Panama - May
The day started
early, very early, as I dragged myself out of bed at 05.30. No we were not going
sailing, we were going shopping!!!!
Remember I told you
of my husband’s attempts at stopping me from spending money? Well he has now
turned it into some kind of sport!! Having had no success with the sport of
fishing (more about that later) he certainly had me hook, line and sinker, when
he told me we were heading into Colon, to the ‘Duty Free Zone’ to go
Now any of you who,
like me, are shopaholics can imagine the excitement at the prospect of spending
a day in the world’s second largest duty free zone. I should have smelled a rat,
but I was either too tired to think straight (I don’t do mornings), or too
We caught the bus at
06.30 and by 08.30 we were in Colon.
The first stop was
the ‘battery shop’, yes, motor batteries!!! In all fairness to Roger he didn’t
plan on going there, but ‘Skip’ the American and Stefan the German we were
travelling with told us to get off the bus, which we did thinking it was our
stop. It wasn’t, it was the stop for the battery shop and they wanted to buy a
As Colon is a very dangerous
city to walk around (30 years ago the radio officer on our ship was robbed in
the middle of the street in broad daylight and things are apparently worse now)
we hailed a taxi and drove off to the Zona Libre!!
You need your
passport to get in, as it is a gated shopping town (hard to describe how big it
is). We then dumped Skip (he was winding Roger up and consequently winding me up
too) and went in search of Roger’s first item on his list. It slowly dawned on
me, as we walked down street after street, looking for tool shops and solar
panel shops, that I wasn’t actually going to get to do ANY shopping, just trail
around after Roger as he went through his shopping list (don’t worry ladies, I
will get my revenge). It then transpired that the shop he needed was in Frances
Field, which is an adjacent duty free zone, but so far you can’t walk there, so
we got a cab and headed over to Frances Field.
The shop didn’t sell
solar panels, but gave us the name of one that they believed did. We took a cab
there and, yes you guessed it, they didn’t sell solar panels. But they directed
us to Ace hardware, who apparently did.
We walked to Ace only
to find, that they didn’t sell solar panels. The assistant told us he thought
the only place we could get them was in Panama
City, so looked up the addresses and telephone numbers of solar panel
retailers in Panama
City. There was another shop listed in the Colon zona libre
directory, but it was back in the other zone. The only problem now was that
there were no taxis around.
I was getting tired
and my legs had seized up (remember I had walked 12kms the previous day and then
been stuck on a bus for 2hrs) add that to the fact that I was having withdrawal
symptoms at not being able to shop and you can imagine I was not a happy
Now we were stuck in
the middle of nowhere without a taxi, great!!! However, a very nice chap offered
us a lift and even took us right to the shop. We thanked him and headed off in
pursuit of the elusive solar panels.
Once again we were
told that they didn’t sell them, but a customer in the shop said he knew of a
place back in Frances Field and he would take us there, if we waited only 5
To cut a long and
very frustrating story short we jumped into a total stranger’s car, who then
took us back to Ace hardware!!!!! Fortunately he also brought us back to the
Anyway I digress,
back to Roger’s latest sport…… he finally gave up on his solar panel quest and
so I got to look in some of the shops. When I say some, I mean a few, very few.
Because the majority of the shops were wholesale only!!!!! Can you imagine being
taken to a toy store and being told you can look but you can’t buy anything??? I
think this is Roger’s idea of aversion therapy, hoping that the very mention of
shopping will send me running, in the opposite direction, rather than go through
Tired, hot, stiff and
hungry we rushed and caught the last bus back to Puerto Linton, not even
stopping at Sabanitza to go grocery shopping!!!
When we got back to
the boat I suggested we go to Panamarina (a marina around the corner in the next
bay) to swap some books and use the internet, So we grabbed our laptops and
Despite a very slow
and intermittent connection I finally managed to buy something (you can’t keep a
good woman down) as I booked our flights out of Panama (no mean feat believe
me). So the day had not been a total waste.
As we had been able
to get to an ATM (we hadn’t seen one for 7 weeks and were down to our last few
dollars) and it had been a shitty day, I suggested we stay for dinner as they
have wonderful food and desserts.
It was nice to sit
and have a civilised meal with a nice glass of red wine, but there was a price
to pay. By the time we left the restaurant it was dark!!!!
Remember I told you
about the beautiful mangrove creek??? Well we had to go back through it in the
Let me set the
scene.(Solely from Janice’s perspective - comment by Roger). You have to cross a
lagoon and head for the shore line on the other side. The shore is covered in
mangroves and there is a narrow gap about 9ft wide that leads into the
mangroves, there is no light or moonlight. All we had was Roger’s head torch.
Once you find the creek, there is only a narrow channel that has been dredged
and if you go off it, you are aground. As if that wasn’t bad enough, once you
have navigated that, there is a reef at the other end that you have to cross to
get out into our anchorage.
We puttered across
the lagoon and more by good luck than good management, found the gap. It was
sooooo spooky. It was so quiet. The water was so still and the night was so
black, the torch lit up the hanging creepers and reflected on the glassy water.
Every now and then fire flies would zoom past us, just missing us. If I hadn’t
have been so scared it would have been beautiful. I think if we had been in a
lancha where the driver knew the way like the back of his hand (like when we
went to Casa Paraico in Guatemala) I would have been able to enjoy it. But we
were in an inflatable dinghy and Roger had only done the trip once before and
that had been in daylight and it was a long way to our
The fireflies (if
that’s what they were) were all over the water like little light bulbs, but what
we couldn’t work out was that they also seemed to be under the water and their
lights were still shining?? It was like a little underwater town with all its
street lights, as I say it was really beautiful.
Suddenly we came to
an abrupt and grinding halt as we hit the reef!!! Roger quickly lifted the
outboard and we inched our way through.
Once we had cleared
the reef our troubles didn’t stop there. We now had to cross the anchorage. The
problem was the ‘fish farms’, they were submerged with only the top of the
enclosure exposed, not enough to be silhouetted against the horizon and they
were also not lit!!!! I have to say I was never so happy to get back on
Beaujolais. But hey, it was just another