Boquete 

We went to Boquete for six days, six glorious days that was a welcome break from our time with Irene.

After work we caught a bus from playa corona to Coronado and then one to David. It took an age, six hours or more and we weren’t sat together either. At one point we stopped at an immigration centre/ thing. Everyone had to show their identity cards, or whatever they had. Thankfully we brought our passports, three people didn’t, and had to be taken off of questioning, only saw two get back on, eek.

It was cold too, they put the Air con on so strong that people were putting on coats, even the drivers, but still refuse to turn the Aircon down. Jake thinks it’s like when you get something new you use it all the time, and that’s what happened with Aircon here, but then never got over it. Everything has to have the Aircon on full blast. This makes it feel so much hotter than it is as your constantly going from one extreme to the next.

David seemed okay. Had a look on Trip Advisor to see if we should stay a few days, but there is literally nothing to do. Got a hotel and found somewhere to eat. To Jake’s horror it was a fish restaurant, thankfully they also did chicken wings for him. On the way we also got chased by some very angry snarling dogs. I never thought to be more scared of the dog than a poisonous snake or scorpion in my bedroom.

Got to Boquete the next day and tried to find where we were staying, as it was an Airbnb. We didn’t know where was, and the directions were so bad that the taxi driver who lived there didn’t know where that was.

It took us two hours to find it, but once I did it was very nice. We had our own attic room, you can climb out the window to get onto the Veranda, and to get down can use a fireman’s pole. There is volley ball net and a swing, football goals, tight rope, pull-up bar, and a climbing rock walk under the stairs and a surfing balancer. Really cool.

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First day we got the bus up to Los Quetzales trial. The guy at the ranger station said it would rain so give us a cagoule and this huge bright yellow tarp thing, with a hole cut out of it for a head. Glad he did as it began to throw it down, hey it is the rainforest, lots of bugs and birds specially ladybirds loves the yellow thing.

We did not see any of the Quetzales birds, which is what the trail is named after, but it is the wrong time of year, most of the way was all led by stepping-stones, and a rope bridge which scared the hell out of Jake. I found it quite fun, but on the way back it absolutely poured, the cagoule did nothing, except it let the rain through at the bottom and soak down into my shorts, down my legs, and into my shoes.  I felt the squelch my trainers the whole way back ugh.


The next day was better, we went to the Jungela De Panama Wildlife Refuge. It was free and small, kind of like somebody’s back garden but all the animals seemed really well cared for, they had all been rescued from being hurt or being abused as pets by the owners.

Firstly there was a parrot with a twisted wing so it couldn’t fly, He was quite talkative, although it was in Spanish, so couldn’t understand him anyway. Next to spider monkeys Daisy and Lalita, which we could feed, Peanuts seemed to be their favourite. Next a small Capuchin monkey, she had only been there for 4 days and just want to cuddle, she liked sitting on my shoulders and was very interested in Jake’s water bottle. There was also parakeets, a hawk, chickens, rabbits, an owl, and a turtle that you got to feed, a little snapping thing that was so fast you could easily lose the tip of your fingers.

There was a goat there that like to run around and ram you if you did not give him attention, a few dogs and cats, and there was also a very mischievous raccoon, who we had to walk around on the leash. He liked to play and climb up Jacob and nip his fingers. Not every day you get to walk a Racoon on a leash, there are a lot stronger than they look. Most of the time I spent with Daisy the howler monkey. She had been abused as a pet, she likes to have her back stroked, and so she held onto me with her tail very tight, and held my hand with one of hers. She would get very annoyed with me if  I  stopped. When it was time and  I tried to leave, she jumped down – quick as a flash – and wrapped here tail through my sandals so I could not leave. She was beautiful.


Day three was just rain. It pored so heavy you could barely see three feet in front of you. Jake had to carry me down the road as it had flooded so bad.

Next we went to the Tuesday market.  There was about 30 stalls, and nearly all of them were run by American expats. Most of it was very posh jewellery or knives or coffee or delicacy foodstuffs that was extortionate expensive, especially nine dollars for single sausage!

We didn’t stay very long, so instead went to the lost waterfalls hike, The hardest part was the entrance, it was so steep. There were three waterfalls in all, up to the first one the path was really well maintained, to the second you can just about see it, and to the third waterfall the path was non-existent. The first falls you couldn’t get close to, you could see the rainbow through it and it was the tallest. Second was the most spectacular, you got really close and could paddle if you wanted. At the third I slipped on a rock and fell into the water, my trainers had just about dried out, but now full of water again. Would need flippers soon.


Boquete was the perfect getaway we needed, and reminded us why we were travelling, the waterfalls and mountains, animals and people. Here was a little slice of fun and paradise. I need. I got to relax and recharge for going back to playa corona and ready for our next step…

Costa Rica.

Playa Corona… and the many things I did wrong. 

After Valle de Anton, we went back to the city for two days, not much really happened while there – however we did have a warm shower which was heaven. 


On the first full day there was a huge bang just outside our room and all electricity and everything went off in most of the city it seemed, and it was hot. No amount of ice cream could cool us down. We ended up lying on the floor, and hope that the stone would cool us. We did have a look round the old town, all we did there was melt and get some very expensive drinks. 

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We managed to get to Playa Corona the next day very easily. We were working at an American expats home, doing gardening and landscaping, four hours a day four days a week, perfect; or so we thought. 

We met Irene, our host, and we were put in what is one of the houses she has on her property, usually spare for rent or air B&B. It was big and clean, with a king-size bed, kitchenette, porch, hammock, beautiful bathroom and a whole shower room, I felt like a princess after the filth of El valley. It seemed perfect, even if we did find a scorpion hiding in our curtains. 


Oh first day working, 23rd of May was our anniversary! Six years! We still went to work though. Can’t always be a holiday. 

Jake was given a machete and was to cut down this huge bamboo bush – which he spent most of the days we were there working on. I was cleaning concrete steps that were stained from the cashews and mangoes, we then went into town to get some food shopping, we tried to go out for dinner but we couldn’t catch the bus so end up having super noodles, drinking rum and watching crap on Netflix, personally I thought it was an awesome anniversary. 

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The next day is when the trouble started. I was mowing the garden; now this garden was the size of Central Park, and I was using this huge heavy petrol mower that look like it was the made in the 1920s, and I did it wrong. Absolutely and unequivocally everything I could possibly do wrong, I did wrong. I don’t know how, I have full capabilities of mowing a lawn, but nothing I did was right, and she seemed to take pleasure in telling me how useless I was, not in such certain terms, but were unmistakably implied.

I move it around wrong, I mowed the wrong place, I move the mower over grass more than once, I missed bits on my way, I got rid of the grass wrong and apparently I can go over trees and concrete, it was continuous, and hot, and stressful. In the end I actually started crying, I didn’t let her see though, apparently she was also having a go at Jake to about not being able to start the strimmer that she left unused for the past few months and about me. Complaining to him about how bad I was.

 The whole garden took the whole four hours. Apparently we do it every Wednesday, can’t wait for that. 


Over the next few days, I did more and more things terribly wrong and she seemed to relish telling me so. I didn’t move fast enough, I didn’t rake the leaves correctly, put them in the wrong compost heap (there were six by the way) I spray-painted her barbecue wrong. 

We were told to tresspass on to the next door neighbours land and cut down their plants, I did that wrong, made burms – of said cut down plants – wrong, weeded wrong, got rid of scorpions and snakes wrong e.g. I didn’t hack them to death with a blunt machete. Picked up fruit, cut grass with scissors, cleaned drains, moved logs and anything asked of us, we did wrong, me especially. 

The constant criticism, and attacks towards me personally really cut me down. Most days I ended up crying in the bathroom or so stressed about working with her I ended pulling out most of my eyebrows. 

Having Autism meant I didn’t fit in all that much, I was weird and an outsider, so I never really developed all that much self-confidence or worth and working with Irene shattered it all over again. It was terrible. My mental health suffered and jake suffered with me as there was not much he could do. 

He did talk back to her, one time when she was complaining to jake that she didn’t care how it’s done in Europe, this is how it’s done in America and that works better he said that’s what they thought about McCarthyism and segregation. This stunned her so much she stoped bullying him as much after that, and focused her anger and attention on me. I still don’t have the confidence to walk into a new place first, so talking back was not an option, I felt more stupid and downhearted every day. I drowned in her cruel words and disgusted looks.  

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I counted down the days till we left for Costa Rica. The hours I had to spend being near her. 

In the end I was told it was not even allowed to fuss the dog as I was showing her too much kindness and attention. And that being ill was no excuse not to work in the 38 degree heat. 

Being here show me how different people can really be, while emailing her to organise this work, she could not have been kinder and when we arrived she was so welcoming, and a soon as we started working for her, everything changed, I find it difficult to read people and understand personalities, being here and try to understand her just made everything more difficult, I was unhappy. 

Panama overall had not been kind to us. 

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We did have some good days, as we only had to work four hours in the morning 7 to 11, only four days a week we did get some time off to spend looking around. The problem was that there was nothing to do.


Went for a bike ride, and down to the beach a few days, the beach and sea were quite clean but very rough and not very clear being the Pacific side. The sand was volcanic and black so burning to the touch. 

One night we went down to watch the sunset and saw the whole beach come alive with tiny little crabs which was really cool to see. 

We went back in to Panama City few days, I was allowed to go down to the river with Maggie (the dog) and give her a bath. We also went up to El Valle to see Art. Later on he came down to stay near us for a few days. 

We were looking for a place for him to camp and while walking along the beach he and Jake got soaked from head to toe by huge wave that nearly suck them out to sea. They were so wet it broke jakes phone, I was glad I didn’t run and stayed dry. 

We managed to organise our diaries so we got six days off in a row and went up to Boquete, which I’ll tell you about next week. It was a godsend us to have a few days away from her. 

Our last day with her was day 100 of our trip. We spent most of the day cleaning the apartment which was spotless. Cleaner then when we came – especially under the bed. She still I managed to criticise how we moped, but it was our last day so who cares. 

We went out for tea, and came back and finished off half a bottle of wine and a lot of rum… 

… well It would’ve been rude to have left them. 

Valle de Anton

Here is when things started to go wrong.

I have already mentioned that we had a nightmare time trying to get to our next workaway. We got there about seven at night and they had waited to eat tea with us, which was very nice of them as we were starving. There were quite a few new people to meet, which was a little stressful, especially after the day we had had.

I had got more accustomed to talking to new people in Jamaica, and before that at university, so coped well enough. The difference here is that I couldn’t speak the language. England is notoriously bad at teaching second languages. In primary I had one year of German, and in secondary, five years of very broken French, so Spanish was going to be impossible for me.

The people were nice, as far as we could tell as neither of us spoke Spanish. Jake got talking to an American guy that lived there, he was in his 60s or there about. The first thing he spoke about was his love of weed and Coke and rum, Jake could relate to the rum part.

There are two of the girls, one didn’t really speak, and one from Chile, she spoke really good English and she spent a few hours trying to teach me a few basic words in Spanish.

That night we were put in a dorm, even though they said we could be in a private room. It was okay as no one else was in it, and they said that it was just a volunteer room. Bad thing was that there was nowhere to keep your stuff safe.

We were told we would work from 8 to 5, confused we asked about this, because in workaway you only do 4/5 hours a day.  Our host then said I would be working 8 till 12, and Jake 12 till 5. This meant that we wouldn’t be seeing each other, or be able to do any activities while we were there, which kind of defeated our point of traveling.

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Our first day we got off as it was a Sunday. I need it as I didn’t manage to sleep until three because it was so noisy, they had music blaring till 2AM, people running about and dogs barking. It was a cacophony of noise that was almost painful, like a puffer fish going off inside my brain.

We met another guy that day, his name is Art. He was Russian/American and him and Jake on really well, they chatted most of the night, we were going to do one of the hikes up the mountains, but it started pouring. Everything here has a metal roof, so the sound of the thunderstorm and torrential rain on the corrugated ceiling was even louder than the night before, even if it was a bit more pleasant.

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Started work on the Monday at eight, and our host was nowhere to be found, he hadn’t actually said what I was meant to be doing either. He didn’t show till about 10, where he told me – as I was a female, my job was to clean, do the laundry, make beds, mop and sweep and clean toilets then cook for when the men-folk got home! I have no issue doing those jobs, but the fact it was solely to do with my gender really pi**ed me off.

The ‘menfolk’ – including Jacob went to work on a building site, so didn’t see him for most the day. I was also meant to tend reception with the other girls, but seeing as my Spanish was lacking I could not do it very well. As for the cleaning, this place looked like it hadn’t  been cleaned in 10 years.

There is a level of dirt that I can deal with, then the level of that Jake can deal with, and then this place, it was grim.

Mould grew everywhere, flies surrounded uncovered food, the dirt was an inch thick and things growing in the fridge. I was told that it was only cleaning, so easy work. It was easy, yes, (our host made a point that it was easy work, because women can only do easy work) but it was disgusting. There wasn’t anything for us to clean with either, no soap or chemicals, so I had to use a ripped up piece of clothing that somebody in that stayed there had left.

When Jacob back he said he’s been hammering nails out of bits of wood for five hours and was bored out of his mind. We went out with Art and climbed up Mount Carigauna and watch the sunset which was lovely, although it was very hot and sticky, so afterwards I had to brave the shower and the cockroaches in it, also looks like there were leeches living in the sink, ugh.

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The next day wasn’t too much better. I asked if I could go to the construction site, they were very reluctant and tried to get Jake to control his woman – and not allow me to go. Jake basically told him to F-himself and I was allowed to go.

When I was there I was told I was scraping paint off the wall, (I can see where they saw the danger). They did not give me a chisel because that was far too dangerous, instead they gave me a cheese grater because it wasn’t sharp and I could not hurt myself. Afterwards I was allowed to do sweeping.

At one point I did manage to get away and help Jake pull out nails, this was scandalous in the eyes of the men working, so much so that they stopped, open-mouthed to watch me to see if I could do it, and seemed rather shocked when I realise I could use a hammer. I did enjoy watching it put all the men’s teeth on edge.

Jake was also allowed to use the spray paint gun, again, not me because it is too… complicated, I believe is the term they is used, at the end we moved planks of wood, they were amazing I was able to do so because the surprise, surprise wood can be heavy, and women can’t pick up stuff.

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Day three of work, I was cleaning again, I was exhausted because they were tattooing and playing music till 2 AM in the room next door. The upside was I was able to catch a frog that had decided to make a home in our dorm thanks to the damp and the rain leaking through the roof onto Jake’s bed. I also got to play with the dogs and the two kittens, which almost made me to forget about the rest of the stuff going on.

Day four, we didn’t want to wait around for our host to get up and tell us what we going to do, as he usually didn’t rise till about 11:30, so me and Jake went to the Butterfly Valle, not too expensive, and the guide spoke excellent English and very informative, I really liked all the butterflies, Jake put up with it. I think he found the practical information about them more interesting than seeing them, apparently only 3 to 4% of them survive in the wild.

 

Once back, we found our host had gone into the city, so both me and Jake did the cleaning, if that is what you call it, you would need to blitz the place to show any difference at this point. We then went to the Victoria Lorenzo Museum, which was free because it was their 40th anniversary I think.

The last few nights we had other people in our dorm. These were guests, not volunteers, so we had to put up with them wandering in and out, and tried to look after our belongings. It seemed our host was not telling the truth when he said this was a volunteer only dorm.

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The next day we climbed up with one of the other mountains without with Art. There was a good view from the top, but blisteringly hot, we tried to follow a path down and got lost in the woods, and nearly got caught on barbwire fence and attacked by a guard dog.

That night I was asked to cook, the cleaning of the kitchen took longer than cooking, I cooked for the whole family but some refused to eat it because I had cooked it.

Ugh.

After this week of ups and downs, the dorms, the noise, the work, the stress and lack of communication and basically complete disdain towards me over my vagina, we decided to leave. They didn’t seem very happy about it, as we were supposed to be staying over a month, but neither were we, and at that time we did not care. We had our last night there and I got bitten by fleas, what a lovely way to end the week.

We missed Art, but kept in touch. He was very different from people we usually talk to or meet, especially when it came to talking about his religion and beliefs – I disagreed with quite a bit, but actually really like him. He and Jake had a good hours chatting over rum about politics and history.

Couldn’t wait to return to the city, and thankfully had found another work away on the last-minute page…

But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Panama City

We left Jamaica on the 10th of May after 50 days.  As much as we were reluctant to leave, Jamaica seemed to be just as reluctant to let us go. Me and Jake squidged into the single seat in the front of Michael’s van, with two of the other workmates holding onto a load of timber in the back and drove to Kingston. We dropped off the other two firsts, and unloaded the van and got the airport only 20 minutes after we had planned.

I had already bought a plane ticket from Panama to Costa Rica, but Jake was going later by bus, because of this he didn’t have any proof of him leaving Panama; so Jamaica wouldn’t let him out of Jamaica.  We spent nearly an hour on their shoddy Wi-Fi trying to buy him a cheap ticket from Panama to anywhere – unsuccessfully. Every time we tried, the Wi-Fi I would cut out. In the end I had to beg to let him on the plane, and the woman at desk said to just lie to security to say you have a ticket and quickly ushered us through with only a few moments to spare. (Thankfully we didn’t talk to security or customs and definitely wouldn’t have lied.)

Very relieved we left Jamaica and got Panama, but once we had got there, there was no one to pick us up like we had booked. We waited around, no one showed, and eventually got normal taxi which ended up being five dollars cheaper anyway. We got the hostel (which took quite a while to find as it was not a common place) and there was so, so, so, so much traffic, and hundreds of cars. Once we got to the hostel we basically just collapsed, stress and travel really take it out of you.

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The next day we had a walk around Panama City, feels quite safe, and very clean too. Had lunch which consisted of a huge chocolate and banana crêpe, which basically made the whole of yesterday fade into the distance, once back at the hostel we chatted to the guy at reception, he was Venezuelan and trying to learn English, so we spent a few hours trying to help him with his pronunciation before going for a drink. It was quite fun actually.

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The second day we went to the Mira Flores lock, it was quite interesting, Jake enjoyed it more than I did, but the canal was very impressive. Sort of jaw dropping at the size of it and the work that went into it. We saw three huge ships go through, and the museum was good and the little cinema about it. We stayed nearly the whole day – but I believe that was more because Jake found it really good. In fact it was here that Jake asked me to take a photo of him. The only time in his life he actually wanted a photo!!

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The next day we packed and headed for the bus terminal. We asked for Valle de Anton, the person behind the desk said okay and repeated Valle de Anton multiple times. Then we got on the bus and the bus driver repeated Valle de Anton again multiple times. It should’ve taken us  about two hours to get there.

At three hours I made Jake go to the front and ask the bus driver where we were. He said he’d forgotten about us and had gone straight past our stop! Nooo.

He gave us each a dollar and said to cross the road and go back. Which we did. Repeated Valley de Anton to the next bus driver he said yes, yes get on. Eventually dropping us off half an hour back down the road in Anton! Which happens to be about 30 or more kilometres away from the entrance to Valle de Anton!  We had to get a taxi to the entrance to the Valle and then another bus to our stop. A cheap two hour journey ended up becoming a very expensive six hour journey. But at least we were there.

We were put in a nine bed dorm, not a private one like we had talked about but oh well, but were the only ones in it, and tried to get some sleep. Hoping the next stage would be easier than that day.

Fingers pointlessly crossed.