Random thoughts/ month 17

30 Sep

To the end and now back! This month we:

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+ explored the Panamanian beaches of Las Lajas, Albino Grande, Santa Catalina and surf haven Playa Venao. In Las Lajas, we had stretches of sand and surf and palapas to ourselves…until some jackass parked THISCLOSE to Skyhorse, blasted their horrible music and walked away. Fab. In Santa Catalina, beach front parking was limited and it was too hot not to park on the water so we parked here (next to the public garbage cans)

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with a view of this:

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And some local kids fell in love with our dogs (and our chairs)

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+ kayaked in Santa Catalina out to an uninhabited wild jungle island and down an estuary rumored to be home to crocodiles.

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+ found hoards of hermit crabs and this guy wearing a toothpaste cap. Fashion at its finest.

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+ bought lobster and conch from fishermen as they were pulling their boats up to the town. $10 for 2 massive conch and 4 lobster, which became a raw conch app and a heavenly garlic-butter lobster pasta dinner.

+ visited the small mountain town of El Valle.

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We relaxed in the hot springs with mud masks twice, saw multiple sloths booking it down trees in a rainstorm, visited the zoo/rescue center, and bought a ton of local produce at the market. The zoo was something else. It’s set in a botanical garden with immense mountains as the backdrop. The diverse range of animals in the zoo was pretty awesome– monkeys, parrots, golden frogs, and sheep with all different pitched voices (see our Facebook page for a hilarious video).

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+ ate the most delicious meal at Casa de Lourdes. If you find yourself in El Valle, you must go! People drive the four hours round trip from Panama City just to eat there. The restaurant is inside a mansion decorated like a home. We dined on the patio overlooking the pool and gardens. I had the most spectacular salmon (it’s so hard to find in Central America and I’ve been missing it) and Hani had a perfect bacon wrapped fat steak. Martinis and dessert… Ahhhh!

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+ really enjoyed Panama City. It’s one of the only major cities that was clean and easy to navigate, probably because we relied on taxis. We parked with all the other travelers on the street outside the Balboa Yacht Club and took $3 taxies around the city. Our first night in town, we connected with Hani’s friend Corina who gave us a driving tour of the major neighborhoods. We then walked around Casco Viejo, a cool cobblestone neighborhood with lots of restaurants and bars. Even on a Sunday night, the city was all lit up and lively. It’s been a long time since we’ve experienced real nightlife.

IMG_2633.JPG+ watched a massive cargo ship cross the Miraflores locks and enter the Panama Canal. From the beginning of our trip, I was most looking forward to visiting the Canal and seeing the locks in play. Panama City is situated on the Pacific Ocean, so huge tankers anchor at the entrance of the canal, waiting for their turn to go through. The ships are guided into the locks by “mules,” tiny trains on tracks that have cables running out to the ship. Once inside the lock, the gates are closed and water fills from underneath, lifting the ship up to the level of the next lock. The same thing happens in the second lock until the ship is at the same level as Canal. It doesn’t sound as impressive at it actually is but watching the ships pass truly was amazing, especially because all this technology has been unchanged and still efficient for the past 100 years.

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+ toured Panama Viejo ruins. You can climb up all the ruins, which are right on the water, for spectacular views of the new city. The contrast between the old demolished city and new gleaming high rises was my favorite.

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+ met up with my godmother and her husband in Panama City for a wonderful dinner. It was so nice to see family and catch up with them for a few hours. It’s funny, they live in south Florida and we finally get together miles and miles away from home in a city where both of us are vacationing.

+ had the leaf springs recurved and a reinforced shelf made for the battery bank at a mechanic outside of Panama City. The leaf springs were pretty much straight and needed curving for a more comfortable ride. And the bottom of the battery bank shelf was basically falling out. So a fix on both fronts was necessary.

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+ celebrated our mechanic Fernando’s 35th birthday with him. His shop was behind his house so we parked in his driveway. At sunset, with half the job complete, a tire off and the truck on jacks, he announces that it’s his birthday and the party is at his house. Awkward. Guess we are invited. No but the family was super nice and dragged us out of the truck to join in the festivities. They kept pouring drinks, pushing overflowing plates of delicious food and included us in conversations, speaking slowly which became more and more difficult as everyone drank more. We walked the few steps back to the truck later that night with full bellies and a few new friends.

+ took the dogs to the vet. Shae was sick, of course on a Sunday, when everything is closed. We hung out in David where we found a vet with good online reviews. We camped in their driveway and both dogs were seen first thing Monday morning. Shae had a parasite, probably from something she sniffed or licked off the street. Nothing a bunch of medicines wouldn’t fix and was back to her old self several days later. We brought Olivia in to the vet to have a growth near her eye removed. As the vet did the blood test to make sure she was fine for the surgery, he found that her platelets were very low. After another test, he determined that she had a worm. Ultimately, Olivia was fine to proceed with the surgery, was a cone head for a few days, and had to take a round of deworming meds.

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+ spent a total of 29 out of a possible 30 days in Panama.

+ arrived back in Costa Rica with 10 days left on our vehicle permit and ended up using 7 of them. But instead of heading toward the Nicaragua border, we back tracked around the Golfo Dulce across from the Osa peninsula, hugging the Panamanian border. We found the cool surfing village of Playa Pavones and parked our happy butts on a sweet spot at a point on the water.

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+ continued down that peninsula instead of going north and hit the official end of Costa Rican road at Punta Banca.

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We saw monkeys playing in the trees. The water was clear blue. The breeze was scrumptious. And we “borrowed” a wifi signal from the only thing out there, a small eco lodge. That night, I walked up and down the beach with a team out to rescue turtles. Apparently robbing turtles nests is a big problem in that area because the money is good and there is no police presence. There are a group of locals who rescue and a group who rob and each team paces up and down the beach all night hoping to be the first to lay claim to a turtle coming on land. Though we didn’t see any turtles coming to nest, it was a great experience and felt awesome showing the turtle robbing locals that the good guys are growing.

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+ have been waking up at 6…and going to bed at 8. We are so lame.

+ bottle fed a 3 month old sloth. Other overlanding friends have been raving about Finca Canas Castillo, a working farm right at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border that has cabinas and allows travelers to camp on their property. We spent our last night in Costa Rica there, admiring the jungley grounds, listening to howler monkeys and praying the baby sloth they rescued would wake up. It had fallen out of its tree and now the owners were caring for it to eventually release it back into the wild. In the mean time, this ridiculous creature sleeps and feeds on goat milk. She (they think it’s a she) is super light, feels like a muppet and kept falling asleep as I fed her. Hani barely touched her. He was afraid she was going to claw his face off. Seriously.

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+ crossed back into Nicaragua on September 22.

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And even thought we have done this particular border before and knew where we needed to go and what we needed to do, it was STILL unnecessarily long and annoying, sending us running around in circles.

+ beelined for San Juan del Sur. This town was a food Mecca for us so we had our list of “must hit” restaurants, pretty much the same places we ate at 4 months ago when we were there. All checked off, in case you were wondering, with a .40 chocolate covered frozen banana daily.

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+spent much of our 4 days in San Juan del Sur doing this
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and this

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and this

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+ celebrated Hani’s birthday early by buying a ukulele. Nica Tiki Ukulele in San Juan sells gorgeous handmade wooden ukes. Hani picked out a rosewood uke, his new pride and joy. We also bought a local handmade bag for our Hani’s new buddy. Now the only thing left is to learn to play it!

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3 Responses to “Random thoughts/ month 17”

  1. Nancy McKibbin September 30, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    Do the owners of Finca Canas Castillo still have their 2 dogs–a Great Dane and a German Sheperd? When we camped there in January, the Great Dane (who seemed like a nice dog until then) attacked our dog with no warning. We were standing next to our camper at the time. That’s how I broke my wrist in Costa Rica–getting the dog off Mangoes before she could kill her! Just wondered if the owners there are taking any precautions now with campers who have dogs. I agree it’s a nice place, we just happened to have a terrible experience with the dogs there.

    • Sarah October 1, 2014 at 12:09 am #

      omg nancy THAT is where you broke your wrist?! they still have both the dogs, which were oddly aggressive when we arrived. the lady expressed vague concern about our dogs meeting their dogs, but it was more in response to me asking if the dogs were ok with other dogs. she tied them up near her house when i walked our girls and didn’t take them near their house, just around the parking area. you need to write your incident as check in at that location in the ioverlander app so people know!

  2. toothontheloose October 1, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    Ooh, I am jealous of your visit to Panama! I really wanted to fit into my Central America travel plan (seeing as it’s the big anniversary of the canal), but the logistics and price of trying to get there in the limited time I had made it impossible. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, though.

    Also, I applaud your hermit crab’s commitment to oral hygiene ;).

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