Deb in Panama


Deborah sounded the most interesting – my sailing reference

Richard, who selected me to be the line handler in December 2012, making it possible for me to transit the Panama Canal, published this about me: I put a post on CS to look for extra crew for our Panama Canal transit. Of the people who responded I thought Deborah sounded the most interesting so she joined us for the day. I must have made the right choice because she proved to be very good company and an asset to our crew.


Santiago to Panamá City

Traveling by bus from Santa Catalina, it is always necessary to travel first to Soná. From there, most travelers take a second bus into Santiago, a farm industry town that is at the highway crossroads. (A rest stop on the Pan American Highway acts as the mid-way stopping point for busses between Panamá City and David.) This is what I did. As Santiago is a bus hub and cross road, here is info about it.


Departing Santa Calalina, Panamá

As many other travelers have learned, it is best to start your travels early in Panamá. I was awake at 6am to start this travel day. I wasn’t sure where my own evening’s destination — and had several thoughts in my head — but it all starts with the almost $5 bus from Santa Catalina to Soná — and it is best to be at that bus stop at 7 as it departs 7:15 or 7:30. Traveling by bus from Santa Catalina, it is always necessary to travel first to Soná. From there, most travelers take a second bus into Santiago, a farm industry town that is at the highway crossroads. (A rest stop on the Pan American Highway acts as the mid-way stopping point for busses between Panamá City and David.) Here is the bus schedule posted at Ellie’s Surf & Shake shop ( Surf & Shake makes great shakes, […]


Hermit Crabs are fun

Visit the islands around Isla Boca Brava and Isla Coiba and you are greeted by a sight that’s quite a lot of fun. These beaches are literally crawling with shells of varied colors, shapes and sizes scooting around! Actually, the shells are being scooted around, not scooting by themselves. These shells are host to Hermit Crabs. What makes these tiny creatures so much fun is that rather than grow their own hard shells, they find, borrow, and live in other animals’ abandoned shells. When they out-grow one shell, they move out and borrow another. It’s great fun to watch these many, many tiny creatures digging holes, crawling in or out, or running around at a rather furious pace. Then when one of them feels the vibrations as you walk, or even feels a camera moving in close to it, it quickly folds into the shell so it appears to be […]


Soloy – a true indigenous Panamanian village

I was very lucky the day I met Susan, a Peace Corps volunteer who is working in a tiny indigenous Panamanian village. I wasn’t able to visit Susan’s village as she was away for a break, but I was able to visit the fabulous Juan Carlos and his friend Elmon in their own village, Soloy. I plan to write more about this visit and the opportunities for others to visit and learn about indigenous Panamanian, but here are a few photos for now. Getting to Soloy, Panama

Dining with Elmon's family in Soloy, Panama

My bed on Isla Boca Brava

This is the view I get to enjoy from my bed hammock at Hotel Boca Brava. I so-loved sleeping in a hammock at my friend Daniel’s that when I got here and saw this hammock setup I just had to try it. Yes, that is water you see — the warm Pacific Ocean — and yes. Those are islands you see out in the water. Both sides of this room have water views.


Bull-riding & fighting in Boca Chica

This weekend, there was a festival day in the tiny town of Boca Chica, Panama. I joined three others from my hotel, taking a passing water taxi from our Isla Boca Brava location to this nearest mainland town. ($3 from our hotel, $1 from the point we first walked to.) After a typical Panama lunch of rice mixed with beans and a small piece of chicken for $3, we took a very hot 20 minute walk up the road. As the day was so hot, this activity was postponed for an hour or so. We walked back down, picked up some cookies and drinks at the town’s market (tienda), played a handmade carnival game, then walked back to the corral. Here is a photo summary of the sport.


Impressive food service at Hotel Boca Brava

I am very impressed. I am at Hotel Boca Brava, having arrived last night just as darkness fell. This morning, ordering breakfast, I said (as always) that I am allergic to Cilantro and Culantro. The man who took my order, Jaime, brought me my delicious Breakfast and then asked me since I don’t eat those, what about Perejill (Pe rey hejl). I told him I don’t know that word, so he said wait and brought some to me. It was Parsley and I told him I love it. Then he came back with one more thing, a piece of a lettuce, to see if it was OK. When I arrived and some guests told me of their meals here and then when I saw the menu and not-exorbitant prices, I knew I was in a good place. This morning’s Cilantro response confirmed that! Oh, here is my breakfast: Omlette with […]


Lost In Space in Spanish

As I sit in my Panamanian friend’s outside/inside room I turned on the TV to hear some Spanish. A familiar black and white woman greeted my eyes and as I was wondering if this was indeed lost In Space, the music confirmed this. I haven’t seen this show in…decades! It’s actually the first old or re-run American programming I have seen in a year in Central America. I wonder if I’ll hear the robot say Danger Robinson in Spanish.


A ticket home

Today I bought my ticket home. In some ways it was difficult. It took me 3 months to actually make the move and set the date. The experience changes once your travel days are numbered. However, in several ways it feels great. I love that I know when I will see my immediate family again. It will be great to see them and to see my friends again. It will feel good to have my own car again. (But I must keep up the walking that has been so good for me, too.) It will also be fantastic to have my real Mac again. (And my Rosetta Stone to actually study Spanish the way I had first planned.) This is a different kind of coming home. I don’t get to open my own front door into a familiar home and plop down on my lovely leather couch or my comfy […]


Amador, Panama – meal on a budget

When you’re traveling in Panama City, the walk from the start of the cosway to the end of the three now-connected islands the comprise Amador provides great views of the city. However, the restaurants there are higher than the meal budget of the typical budget traveler or backpacker. Of course you can bring sandwiches for the day. Sandwich meats and cheese are quite affordable in Panama City. However, as of approximately December 2012, there is an affordable alternative. at the very end of your walk, off to the side of the last parking lot, you will notice a Sort of a New York City style trailer that is a diner. The owner set this up to sell hot food to the people who work on Amador — but it is open to all of us. It isn’t fancy and it isn’t top quality, but it will get you buy. A […]


Walking, movie & my radio show

At 11am today, just as the heat of the day was building, my friend Gary Smith and I went walking. We walked the entire Cinta Costera, stopped at the Seafood Market for cold drinks, then continued through the streets and scenic views of Casca Viejo and San Filipe. As the sun went down we thought we would take a Metrobus but we just walked instead. It was easier to walk as the sun went down. We stopped for shaved ice along the way. Gary’s first. As we walked home, we decided to go see a movie. We did something I have never done before. We walked up to the ticket counter and asked what the next film was that was playing in English. It was 7pm and The Impossible was on at 7:30, so that’s what we saw. At $9 or so in LA, I would likely not choose to […]


Hostel recommendation in Panama City, Panama

If you are seeking a beautiful hostel in a safe, well-to-do part of Panamá City — and you are OK with staying in a 6-8 bed dorm — I highly recommend Los Mostros hostel. It was built by an Architect. It had a pool in back, a billiard/pool table and ping pong tables out front. The kitchen is spacious and has real cooking items and plates, not broken odds and ends. There is a refrigerator for your food — and it actually works. There are just a couple of downsides: Smoking is limited to outside but you breath that smoke in the inside recreation rooms too. There are no private rooms. Here is a photo taken from the lobby area looking into the main recreation areas. Those two bean bag chairs are upstairs across from the reception desk. I will add more photos and info, time and photos permitting.


Hoping for a boat

It is 8:20am. I am again sitting at Captain Jack’s bar, upon the bar stool immediately beside the radio. I woke up before 7, took a fast (cold) shower, threw my sarong on to rush from the bathroom, then quickly donned my dress to run upstairs. There are two reasons for my early rise and rush — but both are because late last night I met a guy named Aaron who was lucky enough to be invited onto the boat that is sailing to Bocas del Toro this morning and I asked him to please put in a word for this solo traveler. I wrote down my contact info and my credentials. He said “I want to be the person that wakes you up with a call to get down to the boat. Sleep with that phone.” I absolutely did sleep with my phone! But, I do not get Claro […]


Congo Carnival in Portobelo, Panama

I happen to be in Portobelo, Panama during the Congo Festival. In the early afternoon four men dressed up for this traditional celebration came up to Captain Jack’s, whistles blowing, acting in the traditional goofiness. Their faces were painted the blackest black, making their lips ever-so-pink and they were always sticking their tongues out. That is part of the celebration, which is to mock the Spanish, their former enslavers. (In the days of the Spaniards here, people were brought from the Congo as slaves.) Later in the day, Gary and I were walking in town and watched as the men surrounded a car in the road and one man stepped in front of the car and laid in the road with his feet up on the hood of the car. Still later, we were walking home from seeing the Negro Christo (Black Jesus statue) when the guys noticed me and […]


Portobelo, Panama – exploring a fort

This fort is the closest one to the town. It’s the easiest one to visit as no boat is needed. However, the other one is the first line of defense and is three levels and more interesting. (You can get to the other one by renting a kayak and enjoying the harbor as well. It is difficult to see here but that long wall is where the cannons are. They are clearer in the next photo.


A Gal & El Canal III

I’m a gal impressed with El Canal The first time I visited the Panamá Canal I was a tourist visitor at the museum. The second time I visited the Panamá Canal it was as a customer making a transit. The third time I visited the Panamá Canal it was from the perspective of a Canal Authority Tugboat Captain. The ships that transit the Panamá Canal are quite large. Under their own power, their own mechanics are well able to steer the ships. However, they must travel an extremely show speed within the Locks of the canal, as well as through the Gaillard* Cut. At these slow speeds, their rudders aren’t effective. They must rely on tugs and “mules” to steer them. The job of the Tugboat Captian is tricky. It requires precision to be able to match the speed of a ship, to come up right against it, and to […]


Trump Panama

Unable to sleep for the first time since coming to live in a friend’s home in Punta Patilla, I just looked out my bedroom window. It is 3am. Rising out of the darkness comprised of private homes and now empty office buildings, is just one building — its elevators and halls alit. How interesting, how telling it is that by night Trump Panama looks like a Cobra poised to strike. And that I didn’t notice in the light of day – from any angle.