One of the first things we noticed about Santiago was the pollution.
Sitting at the base of the Andes, the smog of this capital city has nowhere to go - it just hangs around. So, although there were plenty of parks and green spaces to hang out in, we were reluctant to spend too much time in the haze of the city.
We ventured out of the city to get our outdoor fix and did a good hike at the foot of the Andes, where the air was thankfully much cleaner.
Now we've moved to the coast at Viña del Mar - but more on that next time...
A few months ago when we were in San Miguel de Allende we met Dave and Suzanne, who own an eco-resort in Bocas del Toro, a series of islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. So we decided that we had to make a side-trip there while we were in the area.
We were definitely not disappointed! We spent the first week or so in the main Bocas town, which is a backpacker-friendly town which reminded us a lot of our time in Thailand. Then we headed up to the northern, quieter part of the island for a few days by beautiful Playa Estrella, or Starfish Beach, where there were indeed many starfish.
Finally we headed to Dave and Suzanne's amazing resort Casa Cayuco, which was definitely a highlight of our trip so far. We spent a week lazing by the beach, taking walks through the jungle, and looking for animals - we spotted sloths (or "lazy bears" in Spanish), caimans, sharks, stingrays, lobsters, octopuses, and many more creatures.
Nelly and Clementine loved playing with their friend Mina again, and we even got a chance to spend some time together snorkelling while the kids played. All in all, it was a great way to end our time in Central America.
After leaving Panama City we spent a week in the small mountain town of El Valle de Anton, which is situated inside a long-extinct volcano. We rented a lovely house with a pool and gardens, which was a nice spot to spend Glo's birthday.
We did a couple of short hikes to waterfalls, and one really long hike where Nelly once again showed what a trooper she is. For nearly 5 hours she walked uncomplainingly up a super-steep mountain path, littered with slippery rocks.
We were dreading the journey down again, when we were rescued by a local worker who had just hauled a 40kg sack up the mountain and was heading down again. He happily picked Nelly up and had her down the mountain again in a few minutes!
We spent a couple of days in Panama City after leaving Guatemala. We didn't really get much of a feel for the city as it's quite large and modern, with lots of high-rise buildings, so it felt like any other city really. Plus it was way too humid so the kids were super grumpy whenever we tried to do anything...
We visited the Panama Canal, which is an engineering marvel but also incredibly boring to watch. Everything happens so slowly that it's like watching the grass grow. oh well, we can say we've seen it.