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Starting Another Adventure

Warmer climes and ocean views

semi-overcast 83 °F

Off to Panama for a warm winter. Left the cold temps of Colorado for the humid climate of Central America. We left Denver at 8am on the 29 of December, 10 degrees F at the airport. Thankfully, Kryss's sister, Kate, took us to the airport. We threw our winter coats into the back seat, grabbed our luggage and ran into the terminal. United had upgraded us, so Bloody Mary's and breakfast kept us occupied and happy.

The flight to Panama City, Panama was uneventful. The Bloody Mary's caused perfect sleeping conditions. At arrival we were the first people off the plane and made it through Panamanian immigration and customs without any issues. Our friend, Karlos, picked us up and took us to our favorite boutique hotel in Panama, the Magnolia Inn. The first floor of this hotel is a youth hostel and the next two floors are well appointed hotel rooms. Needless to say, this makes for an interesting mix of travelers. After a couple of relaxing adult beverages we called it a night.

We spent the 30th enjoying sights and sounds of Casco Viejo, the old city. Lots of construction since our last visit. Lunch with Colorado friends who are living in Panama City. After lunch we wandered for a bit, found a few new businesses in the area and a new pub overlooking Panama Bay. Tried it out, very nice place, but we can't remember the name. However, we can find it again. The decision for dinner was easy, we were going to Café Purdue, the best pizza and salads in Casco Viejo. We walked there and it was closed for vacation, re-opening on Jan 17th. Damn! Where to next, we walked to a place we been by many times but never tried, Finca del Mar. It was a comfortable place overlooking the Panama Bay. Cocktails and dinner. I had octopus, see picture, not quite what I expected...I'm thinking calamari. Couldn't finish it.
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Headed to Playa Coronado at 10am on the 31st, prepping for New Year's Eve. More on that later.

Posted by rhislop 15:06 Archived in Panama Tagged panama panama_city viejo casco Comments (0)

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)

Panama City

The Walk...

semi-overcast 85 °F

Colorful yellow flowers

Colorful yellow flowers


Balboa

Balboa


Bright and early we hit the streets. Walking through our neighborhood, then to a major shopping complex and finally the walk along the bay. The bay walk was great, walking from the San Francisco area of Panama City to the Casco Viejo area. We are guessing it was about three miles, stopping along the way to take pictures, visit the fish market, and having lunch in Casco Viejo.

The Panama City fish market is a very colorful place. Fishermen bringing in the freshly caught fish, dock hands carrying, pushing, and pulling the ice and fish ladden containers to the various stalls. Skilled hands gut, chop, filet, and trim the daily catch. Restaurantures buying the catch for their evening menu, while individuals peer through the selections for take-home delights.
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Lobsters, shrimp, tuna, red snapper; you name it, it was there. We'll be back to the fish market to pick up some dinner items when we are prepared to carry them back to our place. We'll need a container with ice, just like beer, you've got to keep them cold. Selling fresh ceviche was as common as Dairy Queens in Texas.
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Lunch was at one of our favorite spots in Casco Viejo, the Budget Gourmet. The place was packed.We met three young NY college girls and imparted our local knowlegde to them. We walked over to the Magnolia Inn, our original home away from home in Panama City. The owners, Reggie and Cherie Flagg were away, but our favorite driver Karloz was there. I was ready for a ride back to our residence and Karloz answered the call.

The afternoon rains came, the sky blackened, the bay started churning, lightning flashed about and an hour later it was blue skies. Tried for some lightning shots but nothing exciting happened.

Last night we walked to a small and quaint French Bistro. A Latin guitar player entertained and the food was great. After dinner a cab ride home and a new game...Boggle. Who knows it?

Posted by rhislop 12:58 Archived in Panama Tagged rain panama bay panama_canal viejo casco Comments (0)

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