Panama

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The birding was fun but I’m not a birder. We hunted the Quetzal through the jungle trek. There was six of us shuffling up this mountain. I think we saw more than a few. If I was a birder I would be able to brag to all my bird nerd friends about the sight we saw. Yea its a beautiful green bird, and we had fun on the hike, but the humid tropical air was hard to handle without the beach nearby.

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Surfing is always an option anywhere in Central America, and that was one of the main reasons we left Jersey in the first place, to surf everywhere. Our last couple weeks in Costa Rica surfing one of the longest lefts on the planet during the first big swell of the season left our bodies beat down and it was hard to move, our feet sliced up from rock reef. It was probably the best biggest longest waves of the trip and probably our lives. The sense of satisfaction was glowing in our minds, so surfing in Panama was not a priority.

 

Pavones, Costa Rica
Pavones, Costa Rica

The constant thought of having to ship the Toyota to Colombia was on our minds. This process involves mucho paperwork, constant back and fourth emails to our agent, questions, security concerns, coordinating dates as to when we can pick it up, and deciding how we will be getting our bodies on the other side to receive the vehicle on time. This was a small burden, but maybe i worry too much. Not to mention the many thousands of dollars its going to cost to get us and the truck finally moving again in South America. We knew about this though, for a long time. Its all part of driving to Tierra del Fuego.

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Once you travel from the States to South America, by the time you get to Panama you are kind of over Central America. All the countries in Central America feel very similar, especially the costal route. You are anxious for a change, and you know South America is on the horizon. You are excited to get there, to taste the new food, and peep all the hype. For example, once you leave Mexico the food situation goes downhill. Maybe thats because Mexico just has some of the most amazing inexpensive eats i’ve had my entire life. The rest of central America, not so much.

 

eating streetfood in Oaxaca MX
eating streetfood in Oaxaca MX

Dont get me wrong, Panama has a lot to offer, and is a beautiful place to visit, but for us personally it marked to end of a major leg of this trip and the beginning to something bigger and more mysterious. In Panama we surfed Santa Catalina, which was an interesting paddle out, with welcoming locals. The place is famous and the waves are strong, this is not a place for the meek, which is good because it keeps the kooks in check. The tides in Santa Catalina can have a difference of 15 feet, so getting caught inside at a lower tide can have an impact on your feet, body and board. We did manage to see one surfer with a blood gushing wound on his face, but thats normal there.

 

Santa Catalina at mid-tide
Santa Catalina at mid-tide

In many of these tourist communities there was a large presence of expats. These folks a lot of the time are a miserable bunch of chaps. They usually have their own cliques and sit around complaining about locals while chain smoking and making business. Its kinda funny that during our 9 months of traveling the most miserable sketchy people that crossed our paths are usually jaded american expats. I recommend minimal contact with these people. Connecting with locals is far more rewarding.

 

We spent over a week in Panama city getting ready to ship the truck and coordinate our sail to Colombia. We camped out in the street next to the canal one night. In the morning were woken up by a large family picking mangos from a tall tree above our camp. The street was crowded with parked cars and sound of mangos slamming on the hoods was amusing. Old town was riddeled with street art and narrow roads. Evidence of an old colonial town once threatened by pirates and smugglers. The history was evident and the ceviche is fresh. For $1.25 you get a heaping cup of fresh lime soaked fish straight from the boats you dine next to. And don’t forget the first Dunkin Doughnuts we visited since Jersey, it wasn’t the same though, no bagels, no sandwiches.

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