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.
As I traveled in Central America in 2012, I had only good experiences and never met anyone who had actually witnessed violence. However, Honduras is known to have problems with gangs, so if you’re considering traveling in Central America, you may like this news. On May 24, 2013, the Honduras Weekly reported, “Gangs in Honduras Will Sign Truce Next Week.” The article reports that this is the work of Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Pedro Sula, Monsignor Romulo Emiliani. The truce will be “agreement modeled after the gang truce in El Salvador of March 2012 that has produced a 52 percent drop in homicides in that country during the past year.” My own travels in both Honduras and El Salvador never brought me near gang members or issues as far as I knew. While in La Ceiba, Honduras I was told repeatedly that after dark it was absolutely necessary to […]
I think that we who live in cities, be it on any continent in any city, tend to not realize that there ARE places in the world where there is NO electricity and people do not have light — other than that of the sun. And we who live in cities have so much light in the sky at night that we don’t even realize… how very dark the night really is. Those who live in non-electrified places can wake with the sun and go to sleep with the sun — but there are still issues such as: going to the bathroom before bed or in the middle of the night a mother needing to get up in the night to feed an infant a parent needing to tend to a child a person needing to work until dark and then find his/her way home boats needing to cross a lake or ocean or […]
The morning before I left the good people of the tiny village of Pueblo Nuevo, I used my SteriPEN UV light water purifier one last time as I purified one more bottle of water for my trip back to Panama City.
I got good use out of this SteriPEN but as I go back to Los Angeles, where I am lucky enough to have healthy, safe water, emergencies aside, I know my trusty SteriPEN can be put to much better use here. It will now be used to purify water for the newest baby in the village.
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.
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, […]
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 […]
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
In 2011, 30-something-year-old Murray Johnson and some friends reached out to CouchSurfers to join them driving two donated ambulances down to Honduras to give them to Honduran hospitals. Johnson recently posted: “The experience was so amazing and the donation so needed that we have made the Charity Rally official and opened it up for others to join! You can mix travel, adventure and charity all in one for a good cause. How it works: You form your own team or join a “potluck” team. Your team can be comprised of any number of people. (I am guessing it is best if all of our team members fit in your vehicle though, of course.) Each team secures its own car/ambulance/fire truck/buse/whatever and drive down. The rally organizers work with you to get the vehicle, secure the donation and do the paperwork to have the vehicle imported into Honduras — or wherever […]
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.
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. Very early, people just start to arrive. Meat kebabs for sale. (There were also candy apples.) The bulls. We wondered why they […]
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 […]
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.
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 […]
If you are an English speaking traveler, either male or female, looking for a great haircut in Panama — and you don’t want to pay $35+ at the English-speaking Panama City salons — I have a fantastic recommendation for you. The salon is Aaròn Estudo. It is in Punta Patilla, across the street from MetroCentro, in the side street beside Arocha Farmacia. (I have to get the correct spelling of Arocha as I know this is wrong.) The man to see is Carlos.
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 […]
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 […]
As with all stories of theft, I post this story to help good travelers remain safe as they get to know the world. I strongly believe that if more people in the world knew more other peoples of the world, there would be more trade and less war. I want people to travel safely and give themselves the opportunity to get to know local people wherever they go. This story of robbery relates the theft of two clean, honest, well-presented European travelers by the driver of an official (or official-looking) Panama City taxi (license plate 588431). Both are good sized people, in shape, not overweight, not tiny or weak looking.
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.
I share this because every backpacker that has time, has the interest to travel between Panama and Colombia. I have not made this trip and will not be doing so, but I watched a lot of travelers research and book passage. The flights are around $500 as are the commercial sailing boats. The sailing experience be excellent or, like some travellers tell me, your captain can fail to being enough food and water or can be high or drunk on the voyage. Every hostel in Panama City, and Captain Jack’s in Portobelo (and maybe hostels in Bocas del Toro) can provide information about several of the approximately 30 boats that now make this trip. Jeff at Captian Jack’s is a sailor and told me that several years ago there were only 10. This voyage is a popular thing for people with boats to do in order to make money. Jeff […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
On Thursday, January 17 (2013), my <a href=”http://travel-friend Gary L. Smith and I got on a $1.25 Metrobus from MultiCentro to Allbrook Bus Terminal, then took two more busses to come to Portobelo, on the Caribbean coast here in Panama. Portobelo was an important port in the 1700s and 1800s as much trade took place here. This is where Portobelo is located.