Here at Red Frog Marina, we again have to take a panga to town for groceries and such. The ride is a bit longer, taking approximately ten minutes. Unlike Bocas Marina, where there were five departures a day, five days a week, here at Red Frog the panga leaves the marina dock only once, at 9:45am, four days a week. It returns from town at 11:30, and then again at 1pm.
Most every day, the boat leaves with a full load of people. The drivers seem to know only two speeds, fast and stop (ok, I guess stop’s not a speed, but you get the idea). This make for quite a “spirited” ride, as we bang our way over the water toward town. I hold my breath every time, praying that the boat won’t break in half. We’ve learned that securing a seat toward the back of the boat makes for a much more comfortable, less back-jarring ride. Spirited driving aside, the ride to town is a scenic one.
Once at the dock, we all crawl out and scatter like ants to fill our shopping lists. This can be a crap shoot. Deliveries come on all different days, for both fresh food and canned items. Some stores run low or out of stock before others, and they all vary in price by as little as a few cents, to almost a dollar (the same is true for Scott’s hardware needs). As a result, you end up visiting several locations to find what you need. If we find something we may want later, we grab it .
Never knowing exactly how much we’ll get in town, or how heavy our load will be, Scott and I come armed with two back packs (Scott’s backpacking pack, for days we know the load will be heavy), a very large tote, several cold bags and some smaller, reusable grocery bags as well.
All of the stores in town, from grocery, to pharmacy to hardware, are run by Chinese families. They work long hours, usually from 8 or 9am until 10:00 at night. There are at least seven stores on the main street, but three stores have become our favorites:
Isla Colon is the largest, with a good selection of items. Felix, the owner, and all of his employees are always friendly and accommodating. He will also order special request items and have them brought in (like some spiced rum for Scott!). I think he’ll miss Scott when we finally leave.
Vegetables are located in a separate room, where an employee stands by to weigh and tag your things before checking out.
We go to Christina’s for items that we cannot find at Isla Colon and other things that are a bit cheaper, or if we’re searching for fresh vegetables that Colon may be out of. Here, all the produce is located outside the store.
Super Gourmet brings in items from the U.S. that we haven’t seen elsewhere (Philly cream cheese, decent bacon, certain snacks, etc.) In addition to selling sandwiches, salads and local chocolate, they are very air conditioned! The employees here are crazy friendly, always greeting us with a smile and a hello, as we come in from the heat, drop our bags and suck up the cool air while we shop.
If we’re lucky, we are in town when meat gets delivered, in the form of a whole, bloody side of beef, on a tarp in the back of a truck. The large section of cow is then drug into the store and hung up behind the meat counter, before being cut on site. Needless to say, I have not been craving steak!
You can also purchase one of just about everything. It’s not uncommon to see a six pack of something opened, with one or two cans missing. When we asked to purchase a box of Alieve at the pharmacy, they looked at us like we were crazy; buying just two or three pills at a time is the norm. And if you’re craving a grilled cheese sandwich, help yourself to just one or two wrapped slices of cheese!
Unfortunately, the stores we need are not all located next to each other, or even on the same street, so a hot, sweaty walk is involved. We try to plan our route so that the load is heaviest at the end, but this doesn’t always work out. Many times, I trudge to the other end of town for something I’ve forgotten, my back and arms screaming at me the entire time.
At a steady, sometimes rushed pace, we usually finish in time for the 11:30 panga. Other days, we are affected by island time, and end up waiting for the 1:00 ride. There aren’t many places open for lunch in town, and it’s usually too bloody hot to stroll the streets, so if finished before departure time, everyone gathers at the panga stop in town to wait in the shade (I usually fill my time with wiping the sweat from my body). When it’s time, our group climbs aboard, with everyone helping to hump on the heavy bags.
The 11:30 panga makes three stops on the way back to the marina, to pick up lunches for employees at Red Frog who are working on the resort construction (homes, pool, clubhouse, etc.). We stop once at a place in Bocas Town, pulling up to the pier, as the lunches are handed over.
Next, we make our way over to Basti Town, on the other end of Bastimentos Island from our marina. Here, we make two more stops, to load on more food.
The 11:30 panga is almost always packed full, beyond full, with people, bags and supplies for the resort. Several times, I’ve been terrified the whole way home, that we’ll crack down on a wave and split in half from the weight onboard, sinking to the bottom with the groceries that I hunted, humped and sweated bullets for.
One of the most concerning trips was when we were loaded full of people, many heavy groceries and several 100 pound propane tanks. On our way to Basti Town, we slowed so another panga could transfer someone onto our boat…for real?!?
We then made our usual stops for lunch loading, and took off for Red Frog. The boat was riding below the water line, and Scott was soaked from incoming waves on the windward side as we sped toward home.
The ride goes something like this.
When we arrive back at the marina, everyone again crawls out onto the pier and helps each other unload.
Each time, I count myself lucky that I’ve survived another eventful shopping adventure! Here are more photos of our grocery excursions.
“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”