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Want To Hear A “Worst Days Of My Life” Story?

Spider in the secondary rain forest, Punta Burica, Golfo de Chiriqui, Panama, close to the Border to Costa Rica, Central America

Spider in the secondary rain forest, Punta Burica, Golfo de Chiriqui, Panama, close to the Border to Costa Rica, Central America

Going to the “Mono Feliz” would be a challenging undertaking, I knew that. This remote place is located at the very end of Punta Burica, a peninsula on the Pacific coast, a few kilometres from the border to Costa Rica. But for various reasons it turned into a true nightmare…

Since Mono Feliz is free of any means of modern communication, Juancho, the owner, needs the assistance of “Otto”, who is receiving the reservations from the outside world. He advised me to take a very early bus from David to Puerto Armuelles, so that I would arrive before low tide. This timing is indeed crucial, since the last leg of the trip, the 30km from Puerto Armuelles to Punta Burica, can only be done on the beach, at low tide. At high tide, Mono Feliz is simply inaccessible!

So I eagerly arranged my arrival in Puerto Armuelles for the early morning, only to learn that “Mr. Ivan”, the supposedly only driver to Punta Burica, would only leave between 04:00 and 05:00 pm, since at 12:00 pm it was not low but high tide, no matter what “Otto” told me the day before…

Furious, mildly describes how I felt! Puerto Armuelles is not an attractive spot to hang around, especially shouldering 20kg of luggage in morning temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius with an extreme humidity!

After asking almost every person who crossed my path for a way out, a silver lining appeared on the horizon. At around 01:00 pm a jeep was about to drive down the peninsula. But not along the beach, it would take the “road”. Which road? And yes, I would have to walk for about 30 minutes to an hour from the drop off to the Mono Feliz. The depressing prospect of spending more hours in Puerto Armuella made me decide to grab this opportunity.

During the one and a half hour ride on a bumpy and muddy road a strange feeling took hold of me. But what the hell, I just wanted to reach the Mono Feliz, so I started marching after the jeep dropped me off.

Soon I discovered that the cab had actually left me at the end of the road that is about to be built… After 10 minutes I had to cross the first creek, after 20 minutes the mud was knee deep. The path was going up and down, up and down, each time with a creek to cross and was getting extremely slippery. The mud eventually was so deep that I had to take off my sandals and walk bear foot in the mud, hopping I would not get hurt. Another troubling thought took possession of my mind: if I hurt myself, it might take several days until someone would walk that way…

After more than one and a half hour, I finally encountered a “campesino”, who gave me the only correct information I received that day – I had at least one more hour to go!

When I reached Mono Feliz after 2.5 hours, I was covered in mud up to the waist and I was sweating so profusely that the inside of my backpack was partly wet. No need to say that I was emotionally and physically exhausted, and fuming mad at the idiots who had talked me into doing this… But also extremely relieved that I had actually arrived in one piece!

At least the return trip was the “normal way”, 45 minutes walking along the beach, then 1.5 hours in a jeep on the beach and finally a 2.5 hour bus ride. All in all with waiting time less than 6 hours …

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2 Responses to Want To Hear A “Worst Days Of My Life” Story?

  1. Seamus 18. January 2021 at 23:39 #

    Don’t be such a wimp. My wife and I did the same thing and quite enjoyed it. What else did you have to do that day. We caught a lift in a Volkswagen out of Puerto Armuelles with about 12 people. We stopped to let pigs cross the road. At one point the driver pulled over to pick up his laundry and received a basket and a small toddler who sat on his lap for the rest of the trip. We hitched a ride to a small roadside beer counter and after a broken Spanish/English conversation we left with 2 beers and a 12 year old guide on a bicycle. He helped us hike down a little stream and onto the beach for an hour or so more. Our way out was far more treacherous on a Lancha with a small motor screaming over 15 foot waves until we passed the breakers. Our pilots (Juancho’s kids), who were seasoned surfers kept repeating “que pelligroso!” As each wave approached and the turned to time our assent. No life vests and nothing but some fragmented prayers to hold on to it was the craziest travel I have ever experienced and I cherish it. I was just looking it up 10 years later while talking about with my the girlfriend travel companion now wife when I saw this. Mono Felix is awesome.

    • Gilles 25. February 2021 at 18:06 #

      Funny that when you are overly positive people criticize, and when you are not that positive about an experience (that is an understatement), you are a wimp. An experienced traveler would never react like this, but if this is how you feel, Seamus, so be it.
      And believe me, Juancho was not amused at my telling of this story…