A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: rhislop

Happy Mother's Day

Big waves hit our quiet beach

semi-overcast 85 °F

I know I'm a day or two late sending out Happy Mother's Day messages, but the warm and fuzzy feelings are still here. As an expat living in Panama we get to celebrate Mother's Day two times per year; the North American version which is in May and then the Latin American version which is in December. Since Mother's Day is my wife's favorite holiday, she now gets to double up on it. For this May 10th Mother's Day we joined forty other people and at the BluWater Bistro in Nuevo Gorgona, Panama for an excellent Spanish wine and food paring. We enjoyed some fantastic food and drink with great company. My night was especially over the top when one of the other women guests approached us and said that my wife was the most beautiful woman there. A very nice compliment for Kryss to receive on her favorite holiday. IMG_6997e.jpg

Ten days ago we were warned by the civil defense authorities that no one should go swimming in the ocean and on very specific days to stay off the beach because of some very large waves and strong undercurrents that would be hitting our coastline. Since this is a weather phenomenon the weather guessers can only speculate on the causes. However, the most common explanation has been the "blob" that is along the Pacific coast near Alaska and Baja California. The second supposition has been a large typhoon near New Zealand has changed the water currents. No one has discussed that it might be the cycle of the tides caused by the new moon and the full moon. The waves that hit us were big to our standards, not Hawaii north shore waves, but they were eight to thirty feet above normal. We watched waves crash into neighbor's seawalls and then go over the wall and into their pools. Needless to say the surfers were having great time until the police and lifeguards cleared the beaches and the ocean. IMG_6907.jpg IMG_6901e.jpg

Business continues to grow in the Playa Coronado area. We now have a new beach bar called, "The Tiki Bar", which is on the beach in front of the Bahia Condos in Gorgona. It is about a quarter mile walk from our place and is easy to get to anytime except at high tide. We went to their "soft opening party" all drinks and snacks were free for the first three hours. IMG_6611e.jpg IMG_6876e.jpg IMG_6877e.jpg IMG_6881e.jpg This will probably be a very popular place especially on Thursday and Sunday afternoons for volleyball. On the second day of their opening the big waves hit and washed right up onto their deck, but nothing was damaged. Currently they are open Thursday thru Sunday but plan longer hours when the "tourist" season starts again.

We went to another beach, Punta Chame, with our neighbors a few days ago after all the big wave stuff calmed down. Punta Chame is a little village on the tip of a very narrow peninsula about 35 kilometers from Playa Coronado. Very wide and expansive beaches and no one around.IMG_6960_tonemapped-copye.jpg Near by is John Wayne Island which is named after the famous actor. In his heyday he would come to the island for his R and R. It is currently for sale, and it includes a small dock, a quaint hotel and a couple of fishing boats. Don't know the price but if your interested in owning an island and a hotel that's the place.

We have received our Panamanian Cedula's. This now completes the process for us to be legal permanent residents of Panama. We no longer need to carry our USA passports or copies with us. We are extended all the rights and privileges of a Panamanian citizen except we can't vote nor can we receive their version of social security. In four years if we so desire we can apply to become Panamanian citizens. So with our Cedula's in hand and our Spanish improving daily, hast luego amigos

Posted by rhislop 10:57 Archived in Panama Tagged waves panama coronado casco_viejo mother's_day punta_chame john_wayne_island undercurrent cedula tiki_bar blob blu_water_bistro nuevo_gorgona Comments (2)

The Summit of the Americas

Friends heading north

semi-overcast 83 °F

For the past month Panama has been a buzz regarding the Summit of the Americas, April 9-12, 2015. All of the leaders of the 35 countries in North, Central and Latin America met in Panama City, Panama for two days of international cooperation and friendship. Of the 35 countries in the region, 33 of their leaders (elected or otherwise) showed up. The President of Chile wasn't here, dealing with a union strike and the Prime Minister of Dominica didn't attend.

Panama pulled out all the stops for this event. In Panama City the schools were closed, government offices were closed as were some commercial businesses. Selected highways were either closed or partially shut down for all the motorcades and security vehicles. As an interested outside observer, Panama a country slightly smaller than South Carolina with a population less than Colorado's, did a great job as the national host of this every four year event. There were probably some minor glitches but all in all it was very successful. The next one is in Peru.11149329_8..281077826_n.jpg

Because of this event many Panama City residents escaped to the beaches and the interior of the country. Our normally quiet and very peaceful condominium was completely filled with the absentee owners and some renters. There wasn't an empty spot in our parking lot. They will all start heading back to Panama City later today or early tomorrow morning.

Speaking of leaving, many of our snowbird friends headed back to North America just prior to the beginning of the summit. They wanted to avoid the traffic detours and the congestion at the airport caused by the summit. We will miss all of them, the old friends that come every year and new friends that were here for the first time. Thankfully, we know that we will see them all again. IMG_6289e.jpg

Another issue that Panama has during the dry season is fire. Some are started on purpose to clear a field or to clear away weeds and brush along a roadway. Sometimes the fire hits residential areas and homes are put in jeopardy, the fire in the photo fire burned for about three hours even though the bomberos (firemen) were on sight. IMG_6282e.jpg In addition to the fire hazards of dry season, there is always the possibility of running out of water. One of our favorite restaurants closed for this weekend because it didn't have water. Our buildings have their own water supply and back up generators just for times like these. The other night the power went out in Coronado and for a brief time the town was without electricity...the fun of living abroad. IMG_6442e.jpg IMG_6443e.jpg

We walk the beach practically everyday for an hour or so. Sometimes the walk is uneventful finding a few interesting shells, some beach glass, maybe a sand dollar or two or just watching Tashi jump in and out of the surf. However, some days the beach presents stuff from the sea as the cycle of life continues. We've seen sting rays, some weird looking fish we have no idea what they are, small hammerhead sharks, and other sea life washed ashore. Even though the days might look the same they are always just a little different. IMG_6309e.jpgIMG_6310e.jpgIMG_6312_3..apped-ecopy.jpg

Our neighbor bought a new couch and it was delivered the other day. When it arrived they realized that it won't fit in the elevator. So Panamanian ingenuity kicked in. The couch was raised from the ground floor to the 20th floor, two floors at a time since the rope wasn't very long, thru the "rabbit hole" and eventually into the condo thru a front window. This is a reminder to us to always measure before we buy. IMG_6154e.jpgIMG_6437e.jpg

On the day before Easter we had a beautiful sunrise, a great sunset and then the full "blood" moon rising. I think these images will close out this latest blurb from Panama.IMG_6325e_tonemapped-copy.jpgIMG_6388e.jpgIMG_6425e.jpg Hasta luego amigos

Posted by rhislop 16:26 Archived in Panama Tagged water panama fire shark couch easter sting_ray summit_of_the_americas raul_castro hammerhead dry_season blood_moon Comments (0)

Baldwins Beaches Boquete

A busy month

sunny 85 °F

Right now I should be completing my taxes, but my brain is more about words today than it is about numbers.

Last month Kryss's sister Kate and our brother-in-law Jack came for a visit. We spent 26 days together, traveling around Panama, visiting local sites including the Panama Canal, and of course plenty of pool/beach time. The 85 degree weather, although a little windy at times, was very conducive to tanning one's hide. We picked them up in Panama City and before we left for the beach we toured the fish market, bought fresh tuna, red snapper and sea bass. There is nothing like fresh caught fish for dinner. IMG_4648e.jpg We got to the beach and let them catch their breath after the direct flight from chilly Denver before the Panama tour began, two days on the beach and then up to the mountains to visit El Valle. This town is one of our favorite little towns in Panama. It is in the middle of an extinct volcano surrounded by mountains, jungle and farmland. A Sunday lunch and the farmer's market in El Valle are always entertaining and enjoyable.

Another trip we took was to Boquete, Panama. Boquete is about a five hour drive from Coronado. This drive should be only four hours at best, but there is a section of the PanAmerican Highway for about 100 kilometers that driving above fifty km/hour (about 30mph) is dangerous to your health. The road is only two lane and has so many potholes and pavement breaks that defensive driving is absolutely a priority. The good news is that the government of Panama is on a crash course to complete a new four lane highway which will completed in about 18 months. The crews are working 24/7 to get the new highway completed quickly. On our return from Boquete a couple new sections of the road had been opened and the trip back to Coronado wasn't as time consuming.

Boquete is the coffee farming center of Panama. The mountain weather appeals to the coffee beans and there are plenty of coffee growers in the area. We toured Café Ruiz coffee farm and tasting room. What an interesting and informative tour we received. Since Kryss and I don't drink coffee we were a little apprehensive about the whole tour. However, when it was over we were very glad that we spent the time on the tour. To our friends that are spending $5 plus daily for a cup of Starbucks coffee, you should probably re-think it. Our guide said Starbucks buys the dregs of Panama coffee, this includes the beans that aren't perfect, beans that are over-roasted, twigs, sticks and anything else that's in the bottom of the tank. The very best of Panama goes to Europe and some beans sell for $200/pound. The Panamanian coffee experts refer to Starbucks as "Starburnt". The yellow, brown, red, assortment of beans are the dregs. IMG_5741_2..pped---Copy.jpg These dark reddish-brown beans are the top of the line, Geisha Natural. Naturally drying in the sun until they are ready for the next step before being packaged off to Europe. IMG_5746_7_8e_tonemapped.jpg

In Boquete we stayed at the Palo Alto Hotel. A small boutique hotel with beautiful interior gardens, lots of hummingbirds and tanagers flying about, and an outstanding breakfast bar. We all would have stayed an extra night or two just for the breakfasts. IMG_5677e.jpg

The day before the Baldwin's left we visited the Panama Canal, a true engineering marvel. Watching ships pass through the canal and learning it's history was awesome. IMG_5961e.jpg IMG_5965e.jpgSometime next year a second, a much larger canal is going to open and then the super-tankers will be able to transit in either direction between the Atlantic to the Pacific. Panama makes a profit of one billion dollars a year on the tolls through the canal. Don't you just wonder what was in Jimmy Carter's head when he gave away the canal. I'm still shaking my head over that one.

During mid February until sometime in March the Pacific Ocean currents change and cooler water comes into Coronado Bay. Along with the cooler water comes jellyfish, hundreds of them. Three days ago while walking the beach with Kryss and Tashi, we counted over 250 jellyfish that had washed in with the tide in a quarter mile section. IMG_6086ejpg.jpgIMG_6063e.jpg Even out of the water, if they are still alive, they can sting you. Kryss accidently stepped on one and had a stinging heel for a day. Tashi doesn't seem to be bothered by them. She's sniffs them and just moves along. No interest, thankfully, on her part.

Normally, the beach in front of our building is very relaxing and peaceful. When we walk at low tide we've found sand dollars that are 6 to 8 inches in diameter and others that are only an inch in diameter. Additionally, we've found dark orange starfish, that are still alive and we've thrown them back into the ocean. The sea gulls and the pelicans add to nature's beauty at the beach, even though Tashi thinks birds at the beach are something to be chased until they fly away. IMG_6085e.jpg OK, now I've got to start thinking about my 2014 tax return, hasta pronto amigos.

Posted by rhislop 16:00 Archived in Panama Tagged fish pelicans starfish tashi jelly sting Comments (0)

The dry season in Panama

Breezy at the beach

sunny 85 °F

Panama has two seasons, wet and dry. Dry season's official start date is December 20th. The rains stop and the winds start picking up. During the dry season the winds come from the north (the mountains) and usually offer a nice cooling breeze over the beach. However, some days the winds are like the chinooks coming out of Alaska and into Colorado. Today is one of those days...the wind is blowing like crazy, the windows are rattling and it takes both hands to pull the front door shut. At the pool and the beach the breeze is nice because they are protected by the buildings surrounding them. We've been told that the winds calm down in March. It's ok, we're happy with the weather conditions, a little wind and sun is much better that snow and freezing cold.

Earlier this month we went to Playa Teta (Tit Beach), not a nudist beach, it's just a name.IMG_4080e_..mapped-copy.jpg The beach is not a very busy one and a construction company sent one of their crews to the beach for a road inspection. They drove the pickup to far onto the beach and got stuck in the sand, burying the rear wheels the harder they accelerated. We tried to push them out but they needed a back hoe with a tow chain to get them out. It's kind of ironic that no matter where you drive in January you can get stuck, in sand or snow. IMG_4096e.jpg

Kryss and I usually walk Tashi every morning on the beach that is in front of our building. We're gone for about an hour and on most days if we see and / or talk to over six people we're amazed. As beautiful as this place is, there is no one here. On the weekends there will be more people on the beach and more of the homes, apartments and condo are occupied but as far as fulltime use it is minimal. It's hard for me to understand why people go the crowded beaches of anywhere else in the world when they could have their own private beach in Panama. But, to each their own.IMG_4530e.jpg

On Thursday and Sunday afternoons (4pm-6pm) a group of ex-pats of all ages and abilities gather at the Bahia beach for two hours of friendly volleyball. The first time I went I just watched and took a few pictures. Now, I'm playing and this week Kryss is going to start playing too. If Nate, Rob, Alissa, and Megan were here we'd have a hell of a good team and time. It's all six on six with sides changing after each game, usually there are three teams so everyone gets to play and sit on the sidelines, drink beer and take a few pictures. IMG_4502e.jpgIMG_4408handse.jpg

Speaking of games...we had a Super Bowl Party at our pool. About 80 people attended bringing a variety of potluck items from Thai soups to Chocolate cake. There were two football squares games, a $1 and a $5 game. Kryss won one the first quarter of the $5 game and brought home $100. She said that is going into her shopping fund for new clothes when her sister gets here this weekend. I guess the expression about "throwing a game" will have a new meaning after the way it ended. Was it a bad call or a throw?

We were advised on Monday that our application for permanent residency in Panama has been approved and now we need to return to the Immigration department, pay $120 each and be photographed for our residents cards. In five years we will be able to apply for citizenship in Panama, if we so desire. Right now just having our "E" cards is enough for us.

The Baldwin's are arriving this Friday for a month. Lots of touristy things planned, including the Canal, Casco Viejo, Bocas del Toro, Boquete and a few stops in between. Looking forward to their visit, plus they are bringing us a few things that aren't available in Panama.

Hasta luego amigos

Posted by rhislop 13:54 Archived in Panama Tagged beach bahia playa coronado winds volleyball ex-pats super_bowl playa_teta chinooks Comments (0)

Happy New Year

Happy Birthday Big John

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Happy New Year to all. We know we're a little bit late wishing everyone a great new year but the rubber clocks down at the beach keep bouncing around. Finally, on my brother Big John's birthday, there is time for birthday congratulations and new year's cheers!

New Year's Eve at Playa Coronado was once again unbelievable. The fireworks started about 10pm on a very intermittent basis, a few going off every ten minutes or so. At 11:45pm it started in earnest and for at least two and half hours fuego artificales lit up the dark sky. It was an amazing site up and down the beach and in the town fireworks were going off everywhere. The New Year's Eve celebrations are a Panamanian Passion. Panamanian's from all walks of life set off fireworks on NYE. The wealthy will spend hundred's of dollars on them while the working class Panamanian will save all year to buy a $100 display of rockets and starbursts. Everyone gets into the act. From our vantage point on our balcony we watched beautiful explosions, had some adult beverages and enjoyed the company of friends. It was a great way to start the new year. IMG_3908_edited-2e.jpgIMG_3901_edited-2e.jpgIMG_4053_edited-2screene.jpg

The fireworks didn't end on the first of January, there have been two more nights of very cool displays. Bringing in the new year has a real meaning in Panama. By this evening most of the people who live in our building will have gone back to Panama City and the beach will calm down and the night skies will be empty of fireworks...darn!

Between Christmas and New Year's we took a couple of fun day trips. One to Lake Gatun and the Panama Canal, the other to a friend's bed and breakfast in the mountains near Chicos, Panama. The Lake Gatun trip was arranged by a friend who owns Easy Travel Panama. We loaded up in flat bottom boats and motored up the canal and around Lake Gatun. The jungle surrounding the lake is home to lots of interesting wildlife including the Mono TiTi monkeys, inquisitive little primates.IMG_3697-copye.jpg The trip to Chicos was an adventure, once we got off the main roads the need for a 4 X 4 vehicle was very necessary. We didn't leave until after dark and the return trip was almost white knuckles. However, the sunset from the mountain top overlooking the jungle and the distant mountains was worth the trip. IMG_3842_edited-2e.jpg

Our new home/condo is coming along very nicely. Fans have been added to the family room and all the bedrooms. Kryss has picked some beautiful colors for all the rooms. The palette is very beachy, warm and friendly. We've added a smart TV and will pick up a Roku 3 so we can stream from the internet. Also, we looking for a beer-frig, all the necessary comfort features are coming along gradually.

Once again, a belated Happy New Year's wish to everyone and Happy Birthday Big John.

Hasta pronto amigos

Posted by rhislop 08:31 Archived in Panama Tagged monkeys christmas panama canal fireworks new_year playa_coronado chicos mono_titi lake_gatun Comments (1)

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