For our Christmas season plan, we really wanted to show Chris and Sam the joys of getting outside your comfort zone and exploring new places. Belize was great for that, with time chilling in Caye Caulker, as well as using the local ‘chicken bus’ to get to San Ignacio and spending some time there exploring the countryside and Mayan sites. Chris and Sam were initially a bit unsure of coming with their parents on this type of holiday (being dragged around by M&D: not very exciting). Fortunately we compromised and made a plan to leave the kids behind in Belize in San Ignacio, as Judy and I headed back to Belize City to hop on a cheap flight to Panama for the rest of our time away. For Jan-1 we made local arrangements to get a shuttle van to the airport, which included dropping the kids off at the bus station in Belmopan so they could make their way along the Hummingbird Hwy to the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve, and stay nearby the Jaguar Reserve Nature Center. By now they were seasoned in how to navigate the Belize public transit system, so off to their next venture solo. Perfect.
We headed to the bustling airport, and hopped on our 2 hour flight to Panama City – and a new country for us to visit too! Biding farewell to San Ignacio and Belize, we took to the sky to see the tropical views of the second largest barrier reef in the world. Passing over Ladyville where there are some man made canals to permit ocean access to some high end housing, we were off to Panama City, of course seeing the famous Panama Canal along the way as well.
Arriving in Panama, it’s quite a change of pace to anything in Belize. The airport is a major hub for some international airlines, and the city is vibrant as a shipping and financial hub. Skyscrapers created a new horizon as we landed, and the taxi to Mamallena Hostel took us strait through the major parts of the city. This is a backpacker haven, though we were able to make arrangements for a private room with AC for the two of us. Nothing fancy, but the location and the vibe were fantastic.
One thing against us was we were traveling on Jan-1 (other flights were 3 days later!), so we had minimal options on how to find dinner. Some good guidance from the team at the hostel got us to a local corner store: Bananas, eggs, Bread, butter, Spaghettis and some sauce and an onion is what we could muster for dinner and tomorrows breakfast. Fortunately, we also could purchase a few Balboa beers, and we were set for the evening. Making dinner in the communal kitchen, we shared some foods with some of the German backpackers at our table: most folks here could be our kids! Packing our remaining food in the shared fridges, we caught up to our journals and enjoyed the warm evening air in the hostel courtyard with the buzz of conversations and Caribbean music around us. May we never get too old for this type of accommodations!