Peñol Rock, Colombia Drone Footage

On the northern face of the stone, there are painted large white letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (only the single vertical stroke was completed). The towns of Guatapé and El Peñol had long disputed ownership of the rock, and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters. It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work, and a large mob was assembled to stop it. Only the “G” and part of the “U” were completed.

-source

 

Tayrona National Park

 

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This time the park will close on January 28 and remain closed for one month until the end of February. Tayrona will reopen on March 1. As before, not even employees of the park will be allowed access to Tayrona during the month in question; only members of these Indigenous groups, of whom several families live permanently within the park

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El Valle

Check out my video filled with wildlife found in El Valle

Facts about El Valle, Anton Valley
El Valle de Anton is a town in central Panama. It’s in the crater of an extinct volcano, surrounded by mountains and cloud forest. To the north, Cerro Gaital National Park protects 3 hills: Cerro Gaital, Cerro Pajita, and Cerro Caracoral. Its trails have ocean views and the park is home to hundreds of species of native birds, including the red-legged honeycreeper, the bay-headed tanager, and the blue-crowned motmot.

You can get there from Panama City for about 12 bucks altogether.

Best Hostel
What makes El Valle so cool is the deep mountainous rainforest vibe. The sounds at night are amazing. I stayed at the Bodhi Hostel which I would recommend. It has a very nice Asian/buddha vibe with unique handmade from local material furniture. It is clean and the staff is very polite. Included with your stay: free breakfast, high-speed internet WiFi, lockers, bikes for rent, communal kitchen, bbq area, Shisha/Hookah lounge and bar with affordable beer.

The guy at the front desk pulled out a printed map with all the POIs emphasized. He spoke about each one giving brief details in a timely fashion. He made it clear if wanted to learn more I could always ask. You will find cool people from all over the world here as it is the most popular hostel in El Valle.

Prices are reasonable a $12usd for dorm and $28usd for private room

Prices vary by season

bodhi hostels

tripadvisor

If you prefer sloths over people then keep reading.

Want to Pet a Sloth? Zip Line the Jungle? Test your manhood on an awesome ATV tour? If not there is a very nice Butterfly Haven you can walk through…. Haha all jokes aside I did it all (Estoy hombre y mi gusto mariposa)

The ATV trip is the top of my list (unfortunately its also the most expensive)

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Taharaa ATV Tours
#1 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Price: $160 per ATV (tell him Tyler from Trek with Tech sent you, can’t promise it will do much but we spent a lot of time together so its worth it)
If you want to throw someone on back add $25
Only 2 people per ATV, this is not your mama’s ATV ride by the way….with that said my Mama did it. However, she has spent a fair amount of time on the back of dirt bikes so she had a bit of experience. I don’t mean to scare anyone away I think anyone can do it, the machines are new, and four-wheel drive. The rain can make the final climb difficult though.

tripadvisor

Butterfly Haven
#2 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
I was somewhat dragged here but very glad I went. Butterflies are mother natures living flowers and you really see that here. The tour guide was extremely polite and knew English fairly well. He made sure to show us at least 25 different species of
tripadvisor

El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden
#6 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Not the most extravagant zoo but a zoo in the rainforest nonetheless. A tourist pays roughly 12 bucks to enter. However, as usual, my memory is foggy.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635545-d1978054-Reviews-El_Nispero_Zoo_and_Botanical_Garden-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

El Valle Panama Hot Springs
#9 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Did not do personally, however, my sister did and she said she had a good experience so I felt it was worth mentioning as she rarely steers me wrong. The water may not be steam hot but warm.
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g635545-d6224389-Reviews-El_Valle_Panama_Hot_Springs-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

Canopy Adventure
#20 of 20 things to do in El Valle de Anton
Not quite sure why this is so low on the trip advisor list. Maybe that south park episode about zipping had a impact. It was enjoyable but as you can imagine the highs are brief and a little too topical. It was interesting never the less. Cost was

Casa Mariposa (Sloth Hotel)
#3 of 15 B&Bs / Inns in El Valle de Anton
Where do I begin? First of all, thank god this place exists. The property is stunning. The creek running through it is a haven for frogs that lull you to sleep
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g635545-d3140531-Reviews-Casa_Mariposa-El_Valle_de_Anton_Cocle_Province.html

Gringo Diaries: My First Day in Bogota

11/29/2017

 

Arriving in Bogota, Colombia at 6:50pm

Airbnb booked paying $15USD/night

Cost of flight: $106USD ( I forgot to add check-in bag which cost me $40USD ouch!, If I would have added during booking I would have only paid $27USD

Booked for two nights in Chapinero Provincia

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Arriving in Colombia was chaotic for the following reasons.

I arrive at airport in Bogota

I luckily booked an Airbnb right before my flight took off from Panama.

You do not get full access to address until after the host confirms.

I am now at customs, The fervent customs officer apparently had to see this address load on a google map to believe its real.

Thanks to my sub-par T-Mobile plan I had no access to data immediately my cellular plan, so I was forced to jump on the (temporarily-free) Airport WiFi in front of the customs officer. The WiFi sucked (or the address did) and the address never loaded in case you were wondering. However, he didn’t look like he was going to budge on the issue (stickler for the exact address) so I opened up Airbnb and was luckily my host had sent me a message with an address. Either it had what he was looking for or grew weary of trying, For whatever reason, he finally gave me the stamp. Thinking the toughest part was well on my way to quickly jump into a cab and get to my room

I walked up to the first exchange counter I see, greeted by a woman, I threw down around $140 bucks for exchange. She says she will give me 302,000 Colombian pesos for it. I was about to pay but my mental conversion wasn’t checking out. I should only be charged 30,200 for this conversion which would run me about $10 bucks to have them exchange $140USD… so I ask her about it again and she says “no” so I asked her what the 30,200 is for…. She said, “that’s what you get”I was blown away “I’m going to give you $140 bucks and you are going to give me $100 worth of pesos back to me?” … “yes” she replied. I couldn’t roll my eyes and ask for my money back any quicker. So I figured well if I can’t convert my cash I can use uber as that will charge my Paypal and I can wait to convert at a better rate.

My 30 minutes of free WiFi has already run out as I spent a fair amount of time with the customs agent and exchange thief by this time…. and I still had no data from T-Mobile.

“So I guess I’m back to square one, I need cash” so I look around and see a sign for another cash exchange. Hopefully a more affordable cash counter, however, I had been in line for 10-15 minutes and it wasn’t budgeting an inch. Doing the math, at this rate I won’t need a hotel room. It will be morning by the time I get it exchanged…. “Man, am I thirsty,” I thought. “I’m going to get some Gatorade and some gum”

Do you know how much I paid for that? Neither do I here are my receipts…

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Does the one on the right say I paid $15.80USD for this?

“Can I dispute? … no, You don’t have the skills Tyler move on”

…miraculously I now had data, as I immediately got a warm feeling of comfort. My transportation issues have been solved.

I called for my Uber and continued to finish the most expensive Gatorade I’ve ever had in record time.

“Uber drivers here” notification pops up on my phone. “Thank god get me out of this hellish money pit of an airport.” My driver is nowhere to be found. I realize he must be on the ground floor and run downstairs. My driver recognizes me and waves me over. He tells me to throw bags in the back seat and sit in front.

I’m going to stop right here and mention that I knew in Colombia uber drivers will ask you sit in the front seat. It was described to me that there was some unrest between taxi drivers and Uber drivers so uber drivers try to stay low-key. Which is cool with me. I was going to pay 24,000 pesos which is $8 roughly by my calculation.

So I jump in the uber car and we are off… for approximately 15 feet before a cop jumps in front of his car. The Uber driver says to me “Eres mi amigo”. Not a stranger to shenanigans, I quickly pick up what he is putting down which is. “Don’t tell them I’m your uber driver”.

Cop  #2 makes uber driver open his window and begins to interrogate him. The tone did not sound in his favor. They remove him from the car now surrounded by 4 cops, they begin searching his trunk. I look over to the cop watching me, she takes the eye contact as an invitation to interrogate me. She asked if he is my amigo. To which I replied “Si, somos amigos”. The problem with this stunt I’m trying to pull is the cops have just heard almost all the Spanish I know and are asking me things I simply can’t understand… my Uber driver knew little to no English. Thus, Sherlock Holmes will not need Watson to crack this case. Looking at my dwindling odds of success and realizing that I’ve barely set foot in this country and I’m ALREADY lying to the cops. The jig was up! I came clean. I’m not about to see what the inside of a Colombian jail looks like for the sake of an $8 dollar Uber ride. I spent twice that amount on Gatorade and gum a moment ago, so I’m just in the compromising mood.

The officer, appreciating my honesty, set me up with a taxi driver.  I tell him where I want to go and he says “Quince”, “$15 ?” I replied “es Doble Uber” he said no, I showed him conversion. Which I was right it was double. Getting tired of all the bullshit I looked at him and said “Dolce” (12) he agreed and I finally got my ass out of that airport.

I arrive at my Airbnb, just looking to crash. I’m greeted by my host right outside my taxi… things were looking up.

But I wasn’t able to get to my room and write this until after he spent 15 minutes showing me how to open the door. Which involves a series of unlocking multiple locks with their own special “push”

Or “pull” theme. … and don’t you dare f*ck up the arrangement or you have to start all over because you lose your place. He speaks little English and I Spanish so that makes the game of masquerade even more enthralling.

I tried to relay to him that I’m pretty tired and no longer want to go out. (Partially because I don’t know how to diffuse your door like the guy from hurt locker)

So here I am in Bogota thinking WTF. Haha

I’m sharing this story for the sake of entertainment and do not want this to be a negative reflection. I hope readers will not be deterred from Bogota just because of my initial experience. Since this, I have had an amazing time here and would definitely recommend.

 

How to get to San Blas

San Blas, Panama

If you haven’t already make sure to check out this video I made during my time on San Blas

The trip to San Blas is advertised everywhere for a premium. These All-inclusive packages may sound amazing but I’ve always been a skeptic. I was determined to find the cheapest way to get to San Blas. So I did what we all do. I googled “San Blas on a budget” the first non-advertised hit was an article by Seven Continent Sasha who is a world explorer from down under. In her article, Sasha mentions the Franklin family that she was unable to stay with. Taking her advice I was lucky enough to reserve the Franklin family (thanks to her awesome article). I also decided to stay at hostel mamallena (also mentioned her article) which the tour company knew instantly allowing everything run smoothly. Great hostel by the way.

Tourism in San Blas is still fragile and on small scale, this makes the islands a beautiful place for you to explore. It has one of the best-preserved coral reefs in the world where you are allowed to snorkel. One of the main spots for tourist to try out snorkeling is Dog Island also known as Isla Perro. This island is famous because there is a shipwreck in front of the island reachable by snorkeling and swimming. On the Dog Island, you will also find a very nice beach.

Much of the information below was taken directly from the email received after booking with Lam Tours (contact info at bottom of page)

Panama City hostel to San Blas

Pick Up in the Morning: The pick-up time is between 5-5:40 AM

Land transportation from Panama – Port Barsukun – Panama.

Takes roughly 3-3.5 hours

Boat transportation from Port Barsukun – Cabanas Franklin (Tubasenika Island) – Port Barsukun.

Takes roughly 30-40 minutes

What to do when you get to San Blas

Aside from snorkeling around the island and eating coconuts off the ground, you can get to know thy neighbors. Visit many other islands for $5-$10 bucks. So you don’t have to worry about getting marooned on an island you don’t like (unlikely but nice to have options). You can stay with more than one family so you if you find one you like during your tours, speak to the family you are with to arrange the transition. The community profits directly from tourism so they do not mind sharing tourists with a fellow native.

TOURS: You can make any tour to get to know other islands or the indigenous community, ask for Pali and will help with the cost of the tours that are paid directly on the island. Tours start from $15 per person.

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Drink costs I can recall

Balboa beer can 1.50

Coca-Cola can 1.50

Closo Wine – 10/box? (surely not 10 bucks a glass right?)

Total Costs

How much does it cost in total? Below are figures that the Tour Company does not include in your total. Make sure to bring cash with you as It does not seem like they take VISA.

NOT typically INCLUDED:

–  Entrance Fee to San Blas $20.00

–  Port Taxes $2.00

–  Any Types of beverages: Water, sodas, beers, etc. (Your driver will stop at the Grocery Store on the way).

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Total Breakdown of one person

a 4×4 trip to and from Guna Yala Port: $60

Boat ride to and from San Blas islands: $30

Entrance Fee/Port Tax: $22

Total including Entrance Fee/Port Tax/RoundTrip Transportation= $112

…Then it’s just a matter of how long you want to stay.

$26 dollars a night for shared cabin (includes 3 meals a day)

+$18 more per night for Private which will most certainly put you directly on the beach with ocean view. 

I recommend you stay for at least 5 days. The hardest part is getting there so soak it up while you can.

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My money saving TIP: Keep in mind I booked a shared cabin and received an empty cabin so depending on the time of year couples may not have to pay more for privacy. You can always change your reservation on the island (given its available) so you may be able to get by booking shared and upgrading based on the population of the shared room.

Are you a picky eater? Great, I am too. Youll is happy to hear its mostly edible. The scariest thing was a fried fish (where it looks like it jumped out of the ocean and into a deep frier). They have options for lobster as well for those of you who want to splurge.

What did I eat?

Breakfast: fried egg on Untoasted bread served with tea and coffee

Lunch: fried fish with rice and vegetables served with tea and coffee

Dinner: fish and papa fritas (french fries) served with tea and coffee

Try the cinnamon tea it’s amazing.

How will you know when it’s time to eat?

A man blows a Conch! The island is small enough you will definitely hear it!

Additional info about the Gala/Yala Kuna community

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As you can see, San Blas will remain informal until the Panamanian laws are effective in the region of San Blas, and no one can force them to change their laws because they are independent, the government of Panama may require that they must respect as his first law, the Constitution of Panamá.

Mandatory Documents Requirements: DON’T FORGET YOUR ORIGINAL passport, Migration and Border Police will review all passports before arriving in San Blas and out of San Blas. Must travel with your original passport or cedula Panamanian as will go through a review of migration and border police, will review the entry stamp to our country, and no one can be illegal crossing borders to go to Colombia or arriving from Colombia (ORIGINAL passport – DO NOT ACCEPT COPIES – THERE IS NO EXCEPTION).

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Drone footage: Despite the Drone footage you may see on my page. Please be advised Drone footage is strictly prohibited on the Franklin Island. I found out the hard way. The drone footage you see was taken during the brief moments I did not know about this policy. I took down my drone immediately upon learning of violation and implore those who go in the future not to mimic my behavior.

Pictures of indigenous people: There was a moment when a man was paddling his canoe down the river, I grabbed my phone to take the shot and was informed by the boat driver not to. It’s easy to forget about sensitivity and privacy (especially when you grew up in North America) however it’s always a good idea to ask permission before taking shots of people on and around this community.

Starfish: Never bring starfish above water, you can kill it this way.

Contact info to arrange San Blas Trip from Panama City

I recommend using WhatsApp as Judy is very on top of it, she responded quite promptly to my messages starting at 8:30pm. Her English is exceptional and she made Booking this trip a breeze.

Judy E Lam

www.lamtourspanama.com

USA: 1 (704) 469 – 9146

Panama: 507 395 – 7105

WhatsApp: 507 6706 – 2810 | 507 6088 – 9000

E-Mail: info@lamtourspanama.com

You found this helpful please remember to subscribe to my youtube and social media channels so you can learn more about great places like San Blas.

TrekWithTech PreFlight Tip #1 Do you need Proof Of Onward Travel for ONE WAY TICKETS?!

This video answers the question of “Do you need Proof Of Onward Travel for ONE WAY TICKETS?!” with a clever new age solution thanks to an innovative company who won’t break the bank.

 

Gamboa Rainforest Resort (Jurassic Park minus dinosaurs)

Gamboa is located off the Gatun Lake where you can see thousands of tons of freight being moved, above sea level, through the recently (2015) expanded Panama canal.

Took the Bus from Albrook Mall Station

Vending Snacks while waiting

$1 can coke

$.40 crackers

$.60 Doritos

Bus from Albrook to Gamboa

$1.50 for bus ticket

…Additional 1 dollars paid to bus drivers for seemingly no reason other than white boy tax haha I gladly handed it over, still a great deal.

I stayed at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. A prestigious Hotel located in the heart of the jungle. There is nothing quite like it anywhere around it, which makes the view from your “River-View” room absolutely immersive.

This is not your typical “BackPacker Spot” as prices are inflated however not completely unreasonable especially if you keep reading and learn how to enjoy the Rainforest Resort on a budget.

First thing’s first. The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is located in a rather remote part of Gamboa. You will not be able to easily find restaurants, convenience stores and the like. Sure, you can take a bus or taxi to a place somewhat nearby, however, I recommend bringing a majority of your food and especially your drinks with you.

There are 2 ways to get food while at the resort either you can choose the all-inclusive breakfast lunch and dinner buffet (including drinks) for 80 bucks. The other option is to form the Monkey Bar which is open late but seemingly shuts down completely after 2am. I will take this moment to compliment the chef on a fine Angus burger by America standards, keep in mind it comes at a premium of $14 so savor your bites.

There is a 3rd option for the last minute backpacker, you will find the most affordable drinks and snacks in the gift shop, visible from the monkey bar.

Cokes, water, and Gatorade will be a dollar cheaper here than at the bar.

Couple prices I can remember off the top of my head

Total paid for three-night stay with promotion: $328

Monkey bar prices

Pizza $9 (pretty awful)

Angus burger $14

Lesser burger $9

Coke $3

Bottled Water $3

Gift shop

Coke $2

Gatorade $2

Water $2

Crackers $.50

Doritos (small bag) $1.00

Granola bars $.75

Tours

Safari night tour $0

They offer a boat trip down canal where you will see monkeys and caimans, tour of rainforest animal sanctuary featuring a sloth, and tours of dart frogs, butterflies, and native flowers…You can get the entire trip for $90. However, they do have options to break up the packages for the selective.

If it’s nature you are looking for, you will not need a tour to find it. There is plenty of interesting wildlife readily available such as Agouti (jungle rat haha) and Capybara. When you are walking through a rainforest you will find life everywhere you look. We saw 3 different types of monkeys, toucans, Carmen, dart frogs, tamarins, amazing amphibians, insane insects and cool reptiles (thought I was going to use something starting with an “r” right?).

 

 

 

Overall I really enjoyed my time at this resort and will include a link to more amazing drone footage I was able to capture while here.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort Website

Trip Advisor Reviews