CouchSurfing.com is a web site set up to for travellers to meet up with fellow travellers from around the world. When a traveller visits a city, they can connect on line with a couch surfing host to stay with them or hang out with them…Great for experiencing local knowledge!
I was introduced to couch surfing from a traveller I met while traveling around Panama. Her name is Babette, a big time traveller for the past 8 years from Kansas City, Missouri. I have met many couch surfers during my travels, but never thought of trying it out until Babette mentioned it to me. Through the CouchSurfing web site, she organized a free sail boat ride through the Panama Canal. Included were all meals and the 2 night accommodation! I’m in.
Last year during my Calgary to Panama campervan road trip, I met Stephanie, another backpacker/couch surfer. Stephanie is also a bigtime traveller, she did all the America’s on her own. Stephanie introduced us to Peter who also had a boat in Rio Dulce, Guatemala . He took us out for a great afternoon of sailing the local waters! Stephanie was couch surfing on Peter’s boat a couple of weeks before.
The route through the Panama Canal was well worth my accepting the offer. The 47’ sail boat was clean and well equipped with a great crew. My job on board was a line man, working with the people who represented the canal. I had to pass the line/rope to the canal operator in order to walk the sail boat through the canal safely. The great crew included owner ,captain Josh from California, his buddy Travis from Florida, couch surfers Maru from Argentina, Babette from Kansas City and myself Pete from Calgary, Alberta, Canada!
The fresh water Panama Canal is actually 28 miles long with two lock systems at either end. As we passed through from the Caribbean side, the boat had to be raised 15 meters through 3 systems of locks. Approximately 3 miles into the lake, we had to anchor for the night. After a good night’s sleep and breakfast we continued to the Pacific side, an all day journey. We motored at 7 knots passing a lots of ships and a beautiful landscape, even saw a 15 ft alligator. The final lock system at Panama City lowered us 15 meters to the Pacific ocean, where my job was complete!...Thanks again Josh, Travis and the crew for such a great experience!
Thanks to all the CouchSurfers.com hosts Josh, Travis and Peter for allowing me the opportunity to experience the lifestyle of living on an ocean boat.
Story from Pete Montgomery WorldTripPete.com
Wow, what a great deal for our Golf and Beach condo in Coronado Panama, only one hour drive from Panama City!! Joe and I paid only $650 each for a large two bedroom 12th floor ocean/golf course panoramic view. Bonus was the $130.00 each paid for a month golf membership with full use of all hotel facilities including 3 pools, beach club, gym and bar/food orders. The 18-hole Tom Fasio golf course is tough and beautiful!
A few days after we arrived, we had our first road trip to Panama City, picking up Gregory visiting from Calgary. We stayed at the Panama Central lofts, the hostel I planned to purchase last year. It was great to meet up with Marcela, the owner of the hostel as well as a few friends that I have known for the past few years! Joe appeared to enjoy his first hostel stay, a clean 3 bedroom unit with delicious pancake breakfast! Met some interesting travellers from around the world!
Returning to Coronado the next day, Gregory discovered a great hotel special. An all inclusive $70/night stay included all food and drinks, and full use of hotel facilities. Great deal for him!
After a couple of days of relaxing at the condo, the 3 of us headed out on another road trip. We drove 4hours to the northers part of Panama on roads mainly under construction, but very drivable!. Joe did a excellent job of getting us there! We met up with old friends that I met last year. Kim, originally from Ottawa and 85 year old backpacker Bob, a retired business man from Texas greeted us at nice T.G.I. Friday in David city. it was great to get caught up again and chat about our lives and travel stories.
We drove to the far North West side of Panama, bordering country of Costa Rica. The border to Costa Rica was amazing! The road along the Panama side was filled with a wide variety of Duty Free Shops, tire stores and souvenir shops. Pete parked the car and we walked in one of the tire stores. We were shocked to discover that the opposite end of the store entrance was another street in, can you believe, Costa Rica. Frontera Costa Rica was the boarder town we were suddenly arrived! We entered Costa Rica without going through immigration. First time for Joe in Costa Rica. We then drove Kim’s town of Puerto Armuelles, a busy open area beach town. We stayed the night at Heavenly Beach Hotel located on a beautiful secluded sandy beach. Home cooked dinner of fresh fish and veggies was amazing! Next day we drove through David, the 2nd largest city in Panama and up a long windy road to the quaint mountain town of Boquete, at 5,500 ft above sea level. We had a nice visit with Backpacker Bob again and drove around the small windy roads. Boquete is an old, very fertile volcanic area known world wide to rock climbers, coffee berry beans and summer Jazz/Blues concerts. We stayed the evening at another great hostel/hotel Pension Topas, and met some very interesting travellers from around the world!
Story from Pete Montgomery and Joe Forzani
Love Air Canada. Joe Forzani and I started our trip from Calgary to Panama 7:00am on Monday February 27, including an overnight layover in Toronto. Waiting for the flight Monday morning at 6:00 am, Air Canada put an announcement over the PA asking that any passages wishing to wait for a later flight will receive an $800.00 voucher plus two dinner vouchers on AC. I said to Joe” wow”! That would pay more then the total cost of my trip and we were not going to miss our next morning flight from Toronto to Panama. AC confirmed me on the 1:30 PM flight and tried to get me on the 10 am and noon flights. All flights were full! I had to call my TO friends Mike & Murielle to apologize for cancelling dinner later that night as I would arrive far to late. I hope to be back in the Toronto this spring or summer and re kindle our dinner. I buy!! I finally arrived in Toronto about 9:00pm and decided that I would no longer need the rental car. I lost $26.00 for cancelling the reservation. Well worth it! I was tired and wondered where I would sleep the night? An AC Agent recommended a place to sleep at one end of the airport. I quickly walked to the area and found people sleeping on benches, but I found the bench very uncomfortable! I discovered a playground in the same area that looked comfortable to sleep on the foam/rubber floor. Upon waking after a good sleep, I found 10 other people sleeping there as well! Can you believe up to that point I have not paid for anything that day. My flight cost me $720.00, AC voucher $800, net profit to me $80,00…Yippee! I may book Europe this summer/fall with my $800.00 voucher.
It even gets better with air Canada. While waiting in Calgary for my TO flight, I could not get on the terminal Wi-Fi and thought AC Maple Leaf lounge might help? The agent at Maple Leaf said to me” this is your lucky day” …. Come in and use the facility because another traveller left a voucher. Wow, things were going well! I had breakfast and lunch there! Next day met Joe at TO airport and we had breakfast before our flight to Panama. Bill came, my part was $13, gave him $20 and received no change what so ever! Maybe mad I got everything free? Leaving the gate, Pilot came on PA system and had to pull plane back due to mechanical problem. After repairing problems, flight attendants announced a free lunch to compensate for the delay! And so, another free meal!
In the meantime, Joe and I got a great price at the Coronado Golf Resort. Our Month golf dues are $130 including club storage and cleaning. Play as much as we want on the beautiful Tom Fazio layout! We also have access to all the hotel and large, beautiful resort facilities. First golf game tomorrow morning 8:00 AM Sharp!
Story from Pete Montgomery and Joe Forzani