Monday, January 30, 2012

Allies Birthday Night in Panama City

Jan 10th 2012
My first sight of the city in daylight...palm trees, heat like an oven, wild erratic driving, a skyline of high rises (mostly all residential rather than commercial), seaside promenade looking out at fishing boats, a cruise ship or two, and surprisingly clean streets and surroundings....welcome to Panama City!
We spend our first day, which also happens to be my birthday, in town mostly sleeping (my god it didn’t matter how hot it was, I was out like a light).
- A -
IMG_2997Casco Viejo, the old town, beautiful colonial buildings being restored one by one. Quite an undertaking with so many buildings. This area is now a mix of gutted buildings piled high with rubble inside, while others are finished and looking stately and expensive. Juliette balconies reminding me of Paris with their colourful flowers and greenery, while painted sunny and cheerful Caribbean colours, the buildings reminded us both of Antigua in Guatemala. In about 5 to 10 years these cobblestone streets will no doubt be teeming with rich gringos staying in the boutique hotels, and dining at expensive restaurants. for now though the streets are cluttered smelly and extremely interesting, lots of wonderful food options from upscale restaurants at very North American prices to roller door Comidas serving many sorts of meats on rice for $2 a large plate. we had a great Brunch of Ceviche done with Pineapple and Coconut, then for dinner we had a amazing Italian style Pizza for $7us per pizza with $1.50 Cervezas (Beer), awesome.
                                                   - A 'n' J -

©JaimeSharp-6That evening was a bit of a gong show complete with a 2 hour party bus ride for $10 each with some dancing, all you can drink Rum and Coke, travelers from multiple nations. we then moved on to a rowdy outdoor bar called Relic at this point Allie made friends with a Woman and her millionaire Panamanian friend and we found ourselves ripping around town in a Porsche Carrera looking for Places in which to dance the night away, oh did I mention all this at about 100kph and sliding sideways around corners? well it was only some times. crazy driver!!
- J -
Video of Party Bus
Video Of Porsche Ride

Jaime was wearing shorts so many places (ones were everyone was dressed in white and others where there where limos lined up outside) were a no go, that left us a strip club, and finally yes, a cheesy Latina bar playing passable music to dance to. Not my ideal choice of how to spend my birthday but hey, it was good for a laugh, and I just remember we’re only a couple days away from the beaches of Santa Catalina.
- A -

Oh yeah adventures in the City we can't wait to get out to the Coast!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Worlds Colliding in Panama

Jan 9th -10th 2012
Here is the first blog post, it outlines our first day in Panama city and the journeys Allie and I took the day before we meet in Panama City's Tocumen International Airport to begin our 7 week adventure in Panama. Allie's travel day began before mine so her story starts the Narration:

7:30am:  Getting to bed at 12:30am the night before I leave Vancouver, I’m already up again at 4.30am. A breakfast smoothie in hand, I arrive at the airport with plenty of time to weigh my bags; crossing my fingers they come in underweight, that my hula hoop can be allowed as a carry on, and that I don’t get questioned over my donning of my PFD for the flight.  Turns out they don’t even check my bag for me, let alone weigh it, only telling me to pass it off down the hall onto a conveyor belt. Done deal. Phew! I pull my rain jacket over my PFD to casually hide it. No one notices.
Seated in last row of the plane - great.
                                    - Allie -

12 pm:
I catch a small plane from the town of Dangriga in Belize to Belize ctiy. The journey to Panama begins; 1 Check in folding kayak weighing around 73lbs, 1 carry on bag weighing 35lbs, 1 personal item (a kayak Deck bag) loaded with film gear and a computer, a Fuel bottle strapped on as a drink bottle and me wearing my Kayaking PFD. I am flying from Belize to Panama Via TACA Airlines, they allow 70lbs combined check in, a carry on and a personal item, I wasn't sure how they were going to react to me with my gear.
                                                     - Jaime -

2 pm: I’ve got a tight connection of only 20 minutes once we land in Houston and I manage to thankfully squeeze my way off the plane past the other passengers, running to my next gate only to find out the plane is late by an hour; most flights for Panama are late due to weather. My 3 hour wait for Jaime is now only 2 hours, but will his flight be late as well? Hmm. 
                                    - Allie -

3pm: At check in they looked apathetically amused at my appearance and odd assortment of baggage and outer wear. “how many bags are you checking?” the bored looking lady asked; when I replied "one", she seemed a little startled and I quickly stated that I had flown with the other items as carry on to this point already, she excepted that and I placed the folding TRAK kayak, with paddle and safety gear all in the TRAK golf bag, on the scales, the scales were too small to weigh the boat it seemed and I told the bag man it weighed 70lbs and he unhappily shrugged and tagged the bag. I was issued tickets and off I went, looking like a right character in my Chaco sandals, shorts, singlet and wearing a PFD while backing a Back pack.
                                                     - Jaime -

5pm: board plane, no one blinks much at me and all my gear (from what I can tell any way), everything fits well on the plane, I am impressed by the newness of the TACA plane.
                                                     - Jaime -
6.30pm: Touchdown San Salvador City, El Salvador.
                                                     - Jaime -

8:45pm: Arriving at Tocumen Airport and the first thing I do is get to the bathrooms to wash the stinky sticky sweat off me, a much needed freshening up.  Feel much better. Sit myself down in baggage claim and get comfortable for the next couple hours with my book, iPod, Spanish phrasebook, people watching and an attempt at some shut eye.
                                    - Allie -

8.50pm: Boarding was supposed to be at 8.10pm, after a long wait we are told the flight is delayed until 2am, and we will be put up in a hotel until then. We file after our attendant, get stamped into EL Salvador and board a bus (it seems I always have a misadventure when passing through this country, last time I was driving through El Salvador with my mate Ian and we had a lady drive into the rear of our vehicle; $500us later and a police escort to the border we were cleared of further responsibilities and well on our way to the Honduras Border). 20 mins later we Pulled up outside the Intercontinental Hotel and were put in super Plush rooms and given dinner.
                                                     - Jaime -
9.55pm: I Sent Allie and email to tell her what had happened as she would now be in Panama airport awaiting my arrival (as long as she had no delays). I hopped she got the message soon and would sort herself out room in the city and would let me know where to find her. I enjoyed a hot bath and slept till 12.45am
                                                     - Jaime -

10:45pm comes and goes. One plane-load of passengers arrives and I squint my eyes at the distant crowd, worried that I don’t see him, that he might have passed me by, that I forget what he looks like and I’ve missed him.....crap
                                    - Allie -

12:45am I pass the hours repeating my routine; pacing, wondering, waiting. Dos Policia (2 Policemen) approach me. I was prepared for this so I had managed to string together a decent phrase explaining what I was doing.  They asked me to wait outside past customs for Jaime and that his Taca flight from San Salvador would be arriving in about 25 minutes. Great!
                                    - Allie -

1am: back on the bus to the airport. Going through customs with my bags again I ended up having a bunch of stuff pulled out that I had flown with so far, they dug out a well buried Lighter, took my sewing repair kit (the needle was dangerous), went through my first aid kit; removed my tweezers, my safety pins, my wire ties though strangely left my syringe needle. The officer then repacked my stuff and I was on my way again. Annoying to have your first aid kit depleted of useful tools. Back on the Plane TACA then issued all the passengers a $300 flight voucher to compensate for the Delay. Wow good service.
I hope Allie has sorted herself out, I haven’t received an email from her yet, there should be one once I arrive in Panama, or maybe she is waiting for me by sleeping at the airport ( I hope not, it’s been a big delay).
                                                     - Jaime -

3am: I’m now really restless. There’s no internet anywhere, no food kiosks, I’m rationing what little snacks I brought with me from home, and I manage to find some grossly uncomfortable chairs on which to contort my body for a half reclined ‘rest’. Growing increasingly impatient, I can’t sit still. I do some stretching in the empty corridor, and in my forward standing bend I spot some TV screens through my legs, waaay down the hall. Ah! Arrival screens! I finally gain some information about his flight....yes, scheduled arrival 10:45pm. It’s now 3am. New estimated arrival: 5:45am!!!! I’m cursing the airlines in disbelief, shaking my head, turning to walk away only to look back again just to make sure I read it correctly. Arrgh!
                                    - Allie -

5 am: Almost time for touch down, i have been given quite a good meal, and watched a movie, also i have been sitting in the exit row and have had lots of leg room! despite the delay the service and my experience with TACA has been great!

                                                     - Jaime -

5:40am: After managing about an hour of rest on a couch found in one of the car rental agencies, I awoke to the sounds of people stirring in the airport. Yay!! I hoist my pack on my back, rub my bleary eyes, and head towards the arrival doors and not 5 minutes later, I see him walk through the doors, laden down with boat, backpack, camera bag....yup it’s really him! I drag myself towards him, so completely exhausted. 
He doesn’t understand why I’m so exhausted... “You got my message right? Did you get a hotel in town?”
“What! No?!”  I reply in disbelief. I’m shaking I’m so tired and hungry. I tell him my story.
“You have been in the airport all night?" he states. "Oh. Well I guess you don’t wanna hear where I’ve been then!”
                                    - Allie -

7.30am: We are now combined as a team for the Adventure in Panama, we make friends with an Israeli couple, Yeffat and Gillad, and we share a taxi into the city to their Hostel. There was originally no room for us at the hostel so we went looking for a pay phone and found a cheaper room in the old town of Casco Viejo, only $22 a night with free Wi-Fi, breakfast and a kitchen for cooking. On our return to the original Hostel we are informed there is a room available for $40 a night, we thank them though move on, with hopes of catching up with Yefet and Gillad later in the trip.

After boarding a Taxi for a $4 ride across town through the bustling streets and skyrise apartments of Panama city, we find our way into the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, and eventually find our budget accommodation. The area is wonderful, the room spartan yet comfortable with a nice open air window. we are more than happy we eat some of the Banana's provided for breakfast, then go looking for Brunch before passing out for the afternoon, to catch up on much needed sleep.

Panama here we are and it is nice to be here! The day was Allies Birthday and the coming night presented some crazy adventures stay tuned!

                                      - A 'n' J -

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Panama Adventure Begins

Here is a little video to bring you into the Adventure Allie and I are having in Panama. stay tuned for more written, visual and audio adventure logs.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Panama Has Free Health Insurance For Tourists

Another great reason to visit this beautiful country! Panama now offers tourists free emergency health care to anyone who enters the country through Tocumen International Airport. Since January 17, 2012, all tourists have been able to obtain the free medical insurance at the tourist information center in the immigration area. The insurance is good for the first 30 days of travel and includes top-level coverage during emergencies. The insurance does not cover incidents caused by negligence, alcohol and drug use, or extreme sports.

More Info on Panama HERE