A close shave near Starfish Beach

I wrote in a previous post that the lack of brakes on the bicycles in Bocas del Toro wasn’t a problem as the islands’ relaxed atmosphere meant there wasn’t a need for them.

How wrong I was.

I was cycling down one of the larger hills on my way back from two beaches on the other side of Isla Colon – the main island of the archipelago.  I was using the orange fixie I had previously rented, and as anyone who has ever ridden a fixie knows, maintaining a controlled descent can be challenging.  While doing so I noticed what resembled a large leaf further down the road.

Picture of a mysterious still object in the road

Distracted by my gathering speed, I didn’t think too much about trying to avoid the object in front of me.  Belatedly, I decided to steer clear and as I passed, I realised what the mystery object was.  An animal – dead I presumed, judging by its stillness and the strange mark on its back.  My curiosity piqued, I hopped off the bike and examined the creature.  It was a sloth and the fact that it had reached its demise while trying to cross the road left me heartbroken.

You can imagine my surprise when it moved!

Relieved that I hadn’t been the cause of its premature death, I watched mesmerised as the sloth made its way safely to the other side of the road.  The animal appeared to be unencumbered by the mark on its back as he made his way up a nearby tree.  After 20 minutes, I reluctantly carried on my journey, hoping all the while the sloth didn’t try and cross the road again after I’d departed.

All smiles after crossing the road safely

I had spent the day at the beaches of Boca del Drago and Starfish Beach.  The two-hour cycle was harder than anticipated with the number of hills and potholes increasing as I travelled further away from Bocas Town.  On some stretches cycling was faster taking a bus as vehicles slowed to thread a route along the ‘road’.  The journey was worth it though as the trees thinned and the beach appeared.

At the water’s edge on Boca del Drago

In spite of its beauty, for many people visiting Boca del Drago is an afterthought compared to Starfish Beach.  The latter has been one of Bocas’ calling cards for years as tourists flock to see the animal that gave the location its name.  Sadly this has come at a cost and the rise in the beach’s popularity has seen the number of starfish dwindle.  Despite the warnings, many tourists seem unable to resist touching the creatures, thus killing the animals they came to see.

One of the main attractions at Starfish Beach

After eating lunch at the beach, I returned to Boca del Drago for a blissful couple of hours before beginning my eventful cycle back to Bocas Town.

Other highlights this week include travelling to the remote Polo Beach, named after its owner, Señor Polo, who has stubbornly refused to sell the land to ambitious property developers.

Alongside fellow students at Polo Beach

Another day we went to Up in the Hill, a cacao farm run by a Scottish family high above the sea on Bastimientos Island.  After enjoying some of the farm’s finished products, we wandered through the colourful forest to the popular surf spot of Wizard Beach.  Consistently good swells are yet to arrive, but in the coming weeks the surf season will begin and Bocas will have another string to add to its bow.

At Habla Ya Spanish school, my range of vocabulary and my understanding of the grammar rules has improved markedly since I began taking lessons three weeks ago.  However, trying to articulate my thoughts verbally without long pauses between words remains a major stumbling block.  My teacher admitted as much when she said that while she recognised I understood the subject matter, I found it difficult to express it with any eloquence.

However, in one of my better moments, I was able to share my thoughts on the link between delinquency and poverty – something I definitely couldn’t have achieved at the start of the month.

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