Astra Log Bond 007 Week - 19-27/03/08

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Thu 27 Mar 2008 22:33

Colón: Wed 19th March – Thursday 27th March


Although Colón is pronounced differentially from that section of the alimentary canal sharing a similar spelling, it would be correct to say that it is the arse end of Panama, possibly the world. We arrived to find significant constipation: a backlog of vessels awaiting passage with little sign of alleviation.


We had hoped that we would have to stay for only a week in the cess-pit that it is Colón City; on arrival we discovered that our wait to transit the Panama Canal would be a shade over one month. Despite Colón’s dreadful reputation and a weekly average of 2-3 murders we found the Marina to be brimming with life, clean, and guarded by a large quantity of policemen.


We discovered on our approach to the Marina (a few days earlier than expected to avoid the several days Panamanians have off for Easter) that the Marina was full and that they would kindly fit us in by giving us their manager’s pontoon.


And this is where the fun begins. In our previous log we mentioned that we were asked to erect a Haitian flag, if possible. We were about to launch into a fantasy world created by the film industry and we were to have front row seats. It took very little time to establish that the vessel next to Astra was a ‘camera cat’ and that we were very much on the set of the next Bond Film, Quantum of Solace.


Somewhat flabbergasted by our new surroundings, our initial approach was tentative observation. As we became a little bolder we thought that we may be able to get away with a small amount of surreptitious photography. This we managed: on the whole it was okay to photograph the camera crew, the RIBs the baddies were using and the boat that Bond will make his escape in (Guardien Des Étoiles, for any avid Bond fans.) Furthermore, the doubles for Bond and his Girl both were happy to be photographed  - they did spend most of their time within 10 yards of Astra! Daniel Craig, however, has a rather different opinon of cameras and any attempt to brandish a camera in his presence was met with a large security man wagging an oversized finger; any attempt to point a camera in his direction resulted with confiscation of the camera and deletion of its contents. Needless to say that his thickset body guards were outwitted by some very clever photography from Astra’s saloon.


Surreptitious photography in turn gave way to jovial conversation with the large crew of people attempting to orchestrate a portion of next autumn’s blockbuster. On the whole they were a very friendly bunch and devoid of the over-inflated egos one associates with the industry. Before long we had regulars popping over to relieve Astra of refreshing juniper flavoured drinks in breaks from filming. One of these, a camera man called George (obviously on the soft drinks as he is a professional!) mortified Sally by wandering over to Bond’s double, a lovely chap called Wade, and passing on Sally’s opinion that Wade was better looking than Daniel Craig. Cue smiling and waving from Wade and a very, very red Sally!


Whereas Daniel Craig appeared to wish to keep his contact with us to a minimum, his stunt double was more than happy to join in the fun. Sally seemed very keen to come and photograph a game of touch rugby that Ash, George, and a few other chaps were playing one evening. Unfortunately she managed to miss Astra’s boys in nearly every photo, instead accidentally capturing a topless James Bond (Wade actually – good enough!)


The next evening Jeremy took over the role as photographer with Sally getting involved in the sporting activities. This time volleyball was the sport of choice and George and Bond (Wade, sorry) narrowly beat Ash and Sally. Wade might be excellent at propelling himself at high speed into all manner of painful situations yet his scoring is questionable and Ash and Sally are still disputing the result. Lose or not, Sally was at once shocked, pained and delighted when Bond (for the sake of argument) slammed a ball into her chest! Cue more redfaced Sally, and laughing all round.


If Astra’s crew members were beginning to get their heads around the surreal world they were temporarily inhabiting, Saturday brought more surprises. While we were quietly waiting for our now good friend Wade to perform another boat-flipping stunt* we came across a delightful little orphan. George being the benevolent soul he is picked him up. I think that you will agree that the similarity is uncanny – see photos.


*THE CUNNING STUNT -  A little advance info for Bond lovers: Our favourite stunt is one which I am sure will not be left on the cutting room floor – here’s your sneak preview… Bond is escaping in Guardien Des Étoiles when the baddies manage to get their high speed RIB stuck on the stern of Bond’s jet boat. Bond then manages to dislodge the boat sending baddies flying and the boat dramatically flipping by throwing a grappling hook at the baddies. Just make sure that you think of Astra when you see it!


The crowning glory on an excellent week was the Bond wrap-up party. These poor souls have been having 6 day weeks and 5AM starts for the last five weeks and were more than ready to let their hair down at their hotel, The Meliá. It goes without saying that we were invited, and George and Ash were sent along to represent Astra. An awesome night of shoulder rubbing with les grandes fromages, a swimming pool for the more adventurous pool party guests and most importantly a Bond-funded bar overlooking Lake Gatún.


We would love to write more but the sun is sinking in the sky, Happy Hour is in full swing and pitchers of beer cost $5! Maybe Colón’s not that bad after all!