We decided, on a whim, to go to the beach at Las Lajas last weekend. It was time we began exploring more territory beyond the confines of Boquete and these beautiful mountains. We chose Las Lajas because someone told us that it was only an hour by bus from David (“Dah-veed”) which is another hour by bus from Boquete. Well…like many things here in Panama…whoever it was who told us that was off the mark by about an hour and a half. It was alright though because the bus from the terminal in David to the beach was clean and air-conditioned. It’s a lot of fun riding these buses because you get the opportunity to interact with a lot of local people, speak spanish, and get into the culture…
The bus driver dropped us off in Las Lajas around 4:30 pm. On the bus with us were two gringos we had met the night before from Florida (and Boquete, Joyce and Bill. Bill took us to the first restaurante typico en la playa for a cold creveza. He mentioned that they were staying at the “Dutch” place which was nice, had a pool, restaurante and cost $66.00 a night. We, however, were seeking a different, less expensive and more adventurous experience. After a brief discussion, we decided to stay at one of the local establishments…we walked down the beach about a mile to a thatched roof place which had about five A-frames for rent. The “establishment” was run by a German family, Maria, Stefan and their son. We looked over a couple of the decrepit, run-down cottages and decided to rent the one closest to the beach. Twenty bucks was a great deal. We thought!
Bill and Joyce walked up the beach to meet us. Bill had a date with Waylon to teach him how to body-surf the waves. We all swam in the beautiful blue Pacific for at least an hour jumping over las olas. Later we joined Bill and Joyce at the Las Lajas Hotel for dinner. They were right! It was lovely…and clean..and had air-conditioning and a pool. I admit I had a slight bit of remorse at not taking their recommendation of earlier to stay at the hotel with them. But…we were brave…and (yes, I admit) cheap too!
That night, which Waylon later described as “the night from Hell” began with our determination to sleep out under the stars on the balcony. It seemed romantic! We dragged our mattresses off the bed. Waylon, who was in the downstairs bedroom, said he wanted to sleep upstairs with us. We fell asleep about 10:00 pm. Shortly thereafter, I heard Georjean complaining about something biting her… “It” we soon discovered was about a zillion mosquitoes…after summoning up the energy to drag our mattresses back inside and slamming the door shut, we laid down to sleep again…somewhat later, I awoke to see Georjean shining her flashlight around the room. I complained that she had woken me. What’s up, I asked? She responded “I’m just checking for bugs” (in the morning she sheepishly responded that a huge bug had crawled over her and she’d flicked it on Waylon in his sleep!). The place was also full of mold…it stunk…How we made it through that night I’ll never know…I fell out onto the beach at 6:00 am hacking and coughing.
To make a long story short, as soon as we could, we paid our bill, said thanks to the Germans, and headed down the beach to the Dutch place. Actually, we took a taxi which happened by…Georjean also wanted to look at the Hostal at the opposite end of the beach about a mile further on…this place was as sad as all the places we saw that were owned by locals…there is no tourism infrastructure to support local people I realized. There’s no tourist boats, no fishing charters no nada! If you have money and are from anywhere in the world you can make a lot of dough down here. I find that a sad statement on the affairs of this little nation. The taxi driver charged us $8.00 to take us to the hotel. That was a “rip-off” it should have cost no more that $3.00. But that was also likely the only money this guy was going to make that day.
The bottom line is the beach at Las Lajas is spectacular…we were just about the only people on the beach which is wide and beautiful and goes on forever. We came home Sunday afternoon. The bus ride home was a lot of fun. I got to communicate with a seven-yeaar old Chiriqui boy who was standing in the aisle next to me. His name was Orlando. I told him about the city in Florida where Mickey Mouse lives. This is the reason, I told myself, why I am learning to speak spanish!