sábado, 21 de enero de 2012

14th Jan Saturday on our way to Colón…

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…

P1000201 Canal de Panamá


At Miraflores lock where you get a view of the Canal

P1000227 A massive boat that just crossed 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”).

P1000265 On the back of the bus on our way to Portobelo

P1000268 Kids with their rollerblades

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!).

P1000321 Sleep and eat in Isla Grande

P1000273 The stairs to the sea from the restaurant

P1000289 ‘Shall I jump in the sea, shall I not…?’

P1000295 La vida dulce…

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)

and …

Don’t diss it until you’re on the dance floor after a few rums…

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).

P1000298 Where’s Filipa?! (at 1am…)

P1000303 Carolina got herself a part-time job as bartender in the Isla. Look at her holding the tray in the sea…

P1000308 Isla Grande

P1000314 Isla Grande

P1000305 Isla Grande

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!

P1000328 La familia!

P1000329 Lost for words!!

P1000331 Viva la musica romantica!

P1000333 La familia- Jessy with white hat!

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.

P1000340 Filipa working on her posing

P1000337 Carolina arriving late for the picture (10 secs is not enough to get a perfect pose apparently…)

After, Casco Antiguo for dinner and una cervezita.

P1000356 Carolina in Casco Antiguo

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

lunes, 16 de enero de 2012

Buscando el sol

Hola! Olá! For those who don’t know ‘buscando el sol’ means ‘in search of the sun’. This search of the sun started in Gambia in November, followed by Egypt, then a break in Portugal and Spain for Christmas and New Year. Now Central America. First country: Panamá. Sometimes this will be written in English, other times Spanish or Portuguese.

27th November 2011: London Gatwick – Banjul, Gambia

7th December 2011: London Gatwick – Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt

21st December 2011: Cairo – Madrid Barajas

9th January 2012: Faro – London Stansted

11th January 2012: London Heathrow - Madrid Barajas - Panamá City Tocumen.

Please note we arrived in Heathrow at midnight (took the last tube from Brixton) for a 06h20 flight to Madrid Barajas where we would have to change plane to Panamá City. Alarm at 04h30 to check-in the bags and although we arrived at Heathrow 6 hours before the flight we still managed to almost miss it. ‘Last call to Madrid. Can Miss Garcia Fernandez and Miss Miranda please make their way to the Gate’ We made it!

After two hours we landed in Madrid. From Madrid to Panamá ten hours. Arrived in Panamá City Tocumen International Airport at 17h30 (5 hours less than in Portugal and 6 hours less than in Spain). We took the bus to MultiCentro and after walking around for 20 minutes we found the hostel Villa Vento Surf.

First day in Panamá City 12th January 2012: Panamá Viejo. Mercado de Marisco. Casco Antiguo.

P1000025 Panamá Viejo

P1000056 Mercado de Marisco

P1000050 Detail at Mercado de Marisco


On the way to Casco Antiguo with ‘New Panamá’ background

P1000074 Carolina making a phone call

P1000110 Casco Antiguo

P1000126 Una cervezita ‘Balboa’ en Casco Antiguo ($US2)

P1000125 Otra Balboa en Casco Antiguo ($US2)

Second day in Panamá City 13th January 2012: 5 de Maio, Museum AfroAntillano, Avenida Central, Plaza Santa Ana and Miraflores to see the Canal de Panamá.

Third day 14th January 2012: we packed and after not reaching any conclusion made our way to the Central Station ‘Albrook’ and we are on coach to Colón, east of Panamá City.

In Panamá better than the Canal are the buses called ‘Diablos Rojos’, 0ld school yellow American buses playing musica latina from salsa to bachata ($0.25 one journey). In Panamá the currency is Balboa, but US Dollars are used the same.

P1000156 A typical public bus in Panamá

At the hostel we stayed Villa Vento Surf, breakfast was included but we had to cook it: coffee and pancakes. So pancakes we did!