Getting settled back in

As I write this post the fireplace is roaring, we have multiple layers of clothes on and the throw blankets are at the ready as we watch our NY Jets try and stay alive in the playoffs. Much different situation for us now than compared to last week at this time... for one, its about 75 degrees COLDER now than what we had gotten used to in Panama.
Ahhhh Panama--it seems so long ago now. We came home to snow and very cold temps--but still, it is very sunny so at least it is beautiful. I love East Coast winters.

Now that time has passed, some of Panama feels like it was a dream... could it have really been as wonderful as we remember?

So just to summarize, we met our friends Gretchen and Doug in Panama City (they are our official travel buddies for a yearly Christmas time trip to somewhere warm and tropical). I have written many times about these two--they are very dear friends of ours--as close as family to us-- and every time we get the chance, we love to see them. (By the way, our next long term visit with them (not counting short trips for Gretchen to NY or us to Cali to see them) will be in NEW ZEALAND & FIJI for their wedding! Yay!!!!

Sonya, Gretchen's friend for many years, also flew out to Panama to join us all for diving and fun and I hope she becomes a regular on our trips!

After spending some sight seeing time in gorgeous Panama City (a very modern banking city that was influenced greatly by the build of the Panama Canal) especially in the "old" Panama City where we saw the old ornate churches, the President's house (heavily guarded) and the locals. Panama City also has a large population of the native Kuma Indians and they make and sell their traditional Molas which they use as part of the blouses they wear (but what I will use as a wall hanging in my office with the one I purchased). The Kuma women wear bracelets all over their legs and arms as well as the traditional dress with the colorful Molas being the focal point of the outfit. They also all have a nose piercing and we didn't see one over 4'2". Its funny--we didn't see any Kuma men... I wonder what they do in the day?

A couple posts ago I added a picture of me with the Kuma woman (as well as other Panama City pics) that made my Molas. Later, when Gretchen, Sonya and I wandered over to her part of town so those 2 could purchase Molas, this woman spoke to us in a very fast Spanish that she must have assumed me understood. I take that as a compliment, but in reality we only understood snipets of what she was saying...

After Panama City we headed to the other side of the country, to the state of Bocas del Toro which borders Costa Rica. The island of Bastimentos in Bocas was our destination. We stayed at eco-bungalows that were positioned above the water (Caribbean) and were very ecologically in tune with everything including solar panels that gave us our electricity (but only from 5pm to 9am each day), water conserving showers, sinks and toilets as well as organically home grown food for our delicious breakfasts and other meals we chose to eat at the guest only restaurant. Gretchen found this place, Eclipse de Mar, in Islands Magazine and she could not have picked a better place. We each had our bungalows with decks that led right into the water for our swimming enjoyment.

Our bedroom french doors were never closed and at night we fell asleep in our bed looking at the moon shine off the water and palm trees and woke up to the sun shining on the water and morning kayakers. Kayaks were at our disposal and Doug, Gretchen, Tom and I all kayaked out to a nearby palm tree island (see rainbow pic from our deck. palm tree is off to the left) and Gretchen and I swam back. 10 min after getting back to our bungalows and drying off, we saw three dolphins swimming RIGHT WHERE WE WERE SWIMMING. WOW.

The weather was in the 90's the entire trip and only one day we had steady rain. We spent some of the mornings diving in the very warm (84 degree) Caribbean Ocean (see pics and Tom's video in our previous post) and our afternoons and evenings laying in the sun and finding great local restuarants for dinner.

The Panamanian people were very gracious and as with Mexico, it felt very safe for us "tourists". About the tourists--- all of the people we met for long enough to find out where they were from, were from either 1) New York 2) California or 3) Canada. We found that interesting.

The days we didn't dive, we instead enjoyed and discovered the jungle life in Panama. Tons of birds, frogs, lizards, geckos, cows, horses, roosters, chickens and of course street dogs were all very plentiful (pic below of a local house, a relaxing "street" dog and some wild life).

One of the days, all 5 of us hiked to an organic farm at the top of Bastimentos to visit with a couple (the man from Argentina and the woman from Scotland) and their two young boys who grew all of their own food on their farm and also all of the ingredients necessary to make the organic shampoo, soaps, anti-itch cream (bugs were pretty thick) and oils that they sold themselves and also sold in some of the local markets. This farm was amazing. It was VERY hot that day so we all arrived drenched in our own sweat but happy to have made the trek. We had organic juice to quench our thirst and while Tom and Doug rested some, the girls shopped the locally made jewelry. What a life this couple had. They moved to Panama 10 yrs ago to volunteer on the Turtle Conservation Project (Turtles are near extinct in Panama as the locals eat them---very sad). Anyway, they met and created their dream. It was inspiring to see them live with solar panels, growing their own food and teaching their sons a life that not many people I know would ever choose. A part of me made me want to choose that life--to throw it all in and get myself some sandals made of rope, a surfboard (their house overlooked the best surfing beach in Panama) and some spanish classes...It seemed a very romantic life to me---to be passionate enough to give up many, if not most, modern conveniences yet be totally happy without the modern headaches that come along with corporate life, technology, power, money etc. Those closest to me know that I am semi serious when I say that I could live that way---if given the chance, but of course, my husband is MUCH more important to me and the life we have built.
If given the chance, I wonder if I really could pull it off---I guess I will never know, but its so fun to imagine I could... :)
(Pics of the hike below)

Another day Tom took a hike into the conservatory on the island to witness rare foliage and birds. He got some great pics and got an insider view of some of the behind the scene workings of the island--the water collection and purification process specifically.

Another day, Doug, Gretchen and I hiked to Wizard Beach and witnessed THE most gorgeous beach all of us had ever seen. It was desolate save for a few surfers. The reason: you had to hike through the jungle in ankle (sometimes knee) deep mud to get there.
It was definetly an experience and the mud, when you don't think about the bugs and other creatures embedded in the slop, actually felt sort of soothing to be enveloped in (except when you stubbed your toe on a hiden fallen tree branch (get well soon Doug AND Gretchen) or when you fell on your ass into even deeper mud (I speak from experience). Seeing the beach and knowing we made it there made the walk there (and back) totally worth it!

While at the beach, we took off our clothes and hung them on a makeshift clothes line made out of driftwood we dug into the sand then went swimming in the warm ocean (we had suits on under our cothes in case you were wondering). It was only one of 2 times in my life where the water temperature did not cool me off when going in-the water was THAT warm.

After some swimming and walking along the empty beach, Doug plucked us a coconut and actually--I swear this happened-- cracked it open on some lava rock. Seriously. After drinking the refreshing coconut water we tasted the soft gel of the coconut (that hardens when exposed to air long enough). We were on a natural high and I for one, did not have a better day in Panama. I wish Tom were there to enjoy it with me, but for some reason he opted out of the mud hike? Wonder why? :)

Sadly, we do not have any pics (except for this one I found on the internet of Wizard Beach).

We were told to beware of the banditos that are known to hold people up at gun point on the mud walk and rob them of their valuable possessions. With that little tip-- we decided to leave cameras, jewelry, pretty much everything but water back at the bungalows. Turned out we saw some locals on the mud trail, but I don't think they were bandits and all probably would have been fine, but--better safe than sorry. I will never forget that walk or that beach. Or that coconut.

Our days were filled with adventure, relaxation and gorgeous sites. We can't wait to go back.

There is even more stories to tell but for now, I will sign off, but I promise to write again about our adventure to the Panama Canal! :) Enjoy the pictures!


  1. Andrea said...

    Wow...sounds like a wonderful time. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get to experience anything like that. Thanks for sharing!  

  2. Captain Key said...

    One of the amazing things about writing is that while memories may fade, words don't. I know it might seem like your time in a Panama was a dream, but you've made it a reality for all of us here on your blog. Thank you for sharing in your own magical way. I feel like I was there with you. :) P.S. I love the picture of Tom in the hammock!  

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