20 September 2017 | Lima, Peru
15 September 2017 | Panama City, Panama
06 August 2017 | Bocas del Toro, Panama
17 July 2017 | Bocas del Toro, Panama
07 July 2017 | Gallego Caays
19 June 2017 | Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toros, Panama
11 June 2017 | Bocas del Toro, Panama
05 June 2017 | Isla Providencia, Columbia
26 May 2017 | Providencia, Columbia
20 May 2017 | Port Antonio, Jamaica
09 May 2017 | Mathewtown, Great Inagua
30 April 2017 | Georgetown, Exuma
19 April 2017 | Great Inagua
07 April 2017 | Georgetown
28 March 2017 | Black Point, Bahamas
22 March 2017 | Shroud Cay
16 March 2017 | Old Port Cove, Palm Beach Gardens
05 March 2017 | Titusville
23 December 2016 | Anna Maria, FL
20 September 2017 | Lima, Peru
After a long but comfortable flight , we landed in Lima, Peru. We passed through Customs and Immigration with a breeze and caught our ride to the Hotel Miramar in the Miraflores section of Lima. We had set up our flights, transfer and hotel stay in Lima through Fetur Travel in Lima. Melany Garcia was our agent and what a wonderful job she did. The first day we wandered the area soaking up the ambiance of this bustling metropolis. The next day we took a taxi to visit the Museo Larko, a collection of Inca ceramics, weaving and metalwork. These were collected during the 20’s and 30’s by the owner and now are on display for the public. The collection is extensive and we even got to see some of the items in the collection not on display and the amount of material is incredible, Incan ceramics were used in everyday life and also for religious ceremonies. All types and periods including many pre-Inca pieces were on display. Also beautiful textiles and gold, silver and copper metal pieces were exhibited. They even had a display of Incan erotic art. The museum and grounds were also a work of art, very beautiful. Look for pictures soon in the gallery. The next day we went down into the historic section of Lima and strolled the streets, admiring the architecture and the grand cathedrals. The center of the historic district is the Plaza de Armas, a plaza at the center of the original city planned in the 16th century by Francisco Pizzaro. The plaza is surrounded by government buildings including the president’s residence with an honor guard out front. Every day at noon the guard is changed in an elaborate ceremony accompanied by the national band playing “El Condor Pasa”. While there we toured the Cathedral de Lima, a magnificent church with many incredible and ornate altars of carved wood and gold leaf. There is a chapel there that contains the remains of Pizzaro himself. We also went to the Monasterio de San Francisco with catacombs report ably containing the remains of 70,000 and a library of ancient texts totaling 25,000. We then went to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo another ornate and beautiful church originally built by the Dominican order accompanying Pizzaro. It is also notable for the beautiful courtyards containing the remains of several saints and whose skulls are glass encased by the main altar. We saw a couple of other remarkable churches before finally burning out.
Then we went to Huaca Pucllana, an interesting pre-Inca site located right in the city that was populated by the Lima people. The sight is a temple pyramid built of adobe bricks. It is currently under restoration but is open for tours. The temple was built over a thousand years, with successive structures being built on the previous one. It was a burial site and many tombs and artifacts have been recovered and are on display complete with mummies from the Wari people. The Wari were a pre-Inca group that conquered many tribes in what is now Peru including the Lima and Nazca peoples. Look for pictures of all this soon in the gallery.
Lima is also a foodie place and we had some great meals there. We had great sandwiches at La Lucha Sanguacheria, Peruvian fare at Pardo’s Chicken, and at Liverpool while serenaded by Beatles music.
Now it’s time to get on the bus to Nazca and the Lines.
15 September 2017 | Panama City, Panama
We hopped aboard the Air Panama connector to fly to Panama City in the morning. It was clear and bright and it was a treat to fly over the area we have been exploring in the boat. In an hour we arrived at the small PC airport at Albrook. We had made arrangements to stay at the Hotel Milan at the suggestion of a friend at the marina who knows his way around Panama City. He also had recommendations for places to eat and things to do. A long cab ride through the terrible traffic of the city got us to the hotel. After checking in we went walk about and wound up getting on the subway, a modern very smooth train, to the Albrook Mall, reputably the largest in Central America. It may well be the largest in the world because we nearly wore ourselves out walking from one end to the other. There were tons of people wandering about but I’m not sure how many were buying anything. There were many duplicate stores and we’re not sure how they all stay in business.
Back to the hotel and to dinner of pizza at an Italian restaurant recommended by Dana, who is batting a thousand so far. The next day we met Francisco Stanley who was recommended by Dana, for a tour of the city. We first went to the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal to see the museum and the locks in action. It was a real treat to see the big ships moving through the locks, 50 – 60 ships a day around the clock. The technology and engineering works as well today as it did when they first opened. We also got to see a sailboat go through side tied to a tug.
Later we went to Casco Viejo, the historic section of town, and spent time seeing the churches and old buildings, some restored and some not or in process. We then went out on the Amador causeway, built from material excavated for the canal, for a great view of the city and all the ships anchored and waiting to go through the canal. There must have been 70 or 80 ships.
That evening we had dinner at El Trapiche with friends from Bocas who were passing through. The next day we caught a cab back to the old city and spent more time wandering the streets and seeing the cathedrals. Those were extraordinary, with incredibly ornate and intricate altars and accessory chapels. That night we went to a restaurant called Beirut, another recommendation by Dana and had a delightful Middle Eastern meal. Dana’s still batting a thousand.
Early the next morning, Francisco picked us up to head to the international airport for our flight to Lima. Check out the next installment for those stories.
24 August 2017 | Boquete
We’ve been hanging in the marina here at Bocas, going to Spanish School every day, trying to cram new information into our aging brains. We are making progress but it seems very slow and we are sort of under a deadline to be comfortable with conversation by the end of the month when we head to Peru.
In addition to the back to school routine, we have been trying to see some of Panama. Bocas town is on Isla Colon and adjacent to Almirante Bay. The only way to or from here is by boat, and there is a large ferry that runs between Bocas and the town of Almirante on the mainland a couple of time a day. All cars, trucks and supplies come by that ferry. Most people use water taxis, which are large outboard powered open boats called pangas. They are relatively narrow beam, heavily built fiberglass boats. Most that carry passengers have canopies.
One day we took a water taxi to Almirante, $5-7 dollars pp one way and than a bus to a town up the coast called Changinola. It’s a larger town than Bocas and is supposed to have a better selection of food and other items and at cheaper prices. The town was larger and the selections more varied but we found the prices no cheaper. There were some large supermarkets with a good selection of food. Most of the merchants here are of Chinese decent, and a lot of the merchandise is Chinese. It was a nice change of scenery but we found no deals.
This past weekend, we went to Boquete, up in the mountains for a break. We took a package water taxi/ bus ride for $50 pp round trip. The water taxi went to Almirante and then we had an air conditioned bus(mini) up through the mountains to Boquete. We stayed in a hostel there which is a sister property to the place here where we are studying Spanish. We had a private room with a private bath for $35 a night. It’s called Spanish by the River. The place here in Bocas is Spanish by the Sea. The place had a nice kitchen with all the facilities, so we could cook if we wanted. It was very nice, and they even had a chicken coop in the back so we could go get fresh eggs in the morning for breakfast.
The first day we spent wandering the town getting our bearings and had a nice dinner at Posada Boquete. The next two days we spent hiking in the mountains, the first day on the Quetzal Trail, and the second on the Three Waterfalls Trail. Both very beautiful. We were looking to sight a colorful bird called the quetzal, but we never did see one, although the forest canopy is so thick we might have been near one and not known it. They call this a cloud forest because it is high enough to be enveloped in clouds a lot of the time and the forest is very lush with tropical ferns, plants and trees. We ran into a party with a guide looking for birds and he was really able to find birds that no one else could see, so it might be a good idea to go with a guide if you are really a serious birder.
Now we are back In Bocas, for a few more days of Spanish and then on Monday we fly to Panama City for 3 days and then to Lima, Peru, for the month of September. We have not scheduled anything and plan to see what develops when we get there. Our plan is a few days in Lima and then travel to Nazca, Ariquipa, Cuzco and Machu Pichu. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to post anything while we are there so if not I’ll have a story to tell when we return. I’ll try to get some pictures into the gallery before we leave.
Change of Plans
06 August 2017 | Bocas del Toro, Panama
We have heard continuous stories of how bad the weather is in the San Blas this time of year. Terrible lightning, and thunderstorms are the rule there in the summer. Some folks seem to like it because there aren't many people there this time of year, but the risk of getting struck is real with a dozen or so boats being hit. Having gone through that once we are admittedly gun shy. When we asked if the lightning was worse than Florida, the responses were that " it makes Florida look like a Disney light show" and " I expected Moses to come down out of the sky with tablets in his hands". It seems that everybody that stays there long enough gets hit and they consider it the price of entry.
Add to that the Chocosanas, which are storms that come down off the mountains at night with huge winds and rain causing middle of the night anchor dances. All of that considered, we have decided to stay in the Bocas are for a couple more months to let the weather improve further east. Our current plan is to stay in Bocas for the month of August and brush up on our Spanish and travel a bit in Panama. Then in September, we hope to go to Peru to see some of the sites there, Machu Pichu, Cusco, Nazca and others. All that is still in the planning stages.
Meanwhile we have continued to bounce around the archipelago and see the sites and even revisit some favorites. We went back to Dolphin Bay and went to Sunday brunch at Ernie's Los Amigos restaurant with a bunch of the local expats. Ernie is a local man who worked as a chef in NYC and Orlando for many years and then decided to return to the muy tranquillo life here in Bocas. He opened a small restaurant on Tierra Obscura and serves fried chicken lunches and a wonderful Sunday brunch (I had eggs benedict). We also returned to Red Frog and the wonderful beach there as well as a return to Starfish Beach. While at Starfish Beach we had a couple of birds decide that our boat was prime real estate for their new nest. No amount of shaking or noise would dissuade them. I even shot black beans at them with my sling shot. I finally climbed the mast and removed their construction and we left, causing them to move to another boat.
We headed east to Crawl Cay and had a sunny day to snorkel the reefs there and then went on east to Bluefield's. It's at the easternmost part of the archipelago, about 30 miles from Bocas. It is named for a Dutch pirate named Blauvelt who hung out there. It's a very unspoiled area with a few small villages of the local indigenous Ngobe Indians. We did some hiking there in the jungle over to the ocean side and then took a cayuga back to the boats. The Cayuga is a hollowed out log and it had built up gunnels about 8-20 inches and about 40 feet long, powered by a 25 HP outboard. They have a very narrow beam and are very tippy. It was like Mr. Toad's Wild ride.
While there we had a continuous succession of local kids and adults coming by in their cayugas and wanting to sell us something (fish, avocados) or just looking for a gift. We had brought a bunch of pencils and odds and ends to give away, but soon it got old and we had to say Nada Mas. We did have a local boy guide us to a waterfall in the jungle which was really cool. Just before dark a on the third day we got hit by a vicious storm and had to move over to the other side of the bay, as we were on a lee shore with the wind out of the southeast at 30 knots. That is a very unusual direction for here, and is indicative of the completely unpredictable nature of the weather here.
The next day we moved back over to the Almirante Bay area and now are back in the marina. We plan to keep the boat here for a couple of months. I am heavy into boat projects and Spanish lessons and trying to stay cool. I put some pictures of all this in the gallery.
Hanging around in Bocas del Toro
17 July 2017 | Bocas del Toro, Panama
We wound staying several days at the Gayago Cays because of the weather. It was raining and overcast. The weather here is very difficult to predict day to day. The local forecasts are always wrong. Most days have light wind starting in the southwest and winding up in the northwest. The rain is very unlike what we are used to in Florida with a quick rain in the afternoon. Here it can rain for days and sometimes for part of a day and then clear up with no rhyme or reason. We've learned to just take what we get. We have had a tough time with electronics. So far we have had a computer, an Ipod, and a camera die on us. I assume from the heat and humidity. So far the human components are holding up.
We finally moved over to Crawl Cay, a small island surrounded by reefs, with a small restaurant on it. The weather was still overcast, and so the diving wasn't great. I got in to have a look, but the visibility was marginal. The coral was pretty unspectacular. I guess we've been spoiled by the Bahamas. While we were there, one early morning, we had a vicious thunderstorm come by. Lots of wind and lightning, unlike the other rain we've had, which is rarely accompanied by any wind. I guess it's a preview of what we can expect in the San Blas this time of year.
The weather finally cleared and we headed out to the Zapatillos Cays, reported to be great diving sites. As we approached the islands we could see surf crashing over the reef and when we approached the anchorage the surge even in the lee of the island was huge. We anchored in about 15 feet of water and sat for a bit to make sure the boat was well set. The water was so stirred up that we didn't even think about diving, but we decided to put the dinghy in and go ashore to explore. When we approached the shore the surge was so big we decided to anchor the dinghy and I tied the stern to a tree. We had a walk on the beach, and all of a sudden about 15 pangas showed up with around 200 people who proceeded to spread out all over the beach. This was the first nice day in a week so I guess all the tourists wanted to get some beach time. All of them were Panamanians, and ready to party. That was our signal to head back to the boat, and to add insult to injury, as we were pulling the anchor, two park rangers came by and collected $10.00 per person fees for using the park. Ouch!
We came back to the coast and decided to go to an area of small mangrove islands we had seen on the charts. It is an amazing archipelago of small islands with deep channels between, ripe for exploration. We meandered our way up into the complex of islands and found a comfortable spot to anchor. We spent a couple of days there exploring in the dinghy and diving the reefs. The rain has continued off and on, although we've had a few dry days.
We have now come back to the marina and I'm doing a few boat projects and we are getting ready to bid adieu to Bocas and head east towards Colon. We have been continuing to play tourist, and went to the Smithsonian Research Station for a tour (very nice) and over to Isla Caranero for a look around (not so nice). We plan to stop at the Chagres River on the way east for a few days to check out the wildlife and history there.
Dark Lands,Red Frogs and Starfish
07 July 2017 | Gallego Caays
After a few great days at Dolphin Bay we moved over to Laguna Pallos, also known as Dark Land. Depending on who you talk to, the name comes from the fact that there is no light anywhere around there after dark or because of the skin color of most of the people that live in the area. The shoreline is populated with small homes of the local indigenous Indians called the Ngobe. They travel in hollowed out trees called cayugas, which are made by hand. A tree is selected and felled in the forest and the cayuga is made there by carving it out of the tree trunk. Most are big enough for 3-4 people and are propelled by handmade paddles. It’s common to see Mom’s paddling their kids to school in the morning and bringing them home in the afternoon. Also kids paddle them around as well. Commonly we see guys out fishing in them also. Some of these craft are very large and are powered by outboard motors. They have squared off sterns and transoms for the motor and are made from huge trees and may be as long as 30-35 feet.
Over the past few years more expats have put places in the area as well and there are larger homes scattered around the bay. We anchored at the south end of the bay and with friends John and Joanna from Kachina, went in search of an estate which had been donated to the Smithsonian Institute and which we heard had some walking trails. We found the place and the caretaker, Daniel, was very gracious in letting us roam around the place. We saw many wonderful plants and trees, including many cacao trees which must have at some point been part of a farm. We got an up close look at leaf cutter ants doing their thing, carrying leaf parts back to the mound. They actually had made little highways along the path. The Smithsonian has a research station in Bocas and we hope to visit it at some point for a tour, while we are in the area.
We’ve had several days of rain, and it rains every day at some point. The timing of rain is unpredictable and can happen any time, night or day. Some days are complete rainouts, although we have more sunny days than rainouts. We are south of 10 degrees north here and this time of year the intertropical convergence zone (the squally weather around the equator) moves north to this area and is the reason for all the rain. We have been able to keep the water tanks full from the decks and haven’t run the water maker since we’ve been here.
The air temp is warm, high 80’s, although it doesn’t seem as hot as Florida in the summer. The humidity is very high with all the rain. Molly says it’s not hot, it’s Damn Hot. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep with the warm temps but the fans have been a life saver. The bugs haven’t been as bad as expected, an occasional mosquito and sometimes jejenes(no-see-ums), but we haven’t had to close up the boat so it cools us off as the night progresses.
We moved back to Bocas to reprovision and spent a night anchored off the marina and then went down to Hospital Bight between Nancy Cay and Bastiamentos Island and to anchor off of Red Frog Marina and Resort. They were kind enough to let use tie our dinghy to their dock and go to the beach. The place is named after a small red frog that inhabits the area which also has a poison skin secretion used in making poison darts by the local Indians. The beach is a beautiful sight we saw several sloths, and other wildlife walking back and forth. There were several small beach bars and tiendas there for drinks and lunch. It was so nice we stayed for 3 days.
Then we moved back up to a place on Isla Colon called Starfish Beach, because of all the starfish seen there. It’s very near Bocas del Drago, the pass we came in when we first arrived. The beach is very nice, very placid compared to Red Frog which was on the ocean. There are also a lot of small bars and restaurants here as well and it’s very popular with the tourists, who arrive by water taxi. We took a walk along the shore around to the pass and saw several Capuchin monkeys lying around in the trees and another sloth. The Howler monkeys are active there as well. Although we hear them frequently, we have yet to see them. They make a roar that sounds like a lion in the morning and evening and right before thunderstorms.
Right now we are anchored in the Gallegos Cays, a very peaceful place. Today is a rainy day and we need to wait for the sun to go to Crawl Cay and the Zapatilla Cays which are surrounded by coral reefs. We need to have good visibility to navigate through all the coral. Look for more pictures in the gallery.