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March 2013

 

Week One:

The winds do blow, and thank heavens for that! The sky is grey, thank heavens for that too! Next week we'll be back in the frozen North and thank heavens for that.........yes, we are pleased our time in Panama is over. Not to say we haven't enjoyed our trip, far from it, but we feel that we've seen enough of the country now and the constant heat is just not for us. It does tend to limit our activities during the day.

We've had a busy week of sightseeing and lots of driving. Andrew is tired of driving up and down the one major highway that crosses from East to West across the country. We actually drove from the Pacific to the Caribbean this week, a total of two hours driving on the highway. The Caribbean side in central Panama (30 miles east of the canal) is not what we expected. The beach is not a tourist attraction, with muddy looking sand and a lot (tons) of plastic trash littered everywhere. The ocean water is not crystal clear. Definitely not a tourist location. The old town of Portobelo was once the greatest Spanish port in central America. Inca treasures and gold were stored here for shipment to Spain via ship. Of course the place was sacked by the Brits. Actually, Henry Morgan a Welshman. Portabelo today is an impoverished fishing village with nothing to offer except it's rich history and the ruins of the forts surrounding the bay. It appears to be a safe haven for cruising boats as we saw many bobbing around in the bay. The best thing for us on the Caribbean side was the Gatun Locks, they are less crowded and you can get a close up experience with the transiting ships. They are also the deepest of the three locks.

We decided to visit a couple of lesser known places listed in our guide books, Lonely Planet and Moon,.......not a great idea. We drove for a few hours to visit Las Piscinas in Aquadulce, and a well preserved Spanish colonial town called Parita.  On our way to the piscinas (swimming pools) we passed shrimp and salt farms (I'll get a picture on the way back", said Vanessa). We finally found the concrete pools, they were built on the edge of the mangroves in the Pacific so that when the tide came in the pools would fill up and the locals would have somewhere to swim. It obviously wasn't a hit, and it is now just a mess of concrete built into the tidal flats. On our way back we stopped to take pictures of the shrimp farms. I got out of the car and Andrew told me to get closer to the subject, that's when it happened, I hit the ground, the camera went skyward and then it too hit the ground HARD! I bled and the camera is now dead! That was sad, but even sadder because we had booked a tour for the following day and photos would be a requirement on this trip. So we headed to Machetazo (Walmart equivalent) to buy a new camera.  Oh yes, before that we did visit Parita, definitely a well kept old colonial town, but certainly not worth the long trip to get there.

New camera in hand, we were ready for our tour. It was a great day. We met our guide and 3 other participants at a dock on the Chagres river. We boarded the small, bimini covered boat and did a partial transit of the canal on our way to see some wildlife. We were lucky, we saw howler monkeys, white faced capuchin monkeys, crocodiles, snail kites and other hawks. After a couple of hours seeking wildlife we then continued our tour to visit the Wounaan indians, one of three indigenous tribes that live in Panama. We were told about how the Wounaan live today and we were taken on a hike to see the plants they use in the forest for various ailments and making dyes, baskets and other uses. They live a simple life and seem very happy. Tourism is now a big part of their sustenance.

Time for a day off!

 

Campana National Park

Gatun Locks

One of the many beautiful birds to be found here.

A yellow barked tree.

Uh oh...watch out!

Parita, the old colonial Spanish town 1556 and still living like it.

German crane on the Canal that used to lift U-boats in WW2

Hey give me back my banana

No way, Jose!

On the Canal in our little skiff.

Wounaan tribe

This village houses 40 residents.

The village play set. They have been given a regular one, but prefer to us their own natural swing set.

Geocaching at Fort Geronimo, Portabelo.

Portabelo bay and ruins.

Getting lost looking for the piscinas!

Here they are.....concrete heaven!

Week Two:

The time in Panama is up and we flew home on Thursday. An uneventful flight and arrived on time. Now we are getting ready for a road trip to Florida. All go and it's cold here in Maryland and looking forward to get together's with friends that we have not seen in months ....... or years! Car has gone in for service and GPS has been sent back to Garmin for warranty replacement. I don't think we will get it back by the time we leave so we expect to get lost ...... 

Weeks Three and Four

Our week at home flew by. We saw the children and grandchildren briefly. Our neighbor, Regina gave us an early Easter gift of farm fresh eggs in the most amazing natural colors. No need to paint those, just wash the dirt off. They were so tasty too.

We left the house in tip top shape and had a good drive down to Myrtle Beach to stay with David and Mary Kay. The weather was cold but sunny. One night they took us to see a show, a montage of 60's  and 70's music, at the NC Opry. It was great fun. During the day we introduced David and Mary Kay to Geocaching and David found his first cache. I think they both plan on doing more.

From Myrtle Beach we drove eleven hours to visit Vic and Wendy in central Florida. We stayed with them in their recently purchased "Park Model". Their park is nicely laid out and quiet, and the residents were very friendly. Vic let us drive around in his golf cart to see the area. We had a great time with them. Their home is quite spacious and this is another idea for us to consider regarding wintering in the warmth. The RV scenario is losing ground fast!

We had a short drive from Zolfo Springs to Pat and Ray's house in Bradenton. On the way we stopped to look at some properties for sale. All the homes in our price range were in bad areas of town and we quickly gave up the hunt. Ray drove us out to a local tourist sight, Solomon's Castle, which is a house in the middle of nowhere built out of recycled materials. There's also a large restaurant made out to look like Noah's Arc. The gardens have strange sculptures and the whole experience was quite interesting.

The following day Pat and Ray had organized a reunion of the group that traveled down the waterway on our first trip some 5 years ago along with a few of our Marsh Harbour friends. It was great to see everyone and exchange adventure stories.

The trip home (1000 miles) started at 1.30 AM, (neither of us could sleep). We stayed on the Interstate Highways and made it home by 5 p.m. Exhausted!

 

David with his first Geocache find.

Wendy with a BIG desert

Wendy, Vic with there golf cart infront of their Florida house.

The ark restraunt at the Solomon Castle

Vanessa, Ray and Pat in front of Castle

Road kill. Wild Hog.

The girls of the Flock.

The boys of the Flock

Now its warmed up outside.

Eggs from Clyde and Regina