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Date: 18 Feb 2010 17:57:04
Title: Fai Tira Panama City 08:54.47N 79:31.60W Thursday 18th February

Fai Tira Blog Tuesday 16th February

Fai Tira Panama City 08:54.47N 79:31.60W

 

 

We’ve now been on anchor in the bay at La Playida for what seems an age, but in reality it’s been just under a week. All but one of the BWR boats are now in the Pacific, although some have sought refuge in the marina at Balboa where they felt more able to carry out necessary repairs that seem to be afflicting us all.

The anchorage is reasonably well sheltered and offering okay protection, that is until we’re hit by the swells of the passing array of vessels plying their trade on the approaches to the canal.

For most of the time that, in itself, presents no problem. It just means that every now and again we have to put up with some mild discomfort. Except guess how we have to access our repairs, (I think that you’ve probably got it) by climbing the mast.... Now that’s when the sensation of mild discomfort gets replaced by an instinct called mild panic and it’s the one has you hanging on for grim death, funnily enough, that desire to hang on also increases proportionately with the height of your ascent and although one of the functions of the guy on the safety line is to warn of approaching swells, it’s only when the, once horizontal, horizon takes on a diagonal appearance, you begin to know that something’s not quite right.

Both Pete and myself have, recently found ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to take part in this unenviable activity.

Our major repair is to fix the broken forestay foil. One of the others is to mend the inoperative wind mill on the anemometer where one of the driving cups has become detached, and it’s something that’s involved both of us in some high level hanging about. So, as you may have worked out by now, the repairs have tended to dominate our daily activity for a while (we can’t go anywhere until they’re done).

However it’s not all been work. The Carnival was still in full swing with the finale taking place on Tuesday evening and, also, the BWR organisers had arranged a bus trip, out of town, to visit a resort on the edge of the rain forest at Gamboa.

The trip took place on Monday and was surprisingly popular. I think the chance to get away from our boats for the day and the description “Rain Forest” made us all sit up and take notice. What all, or at least some of us, had inadvertently overlooked was the other part in the description that said “Resort”.

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The journey involved a coach trip, that was the good part, any chance to sit in air conditioning for 45 minutes is not easily ignored and at 13 dollars each, it was a bargain

Both Pete and myself, feeling in a somewhat frugal mood, had decided to forego booking any of the numerous available trips and also the buffet lunch, preferring to give ourselves more freedom and the chance to indulge in the cold contents of the doggy bags of the Pizza restaurant from the night before.

This was a strange place. It’s true the surrounding area is, what appears to be, virgin rain forest; but the whole area, at least the bit we were in, has been corrupted by the inclusion of this incongruous monstrosity of a resort, perched on the side of a hill above, what should have been, a beautiful lake.

Anyhow let’s not be too critical, we still had a rain forest to explore!!

All the guided trips were fully booked. So us, intrepid three, that’s Pete, J and myself set off and plunged into the undergrowth to do battle with the elements, actually it was a footpath with a sign pointing the way. Anyhow it was good to get out of the direct sun and straight away we were rewarded as our path was crossed by a frantic, well trodden, trail of leaf cutter ants busily doing just what leaf ants do. Bet you couldn’t see that from the 50 dollar canopy ride.

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The temperature dropped decisively and we found ourselves surrounded by exotic vegetation and noises (you’d never know that you were still in the back garden of a hotel). The walk was okay. A bit short after about half a mile we found ourselves in the blistering heat back on the road approaching the hotel, but we did get bitten by genuine mosquitoes and were even lucky enough to observe a group of small monkeys as they fed. A short walk led us to the waterside restaurant that was to provide the buffet. A balcony overlooking the lake provided a ringside seat on a bit authentic nature ( that’s providing that the crocodile basking below us in the sun wasn’t stuffed of course) I don’t think it was. The area was heaving with all sorts of wild life. There were a huge number of turtles and birds and it wasn’t long before we observed crocs swimming around culminating in the climactic experience of seeing one consume a bird.

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The next day was Shrove Tuesday, the beginning of lent and the climax of the Carnival, I made pancakes!!!! and they worked.

We’d already decided on a trip into the city. We were sure that it deserved more exploration; our experience of it so far was restricted to one fairly limp carnival parade and a big street party.

What we needed was a guide and one came in the form of Phyllis, the American wandering nomad of the rally. She’s a colourful, larger than life character who spends her life travelling the world by hitching lifts from passing yachts (actually she’s quite a lot more selective than that sounds). Anyhow she knows the place well and was telling us, over a glass of wine, of her recent trip into the old town. It sounded interesting and it took no persuasion, at all, for her to agree to show us around.

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We were joined by Eileen and Debs off Scot free, collected Phyllis by taxis and before long found ourselves in the centred of the Old Part, a commercial area lined with an array of shops and bars. The only thing was that the normal hustle and bustle, described by Phyllis, was missing. Many of the places were shut up, the carnival having taken its toll on the population who seemed to have dispersed to the suburbs for the week. Undaunted, and after some shopping, we decided to look for a bar and were about to proceed along a street leading to the water front, when we were approached by a policeman, who had just emerged from a car warning us not go any further as it was too dodgy for tourists!!!!!   Dangerous person this Phyllis.

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The taxis ride back to the Panama Hotel and the evening parade, revealed more of some of the raw and run down areas of the city, with me feeling pleased for the security of a car.

As arranged, we all congregated under the MacDonald’s sign, grabbed a beer and watched as the atmosphere built through the evening. The scene was hugely colourful and noisy and intensified as the throng increased, giving an air of anticipation, but still no parade!! Then, much later than expected, there was the rhythmic sounds of drums and whistles of the approaching percussion bands and parades including a succession of dazzling floats and people.

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Welcome to the Carnival!!!!

 


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