Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Panama City, Panama 22-06-15

Ah, Panama! What a ridiculous place this is. We've been having a lot of fun here over the last few week, tidying up the boat and just enjoying life on shore again. We haven't been doing many touristy activities though. One thing we have been trying to attend each week is pizza night with the other cruisers. There's a nice little community here and pizza night was bustling with people when we first arrived. Now most of the boats have left for either Ecuador or the Pacific, so there's not many of us left. It's still nice to catch up with everybody though. We haven't really been anywhere with a community like this yet - regular meet ups, pot luck dinners and whatever else normal people do have never really happened around us before. I guess because we haven't been near many people, or even in a normal place at a normal time because of the whole sailing backwards thing. So it's been fun meeting people and talking about boat stuff. Even if the first few week was a little surreal and daunting after being at sea for 55 days. I kind of felt like I was in a daze the whole time, not really connected to the earth and overwhelmed whenever there were people around. But we're pretty much back to normal now.

On land!

Panama City! The view from the pizza place

One of the nice things about pizza night is the great view of Panama City. They're doing a lot of construction on the road, so the view keeps getting blocked by a flimsy wall. But most of the time you get a good look at the outline of the city.

One of the other reasons I love pizza night is the excuse to stay out late. Wild sloths live in the trees around the La Playita anchorage but they don't come out until at least 5:30pm. We've only found two so far, but we never come out after dark. It's a bit crazy that we can step off the dinghy, walk a few metres and find sloths just hanging out in the trees. I've started taking the camera out with me in the hopes of seeing one, but so far the only picture I have is a shaky shot from my iphone.

There's two options for anchoring in Panama City, and they're on opposite sides of the causeway that stretches out towards the very expensive La Flamenco Marina. They're both terrible. The Las Brisas side has a dinghy dock that has been known to literally break ankles. It's a collection of half floating docks that are very unstable and unreliable. You have no way of knowing if your dinghy will still be there when you come back to it, plus it's so rough and beaten up there's a chance that it will literally destroy your boat. There's a half-floating one person transport dinghy attached to a rope. You have to get yourself from your dinghy, across the questionable docks and into the transport boat. You pull yourself to shore by the rope, which is on a pulley. Then you clamber across the slippery rocks to some steps to get up. I'm not sure how well that system will work for provisioning or shopping, but it's tricky. It's also free. The holding on that side isn't very good, but it's reasonably calm. The La Playita side is sometimes really rolly because of the wake from all the pilot ships zipping back and forth along the canal to the cargo ships. The anchorage is right next to the canal, so the boats never stop. The dinghy dock there is very good and well maintained, but it costs $40 a week (it's actually $5 a day plus tax. The week ends on Sunday and starts whenever you arrive. So if you pay to use it in the middle of the week, you only pay until Sunday and not for the entire week). There's a rocky beach behind the anchorage, which you can't really leave your dinghy at. But you can jump off at the rocks and climb up to the road. So Garth has been staying on the boat a lot and dropping me off on shore so I can go to town. Then we pay for the dock on Friday or Saturday and do a big shop before the end of the week. That way we get to use the dinghy dock but don't have to pay much. It's not a good system, but it's all we have because we didn't want to move to Las Brisas until we had a throttle. An actual throttle, and not just vice grips attached to a bit of plastic. It took a while to order, receive and install the new one but the boat is finally operational again. However we're still here, because we're lazy. Also there's rubbish bins here and we're facing a mammoth clean up after such a hellish passage.

We have been doing a bit of exploring though. We took a taxi from Albrook Mall the other day to try and find the vege market. The taxi driver dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. It was not a vege market. My spanish is so terrible there wasn't any point in trying to talk to him, so out we hopped. We later figured out that it was Old Town, which is a touristy part of Panama that still has a lot of old, historic stone buildings. However, it was Sunday afternoon and the streets were deserted, so we weren't sure if we were going to find some interesting shops around he corner or a mugger. We walked for a while before freaking out and hailing a taxi. Adventure over.

This crumbling old building was covered in vines and filled with trees. We later found out that it's a very popular restaurant called "The fish market"

Now that we're not in a rush I've been doing a lot of baking to procrastinate from fixing or cleaning. Homemade granola, yoghurt, labneh, bread, paneer, tortillas- we've been eating well! And I'm never going to be stuck without yoghurt ever again, because it's so easy to make and you can use it for so many things. Liesbet talked me into trying it in French Polynesia, so I'm super grateful!

Other than that we've just been relaxing. A lot. It's awesome.
Xxx Monique

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