Part 2

Portobelo, Rain Forest, River Kayaking, Carnival in Penenome

We left that same day for Portobelo, on the Atlantic coast.  Portobello is mainly known for the ruins of old Spanish colonial fortresses (they were defending the looted gold), and also snorkeling and diving.  We rented a cabin on the water.  Here's Eric relaxing in a hammock.This German couple in the cabin next to ours were traveling with 2 girls, one an infant and the other about 2 years old.  It seemed pretty tough.  Apparently they were having some health problems, so they left the next day to find a doctor.

This is our cabin.  It looks very sweet, but was somewhat cramped indoors.This is the San Juan de Dios Church, built in the17th Century, right in the town of Portobelo.

These are old bridges.  I'm not sure if they ever held water, but right now it's basically muck.This little girl was bathing at an outdoor sink

Turkey vultures were everywhere!An enclosure for a guard to stand in, inside one of the fortresses.

Most of the fortresses were made from what's called reef rock, or sawn coral blocks.Eric at one of the old cannons.

There were whole rows of cannons left at the fortress.These outhouses were typical of the area.  They just dropped everything right into the water, for the tide to take out.

There were the overgrown ruins of yet another fortress up on a hill.  It actually looks a little like just a hill in this picture, but from another angle you can see that it's an old fortress.The arch of Santiago Fortress.

This fortress was surrounded by an impressive moat.More views of the fortress.

We had a brief conversation with this American couple who lived in Portobelo.  I really wanted to talk with them at length, because I wanted to know what it was like to live in Panama.  They were pretty disinclined to chat, though.  We theorized that they were involved in the drug trade.Walked up to an unnamed fort in the hills above Portobelo, and found these flowers on the way.

This one has a moat as wellIt was a little tough getting in.  We didn't trust the "bridge" (a couple planks) leading over the moat, so we jumped in and climbed up.

The well inside the fortress.The fortress turret still had some fairly intact stairs to climb up on.

There were some great views from the fortress of the bay below.Back in town, we met this retired English couple who were traveling all around the world. For the past 6 years or so had done numerous trips around the world, usually of a couple months at a time.  The couple was traveling by bus, so we drove them around to the various accommodations that were available in Portobelo.  They weren't happy with them, though. They left Portobelo on the next bus, disappointed with what it had to offer.

Later on we got a boat to take us to a snorkeling/beach spot on a nearby island.  There was a guy there already who was collecting fruits from abandoned farms on the island. This is his little dugout.Eric and our things, hung up on a tree.

Eric found a drowned looking rat next to the water's edge.This tree grew right into the water, and was really easy to climb up on.

Most of the rocks on the beach were coral rocks.After snorkeling (some nice colorful fish, nothing spectacular), we rested and read on the beach.

Waiting for the boat to return for us.The beach, from the water.

The boat came, a little delayed because of mechanical problems.  We continued to have problems on the way back, as well.  The boy was only able to run the engine at a little higher than idle for most of the trip, so it took quite a while.This veranda out on the beach was a pleasant place to hang out in the evenings, free of irritating sand flies.

We went for a drive to the area around Nombre de Dios.  It's mainly a farming area, and we encountered a lot of animals on and around the road.Hey Dinarte!  These people have the same last name as you do!

This bridge was the first of it's type that we'd seen.  It looked scary, but later we saw more that were like this that were in much worse condition.The president of Panama has these signs all over the country, describing various development projects that are underway.  The top of the sign says, "President of the republic Mireya Moscoso, combating poverty.  It's just some road repairs, though.

This house was in Nombre de Dios.  I think the assortment of junk on top of the roof doesn't necessarily mean that they're poor, just unskilled at building, because the coconut palm fronts that are often used for roofing can be made waterproof.Horses on the road.  Later on after dark we met a dog on the road--with unpleasant consequences for the dog.

Sunset from around Nombre de Dios.

Off this rickety old pier...

...we saw this amazingly colored jellyfish.  At first I thought it was a child's inflatable toy, because of the brilliant colors.Eric at dinner, with a whole fried fish.

And Sylvia with octopus stew and fried plantains.The next day we drove down to Gamboa, hoping to see an old Nazi crane that's supposed to be in use there.  We didn't see the crane because it had been moved, but we did see the old abandoned residences for the canal workers.

Some of them had been fixed up for a new ecotourist resort that looked very deserted.

At the Soberania National Park we did a little hike into the rainforest.  Unfortunately it was too late for the birds, but we did hear some monkeys.  This tree was amazing--it's buttressed roots went out about 25 feet.I think this is a mimosa flower.

We also walked up to Canopy Tower, on top of a hill in the middle of the rainforest.  It's an old military installation that's been converted into a bird-watching oriented hotel.  We wanted to take a look inside, but they wouldn't allow us in.  And after we hiked up the hill for 25 minutes, too!This termites nest was typical of the many that we saw, all over Panama.

The Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo has all kinds of local animals.  We didn't see the Botanical Gardens part of it, though.  Lots of monkeys, and all kinds of other local fauna

Toucans in touching distanceNot-so-wild boars

And as mentioned, tons of monkeys.  Zoos here aren't like zoos in the US, where there's no way you'll be able to touch an animal.  Here there's not multiple layers of fencing, and you can touch all you want.We drove down west of Panama city, to a region of beaches.  The town of Playa Coronado is a very wealthy little enclave, with some very comfortable looking houses.

We ended up staying at the XS Memories, in Santa Clara.  We chatted a while with the American owners, Sheila and Dennis.  They had many frustrations with bureaucrats, untrained personnel, and lax business practices.  It's always interesting, talking to people who have moved overseas.  This is the restaurant.Our room

Finally, a shower with hot water!  This little device would actually heat water as it came out!The beach at Santa Clara.

Raw wood is so cheap here that lots of outdoor furniture is made out of it.The next day we took a kayak trip down the Chame river with Sven, a German guy who's lived in Panama for 7 years.

The river was pretty low--lots of places, we had to drag the canoes.  Dragging the gray kayak is Wild Bill, from the Yukon Territory.

Eric and I in kayaks.

A woman by the side of the river, washing clothes.Some boys going for a swim.  Horses are a popular way to get around in the backcountry.

Fishing in the river.  When we asked what he was fishing for, he said, "Anything!"A heron.

Back at the guesthouse where Wild Bill was staying with a Canadian couple.  The wife lived there full time, the husband lived there half time, and the other half worked in Canada.  Lots of expatriates are seem to be heavy smokers around here.Dennis, Sheila, and Sven at the bar at XS Memories.

Penonome has Carnival floats that literally float, down the local river.  We were told it was at 9, but found out that it was at 3 in the afternoon or perhaps later.  Until then, there was the mojadero, or "wettening".  Basically, they load up a lot of tanks with water from the river, and spray people.  Here's some tankers loading upA guy spraying people from a truck on the right...

...and lots of wet drunksThis man was selling little fried chips of plantains for 25 cents.  Tasty.