I may have reported this since the original posting in 2007. But it remains a happy memory of a journey all too long ago. N o reason not to repost I dare say so here it is.
Panama started for us when we rounded the cape separating Costa Rica from Panama one dark and windy night. We blew into Panama full tilt and never got over how much we wanted to be there. The river trip to the second largest city in the country David ("Dah" with the emphasis on the "i" ) was an amazing maze to navigate. Non sailors often think rivers are refuges but we found that jungle river to be a pain in the ass with massive tides, floating debris and low overhanging branches, not to mention sandbars and few places to drop the anchor.I keep this picture framed in my office to remind me of our mad cap adventures trying to find places to walk the dogs away from the prying eyes of the officious Customs agent who was determined to enforce Panama's 'no pets ashore' rule. Emma, our Labrador stuck close to me while Debs, our Husky dived into the bushes like the little explorer he always was. Everyone in the rest of the country ignored the quarantine rule and we took the dogs everywhere with us, into Panama City, into Darien by rental car, and up into the mountains in the middle of the country.
We really got to enjoy Panama among the Pacific Islands that dot the uninhabited coast. There are beaches, palm trees and crystal clear waters in an immense 300 mile playground where sailors can play Adam and Eve for months and not see the same place twice. We washed up on Isla Contadora in the Perlas Islands, which has an airstrip, hotels, some stores and fuel supplies. A walk was de rigeur through the ritzy neighborhoods where rich Panamanians keep weekend homes. I like this picture, it inverts the usual stereotype of Latin Americans being the gardeners for wealthy white Americans. "Mow yer lawn, guv?"After we got through the Canal we spent several more idylic weeks in the more famous San Blas islands on the Caribbean side of Panama. These Kuna indian islanders practice a low tech medieval lifestyle in their own autonomous province known to them as their Kuna Yala, with their own system of justice and social pecking order, similar to, but more idylic than, a US Indian Reservation. These islands resembled the Keys somewhat, in as much as they had coconuts, narrow sandy beaches and lots of scrub vegetation. We sailors gathered in calm anchorages and hung out barbequing under the stars, telling stories, swimming and playing cards until our supplies ran out and we had a private plane fly us out the fixings for a massive Thanksgiving dinner in November 1999. Believe me, we were absolutely bulging with thanks that memorable desert island holiday.Teaching kids to pet the dogs (with treats of course!) on the Rio Diablo/Corazon de Jesus footbridge in the Kuna Yala. Kids are kids in the most remote places and Labradors do like their treats.
Panama was a hell of a place, far more varied and interesting than Costa Rica with a greater percentage of land given over to parks and all the benefits iof a money laundering economy with excellent banking (they use the US dollar for their currency) and superb medical facilities. Retirement? Who knows!