A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

The Final Push

Doing all we can in the last two weeks

semi-overcast 85 °F

Our time in Panama is getting near the end. There is still so much to see, do, enjoy, learn, but shortly we'll be heading back home.

We took off for the jungle/rain forest for a three days/two night stay. What an experience! We arrived at the Cabanas Burbayar just before lunch on the 11th of August. The cabanas can handle 17 guests at a time, as we arrived six guest were leaving and we were going to be the only guests. Our guide, Justo, a Panama University grad with a degree in biology was chomping at the bit to get us into the jungle. After a typical lunch, rice, meat, fruit, juice, and water we headed out. Justo said the trip would only be 2.5 kilometers, he didn't mention six elevation changes in the humid, wet jungle. Four and half hours later we returned, soaked through from sweat, totaly exhausted. A very interesting hike, lots of birds, creepy crawlers, variety of plants and flowers. Lots of photographs.
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We collapsed into bed, after a cold water shower and an excellent meal. The dinner was served on a private observation platform that overlooked the rainforest. A very beautiful setting. No one had ever asked to eat on the platform before and the staff was very excited to do something new and different.

The next day we hung around the lodge and the near jungle areas. No more hikes. Lots of hummingbirds near the lodge, along with toucans, squirrel cuckoos, parrots and other jungle birds. This area is suppose to be a "birders" heaven. Two of the women that work at Burbayar made Kryss a custom mola with her business logo. A very unique item.
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We had another dinner on the platform overlooking the jungle and headed to our cabana to pack for our departure the next day. During the night it started raining, and then the thunder and the lightning started. The noise and light awakened us at about 1:30am. We sat on our porch, under the cover of the cabana roof and watched the show. Using a lightning timing device we photographed about a dozen great strikes, all off in the distance, lighting up the sky and the jungle. Then it happened...we saw a string of dots light up the sky, then they connected and just about knocked us off our chairs. The hair on my arms and back of the neck stood up, Kryss felt the hair on her neck move, and we both received some kind of temporary blindness in our eyes, the width of the lightning bolt. The strike was less than half a mile away, the attached picture is nothing like any other lightning strike we'd ever seen or photographed. It took about an hour before our eyes were seeing normally again. A totally new experience!
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We got back to Panama City, put our feet up for thirty minutes and then prepared for the arrival of my brother John and SIL Jean. We toured them around Panama City; visiting Casco Viejo, the fish market, the canal and other highlights of the area. To see both the Pacific side and the Caribbean side of Panama we went whale watching again in the Pearl Islands and visited Portobello and the San Blas Islands on the Carribbean side. They were able to witness the "diablo rojos", the red devil buses that move people all over Panama. And of course, shopping for Molas, the iconic symbol of the Kuna Indians and Panama.

The trip to the San Blas Islands was a "blast". The Kuna Yala Province has complete autonomy from the government of Panama. The Kuna's run their archipelago themselves. There are no fast food restaurants, no hotel chains, and not many tourists. Additionally, this is considered one of the last pristine island areas of the world. You can either fly in from Panama City or drive from Panama City. Each way has it's own plus and minuses. We drove because all the flights were booked. We stayed at Cabanas Kaunidup, a thirty minute boat ride from Canti town in the Kuna Yala. One of the travel books stated that these cabanas had a five star view with rustic accommodations. They weren't exaggerating. The views were like a postcard or a magazine cover, our cabana had dirt floors, sand every where, shared but private showers and banos. Three meals a day, lunch and dinner always included fresh fish, lobster, or shrimp. Snorkeling was great, lots of conch shells, sand dollars, fish, and cyrstal clear water. Setting aside the Boy Scout camp sleeping arrangements, the views, the food, the tours, and the new friends we met were all good. We'll return to the area, just not quite so "rustic".
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Tomorrow we head back to CONUS. Not totally ready, but it is time to go...
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Posted by rhislop 14:07 Archived in Panama Tagged islands sunsets caribbean panama pacific whale watching viejo pearl diablo san_blas cabañas casco burbayar rojos kaunidup Comments (0)

The Beach and the Mountains

Coronado and El Velle

sunny 86 °F

We took off last weekend for a trip to Punta Chame and ended up in Coronado. The short version of the story was the cleaning service didn't clean the condo in Punta Chame from the previous guests and we moved on down the beach. However, the benefit of this event was that we were able to visit Gorgona,Coronado, and El Valle. Gorgona is just starting to be developed by condo, land, and hotel speculators. There a few nice place available but most of the new stuff is in the development stages.
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We stayed at the Coronado Bay condominiums for three nights and used that as our base. Besides walking the beach, a very beautiful black and tan sand mix, bird watching and people watching, we explored the community. The places on the beach and the view from the highrise apartments are the best. The homes off the beach are nice but they have difficult beach access and all beaches in Panama are public. Also, once you get off the main roads of the community, it's slow going on the uncared for streets.
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We cruised up the mountains to El Valle on Sunday. A nice mountain town develop in the crater of a large volcano that "blew it's top" centuries ago. It is usually cooler in El Valle than in Coronado just because of the elevation but the humidity was still very high. We ate lunch at a great little restaurant called Bruschetta. A popular spot for tourists. Maxine and Foo-Foo were also having lunch when we were there. We visited the farmers market which was very cool and went to the local zoo. The zoo was disgusting. I'm not a radical animal rights activist, but after visiting that dump I was ready to release all the animals and birds back into the wild. And if you are a "forgiener" you pay extra to get in. The main reason we went there was to see a "Golden Frog". The Golden Frog is endangered and the frog house has two in captivity. I'm glad we got to see them, but the zoo is a place not to visit. Save your time and go to the Farmers Market. Lots of great deals and very friendly Panamanians.

We returned to Panama City on Monday. Kryss had classes to teach and clients to see. It has been amazing to me to watch the development of her business. No matter where we go Dr. Krysstine helps fill the need.

Tuesday night we became real "gringo" tourists. We went to Restaurante-Bar Tinajas in Panama City. They are known for their outstanding show of traditional Panamanian dances, costumes and music. We had heard from many people it was worth seeing the show but the food was just average, much like a dinner theater. Our friends were right. Food average, show great and we're glad we went. The place was filled with tourists from the US, Canada, Columbia, and the UK.
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This coming weekend...the jungle.

Posted by rhislop 10:40 Archived in Panama Tagged mountains beaches birds panama el valle panama_city coronado_beach gordona Comments (0)

More Whales, Hummingbirds and Lightning

More fun...

rain 78 °F

It's been about a week since we've had time to sit down and share our current adventure. However, one thing is for sure, the life experiences just keep coming. We've in the rainy season here in Panama. We are told by the locals that it really gets bad in October and November. We were walking back to our condo and without any warning, no lightning, thunder, sprinkles of rain, the clouds opened up and we were soaked. The drains were flooded, the freeway slowed to a crawl, and the splash back from rude drivers guaranteed us hot showers at home.
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We had so much fun on the whale watching trip to the Pearl Islands we decided to go again. The day started beautifully and the boat ride out to the islands was uneventful. Just when the islands came into view on the horizon we saw our first whale. As we got closer we saw a mother and a calf and other whales cruising around the island. Again we had lunch on Contradora Island, saw a lot of hummingbirds, relaxed at the beach, walked around part of the island and then returned to our boat for the trip back to Panama City. As we were leaving the Pearl Islands a group of male whales were bumping and banging against each other to gain the attention of a female whale. They put on quiet a show, splashing in the water, using their pectoral fins to strike, splash and push each other. Then sky started to darken, the wind picked up, the seas became choppy and the captain put the pedal to the metal for the dash to Panama City. We didn't make it, rain, wind, lightning, rough seas; what a ride. Another guarantee for hot showers. I believe I'm a fair weather sailor.
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In the evenings we usually get rain that lasts for about an hour. It really cools everything off and makes the nights very comfortable. Once and a while lightning also adds to the mix and we get some great shows over Panama Bay. The picture shows the cargo ships lining up to enter the Panama Canal with lightning giving everything some extra illumination.
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And once again this week we walked to the fish market and picked up fresh shrimp, red snapper and ceviche. All combined to make a couple really delicious dinners. The fish monger is cutting the filets for us. He's missing a couple fingers. A tough business selling fish.024_-_Copy.jpg

Tomorrow were off to Punta Chame for the weekend. We plan to drive up to El Valle on Sunday just to check out the farmers market. It is suppose to be one of the best in Panama. The adventure continues...

Posted by rhislop 15:47 Archived in Panama Tagged rain whales panama lightning watching pearl_islands panama_city thunder hummingbirds contradora Comments (0)

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