The ‘cloud forest‘ is a tremendous site. Every afternoon in rainy season, the clouds roll in, then the rain, which is followed by epic thunder and lightning. Luckily as we were leaving Bocas, someone tipped us off about a secret hostel. We were told this was only for serious adventurers, but we were ready to embrace the challenge. ‘The Lost and Found’ is a secluded and very unique hostel, built way up in the mountain tops, through thick Panamanian jungle. The time and effort put into creating something so special is incredible, making it a ‘must’ do activity for anyone backpacking through Panama.
To get there you need to take a panga back to the mainland, and then ask a taxi to take you to the bus station. Once you reach the bus station ask a local to point you in the direction of the bus to Panama City. The bus should take about 2-3 hours, make sure the bus driver knows you’re getting off at the ‘Lost & Found’ Hostel. As we stood waiting for the bus we joked that whenever we leave a beautiful place, it always ends up going Pete Tong! The bus arrived, full of locals, we threw our backpacks on the roof and squeezed on. Two hours passed and we started to ascend into the cloud covered mountains. Suddenly, the rain started, until it was so heavy we could barely see a thing! The stop for the hostel is way up in the hills and all you can see is jungle. After being thrown off the bus, we stood on the side of the road, soaking wet wondering why the hell we left Bocas. It looked pretty grim, but we managed to spot a battered looking sign pointing up a huge hill into the dense jungle. It was a seriously strenuous hike, I didn’t think Beth was going to make it, but luckily there was a bench for us to chill on about half way through the climb. After a few words of encouragement we trooped on and finally made it to the top, after an hour of trekking through the pelting rain.
The ‘Lost & Found’ hostel is impressive, with views to die for, looking out over miles of thick jungle. What made it even more impressive, is that it had been built without an access road to transport materials, so everything had been carried up by foot, making us feel a little weak and pathetic for struggling with our backpacks. Walking along the path we passed a pet monkey and a Kinkajou called ‘Rocky’, before arriving at the main communal area. We were relieved to get out of the rain, and felt excited to be greeted by such an eccentric bunch of people. The hostel was built by a group of friends a few years prior as a kind of commune, a place where everyone was welcome and they could live peacefully in the wilderness. The ethos had been continued over the years by various volunteers, everyone eats together, and then drinks together at the rather shabby-looking homemade bar. The dormitory has the only three tiered bunk beds we encountered during our trip, although we’d heard a story about a nasty fall, someone had rolled off the top bunk and hurt themselves badly, so it’s preferable to get a bunk bed lower down. It’s also sensible to bring some of your own tinned foods, biscuits and noodles. Everything at the tree house is brought in by the volunteers from the nearby village and they charge a premium for food and drink.
‘Treasure Map’ Trek
Going for a trek is essential during your stay. The most popular trail was the treasure map, which started in a small maze next to the hostel. There were about seven or eight clues to find, hidden in the jungle. Once you’ve collected all the clues and worked out the puzzle you can win a prize. We set off at 8am with a brisk pace, quickly realising that we were certainly not pro hikers! Everyone scuttled past us and we were sitting firmly at the back of the pack. Beth managed to fall several times on the initial climb up the hill, getting herself caked in mud. Saying that I have to admit, I stacked it on the way down, broke my walking stick, headbutted a tree and left with a sore arse.