A last Look at Panama
23 April 2013
Enchantment went through the Panama Canal Dec 29th with cruising friends Carol, Jim, Suzie, and Robin. We ended up spending more time in Panama City than expected due to dental problems. The upside is that Panama City is very modern, and anything you may need or want is available for a reasonable price. The president has modernized the bus systems and a subway is under construction. I wish we had brought our camera to the central market. The best place to provision for a long passage. All the farmers bring in their produce there and it gets distributed to supermarkets, small tiendas, restaurants, and street vendors. The market covers almost ten acres and sells fruits and veggies of every kind. There must have been 1000's of pineapples and other fruits. For $5 you could buy a 25 lb bag of oranges or grapefruit. At the entrance you can hire a man for $2 to follow you around with a hand cart to haul your goods around and out to your car or taxi.
One of the most interesting trips we took was to an Embera village 30 miles into the rain forest. The Embera are one of six native Indian tribes in Panama and they are also the least politically active, least influential. The village we visited was an hour bus ride to the river then an hour boat ride up river. Approximately 140 people live in the village of Embera Drua. They have no electricity and choose to live traditionally. There village land was in an area incorporated by the government into a national park, whose main purpose is to protect the watershed that feeds Lake Gatun and the Canal. The Embera were allowed to stay but they cannot hunt or cut down trees for buildings. They do fish the river and cut lumber from areas outside the park when needed. Their only means of income now is to allow visitors (tourists) for a small fee which includes lunch. The women are expert basket weavers using palm fibers dyed with various berries. A large basket can take several weeks to finish.
On leaving Panama City we spent a few days on Isla Taboga, 8 miles away. This is a popular spot for Panamanians to go for the day or weekend with its beaches and clean water. Ferries run back and forth all day for a few dollars each way. From there we sailed 30 miles or so to the Las Perlas group of islands. Of the 20 or so islands only 3 are inhabited. The beaches are beautiful and many disappear at high tide. With a tidal range of up to 18 feet the landscape can change dramatically from low to high tide. Many episodes of the reality show Survivor have been filmed in these islands so you may have seen them on TV.
On leaving the Las Perlas we sailed 1000 miles to the Galapagos, where Charles Darwin got his inspiration for "Origin of the Species" and evolutionary change. As I write this we are on the Island of Isabela, Galapagos and are making ready to leave in 2 days for French Polynesia, 2950 miles away. Nothing between here and there but ocean and hopefully good weather. It will take a minimum of 3 weeks and perhaps as long a 5, depending on weather, any mechanical problems, and the temperament of King Neptune. By the time we get there we should have a blog update covering the Galapagos Archipelago.