Friday, January 29, 2010

Islas, Wind, and Water

It’s always a good day when it begins with putting on a bathing suit under my exterior outfit. Yesterday I dressed the same way in preparation of a kayak trip with Nina and her friends Kay and Mary from Alaska. Today, I went with Leslie (who has that great house in the Villa section of Las Olas), her sister Kim and 4 year old son Liam, her sister Dina and 7 year old daughter Becca on a boat trip to Isla Gámez. The protected area (Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park) is well-known as the archipelago of the Páridas and includes the islands Parida (the greater of all), Paridita, Santa Catalina, Pulgoso, Gámez, Tintorera, Obispo, Obispone, Los Pargos, Ahogado, Icacos, Corral de Piedra, Bolaños, Berraco, Bolañitos, San José, Linarte, Saíno, Sainitos, Iglesia Mayor, Carey Macho and Carey Hembra. The boat was named Mr. Bean (maybe beans made the Panamanian owner rich?) and captained by Tomito. The weather: perfect; Isla Gámez: a lovely white sand beach; the ocean: full of tropical fish. This was my forth trip to Gámez and first time I had seen so many fish there. I was especially lucky and saw a huge (5’ across) spotted eagle ray (no, I did not take the above picture). I was only a few feet away and thought about Steve Irwin and his deadly encounter with sting rays. Cool fish included: Golden Jack, Panama Graysby, Green Jack, Cortez Rainbow Wrasse, Panamic Sergeant Major, Giant Hawkfish, Panamic NIghtsergeant, Spotted Porcupinefish, and King Angelfish (no, I didn’t take that picture either… let me know if you want to contribute to an underwater camera). We left Gámez at exactly the wrong time. As it turns out, the North Wind is at its fiercest between noon and 4:00 p.m. Of course we had to get back, so we took off. At first it was fun, bouncing in the whitecaps. But as the waves broke over the front deck, we all gladly moved to the back of the boat, huddling together like refugees from a foreign war. We had a reprieve when we stopped at Boca Brava to look for howler monkeys (which we found in trees above the water). Glad to return safely to my truck parked in Pedregal, I’ll think twice about boating in the north wind months of January through March.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pure, Unadulterated Fun! Or Panama Beach Life

My intent is not to make you envious. I just have to share some of the good times I continue to have in Panama. Last Sunday, Chuck and I drove to Sitio Barriles (archaeological site dating back to 734 B.C.) and Parque Internacional La Amistad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site that lies partly in Costa Rica). The gigantic leaf covering my body was along the trail. Comment inserted after I published this blog entry:  John DeLapp from the US Fish and Wildlife Service verified this plant is in the Haloragaceae family, genus Gunnera.  The common name "Poor man's umbrella" seems utterly appropriate.
Last night was John's 70th birthday party, complete with Mariachi band (that's Chuck, not me with the beer next to the horn player), great Panamanian food, fabulous beach neighbors, and some of the best fireworks I have seen. I left before la fiesta was over so I could get an early start on today. So far, I walked Chester about 2 miles on the road in front of my house (I was early enough to see the lovely lights of Conception and a beautiful sunrise). At 7:30 a.m. Nina and I went on a 30-mile bike ride. Along the way, we had a pineapple smoothie while listening to a hog being slaughtered across the street (you had to be there). I returned at noon, got a quick bite and took Chester for a beach walk at low tide (my favorite time on the beach). I walked about 2 miles but he ran closer to 5 miles chasing birds. While still with Chester, I saw John (it was his party) and Elizabeth body-boarding. I returned Chester to the house, grabbed my board and proceeded to body-board with them for the next hour. I left Chester behind for fear he would drown trying to "guard" me from the surf. I just completed my second shower of the day (plus 1 shower for Chester). Sunset is approaching, so now I "have" to go enjoy that. Yes, it's a tough retirement, but someone has to do it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Las Brisas Del Mar Condo #101 Fire Sale

As a January 1, 2010 present to everyone reading this blog, you are the first to know that my condo has been reduced from $289,500 to $239,000. For more information, go to: and click at the top on "Playa La Barqueta".

Now is a good time to buy before House Hunters International (hgtv) exposes Playa La Barqueta real estate to the masses!

Once in a Blue Moon on a Panama Beach

I can't imagine seeing another New Year's Eve and night before New Year's Eve that was as beautiful as last night and the night before! Was it the Blue Moon? Since the moon was nearly full December 30, Chuck and I walked on the beach from my house to the condos. Between the warm ocean, full moon, low tide and tropical air it was sensory overload. We dangled our feet in the pool at the condo, chatted and watched bats and toads feeding on insects. On our return we spotted a firefly upside-down on the beach, exposing his blinking abdomen to us. Did he get too much sex or was he simply hit by a wave? After seeing the firefly, I said, "maybe we'll get really lucky and see an Olive Ridley sea turtle". As we got closer to my beach house, we saw 5 young men messing with something and following it to the ocean. My God! An Olive Ridley mama sea turtle returning into the ocean! The 5 Panamanians were harassing the turtle, and I asked them (in my broken Spanish) to leave her alone. They had bags with them (which I assumed were turtle eggs) that contained small crabs. I was later told that crabs sell for $1.50 for a dozen & taste terrible. It was even brighter New Year's Eve. We didn't see another turtle, but we did see another (the same?) firefly blinking on the beach, abdomen exposed to the sky. We walked from my house to Sharon and Ken Sample's beach party, complete with GREAT fireworks.
In case you are wondering about the stuffed karma dolls pictured above, they are called munecas (Spanish for dolls). The tradition (at least in this part of Panama) is to stuff a life size doll and place it in your front yard. The doll represents all the bad things that happened in the previous year. At the stroke of midnight, you burn the doll and send all that bad karma into the ether. Pretty cool traditions. We did something similar but different at the beach party. Sharon had prepared a batch of origami creatures that we wrote 2010 wishes on. We took them (like prayers) and tossed them into the bonfire.
Will I still be here for the next December 31 Blue Moon in 2028? I think so. I'll be 77 years old and still wandering this 16-mile long beach paradise.