Lost and Found in the Panamanian Mountain Jungle

After the incredible sailing trip through the San Blas islands and living the high-life in cosmopolitan Panama City it was time for something a little different on our trip.

We were heading north into the Panamanian mountain jungle for a few days of trekking and adventure! Our Australian friends from our San Blas sailing trip had told us about this amazing little hostel called Lost and Found, only accessible by hiking up the side of a steep mountain with minimal electricity, no food supply and running water we were definitely in for an adventure!

To get to this remote spot we had quite a journey on our hands;

  1. Firstly, we got an overnight bus from Panama City to David, Panama’s second city in the north of the country, along with what felt like the rest of the country (it was the first weekend of lent which is a huge national holiday across Latin America).
  2. Arriving in David bleary eyed around 6am along with the rest of the crowds we tried to navigate our way around the bus station – eventually we found the right bus, but typically it had a queue of about 200 people along with mountains and mountains of stuff – we were all waiting for tiny minibuses that were arriving every 20 minutes!
  3. Finally they sped the queue along with a coach and before we knew it we were being loaded up, however in the madness of checking out bags were on board safely and trying to establish if we could get dropped off near Lost and Found we seemed to have missed out on a seat – cue us being given 2 up turned buckets to sit on down the centre aisle… At least we only had 1.5hrs to endure!!
  4. The massively overloaded bus eased out the station and began its painfully slow traversing of the mountains of northern Panama – with an average speed of around 15mph it wasn’t until well after the 2 hour mark that we were nearing kilometre 44, our drop off point!
  5. With such minimal instructions we were keeping our eyes peeled for the fruit stand at 44km from David – somehow the bus driver realised where we were trying to go and pulled up at the side of the road, turfing us out, luckily with our bags!!
  6. Glad to be off the buckets and in the fresh air we heaved on our packs and began the steep and winding walk up to the mystical Lost and Found.

The closer you get the more the little yellow signs tempt you; ‘congratulations – you’re over halfway’, almost there, keep climbing, ‘won’t that beer taste extra good tonight’ etc…

Eventually, the jungle opened out and we saw a collection of yellow huts – we managed to find reception and sign in and we went off to brave them dorm…

Now, of all the places we could’ve chosen to embrace the communal backpacker lifestyle, it will always be a shame that we settled to do it here. The dorm was a shed, with triple-decker beds that ran head to tail.

With one window which was smaller than a shoe box and stormy conditions outside keeping the door closed, it wasn’t like the 20+ resident room was particularly well ventilated.

Regardless, we had been awake and travelling for around 30 hrs so at this point we weren’t feeling particularly fussy. After piling on all the dry clothes we had (it was freezing!) we shuffled into bed.

A few hours sleep and we hadn’t helped ourselves, it was dark, rainy, cold and we were starving, tired and irritable… not ideal. So we cooked ourselves some pasta and ventured up to the ‘games-room/bar’ for a game of scrabble!

Slowly, more people seemed to emerge (where they in the dorm?!) and suggestions were made for a ‘pub quiz’ – don’t misunderstand, the people were perfectly nice, but after living on a yacht in beautiful Caribbean islands and then Panama City for 2 weeks suddenly launching into a freezing jungle pub quiz with a focus on Canadian pop culture… I have had less strange nights!

I could go on describing each day we spent wandering the jungle in torrential rain, drinking and playing scrabble, cooking odd concoctions from what we had managed to carry up the mountain and sleeping in a squalid, over crowed dorm, but I think you are starting to get the point.

Do I have any advice?

…plenty, actually;

  • if you want to hike, take hiking gear and have a back-up plan when every piece of clothing and footwear you own is soaked through
  • take yummy food with you as this is what you look forward to when the sun sets at 6pm!
  • be prepared to be cold (we had 30c appropriate clothing, not camping kit)
  • embrace the trails – that is why you are there after all

…and finally, don’t worry to much, every time we felt cold we thought of all those many days we were too hot, or spending too much – hear we spent $10 across 3 days on a few beers and a chocolate bar.

They say life is all about finding a balance – and I like to look back on our time at Lost & Found and think of it as how we found our balance, halfway through our trip, found out what we really enjoyed and appreciated.

Soon enough, we were headed back down the mountains and out of the jungle, to the lively, friendly, creole-spiced  Bocas del Toro islands (on the same slow bus that we arrived on….)

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