instances they got the best of us!  Renee had a jelly fish sting, a sea Urchin poked Emily's foot, Cal got bit by an ant and it swelled like crazy making him look like an extra from Avatar and surprise, surprise Harper (and me and Danny) were eaten up by mosquitoes and no-see-ums.

On Saturday we left the island.  It was a cloudy morning and we spent it packing up and eating the last bits of random food we had left in the fridge.  After taking the water taxi to Bocas town we all sat down for lunch at a typical little Panamanian place.  We had delicious rice and beans, chicken, meatballs and meat soup.  We said our goodbye to the Bruells (about which Cal said, “wasn’t that sad because we are going to Carbondale in just a day or two.”)  It was a great week and we are so happy we all shared that experience.

After that our family headed back to our room and we sacked out for the afternoon.  We woke up from naps later and went out for a really fun dinner in town.  We watched the local skateboarders by candlelight (as it happened to be the hour of the global agreement to turn off the electricity right in the middle of dinner).  We had big idea discussions about vegetarianism (Cal) and energy consumption/pollution (Harper.)  At the end of the meal we shared a big bowl of chocolate fondue and had a cheers to the last month of the Traveling Stoneleys!  Only 4 weeks left!  We can't believe it has gone by so quick.

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