Day 4

Panamanian time drives me crazy. Depending on the activity people can be on time or up to an hour late. Yesterday, however, was the first time I experienced it the other way. My dad told me the day before to be ready at 9. Then he called me and woke me up and said to be ready at 8. I was in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast when he walked in at 7:40 and asked if I was ready. Panamanian Time!

We drove to the other side of the isthmus yesterday. I was packed in a truck with my dad, his wife, their helper and her two children. Our first stop was the port city of Portobelo. Portobelo is one of the oldest settlements in Latin America and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It faces the Caribbean Sea. There were two stops on our agenda.

First was El Nazareno or the Black Christ. It is a wooden statue of Jesus carved in black wood that dates back to the 1600s. They know that it was carved in Spain but nobody knows how it got to Portobelo. Several miracles are associated with the statue and there is huge festival in October. Tens of thousands of people descend on the town some of them walking all the way from Panama City.

Then we walked over to the ruins of the old fort. Portobelo was established in 1597 and was one of the main ports for the Spanish treasure ships. Walls, turrets and cannons from those fortifications are still standing. The top of the wall gave beautiful views of the bays, the mountains and the ships in the harbor. It was easy to imagine what it was like so long ago when the land was first settled. I love places like that.

I'm not sure how safe Portobelo is for tourists by themselves but it definitely had an authentic feel to it. It felt like a city untouched by the US which is hard to find in the areas I have traveled in Panama. The US has a big influence here, mostly due to the canal, but I did not see it in Portobelo. I would have liked to wander the streets more and take it all in. I have to share that I saw someone's pet monkey on a porch and a guy was walking around the town with a huge boa constrictor hanging around his neck. He always seemed to pop up as a surprise and he walked so fast I never got a shot of him.

From there we took the road back to Colon but about 25 minutes from Portobelo we pulled into the property of a friend of my dads. His own little private bay right there on the Caribbean. This is one of those times that words won't really suffice and while pictures are better they also don't top being there. There were trees all along the waters edge that provided shade. The sky was blue and the clouds were white. The air had the taste and smell of salt water and the waves crashed in the distance. This was truly heaven.

There really wasn't a beach with sand but more of a concrete walk that led into the water. This was my first time to experience the waters of the Caribbean. They are crystal clear and as warm as bath water. The kids played in the water and I walked around, took pictures and just sat and took in the sights and the sounds. And if that wasn't fabulous enough they took young coconuts off the trees, chopped the top off and handed it to me to drink. It was full of coconut water. Talk about authentic experiences.

I am a go, go, go person especially on vacation but you could have strung up a hammock and I would have stayed there for hours. If I had all the money in the world I would want to take a vacation where I stay in a private little cove like that for a night or two. If you haven't guessed by now I love the ocean. Although I am not necessarily a fan of being in the water with all the other things that swim in the ocean. I am not a of scaly things or crabby things or clear things that sting you.

From there we headed back to Colon to eat lunch and ended up at McDonalds. Not my choice of course but I did get to see that on the menu you can get corn instead of fries and that they sell fried chicken which they call Pollo McCrispy. From there we headed to my dads farm up in the mountains outside of Colon. I am not a farm girl and this one is rudimentary at best. But it does have lovely views and while we were there the rains came. They brought the coconuts with them and then sliced them open to eat the insides. It didn't really have a strong taste.

When I got back to the hotel I was salty and muddy and stinky and I scrubbed in the shower for a long time. Did I mention the hotel's hot water isn't really working very well? Yeah. Anyway it was a full day which is how I like them. I am hoping the next two days are full as well. I only know of one activity today and that is to apply for my passport. Time to get dressed.

P.S. Appreciate your clean restrooms and your flushing toilets. Those are easy to find in Panama City but harder to find in the countryside.

Day 5

Day 3