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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Panamá, once more ...

Panamá ... it always feels like we are returning home when we return. After having spent 2+ years here with a few returns after the fact, it still presents with the feeling. What it is, and why, I don't know, it just is. It is still hot and sticky, making breathing hard, especially when the humidity is high. The country is beautiful in it's own way, although it is a lot of brown in the area that we were going to as it was still the dry season. The bus rides were as always, reliable and noisy...

Our arrival in Panamá was late, very late, or early, very early, depending on how you look at it; 1am. Heading straight to Albrook bus terminal we were able to get a 3am bus to Santiago. We had just settled in for a snooze for the duration of the bus ride, when on came the music. I had (conveniently?) forgotten this aspect of bus riding. Needless to say we watched the sun come up from the bus as it approached Santiago and our next leg, with little sleep. From there on to Chitré where we caught another bus to Tonosí. Our first time in Tonosí and it left no lasting impression: dusty, noisy with little in the local store and nary a taxi to be found at the bus stop. A wonderfully wizened old lady stopped to chat us up only she discovered that we were waiting for the next bus to Cambutal. She kindly informed us that she would wait for us to get the bus, no questions asked, no tolerating NO, and yes, that was her bus waiting across the street. Nothing would deter her from waiting with us making sure we got on the right bus. We had been labeled: GRINGOS, but gringos who spoke Spanish tolerably. Finally a taxi came by and we flagged it down, thanking her profusely for her kindness, being rewarded with the best-ever smile on her face.

Cambutal, a dual face. On one hand there is the dusty, noisy, nothing to offer town while on the other hand only a couple of miles from the town, a seaside paradise. Lush green, quiet with the soothing sounds of the waves. Our hotel, Luna Negra, was just such a paradise. Our cabin beyond words, especially as the cooling breeze blew in off the water, lowering the temperatures at least 10 degrees from that on the street.


Upon arrival at the hotel, our host, Anita and her son Aaron, rushed to inform Bennison and Al that we had arrived. She had been "pacing the floor" for our arrival and of course, we were off and running soon after. A drive to be shown around the area. "And this is where you can rent a place for as long as you like" [hint. hint]; this is a good local restaurant; this is a good hotel restaurant; by the way, your hotel has the best ever restaurant but it is only open Thurs though Sat evenings and reservations are a must... Then off farther afield. This is out towards our property and there is lots of property for sale; stopping to visit with another gringo in the throes of building a home; problems with flooding water during the rainy season which will make for difficult travel once we get to the river, which, by the way, we have to cross to get to the proper; and on it went as we toured their newly adopted town.

I awoke; after a very peaceful sleep in an a/c'd room, with  my back spasming and my hip hurting. I believe it was aggravated by the bumpy roads that were traveled and the long hours spent traveling to get here from the US. The result being that I did not go with the tour to a special place: The tidal pool. Instead I laid about and rested and relaxed my back with great results. They returned in the afternoon oohing and aching over the scenery, so  much so that Danny asked them to take me in the morning back to the same place. Supper at the Italian Restaurant - excellent Italian food, for Panamá.

So off to the Tidal Pool in the morning, by slow easy speeds to minimize the bumpiness. They lived up to the raving and indeed, I can see Danny wanting to buy property in the area if this was available to all. The beaches are for everyone, none are limited. That is a good thing. The water is clean, the waves are apparently very good for surfing, but how would I know? We enjoyed a day at the beach and it was cool enough for me to sit out during the height of the day in the shade of a big tree. The breeze coming off the water was wonderful.




Our time here in Panamá was short - we were here only to visit Bennison and friends in Bocas and the Darién, and it  has gone all too fast. Unfortunately, our trip to Bocas was cancelled due to my problems with  my back and the discomfort of riding public transportation. So back we went to Panamá City for the last few days of our time here and to get my back looked at.

On our return to the City, we stopped in Chitre to visit with Bob, our PCV friend. AS time would have it, the International Feria was also in town. So we got to visit with Bob and go to the feria as well.
 We attended the feria with Bob on the rt and some of his PC Panama friends.
 During our wandering in Texas, leading up to our trip to Panama, I had seen a way to display your molas. So of course, I had to add to my collection. Here I was able to buy a decent layered mola made by the seller. Some of the stitching is not as good as others but still, it is original.
 
 Oddly enough when I asked to take her photo, she pulled out a mola blouse and laid it over her normal t-shirt, so that she wouldn't appear too Westernized in the photo.
 And what would a feria be without the Andean indigenous selling their pan flute music. These ones however, had taken their enticement entertainment one step forward and dressed in native costume. Unfortunately they had chosen the indigenous dress of the American Plains Indians. Guess they had spent some time in the US.
 right down to the moccasins 

 and even a quill chest plate.
Can one dare to hope that in some form or fashion they are distantly related?

Once in Panama City we wandered old haunts while waiting for the results of the medical testing done our first evening in town. A new sculpture
 Oddly enough I have never taken a photo of Einstein's Head found outside of NY Bagels where we went for lunch.

Our thrill for the day was riding the new underground metro, opened the weekend that we arrived. Standing room only as Martinelli is getting people used to riding it and the convenience of it by offering free rides for the first couple of weeks.

 The lines were long...

  the crowds deep...
 Walking from the actual underground across the road to Albrook Mall Station, there were signs outlining the development and workings of the metro. Very interesting.
 Is this the final graveyard for all those fabulously painted Diablo Rojas and all the memories of riding them during PST? Parked in the background and only occasionally seen on the streets now. I understand that quite a few were sold to VeraCruz, Mexico for tourist transportation and some are still in use serving the outer lying areas. Still it is nice to have a/c'd buses to ride in the city and not have to smell and breathe the belching diesel fumes as the buses roared by.

Our return was shared with the anticipation of our next big adventure that is coming from our having received an invite to Africa from Peg & Gary, our friends from Valencia, Sp. (PC friends from Panamá). Oh boy, ohh boy ... a dream come true, Africa.