Saturday, June 22, 2013

Oh Panamá!

This recounts the events of the last several days which have been mostly quiet and blessedly uneventful. Be warned that they may be a bit boring.

Tuesday

We (I) wanted to go either up the Volcán Barú or along the Sendero Los Quetzales on Tuesday. But with getting laundry done and talking with the fellow vanagoners (Andamos de Vagos), I felt like I was being too rushed, especially since I had no idea how to get there and we needed to go first thing in the morning to beat the rains that normally fell starting at about 2pm. So we decided to do use Tuesday as a rest day.

First off, we went to a bakery for breakfast with the Linda and Aron. They had some good-looking muffins, which I loaded up on for breakfast for the rest of the week. On the way back, I managed to translate for Jonathan to get an universal fuel filter at an auto parts store. Then, we went to the town’s visitor center to find out about the trails. We made a bank run and then we went back to the hostel to do whatever we needed to get done. For me that was catching up on blogging. For Jonathan, that was working on the van. He swapped fuel filters and cleaned the air filter. He also set up the wireless media center for me! Now I can stream movies easily whenever I want! I had no idea that he was working on that and he came out to the common area where I was sitting and started playing a movie. He was like “Watch this!” I asked him what we were watching, and he replied Yes Man. I was confused as to why this was important enough for him to show me before I realized that he must be streaming it. I was pretty excited. We made use of it that evening to watch House, Season 2. (For those of you remembering that we were recently watching Season 3, we skipped Season 2 because we didn’t have it but we stocked up on a few more seasons when we came back to the States so we jumped back to it.)

Wednesday

I had told Jonathan that I wanted to be on the way to the trail by 7am. But true to our form, we didn’t make it over there and start hiking until about 9:30am. Between packing and getting packs packed and making lunch for the trail, we were a bit slow. We made it up the scenic road to the ranger station though and parked. There was another 2km until the trail, but we weren’t sure if there was parking and if we could make it in the van (probably could, but more Semuc Champey results were undesirable). So we started hiking. About the time we reached this vehicle bridge made of two 1”x12” wood planks on 12”x12” beams, Jonathan was starting to notice these bugs. I would say that they were a sort of cross between a moth and a mosquito with larger, noticeable wings, a quiet approach, and a annoying bite.

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As we progressed onto the actual trail, they progressively grew more populous and more savage. They really liked Jonathan, despite his being soaked in DEET. So much so that he had to change from his shorts to his jeans and put on his rain coat. Even then, we had to keep walking to keep from being swamped with them. I am sure the hike would have been an interesting one, but a little over an hour in, we found the situation too miserable to continue. We turned back.

DSC04334 These pests kept us from getting very far.

DSC04332 A river crossing on the trail.

We made it back to the van in time for lunch and then drove back down the road. We had talked about staying in Boquete another night and enjoying its coolness, but then I discovered that our next destination was 6 hours away. We try to avoid drives of that length, so after a short nap, we took off to a campsite that would break up the drive and ended up at Las Lajas beach. My recent policy has been to try to stick to highlands and avoid beaches except in times of necessity or if there is something really cool there in order to avoid the disgusting heat and humidity we have been experiencing. This was the necessity exception. Fortunately, although it rained and was humid, the temperature was reasonable and I slept well.

Thursday

After a 3.5-hour drive, we made it to Surfer’s Paradise in Santa Catalina. Lo and behold, Linda and Aron were there as well. We bought a book on surfing and learned that it is better to start off on a boogie board and then move to a long board. Since we are complete novices, we decided to start off with a boogie board and see how it goes. We ate some lunch and then Jonathan and I grabbed a boogie board and went down to the beach. We had to work on technique quite a bit, but I think we both caught a wave or two.

DSC04354 Moon-walking into the water.

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After we returned to the van, I actually had enough spare time to write a post that I have been trying to write since August, but I had even started it 2 months ago, but never had the chance to finish it.

Friday

We woke up in the morning to the sounds of the green parrots in the mango tree outside. With nothing to hold us in Santa Catalina, we packed up and headed out quickly. When we went through Santiago, we ended up on a nice road in a rich neighborhood. When we passed under a tree, a lizard dropped onto our windshield! I got Jonathan to pull over so I might get him to safety, but he ran off into cubby holes on the van roof. I don’t know if he got off to safety or just found a safer place to ride the rest of the way.

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We made it to Santa Clara in four hours, enjoying the four-lane, divided highway of the Pan-American in Panamá. There are two places you can camp in your vehicle in Santa Clara, an RV park on the highway (yes! A real RV park in Central America!) or a balneario on the beach. We had heard the price of the beach location was $3pp while the RV park was $20. We decided to go for the beach location first. Eventually we found it (after making a wrong turn, being told incorrectly by the guard, and walking around in exploration). The owner said it was $7 and we would get the use of the showers, bathrooms, and have security. We thought it reasonable, but when I shelled out the $7, she explained it was $7pp. At $14, I figured we might as well as go to the RV park and get WiFi. So we pulled back up the road to the RV park. Glad we did as it was only $15 (probably a rainy season discount) and it was a Friday. Probably meant a loud night at the beach.

We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling. Well I did manage to be productive and clean our cups. Well, they regularly get rinsed and washed, unless you take time to clean out all the nooks and crannies, they can get pretty nasty. I had to sit with a toothpick and pick and scrape at every little surface intersection and there are a lot of intersections.

The campground has a cat that came to visit us. He is cute and ugly at the same time.  (Jonathan here: I have decided to name him Sylvester, after Sylvester Stallone; due to his somewhat slack lower lip, and tendency to slur his consonants.)

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