Lost and Found
There is another hostel about an hour from here called The Lost and Found. Greg, the owner here, is good friends with the two owners there. I think their friendship goes back a few years when they opened their hostels about the same time. Because of this, if some of the workers here want to go there, they don’t charge for the night, and vice versa. I had wanted to make the trek up there on a Tuesday, but it started raining…. and it honestly did NOT stop for 48 hours! Thus, I left Thursday as soon as i saw the sun.
I took a local bus to the David Bus Terminal for about 50 cents, and then paid $1.25 for my bus ticket. Local busses are pretty fun (although not as interesting as the previously mentioned Diablos Rojos), because most of the local busses are decked out in Pimp My Ride material on the inside. There are those velvetty boas, bright beads, a nice CD player (because why make improvements to the bus when you could instead by a nice CD player), and colored lights on the inside. I know what you’re asking yourself and to answer your question, yes, Gangnam Style is an extremly popular song down here as well. I hear it everytime I’m on the bus or in a disco. I also think its funny that the driver always has his son or some young child who runs up and down the aisles on the bus collecting people’s money.
The Lost and Found Hostel itself is pretty well known. A lot of the online travel booking/review websites highly recommend it for it getaway, jungle experience. They offer a multitude of tours and trails so I was excited about doing some hiking in the mountains.
I knew it was going to be great when I read the directions to the hostel. It went something along the lines of:
“Take the bus to Bocas del Toro and after about an hour or so in the ride you will pass a toll booth. Three minutes after you pass through the toll booth look for our sign on the side of the road and yell “Parada” (stop) to the bus driver. The entrance to the trail is on your right. See you Soon.”
I love little adventures like that so I didn’t mind it at all. I could see it being a little bit overwhelming to some travelers though because when you get off the bus you are in the middle of nowhere at night. There is one little house on the highway and then there is a sign with an arrowing pointing to a trail saying “Trail to Lost and Found.”
So, I put on my headlamp and started up the trail. It is a true hike up to the hostel as it took me a good 10-12 minute walk up a mountain along this clear trail with signs along the way showing the turns. This probably would be difficult and dangerous if I didn’t have that headlamp, especially since everything was wet and slippery from the recent rain. Oh well, it’s all about the experience right? They also have several witty little signs along the route to keep you encouraged along the way. One of these I remember went like this:
Lost and Found Hostel: .25 km
David: 56 km
Bocas del Toro: 87 km
North Korea: Very Far
After the hike up the mountain, I found the lodge and immediately loved it. Its a nice complex, but its in the middle of the jungle. 5 steps one way or 5 steps the other and you are in the woods. It’s a very cool atmosphere that the owners have worked hard to develop. I said hello to the workers and owners i knew and went to the reception area to get checked in. She showed me to my room and gave me a tour of the place.
Some of the cool things they do there is give you the option of purchasing food from them. Because the hostel is in the middle of nowhere, you really don’t have any options about where to buy food. There certainly is not a restaurant or grocery store even remotely close by. Thus, they post a sheet for each guest on a big bulletin board that lists all of their options and it is pretty much an honor system to tally up what you use. It was like 25 cents for an egg, 5 cents for a slice of cheese, 50 cents for Ramen noodles, $1 beers, etc. I couldn’t see it when i arrived because it was dark, but they have a nice deck with a great view overlooking the mountains. They also have a rescued Kinkajou, or honey bear, which is an awesome, friendly nocturnal animal which looks like a mix between a small bear, monkey, and ferret. It would climb all over your shoulders, play with your hair, and bury its face in your hands hoping you held a few crumbs or a snack. Yea, it was pretty awesome. In addition to the Kinkajou, they also have a rescue monkey named Mono Peligroso or in English, Dangerous Monkey. Putting my college degree to use, I decided it was probably a little dangerous to try and play with it. It has about 60′ x 60′ space in which to roam. Its attached to a really long leash so it can’t reach you but you can get close enough to get a really good look at it.
Speaking of monkeys, one of my best memories from this visit was the next day. When I got done hiking, I took a break and sat there enjoying the view. One of the workers at the hostel was sitting on a little ledge holding a banana. She put the banana down and absently-minded walked away. Not 15 seconds after she walked away, a monkey swung in from the trees, swiped the banana, and swung back into the trees. To make it even more awesome and to add insult to injury, the monkey perched itself up on a tree branch only 10 feet away and ate the banana right there in front of us!
The main reason I love this hostel so much is that not only are you secluded from other people because you are in the woods in the middle of nowhere, you are also technologically removed from the world. They don’t have wifi, computers, or even cell phone service there. This produces a great social atmosphere as everyone sits around a big, wooden table. What else are you going to do? I love the vibe of the hostel I work at, but at times, guests isolate themselves and sit on their computers for hours. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is just something cool about the experience at Lost and Found. Its a perfect place for a one or two night stay to really enjoy the wilderness and get away.
That being said, I don’t know if I would want to work there, and I’ve seen signs of that talking with their workers. Being secluded is cool for a few days, but to me, sooner or later you are going to want some internet. And often times it is very slow there during the days so it can get boring. You can only hike the same trails so many times. BUT, for travelers passing through for a night or two, it is great!!
When, I got there, there was a group of 8 people that had arrived the day before and were leaving on the next. There were two girls from Australia, a guy from Germany, two girls from Germany, a girl and her father from Canada, and a guy from France sitting out there hanging out. Everyone was sitting around a big wooden table just exchanging stories. It is simply great; I don’t know if I’d ever get tired of meeting new people. Conversations consist of great places people have been, good stories they’ve heard, or my personal favorite, discussing similarities and differences about the culture of different countries.
These people were already really good friends since they had already been there for a day, and it had been raining the whole time. Nothing like being secluded in the wilderness with nothing to do except sit around and watch movies to get to know someone.
One thing I’ve noticed that has surprised me is the amount of girls who travel by themselves, particularly when they don’t even speak much Spanish. I’ve asked several of them if they are ever nervous or scared, but they all said they were nervous at first, but the nervous quickly went away.
I went to bed that night and woke up the next morning about 6:30 when the sun came up. I drank a cup of coffee while watching the sun rise and shine on the mountains from their look out point. It was a clear day and absolutely gorgeous. It was one of those things where the views are so beautiful everywhere you look that you can’t even take it all in. You just become numb to the scenery.
After a little breakfast, I packed some water and snacks into my bookbag, grabbed a hand drawn map of the trails and headed off. I hiked for 6 hours along their trails that morning/afternoon. It was a great hike that highlighted several lookout points along the mountains. There were countless, beautiful streams flowing into the river that we hiked beside and several spots to rock hop along the river.
After hiking for about 6 hours I was exhausted; I almost even fell asleep waiting at the bottom of the trail for the bus to take me back to David. Finally, I saw it coming around the corner, and motioned that I needed a ride. Before I left the lodge, I grabbed a beer for the 15 minute walk down the mountain thinking I’d drink that, and it would give me just what I needed to take a solid hour nap on the bus. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As the bus came to a halt I saw a man standing at the entrance. I asked if the bus was going to David. He said yes and motioned for me to come in. As I got on the bus, I suddenly realized there weren’t any open seats. My first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. My next thought, which occurred when the bus started to speed away, was where was I going to sit or stand. The doorman motioned to a bar on the ceiling and we took off…. with the door still WIDE OPEN. We were probably going 50 mph around tight turns down a mountain and here I am holding on for dear life. To make things worse, I was standing on the lowest step, about 2 feet from pavement, and about 5 feet from the cliffs the highway went along. And lastly, as if it wasn’t dangerous enough, there are potholes all along the road – perfect. I felt like I was on a video game. It was like when my brothers and I used to ride around on our golf cart and one of us would stand on the side and hold on to the top for support. The only difference is that golf cart went straight at 5 mph whereas the bus was going around sharp turns down a mountain at 50 mph!
I was scanning all the Panamanians’ faces on the bus thinking maybe someone would also show a face of concern! First scan of the passengers, nothing. Second scan, nothing. Ok, I thought Id do a second scan and look for a mother or grandmother because let’s be honest, if a grandmother doesn’t sense any danger for you then you’re not receiving sympathy from anyone. Third scan, still nothing.
Luckily this only transpired for about 10 minutes as we hit another bus stop that 4 people needed to exit at. I took the closest seat and sat down next to some little kid. He proceeded to use the seat as his trampoline for the rest of 45 minute trip. So to answer your question, no I did not get to take that nap.