|Would you ever believe this but we are still in Panama. Never thought we would be spending nearly four weeks in Panama but that has happened. Dear old Isabella's engine has finally been pulled apart after no compression in number 4 cylinder. Burnt out valve, so all valves now being replaced and head getting reconditioned. Probable be able to leave for Galapogos in a few days.
Crewman Phil and Crewman John have deserted the ship to get out of the way and gone sightseeing to Bocas Del Toro which is a group of islands in the west of Panama on the Caribbean Sea near Costa Rica. It is a popular tourist area with many islands and small hotels, bars, coral reefs, surfing, diving etc but very laid back, no high rise development and a great place to explore. Happy hour goes from 4pm to 7.30pm and beers start at 50 cents-so you can see I still have my priorities in place. People are all very friendly, we can walk everwhere as it is quite safe, not like Colon. To get here you fly in twin prop aircraft like Twin Otter, Shorts or the good old Fokker. No need to catch a taxi from airport as we just walked up the road found a clean, neat hotel for $40 a night and we were set for four days.
We couldn't find the information centre so went to the police station to ask and the officer on duty didn't speak English so he called out to someone who did. There was a cell in the corner and this someone came to the cell door and proceeded to give us directions in very good English! When we asked him what he was doing in the cell he replied with a large grin - ¨hey man i'm having a three month vacation¨
Well we found the information centre but it had very little information but it wasn't very long before the local enteprenuers had us in there sights for all sorts of trips in their long boats.
We visited many of the outlying islands for snorkelling, surf beach, sightseeing etc. On one remote looking island called Cayos Zapatillas we were on the beach and a man popped out of the rain forest and wanted $10 as a National Park fee. We were not warned about this so were able to negotiate for $5. He even had a uniform and a receipt. The most interesting was a jungle trip with a guide from a local indigenous community (Guayami Indians). He showed us many rain forest plants used for food, medicine & weaving including a Panama Hat plant. He called a freshwater crocodile from its hiding place, showed us a red frog which is very small but quite poisonous. The Indians used the poison for the tips of their arrows and there is sufficient poison from one frog to kill 20 men! (in the good old days). Highlight was a Sloth and baby climbing in a tree.
That's it from Bocas, we walked to airport Frday morning and caught a plane to David in Chiriqui province then bus to Boquete in the highlands for a tree canopy trek.
By the way Panama City is a very interesting place and quite safe so our bad experience in Colon was not typical of the rest of the country.