We left the boat with all our bags packed. Ate again at the marina and enjoyed another fine seafood meal. Said good bye to the wait staff and I even got a hug from J . I have even learned a little Spanish and was able to say “Gracious”. The shuttle to Colon arrived on time and we stuff our bags in there and boarded it. The drive to Colon was uneventful and we arrived at a new to me mall; the Millennium. There we carried our bags to the Renaissance Hotel and the kids took me on a sky line tour. At the top of the hotel you can see the entrance to the Panama Canal and a good part of Colon. It almost reminded me of the top of the Seattle Space Needle in ’64.
From the Hotel we picked up a tourist Taxi; a white one, and were dropped off at the Train station.
We were going to take the Panama Canal Railway to Panama City. We arrived way to early. But for me there is always something to do. I wondered the station looking at the flowers and plants that grow like weeds here but are next to impossible to grow in Florida. An hour later we board the train and find seats in the observation car. I’m reminded here of my trip with Sue and Dave from California to Iowa on the Zepher years ago. The nice things here is that this trip is only and hour.
We travel beside Lake Gatun and over bridges, through a tunnel, cross the continental divide and eventually disembark in the outskirts of Panama City. A short Taxi ride takes us to our Hotel; the Las Vegas, where the kids have booked a Suite for us. Upon checking in we walk a half block to a new restaurant where I get a plate of Clams in Garlic Butter and enjoy a class of wine. I could get use to this kind of living.
In the morning I rise ready to another adventure. I’m told we’re going to the Miraflores Locks which is the first lock I went through went we transited the canal on my; I hate to say it, 70th birthday. What a place. The ships are working there way through the lock and it’s a wonder they fit. There is about a foot in each side and not much more in front or behind. In the museum I find out some of them have been designed to fit perfectly in the locks and they’re called PanMax. The maximum size the lock will hold. There are 3 floors and two observation decks so I follow the kids. They’ve been here before. We walk the exhibits and check out the boats going through. A sailboat is spotted heading South and as we watch them get closer it is recognized as one of the boats from their Marina. I’ll be darned, I know those people. While Dave snaps a lot of pictures I watch in amazement as the boat moves into the lock and ties up ready to make the final move to the Pacific. We look at more exhibits and I just love the floor on the plants and animals. Things grow here as if by magic. The jungle is so rich in soil and has so many different plants and animals. There is no way I can remember even a small bit. I wish I had a book on it all.
After walking I’m sorry to say I’m a little tuckered out. They take me to the restaurant in the museum and we eat next to where the ships transit. They’re so close I could toss them some food. But I won’t. It is just too good. Stuffed to the gills we find a Taxi to take us to the Las Vagas. i’m tired. But Dave has found a new way to needle me. I guess he remembers to well when I pushed him as a child. He’s downloaded FreeCell on the iPad and wants me to play it. I can do this. Using the iPad is a bit frustrating but much better then that its bitty iTouch. I can see the numbers and my figures work better. He’s teaching me how to be on the web too! I’m now on FaceBook and have connected up with the rest of my family. I can’t say I love it. But I can say it is wonderful seeing pictures of them and at least hearing what is going on in their lives.
After a game or two I fall into bed exhausted but ready for another day. And that day comes with a great breakfast at the same place I had the Clams, Manolo’s. I simply can not believe how much Papaya they stack on at the plate for just a few dollars. Stuffed, we walk across the street to the hotel where we are to met our travel guide for a trip into the Jungle. Jungle Land Tours has a boat ride into the Panama Canal and to an Eco Lodge where we see more wildlife, play on or in the water, eat lunch, and then have a boat tour on our return.
We arrived to the lodge but slide on by in the boat to there shore where monkeys visited us. They came on the boat, ate apples ran back and forth flitting like butterflies in the breeze. It was a little hectic at first but soon the monkey’s and the tourist settled down. Once the monkeys were fed it was our turn or so I thought. We stopped at the floating Eco Lodge and there we had some choices to make. Mine was easy. Have the kids row the kayak with me as the tourist. We traveled up a small stream that was often filled with water lilies. The two of them struggles against the floating plants and we eventually made it to the headwaters where there was a waterfall. My son had to jump in from the ledge. Several of the other guest jumped to, all lived and with no injurys and lots of pictures we headed back to the lodge for lunch. There we had an Indian style lunch and non
alcoholic drinks. Then I was asked to hold a plate of food; for what I wasn’t sure. I waited and soon the guide brought out a small monkey he put on my shoulders and the monkey ate from the plate. I’m glad I had the food because I’m not sure what else I would have done with him. I passed him off to the other tourist and stood by to watch the fun. He was smooth and quite soft and our guide said he was nocturne, and orphan, and rarely seen. From there we had a comedy tour of the plants and animals as we made our way back across Lake Gatun to the boat launch. All in all I was quite tired and ready to get back to the hotel, clean up and rest for the evening. After a game or so of FreeCell, checking my email, checking on the grandkids on Facebook I was ready for sleep. It came quickly and I was soon into tomorrow.
A new breakfast place with fruit piled so high I actually had difficulty eating it all. We were met by Carmin; another sailor that lived on the Pacific side of Panama, who was to be our Guide to the Embara Indian Village up the Gatun River. She shared her knowledge of Panama and how it has changed over the years as we left the city. I marveled at all the beautiful Pampas Like grass on the hill sides as she told us about it being imported by the Americans years ago and now was so prevalent throughout Panama. They called it Canal Cane. However she said other then it helping in the erosion they’ve not found any more uses for it. We met the Embara indians at a boat ramp up the Chagras River Gatun Lake. There we boarded this stout looking, small, boat (called a Panaga) and proceeded to motor up river. I held on. Although I can swim I’ve not swum in a river in years and didn’t wish to now. My fingernails I’m guessing still mark the edge of the boat.
Finally we made it and I was surprised to see men dressed in only a Loin cloth. The colors of the fabrics they wore were so vivid. None of the pastels of I’m so use to in the US. We were treated to a question and answer period and then an Embara lunch. Afterwards there were shows of traditional
tribal ceramonies. I say shows because much of what was quietly hidden seemed to indicate more western culture then they showed us. One of the dancers was drinking a Coke and some of the people walking in the village had on Blue Jeans on. The kids however wore very little, bare feet slapping on the dirt as they walked from one hut to the next, as they splashed in the river they seemed to be happiest in their birthday suit. We had a quick tour of the three room school house and a walk around the village but no tours of the homes. After a full day of questions and sharing we again boarded the small boat and headed back down river to the launching site.
That evening again a new restaurant with loads of local goodies. That night I slept like a baby dreaming of exotic places. Mine next adventure was to be flying home to Florida the following day. Roger came and picked us up and we drove the hour to the airport. There Dave and Wendy helped me check in and they insisted on the Airlines assistance. What luck. I was brought a wheelchair, though I didn’t feel I needed it, and I was then first in line heading to the gate. The trip back was thankfully uneventful. By evening I was comfortably back in my own bed. Thinking about Dave and Wendy’s adventure, thinking of those I had at their age. Dreaming of still another adventure for me.
As they say in Panama… Ciao