Finally in Panama

After we have loaded MOMO on the cargo vessel we fly from Cartagena to Panama beginning of November. After an almost endless waiting we finally made it. We come just right to the Independence Day. 

On the 3rd of November 1903 Panama declared his independence from Colombia and celebrates this event every year with a big parade. A lot of streets are free from cars and we can stroll around and enjoy the spectacle. Through the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 the City is today the richest in Central America and the skyline looks like Manhattan or Shanghai. 

But first of all we want our car back and go 80km by taxi to the city of Colon on the Atlantic coast. Because of the celebrations for the Independence Day which lasts three days and where the public life stands more or less still we must again wait and wait and wait. We pass the time sightseeing and visit the Panama Canal which ranges from the Atlantic to the Pacific over 80km. Since the opening in 1914 more than 1 million vessels passed the Canal and saved a long and dangerous detour around Cape Hoorn. The costs are depending on the freight and a large container ship pays around $300.000. We view the Gatun locks, one out of three lock complexes. Since 2007 a project started for the extension of the canal to take advantage of the new and bigger ocean liners.  The new locks will be 55m in width and 427m in length. A gigantic project which will be completed in 2016. 

After we got back our car without damage we drive back to Panama City and park at the Yacht Club to undertake some sightseeing tours from there.  The old town, Casco Viejo, today is half modern and half fallen into disrepair. The restauration of the old Colonial building is ongoing and declared to Unesco world heritage in 2003. We stroll thru the streets and let the mix of old and new sink in. We make another tour to the Miraflores locks which are more touristic than the Gatun locks and obviously a must for all the cruise ship passengers. At least we are not alone.  

We quickly have enough from the city and escape from the hot and humid climate to El Valle on 600m and located in a huge extinct volcanic crater. For the first time since long we can breathe deeply and sleep without air condition. We celebrate Karin`s birthday with self-baked bread and cake and open a bottle of Champagne which we have especially saved for this event. The town is boring and there is not much to see. In the afternoon it always starts raining and never stops. Sure it`s the rainy season however in this case we better prefer the heat and drive down to the beach of Santa Clara and a few days later further on to the beach of Las Lajas, with 20km one of the longest in Central America. We find a nice place after our fancy direct on the beach and a lot of space for the hammocks. 

But at some point in time every beach looks alike and we drive to Boquete on 1000m. Ten years ago the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) named Boquete as one of the top four locations worldwide for retired people. Since then many retirees have bought land and slowly Spanish seems to get a foreign language. The town changes constantly and looks like a wild mixture of traditional culture and American lifestyle. We don`t like it and in addition the rainy season is ongoing and we see nothing from the beautiful landscape apart from foggy mountains. So we continue our journey thru the mountains and down to the Caribbean coast. We park our car in Almirante and go with a water taxi to the Island of Colon on the archipelago of Bocas del Toro and rent a room in the nice Hostal Hansi. The archipelago is one of the most important touristic destinations in Panama at least in case one cannot get enough from the sun and the sea. We book a day tour for snorkeling and swimming and late afternoon we enjoy a few happy hour cocktails in one of the nice bars on the waterfront. After this we barely make it for a quick evening dinner and fall to bed right away. Unfortunately the bed is not the one from MOMO. It´s a nice hostel but the bed creaks, the fan is noisy and it`s terribly hot. The night is not one of the good ones and totally knocked-out we come back to MOMO the next morning. Home sweet home!!

We now say Good Bye to Panama and make our way to Costa Rica. An old railway bridge serves as the border between the two countries. Thanks god we are early because we are again not lucky with customs. The lady checks nothing and yet after four hours we finally get our papers. 

We head to Puerto Viejo and find a nice place direct on the Caribbean beach under palm trees. One cannot expect more. We will stay here for a while before we move on to explore the country. But this is then part of the next blog. Meanwhile enjoy reading and watching the pictures. Hasta Luego. 

And finally a few nice snapshots

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