Christmas in Panama

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January 24th 2012
Published: January 24th 2012
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Playa Guanico, Panama 19th December 2011 – 4thJanuary 2012

Rich and I finally arrived in Panama 7 hours late due to our flight being delayed because of thick fog at the airport in Quito which meant that no planes could land. After spending 2 hours just queuing up to check in we then got a measly free breakfast and hung out in departures going slightly mental. We finally arrived in Panama City and were going to get a bus to the centre but after seeing how full they were thought sod it and got a taxi. We met up with Dan and Jemma at Hotel Costa Azul (not as posh as it sounds!) and had a few beers in the room before going out for an Italian meal. Dan and Jemma’s hold luggage got left in Madrid so they spent the next morning trying to sort it out and get it back. Luckily eventually they did and we then got on a bus to Playa Guanico. The bus took four hours and then thankfully Russ picked us up at Chicle and drove us the next two hours to the house.

To get to the house you drive to the end of the road and then along the beach. The house is set back from the beach with a nice porch and hammock. Russ has been busy planting so the garden is now filled with palms and papaya trees. The house is not on mains electric so the only power they have is two solar panels and a wind turbine on the hill. So, if the power did run out (which it did occasionally) the car had to be started to power up the battery! Just beside the house they have a toilet block consisting of two toilets and sinks and further down the path they have an outdoor shower, complete with hot water heated by a gas heater. The water comes from a well and is pumped into a tank at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, if the fields where the pipes lay are wet cows can trample on the pipes and break them so the water stops. This did happen but Russ sent up the handyman to track down the breakage! A bit further down the path towards the sea,are three wooden cabins on stilts. Dan and Jemma were in one and Rich and I in another. The cabins are really well built but basic. Not much more than a bed with a mosi net, no electricity but so close to the sea that at high tide the waves were nearly lapping the stilts! You get to listen to the sound of the sea all night. On the first night we had a family of bats in with us but we cleared them out the next day with lots of clapping and shouting and Dan secured the anti-bat netting better. They still decided to live on the outside of the cabin and occasionally one would still get in!

The area is really untouched and isolated. There is a cantina (bar) at the end of the beach but that’s pretty much about it. To get food and other things you have to drive for about 20min up the road and even then you can’t get everything. All around the grounds of the house hermit crabs are crawling around and tree iguana’s are falling out of trees!

The first couple of days we had rain which then meant the mosquitos came out! It also made it really humid so after a very hot night on the first night combined with savage bites on my feet, I did not sleep well. Then Laura told me the trick of wetting a sarong and putting it over me, so I was fine after that.

The time in Panama was spent mostly drinking beers and wine, cooking and eating the amazing food that Laura and Jemma prepared, walking the dogs Rio and Luna along the beach, Rich surfing and Linz chilling in the ‘pool’ with Laura and Jemma. Rich went up to the tree plantation with Dan and Russ. They have invested in land where they have planted teak, mahogany and rosewood trees. The trees are about seven years old now so are getting fairly big.

One evening we went to Tonosi (1 ½ hour bumby drive away) to watch Russ and the Mitchteens (Mitch, Kristine and Roy) play in the open mic night. It was a good night and we got to rock out in Russ’ truck on the way back.

On Christmas Day it was pretty hot and humid. Rich and I had surprise presents from our friends Gemma and Jo back home who had managed to give presents to Jemma to bring over, it was great to have something to open. Thanks girls! We had decided to have a bbq along with salads and stuffed potatoes and Laura made her delicious Key Lime Pie for dessert. Mitch, Kristine and Roy (from Florida) came over along with a French couple- Lorenzo and Leticia with their young son Noah and another American couple called Spot and Susan. An English guy called Dave that Russ knew also came over. The day was spent eating vast amounts of tasty cheese soup that Kristine had made and other food and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Later that night Dan put the pool up and we went in for a late night dip although the water was actually a bit too cold as it needed a bit of heating from the sun. I got savaged by mosquitos on my back.

Another day we went tubing down the river. Linz tried following Rich down a slightly extreme bit but ended up getting caught on a tree, being dragged underwater, bursting the tyre and then being swept downstream! It was really nice cruising down the river and checking out all the different birds and scenery. We stopped at the end of the river before it joined the sea and also the crocodiles!

One evening we went for a stroll along the beach as it was high tide and that is when the turtles lay. After walking for about 20min we didn’t find anything so we started walking the other way up the beach. Laura heard a noise and sure enough it was a turtle beginning to dig her hole. We decided to wait for her to dig and lay so we could move the eggs to a safer place near the house as there are loads of people who take the turtle eggs to sell (despite it being illegal). Rich went and got some beers to drink whilst we waited. It was amazing watching how well the turtle could dig with her flippers (is that what they are called?). After digging a huge hole, the turtle then turned around and started digging a chamber in the side of the hole with her bag flippers. When that hole was finished she started laying her eggs. Once the eggs were laid she then proceeded to fill up the hole with sand. This process took around 3 hours! She had a little trouble getting back to the sea so Dan gave her a helping hand. We then had the problem of finding the eggs and despite putting three markers to triangulate where they were we still had trouble. We had to work fast because you have to move them within an hour of being laid. There were sixty eggs in total and we moved them close to the house so hopefully in a couple of months they will hatch.

On New Years Eve we headed down to the end of the beach where the river is for a ‘finger buffet’ and bbq. We got there just before sunset and had a feast of chicken, pork, tortilla, crudités and dips, devilled eggs, delicious homemade samosas made by Jemma and Laura, cheese and onion bread that I made and brownies. We all sat around the bonfire (not needed for warmth but it kept the bugs at bay) eating and drinking lots of beer and wine. Rich and Dan did a bit of night fishing but unfortunately didn’t catch anything. Roy (AKA ‘Royboy’ looks like Seasick Steve) spent the whole night dragging wood into the fire! At midnight we all had a bit of bubbly to celebrate 2012. Rich got pretty drunk by consuming a lot of rum in a short space of time and nearly head butted Leticia (the French lady) when he said goodbye to her! A good night was had by all.

We went fishing on the boat out at sea one day. We got to see many dolphins and the beautiful coastline but it was too windy and choppy and we only ended up catching one tuna, but it was a big one! We ate some of the meat fresh as sashimi, made sushi with some and had a curry with the rest.Yum yum!

The rest of the days were just spent relaxing, eating and sunbathing!

On the 4th Jan we said our goodbyes and got an early lift with Dave to Panama City which was great because it meant we avoided the long bus journey. Spent the night in the city then flew to Quito the next morning.

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