Thursday, December 25, 2008

Feliz Navidad y La Playa es Tuya Cuidala

In case you are wondering what the title says in English, my translation is "Merry Christmas and The Beach is In Your Care". This morning's beach walk was the best Christmas present ever! From this perfect sunrise to Mr. Mangrove Hawk perched on the "La Playa es Tuya Cuidala" sign, God's gift was signed, sealed & delivered perfectly to me. I feel incredibly blessed and hope that all of you can share this early morning beach walk experience with me sometime in your life. The first picture shows the mangrove hawk standing on the Turtle Preserve sign. The second picture is yesterday's sunrise and the third picture is today's sunrise.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Swimming in the Mangrove Lagoon

Here are some pictures from yesterday's trip with Tammy (from Tasmania who has a condo here), her friend Nancy (retired & living near Bend, OR) and Beth (who lives in a great house on the beach about a mile from me). Beth suggested we jump in the water to cool down. I sat there for a few minutes before I started thinking about leaches and spectacled cayman. Being attacked by neither, I will live to kayak another day. As you can see, Beth was proud to get 5 kayaks in her truck.
Richard (from a previous blog) just put together a really cool website with loads of pictures of my homeland (Playa la Barqueta). Go to and you may see pictures of yourself (secretly taking by Richard).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Beautiful Sunrise

Opps... I forgot to include this cool sunrise picture (I took 2 mornings ago) in the last blog. Also, I forgot to mention several interesting websites to check out. Go to and click on Panama or Playa la Barqueta Info at the bottom of the page (nice catalog of Richard & Nina's trip in November). Also check out and

Full Moon

In case you didn't notice, last night's full moon was the closest to earth it has been in 15 years. If you missed it, your next chance to see the moon this big will be November 14, 2016. It was 14 % bigger and 30% brighter than normal. Hence, it was a fabulous night to walk the beach. Plus the tide was extremely low when Pauline Jones and I set out for our walk around 8:00 p.m. Within 5 minutes of walking, we saw a huge comet streak across the sky. Wow!! Imagine walking on an endless beach (here at Playa la Barqueta you can walk 8 miles in either direction before encountering a river), with warm temperatures (80 degrees at night), and a plethora of stars (a few shooting). We returned to the condos after 9:45 p.m. so the walk was a respectable distance. Fishing boats anchored up for the night were so close we thought we could swim out to them (of course who would want to with sea snakes hunting in the dark ocean waters).
In case you are wondering... no, I didn't take the comet picture (although this is a close-up of what it looked like). I did take the green iguana picture. He was waiting for lunch in a palm tree next to my condo lanai (or porch).
Another great day today filled with a morning beach walk (the bright moon was still up), mid-morning mangrove kayak trip with friends (we saw osprey, mangrove black hawks, multiple species of kingfishers, herons and on the drive back we saw the forked tail & the less common scissor-tailed flycatcher), all topped off with a nice bicycle ride.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Magic Leatherbacks

The dry season is here. So until further notice, I start my beachwalks at 5:45 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. to take advantace of cool morning temperatures. Everyday is an adventure, of course, and today was no exception. As the sands grew lighter, I noticed baby turtles at my feet... magic turtles with big front flippers. I followed their tracks to the nest where I saw just a few turtles emerging. Marciele (benevolent keeper of the Las Olas turtles & marathon runner) was on his usual beach run, making an abrupt right turn toward me when he saw the turtles. He dug them up, and we spend the next few minutes taking batches of them closer to the incoming tide. What a delight! I saw my first (& only) leatherback turtle in Costa Rica near Tamarindo many years ago. Now I live on a turtle beach!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Whirl-Wind Month with Nina & Richard

What can I say! Nina & Richard from Alaska would have to agree that the past few weeks in Panama have been pretty exciting. I didn't keep a log (& yes, I've been delinquent keeping up with this blog), but here are some snippets of our adventures...
We were witness to several Olive Ridley turtle releases (natural & human-assisted). Believe it or not, the turtle releases have become political and filled with intrigue. The person in charge (who works for ANAM - Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, the Panama park system) of the nearby Turtle Refuge may be harvesting eggs for profit. Under his direction, several turtle releases have occurred at 9:00 a.m. in the bright sun (much to the delight of frigate birds) because he doesn't want Las Olas Resort gaining monetarily by advertising evening turtle releases followed by Happy Hours or discounted overnight stays.
Nina & Richard fit right in to the relaxed life of Playa la Barqueta. Within a week, Richard became king of beach bike rides, often bicycling 18 miles at low tide. Before long, he was buying tools and servicing the Las Olas Resort rental bikes. He rode my mountain-type bike on most roads going inland from the condo & became friends with many of the locals. Meanwhile, Nina & I walked several miles each morning on the beach. She has adopted my habit of picking up sea beans & sand dollars.
Also within the first week Nina & Richard were introduced to the rich kayaking opportunities within a few miles of my condo. Our first trip was into the mangrove lagoon system (which I've talked about on a previous blog). They paddled the two recreational kayaks (a Perception Sundance & Old Town Loon) I recently purchased from fellow Rotarian Jerry while I paddled the 5-pound Alpacka Raft. Our second trip was the brainchild of neighbors Beth & John. We ended up with a grand floatilla of 9 Playa la Barquetains on the Rio Chico between the towns of Alanje and Querevalo. The big excitement before we even put on the river was John trying to feed a huge green iguana. Thinking they were vegetarians, he tried to feed one some bread & the iguana bit (hard) into 2 fingers. Nina patched him up with her first-aid kit and John was able to complete the trip.
We got to know Salsa Dancing neighbors Hector and Nivia. One Saturday night we followed them into David and had a great time Salsa dancing for several hours (until the music got too loud). Now that I know where to go, I'm sure I'll return & practice moves I've learned on Dancing with the Stars!
Needless to say, after so much fun in such a short period of time, Nina & Richard decided to buy a condo in my complex (Las Brisas Del Mar). I have Unit 101 (1st floor, end unit on the east side) and they purchased Unit 704 (1st floor, end unit on the west side). In just 2 weeks, they have totally furnished their condo & plan to rent it through (look under Panama - Playa Barqueta if you are interested in renting this great condo from them).
I had already planned a 4-day trip to Boquete before the purchase, so we got to Boquete just in time to experience Panama's largest earthquake (6.2), followed by Boquete's biggest flood. If you go to you can see some of the Rio Caldera flood pictures. I had purchased lodging at Boquete for 4 nights, but we returned home a day early because we missed the wonderful Playa Barqueta sunshine.
On Wednesday, we'll fly to Panama City for our 2 last days together (eating, dancing, visiting the Canal visitor center, shopping for beach bikes). I'm already looking forward to their return next November (4 months this time). With our dancing/Alaskan background, we meshed well together.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where else can you hear toucans and car horns at the same time? Why that’s Panama City of course! I knew I was home when I went on my morning walk up Ancon Hill located just outside my door at La Estancia Bed & Breakfast. The first bird I saw was a grey-blue tanager (out my bedroom window) and the second was a keel-billed toucan. Welcome home, Elaine! The walk was beautiful & as you can see, provides one of the nicest views of Panama City. I’m currently waiting for my friends Nina & Richard to fly into Panama. We’ll spend the next month together-- birding, hiking, kayaking & exploring.

If you are wondering why I’ve included some pictures of Yosemite on my Panama blog, it’s because I attended the 2nd “Employees of the 70’s Yosemite Reunion” at the end of October. Pictured are Karen von Kempf (my roomie), Walt Dabney, Mark Forbes, Dusty & me. The closeup is Karen & I. It was great to be reunited with so many friends from 35 years ago. I worked in Yosemite from 1975 (winter) to 1980. While there I got “permanent” status with the National Park Service (no small feat), joined the Badger Pass Ski Patrol (where I worked for 3 winters), got married to Peter Fitzmaurice, carried a 2” revolver to enforce the law, and supervised 15 (mostly women) fee collectors who worked in the Valley campgrounds and at the Ticketron Reservation Center. Since I was there, several of the Valley campgrounds have been washed away [flood of 1997 -- I just watched a YouTube video (search Yosemite Flood of 1997) that was pretty good if you are interested)]. Anyway, I had a great time (including hiking the 9-mile Panorama trail) and hope to return to the next reunion.

We’ll head back to my beach condo on Saturday (& hope that the condo has been cleaned). Since I wrote the above, our return was fine. We left Panama City at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and got as far as Santa Clara where we spent the night & enjoyed the white sand beach/gentle waves. The truck gave me some grief on the return, but we made it. I have an appointment at Nissan on Tuesday.

So good to be back home. We enjoyed a vegetarian dinner & retired early to sounds of the ocean. I'll talk about the 8:00 a.m. Monday turtle release on my next blog. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Alaska & Hell's Hole.... Not the same place!

Hello! This is a picture of Hell's Hole Reservoir, the location of the 2008 River Management Society board meeting. Hell's Hole is only 13 miles from Lake Tahoe & skiers often get lost from Squaw Valley by skiing toward this location. Before Hell's Hole, I spent the weekend with my close friend Patrice. Needless to say, Alaska looked much like I left it in April. Now I'm in WA at my mother's house in Winlock. At the end of next week, I'll head for Yosemite for the reunion. I'll try uploading the turkey video again. Wish me luck!

Jimmy's Caribbean Resort & Other Pleasures

It's been a while since I last posted a blog... mainly because I've been traveling. I am currently in WA visiting my mother. Here is the blog about my travels to Jimmy's Caribbean Resort, a 9 hour drive from my condo in Las Olas:

I was thinking the drive between Las Olas and Nombre de Dias (oldest settlement in Panama) would be uneventful. Think again… I left at 6:30 a.m. with Pauline’s directions to her house near Jimmy’s Caribbean Dive Resort in my head & my truck. I packed the previous night with everything from snorkel gear (for the Caribbean) to a down jacket (for Alaska). I was somewhat concerned about taking the Nissan Frontier Truck because the transmission had been acting up. On two occasions, the truck was stuck in 3rd, refusing to shift, with RPM’s approaching 5,000. I couldn’t take the more-trusted Kia because it needed to be registered in the month of October (every year, Panama gives you a new plate). Keith (who is selling the Kia for me) will register it while I am gone. Sure enough, for the first 3 hours, the Nissan pulled various stunts like downshifting when I had my foot on the gas & was cruising at 120 KPH. For some weird reason, after 3 hours all problems with the Nissan vanished & it became the perfect truck. Were we forming a relationship & growing closer? The next 2 hours were bliss… until I stopped at the Reys grocery store near Santa Clara. The truck went back to the previous poor behavior and I found myself constantly downshifting to 3rd against my will. As I neared Colon & the turnoff to Portabello (of Columbus fame), I was seriously stuck in 3rd gear. Only shifting to neutral would set me free (not a good idea when going uphill). The last few miles were shear torture. Luckily I was going very slowly over a dirt road & didn’t need a higher gear.
In contrast to the drive, Pauline, her house and this location on the Caribbean was a delight. We went for a long beach walk the first morning & she showed me her secret stash of sea glass (which I love to collect). We also saw green sea turtle tracks (pictured here), a turtle’s bottom shell (which Pauline collected), and some turtle scales (which I collected). After breakfast, I went for a bird walk where I saw some outstanding birds—chestnut mandibled & keel billed toucans in the same tree (& I thought they didn’t like each other), a gorgeous green-headed/purple bodied hummingbird, Panama flycatcher, and various birds I’ll look up when I return home. We went swimming after my sweaty walk (which was wonderful until we got out of the water & were attacked by no-see-ums.
Pauline’s SUV started squealing (disc brakes going bad), so we took both vehicles into Colon the day after I arrived. I followed her to Jimmy’s favorite (excellent) mechanic. He fixed Pauline’s SUV easily, but told me to take the Nissan to the dealership near 4-Altos shopping center. Nissan took one look at me & couldn’t fail to see economic possibilities (dollar signs) stretched over my body. Of course they wanted me to leave the truck overnight so they could give me a very large bill the next day. I refused & called Keith (who purchased the Nissan in Panama City a few months ago). Lucky for me, Keith knows the lead mechanic at the David Nissan dealership, so I will meet him there when I return in November. Needless to say, the Nissan drove perfectly on the drive from Pauline’s to La Estancia B & B (where the truck is parked for 5 weeks).

I couldn’t believe the snorkeling right off the beach that I experienced my last day at Jimmy’s. Incredible coral, bright blue fish and warm Caribbean water will bring me back before too long. Dare I dream of owning two houses in Panama – one on the Caribbean side (great snorkeling, diving & sailing) and one on the Pacific (great boogie boarding, beach walking & ocean sounds). If I was successful in uploading this video, you'll see the hopping turkey show.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Ray on the Beach & on my Cedar Chest

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a small 1.5 ft. ray washed up on the beach this morning. It looked most like this bat ray, but I don't know that we have bat rays in Panama (according to Wikipedia, they are in the Eastern Pacific between the Oregon Coast & Gulf of California & also the Galapagos Islands). The scary thing for me was touching him with a stick to check out his underside (pinkish). I barely touched him & he moved. Yikes!! On a different note, my ultimate art piece - a 5 sided painted/carved cedar chest - arrived today (carried down the hill via Tom & Terry's SUV). I need to find the Panamanian artist & get him to sign his beautiful chest. The 5 underwater scenes include: a turtle & clown fish, the ray, 2 dolphin, and two sides with tangs, scorpion fish & raccoon fish. Thanks Mom for this great birthday & Christmas present! Since Mom has consented to visiting me in Panama (late January), she will actually get to touch the chest. I'm leaving tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. for my drive to the Carribbean side (hope to arrive around 3:00 p.m.). I'd better go pack. I'll write if I have an Internet connection from Jimmy's Dive Resort (doubtful).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bengy + Yampi, Guavabana and Chiromoya

It's a trick question... what do Bengy, Yampi, Guavabana and Chiromoya have in common? Probably very little, except they all live in Panama. Actually, Bengy is in jail (for a picture of Bengy look on my September 1 blog). He's a pick-pocket squirrel monkey who has developed some bad habits & is being "retrained" by Sue (an ex-primate trainer who lives here at Las Olas). A new, improved (i.e. less humanized) Bengy will return to Paradise Gardens in a couple of months. Yampi is a root vegetable (similar to a yam) I'm going to cook tomorrow. Chiromoya (similar to Moya I've had in Hawaii) is a white, sweet fruit I'll have for breakfast, and Guavabana was served juiced in Columbia (delicious, but I haven't seen it at fruit stands since I returned from Columbia, ready to try my own juiced version). I couldn't resist including this picture of me being "pinned" by the Panama Rotary Governor. We had a lovely catered lunch at Dr. Newton Osborne's house (he's the Boquete Rotary President & pictured to the right of me & the Gov.). I still can't get over the diversity of people in the club. They are all very interesting and becoming my close friends. On Sunday, I'll drive to Nombre de Dios (you can find it on Google Earth) & spend 4 nights with Pauline (snorkeling, SCUBA-ing & other lazy pleasures). Then it's on to Alaska, California, Oregon & Washington. I'll try to keep up on the blog, but you won't be reading about Panama. I may do one last Panama Blog tomorrow so you can see a picture of my beautiful cedar chest that is arriving tomorrow (thanks to good friends Tom & Terry).

Monday, September 22, 2008

While I Was Sleeping....

As you can see from Marcial's grin, last night was very productive for the Las Olas turtles! Over ciento dos (200) turtle eggs came out of this one hole and will be incubated in Marcial's nursery for the next 35 days. There will be another turtle release this Wednesday (if you happen to be near Las Olas). I knew something was up when I looked out my bedroom window (getting ready for my walk) & could see Marcial poking the sand with a stick. When I got on the beach with my camera, I could capture the turtle tracks & my condo (bottom floor) in the same frame. There was also a natural turtle hatch that happened right in front of the resort, as evidenced by a 2 foot hole, broken eggs and a gazillion little tracks. While I was helping Marcial with the eggs, Anthony Arauz was surfing. I know it's not the greatest footage of him surfing, but it's all I could get at the time. I keep pinching myself... I couldn't have retired in a better place!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tis the Season

For the second morning beach walk in a row, I saw turtle tracks leading to a nest & returning back to the sea. Most likely they were Olive Ridley tracks, but I'm told that Leatherbacks nest here as well. Both nests were located above high tide and had been disturbed by humans (probably young, male Panamanians because eating turtle eggs helps maintain one's virility + turtle eggs fetch a high price at the bars). With any luck, the eggs were collected by Marcial Rojas, a local Panamanian marathon runner who's been saving baby turtles from extinction for over 17 years. After he collects the eggs, he brings them to a secure hatchery where baby turtles are safe from predators and poachers. We are coming up on the wettest month of the year (October) which coincides with the best time to lay your eggs (if you are a turtle who was born at Playa Barqueta). When I got close to my Condo, I saw a very uplifting sight... 20 to 30 Panamanians picking up trash from the beach! In case you are wondering, this picture was taken by talented neighbor-photographer Frank. This is a Laughing Falcon eating his favorite food... a small snake (appropriately, these falcons are also called Snake Hawks). This picture was taken right behind my condo on the mangrove access road. I couldn't resist adding this picture of Michelle (with her bird Precious) and these Scarlet Macaws (pets of a Drug Lord who is now in jail) at Paradise Gardens. My days continue to be filled with adventure, love & beauty. Yesterday friends Tom & Terry showed me a nearby part of Panama I had not seen before... a back road/trail that parallels the paved road to Volcan. From their lovely house on the ridge, one can see all the way to the beach were I live. We had a wonderful Thai lunch in Volcan (the only Thai restaurant in Panama). Paul (who I met several months ago at the David Immigration Office & wrote about in a previous blog) is the owner/cook. He showed us his carnivorous plant collection and sold me the most beautiful piece of art I have ever seen (watch for a picture on an upcoming blog). The sun it out, so I must go get my vitamin D! Have a great Sunday!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slothing Around

Here's the latest addition to Paradise Gardens. His/her (?) name is Tember (for September since that's when he/she came to the Gardens). Very cute and cuddly. Tember is a 2-toed sloth (I believe). Two-toed sloths have 2 fingers & 3 toes. Three-toed sloths have 3 fingers and 3 toes. I'll count Tember's fingers when I see him/her next Thursday & report back. I had to add this other picture as well. It's a weird hanging flower that hits you on the head as you leave the bird aviary (where I was watching Thick-billed Euphonias and Green Honeycreepers). I continue to have way too much fun!

40 Year SRHS Reunion

My 40-year Santa Rosa High School Reunion is coming up next year (Wow! Am I really that old?). I'm involved in the committee helping to plan that event (which will probably happen in October, 2009). Since it's illegal to leave an email address or website on, I've directed classmates to look here for my email address (which is I'm putting together a spreadsheet of 1969 SRHS Graduates. If you are one of my classmates, please send me your email and snail-mail addresses. See you next year!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Open Wide

This is just a short blog (well, not really that short) about some minor oral surgery I experienced yesterday in David. Through the Chiriqui Chatter blog & recommendations from my neighbors, I found Dr. Miriam A. Rodriguez Gonzalez. I went there last week and got my teeth cleaned for a mere $30. It's a very nice/clean office, so I decided to ask about the receding gums on my lower front teeth. After talking to Dr. Miriam (who could speak a little English), I decided to get minor surgery on my lower gum. I was somewhat nervous (I mean, who wants gum surgery...even in paradise?) as the Dr.'s assistant welcomed me into the "relax" chair. She pointed to the nearby TV screen where a very handsome (and topless) Latin man was teaching Yoga. She asked if I liked him, to which I laughingly responded, "Si, mucho gusto." The music on the Spanish Yoga DVD was good at least... very New Age. Dr. Miriam came in & immediately put numbing ointment on the inside of my lower lip. A few minutes later, she gave me several TOTALLY PAINLESS Novocaine shots to my lower gum. I don't know about you, but the most painful Novocaine shots I have received in the past have been to the front of my mouth. Never in all my dental experiences have I experienced such a painless shot. For the next 2 hours, Dr. Miriam worked very hard bleaching (with light) the discolored portion of my lower teeth, pulling back the lower gum, scrapping the tooth, "harvesting" other gum material to graft onto my lower teeth, and grafting it on (stitching it in place). I was never uncomfortable during the whole procedure. I'll see Dr. Miriam again next Friday for a follow-up visit. She gave me detailed instructions so I will heal properly & not require a second grafting procedure. The hardest part for me is No Physical Exercise for 2 weeks! I'm not a very good patient. Instead of walking hours each day on the beach, I'm wearing my weight vest around the condo, hanging out by my computer, and watching videos while holding ice to my chin. I just hope I can talk OK when I give my "How To Stay Healthy Through Good Nutrition" talk (where I'll give information about Juice Plus to the Boquete expat community).

I'm also getting ready for my next trip - almost 5 weeks in the States. I'll leave here September 28 & spend 4 nights at Caribbean Jimmy's Dive Resort (tuning up my SCUBA skills & hanging out in the warm Caribbean water), fly to Fairbanks on October 2 (arriving at my friend Patrice's house October 3), fly to Sacramento on October 7 for the River Management Society annual board meeting (since I'll be the National Secretary for the next 3 years), fly to Portland October 13 to visit my mother in Winlock WA, drive to Yosemite October 26 to attend the Yosemite employee reunion from Oct. 27-Oct. 30 (I worked there from 1976-1980), drive back to Winlock October 30, and stay with Mom until November 6 when I fly back to Panama. Richard & Nina (from Alaska) will fly into Panama 1 day after I return, and we'll be together for the next month hiking, kayaking & exploring. I won't return to the States again until March, 2007 when I attend the Juice Plus Conference in Long Beach, CA. One last thing before I close... I just purchased a Skype phone #: 1-360-262-6016. That means you can call me from your cell or land-line phones (especially handy for my mother) any time you feel the urge. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Llana Nopo -- The Heart of Panama

Lucky me! As I said in my previous blog, I joined the Boquete Rotary (Club Rotario de Boquete) last Thursday and was immediately invited to join them on a 3-day, 2-night trip to investigate the needs of the Ngobe-Bugle who live in Llana Nopo (a small community within the Comarca (similar to a Native American reservation in the States). First some brief background information: Llana Nopo (a double "l" is pronounced like a Y) is located in the highlands of the Comarca (roughly a 4-hour drive on paved & dirt roads from where I live). The Comarca is mostly inhabited by the Guaymi or Ngobe indigenous Indian tribes. Their land was set aside by the Panamanian government in 1997... only 11 years ago. The Guaymi's and Ngobe's live in extreme poverty in small family clusters of several "homes" without a defined town center or centralized community. They have been left by the government to fend for themselves. Charitable and religious organizations (like Rotary) have been working in the Comarca, but it is so large and the people so scattered, it continues to be difficult to help large numbers of the population through one central project. The Boquete Rotary recently stepped up to the plate with a plan to help. This trip was a fact-finding trip to record the needs of the community. Llano Nopo is fortunate to have a large (over 800 students) school that was created many years ago with help from Catholic Charities and the Diocese of David. But it's not easy to get to school. Most students have to walk an average of 4 hours (one-way) to attend school. Students come from all over the Comarca. Imagine negotiating very difficult terrain with extreme weather (heavy rain) and poisonous snakes (the medical clinic sees 2 bites per month that result in death and loss of limbs). Grades 1-6 attend from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm and grades 7-10 (grades 11 & 12 will come in the next 2 years) attend from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Recently a dormitory was built to house 25 children (they are selected based on grades... boys only for now). An expansion to the existing dorm and more dormitories (even a girl's dorm) are planned, and this is where the Club Rotario de Boquete comes in. This club (with the help of other Rotary clubs) wants to fund a project that addresses several problems: Malnutrition (often severe, creating an average mortality age of 40), lack of housing for the children to attend school, lack of school supplies and lack of water storage for the community. On this trip, I had the great privilege of seeing small children receive shoes for the first time (notice the bright green Croc in the first picture), the medical clinic receive 15 viles of snake anti-venom, and the school honor us for donating our time, energy and money to them (see pictures of lined-up students in their blue uniforms at the "ceremony" to thank us). I tell you, it brought tears to my eyes! Anyway, if you have any desire to donate money or materials to this project (especially you, my rich Uncle Bruce), contact me. P.S. This is the rainy season, so the Rio Rey (pictured above) must be crossed by the Indians every time they take supplies (often rice) from Llano Nopo to their homes many miles away or bring in supplies (like the wood pictured with this Indian couple about to cross Rio Rey...she got her dress wet to her shoulders). Plus, as we drove up the very poor road, we saw Guaymi's and Ngobe's voting (lined up in these "forever" lines) as this picture taken at the Llano Nopo school shows. I hope to be back in mid-November (hopefully with friends Nina & Richard who are visiting from Alaska) as the people of Llano Nopo asked us to return for the fair/ceremony that will honor Club Rotario de Boquete. Panamanians love an excuse to party!

Meeting GREAT People at Paradise Gardens -- Monica

This is just a short post (before I go on to my longer post about travel to the heart of Panama) to let you know that I met a great woman Monica when I "worked" at Paradise Gardens last Thursday. She's written some lovely blogs about Panama (could it be because she is a journalist for a metropolitan daily in New York?). She just found her way into Costa Rica & that will be interesting to follow as well. If you want to see Monica's blog, just click on her highlighted name.
"See" you at the next post!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Service and Blue Skies

In spite of Hurricane Gustav and my mother (in WA) buildng fires to stay warm over Labor Day weekend, I'm blissfully walking the Playa Barqueta beach looking for turtle tracks (like this picture of tracks I snapped in Costa Rica right before seeing the Olive Ridley going back into the ocean after laying her eggs) collecting sea beans (for my ever-growing collection pictured here with fake orchids), and hoping to see a humpback whale breech (several neighbors saw them breeching Friday night). I am continually amazed at the great weather we have here on the Pacific side of Panama. While friends near Boquete deal with downpours, power outages & eroding topsoil, I'm birding, body boarding, maintaining my vitamin D levels (sunning) and flying kites. When it does rain (which an be very hard ... i.e. tropical), it's usually late afternoon or after the sun goes down.
Last week became a full-fledged volunteer of Paradise Gardens and a member of Rotary Club Boquete (the David Rotary is closer to me but the meeting is conducted in Spanish). Paradise Gardens is so peaceful (except when this pictured red-backed squirrel monkey tries to pick-pocket you). I spent my first day getting acquainted with the occupants of this lovely wildlife rescue santuary near Boquete. I watched in awe as 7 year old Dollar & 9 year old Ruby (Greenwing Macaws bred in England) tried to "feed" each other. They reached into each other's beaks & acted like feeding mothers. I asked Jenny (who owns/runs Paradise Gardens with her husband Paul) what was going on. She was very excited to hear about this behavior because it's a sign they are going to breed and raise baby macaws (since they are practicing feeding). Go to if you want more information. I also joined the 15 member Boquete Rotary Club. It meets every Thursday at 9:00 a.m., so I can easily attend the meeting & volunteer at Paradise Gardens after the meeting. As it turns out, I went to Santa Rosa High School with the great nephew of Rotary Club founder Paul P. Harris. Since I'm planning the SRHS class of 1969 40-year reunion (for July 18, 2009), I've been emailing various classmates, including Chris Traub (the great nephew). Seems like we are all so connected. The sun is out so I'm headed for the pool. I hope everyone had a fine Labor Day Weekend. Of course, in my blissful state of retirement, every day is a holiday!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Caribbean Blue

Little did I know that the best day in Columbia was yet to come. One of my favorite songs is Enya's "Caribbean Blue" (Great music video to google & watch if you haven't seen it) & my day with Cartegena Diving Planet was beautifully Caribbean Blue. Jennifer was my "guide" & took these great pictures of me snorkeling. I met Diving Planet at 7:40 a.m. & they shuttled me to the marina where a 30-passenger boat was waiting to take me to Isla Grande (near the protected Rosario Islands). Their diving center is co-located with the Cocoliso Resort on Isla Grande (45 km & a 45 minute boat ride from Cartegena). We had 2 snorkel/SCUBA dives -- one at 10:00 a.m. and one at 12:30 p.m. Each snorkel trip lasted 1.5 hours (I can SCUBA dive but prefer snorkeling because of its simplicity/longer time in the water). Imagine perfectly clear water, WARM water, gillions of species. The 10:00 a.m. trip was comprised of Jennifer, me & a couple. The 12:30 p.m. trip was larger & in rougher water... but still beautiful. I even saw a cuttlefish (!), jellyfish, loads of parrot fish (forgive me for eating one with Tara when I was in Loreto), and a lovely black tang with florescent blue spots. After 2 dives, I was treated to a lovely salad (after explaining that I was the only vegan in Columbia) under the palms. I returned to Cartegena around 4:30 p.m. Louise & I spent a lovely last evening eating dinner in the Santa Clara Hotel courtyard (listening to frogs & smelling jasmine), watching tango dancers, jugglers and mimes perform in the streets, and feeling the tropical pulse of Cartegena. I'll return, but next time it will be on a sailboat from Colon, Panama.

Friday, August 22, 2008

More Pictures + Leaf-Cutter Ant Video

From what I could tell, the video didn't upload last night so I tried it again (successfully it seems). There's also a sunrise picture over our beach, a picture of Louise, our cook (from across the street) & Penny at dinner, and me standing with the dolce (sweets) lady. She carried the sweets on her head & sold them on the beach. I never got her name, but she liked me cuz I bought homemade tamarindo from her. I'm off to meet the taxi!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mysteries of Tayrona National Park - Colombia

The promised Mendihuaca Tour to Tayrona NP never materialized, so Louise & I took matters into our own hands this morning. At 9:00 a.m., we stood in front of the hotel and caught a bus (as if we were locals) to Tayrona (5 KM away). The cost was 2,000 Pesos ($1.25), and we waited less than 5 minutes. The entrance fee was pretty steep, however. Colombians pay $9,000 Pesos to our (foreigners that we are) $25,000 Pesos. Unlike Yosemite, there was no transportation provided to the trailheads, so we walked about an hour to the "9 Stones" trailhead. It was beautiful hiking, even on the main road, because it was shaded with huge rainforest trees and very peaceful. I just wish we had more time here to explore & understand the Tayrona ancient civilization. We saw 3 of the 9 stones (see the pictures above). The Tayronians somehow shaped the stones, mounted them & drilled holes into them. They foretold the future by facing the holes toward certain stars. Lots of mystery going on here. I'll have to return & camp on the beach next time (I can't afford the eco-lodges pictured here). We also saw loads of leaf-cutter ants (see the video). We'll head to Cartegena (the historic section -- where Louise & I will stay for 3 nights) tomorrow & drop Penny at the airport so she can catch her flight to Panama. Wish us luck!!