Day 4 Saturday 14.01.2012 We’re on our way to Colón, but we got off at Sabanitas before getting to Colón to then change to a bus to Portobelo.
Forgot to put some pictures of the Canal de Panamá…
At Miraflores lock where you get a view of the Canal
Back to Sabanitas…
We had our bags with us and there isn’t much space in these Diablo Rojos (local buses) and every bus that arrived was packed! Finally after three buses and after at least two hours wait we finally jumped on a bus to Portobelo (“Portobelo is a port city in Colón Province, Panama. It is located on the northern part of the Isthmus of Panama and has a deep natural harbor”).
We got to Portobelo and still hadn’t decided if we were going to stay there or go to La Guayra to take a boat to Isla Grande. In the mean time, the bus came and we jumped on it. Arrived in La Guayra and we didn’t have a place to stay in Isla Grande and it was Saturday! A lot of people from Panama City come to Isla Grande on a day trip ‘paseo’ or for the weekend. In true Caribbean style we were told not to worry that once we got to the Isla they would sort out something for us. And they did- for free (I mean, we had to pay a lady to clean a room that is never in use)! When we got there it was night time, but you could tell the sea water was transparent. The place we stayed had a restaurant on water so you could jump right into the sea (the ‘private swimming pool’ they call it!).
There was a few of us at the restaurant and after dinner Moisés, the Brazilian waiter, went to get his music stereo. More bachata, more salsa, more reggeaton and Filipa was very happy when they played ‘Mi cama huele a ti’, una de las mejores cumbias! The truth is finally the dance floor was full.
If you’re interested in Musica Latina I can tell you the two big songs in Panamá right now are:
J Alvarez ‘Sexo Sudor Y Calor’ (we were on a old taxi in Panama City that had a DVD player playing music videos and that song was the one)
Day 5 Sunday 15.01.2012 Isla Grande
Next morning we got woken up by the crowd at the beach. I went outside and thought it was like 13:00, because everyone was having beer in the sea. It was in fact 10:00 and there crowds of people in Isla Grande, (more like Isla Pequeña).
On Sunday, after a few logistical problems, we decided to head back to Portobelo. A girl told us there were no buses to Portobelo or Panama City on a Sunday, all the (hundreds) of buses there were for people who went ‘de paseo’ (day trip), private buses then. Luckily she said we could go on her bus with her family. After waiting for a while we jumped on the bus, but somebody said there would be delays because there was a road accident. La Guayra-Portobelo (30 minutes); Portobelo-Panamá (1h30min with no traffic).
On the bus we asked ‘who’s your family then?’, the answer ‘everyone’. The whole 55 people on the bus were family! ‘Esta es mi prima, mi abuela, mi mama, mi papa, mi tia,…’ and the two of us!
Imagine hundreds of buses ’Diablo Rojos’ (ours was ‘Diablo Amarillo’) trying to leave a small place on a one lane road (for you Portuguese people reading this, imagine Costa da Caparica on a Sunday x 10!!). The journey was one we won’t forget, it took around five hours to get to Panamá City (people here call it just Panama) and then this girl drove us on her car to find a hotel to stay. Muy amable de su parte!
In those 5 hours, where for more than half we were literally stopped and because it was so hot, people started leaving the buses… there were people sleeping on the road, there were people playing what looked like monopoly, every car, bus had their stereo blasting (they love to play their music loud here! Musica fuerte!) different bachatas, cumbias and reggeaton. Did anyone care? Was anyone stressed? No! There was nothing you could do! So people were dancing, chatting, walking up and down. Jessy explained to us on this regular family day out (leave Panama at 5am!), everyone would cook or bring something and then they sell it to each other. So suddenly on the bus mama is selling soda ($0.80) to prima and Jessy is selling pollo con arroz ($1.50) to her abuelo!
When we finally started moving it was like the bus came (even more) alive. The music was playing loud and the whole family and I mean the whole family, abuela e abuelo included, were singing their hearts out! This time it was ballads, the sort of ballads that you have to sing as if it is the last thing you’ll ever going to do. Everyone standing in the bus, arms in the air, Jessy organising the coreography, arms to the left, arms to the right, we had to join in of course!
We have videos, but they’re too dark. La familia didn’t stop, didn’t shut up for one second and they had woken up at 4:30am!
Back to Panama, next day task: organise trip to San Blas, Paradise Islands.
Day 6 Monday 16.01.2012 Panamá City
Jessy had told us if we went to 5 de Maio in Panama there would be Kuna people that could organise the trip for us.
“Guna Yala is an autonomous territory or comarca in Panama, inhabited by the Kuna indigenous people. The name means "Guna-land" or "Guna mountain" in the Kuna language. The area was formerly known as San Blas and afterwards as Kuna Yala, but it changed in October 2011 when the Panamanian Government recognized the Guna people's claim that in their native language there was no equivalent to the letter "K" and that the official name should be "Guna Yala". The capital of Guna Yala is El Porvenir.”
At 5 de Maio we asked a police officer if he knew anything about it and he went around and asked. Suddenly we are shaking hands with Armando who organised for us to be picked up the next morning (4h30am) at our hotel to go to San Blas.
In the afternoon we went to Causeway, a 2km stretch by the sea in Panama connecting Naos, Perico and Flamenco Islands to the mainland.
After, Casco Antiguo for dinner and una cervezita.
Forgot to mention before that in Panamá everyone sells everything on the street, all sorts of food in little bags and us, as always, want to try everything. (Don’t) try this at home… sliced mango with salt and vinegar in a little plastic bag… yummy? No!
Day 7 Tuesday 17.01.2012 04h30am Panamá-San Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas