Sunday, June 10, 2012
Costa Rica to the Panama Canal
Golfito, Costa Rica
Whizzing above the jungle canopy at break-neck speed, teeth clenched and knuckles clutching the rope No... it’s not Tarzan and Jane, it’s our latest eco-adventure experience, ‘Zip-lining’!
The six marineros: Rick, Roseanna, Tom, Lori, Daragh and Cathy, took the plunge and spent the day precariously jumping off platforms 150 ft. in the air into a lush canopy of tropical foliage, as little yellow eyes watched in bewilderment from the treetops below. What are those loco sailors up to now?
In two hours we ‘zipped’ down eleven lines hundreds of feet long, and arrived at a tiny cottage surrounded by a lovely garden, where fresh water and juicy watermelon slices awaited us. A good time was had by all, but I think we would all agree, the peaceful Pacific, cruising along at five knots, is more our chosen speed. Cowabunga!
We said goodbye to Tim and Kathy and their four dogs and cat, at Land Sea marina and departed Golfito for an overnighter to Isla Parida, Panama. The afternoon rain held off initially but later the radar screen started filling with large blobs signifying clusters of heavy rain downpours ahead. We got ready and steered for the narrowest part but next thing Rick on Tension Reliever called us to lookout on the distant port side....a waterspout! We double reefed down and changed course to avoid it only to have another one develop on the starboard side! We split the difference and thankfully these and yet a third one had dissipated before they crossed our track. We spent much of the night dodging more rain clusters before arriving safely in Isla Parida shortly after daybreak. We had a pleasant couple of days here including snorkeling almost half a mile to the shore and back again.
Bahia Honda and the Simple Life
A tiny pueblo/village of two hundred souls greeted us as we set anchor in tranquil Bahia Honda.
A gregarious young boy of seventeen, Phillippe, and his friends appeared in a panga alongside. Phillippe was one of the few villagers who spoke English well, and he was eager to hear of our adventure and share his dream of going to North America. We handed out a few trinkets, and later he returned with a carved wooden souvenir plaque of a Tortuga (turtle), compliments of his father, and invited us ashore to his relatives’ casa the next day.
The Panamanians here lead very simple lives with few of the trappings of the modern world...Generator power only for a few houses, one phone booth, no Internet, but a flat screen TV in the one tienda in town, which all the kids converge on. Their big, wide brown eyes and nervous giggles told us that foreigners seldom visit this remote island village. A cold drink at the bar/’soda’, and we were soon ‘talking’ with the locals, much of it in pantomime, and exchanging information. A trail through the thick jungle foliage led to a small church where a very traditional evangelical congregation sat, men on one side, women, in white kerchiefs, on the other, celebrating mass. We cruised away next morning, admiring our Tortuga carving, a perfect memento of a treasured moment on our travels. Perhaps we will meet again, Phillippe? Follow your dreams!
Our ten day journey down the Panamanian Coast was memorable if only for its` torrential rainstorms, waterspouts, huge swells, and ever-present surf which held us captive on our boat for days. Surprisingly blustery winds for this time of year, also made for good sailing, and we cruised into Bahia de Panama weaving our way through perhaps a hundred tankers anchored in the bay awaiting passage through the Panama Canal. Our wee boat was dwarfed by the massive cargo ships in our midst, as we entered the channel and moored off of the Balboa Yacht Club (actually just mooring buoys , as the club burnt to the ground in 1998.)
Here we sit anticipating our trip through the world famous locks; one of the largest man-made structures on the planet. Of course, there is the inevitable red-tape, paperwork and cash transactions , to make it all a reality, so we will bide our time in the city of Panama, whose monumental white spires loom in the distance.