Monday, October 15, 2007
This wonderful Fort is located at the mouth of the Rio Chagres River. Built in 1597 it was conquered and re-conquered many times over the centuries. It is said that it has had more gold pass thru it than all the gold of the California Gold rush.
A visit to the Panama Canal is not complete until you sit and watch the ships go through. Each ship requires 50 million gallons to transit the locks which are 100 feet wide, 84 feet deep and takes 10 minutes to fill each lock. There are three sets of locks and it takes a ship between 1 ½ to 2 hours to transit the three locks. These super ships are amazing but on the planning boards is the expansion of the canal to 140 feet which will double its capacity by 2014. We look forward to our transit of the canal in 2008.
Having just finished reading ‘A Path between the Seas’ by David McCullough (a must read for anyone who plans to transit the Panama Canal), we were excited to finally arrive on the Rio Chagres. This is the river that feeds the canal and our anchorage was just a short walk to the Canal. The River is home to a variety of White Faced monkeys, and Howler Monkeys, Sloths, snakes, Toucans, parrots & crocodiles. Gary and Doc had a most memorable experience on their first day as they hiked thru the Jungle trail that leads to the Canal. As they neared the end of the trail, they came around a bend in the jungle and there standing not a hundred paces away was a large Black Panther. Gary and Doc froze, as did the big ‘cat’…and altho the experience was only seconds long, it left a lifelong impression (on Gary at least). It was amazing to look into his face (with wonder, awe and a good sized portion of ‘oops what do I do now?) One of the very cool things to do here is visit the ‘swimming pool’ a natural cold springs and waterfall. As hot as it gets midday here in the Tropics, you only have to take a quick dip in ‘the pool’ and all you’re sweating is forgotten. A wonderful reprieve when you just can’t take any more of the Panama Jungle heat.
This is an island that time forgot. It reminds you of Jurassic Park (without the dinosaurs). On our way there we were joined by a Hitch Hiker Moth (not sure that’s his technical name, but you get the idea) 8 inches across and not at all intimidated by Doc. Again joined by our friends on BMA we enjoyed the almost complete isolation from any kind of civilization (except for the ‘turn left’ road sign in the middle of the water) We enjoyed snorkeling is some of the most unique caves we have ever seen. Doc was sporting his T-Shirt which provides sun protection and keeps him cool. When you are big ‘ol black dog in the tropics, it is important to not only look cool, but to be cool. Doc had great fun chasing lizards and enjoying the cool clear waters. Gary had fun catching a big ‘ol Bonita tuna…can you say Sashimi?...now that’s some good eats.
Bluefield Laguna is another beautiful stop along the way. Somewhat disconcerting as you become the ‘entertainment factor’ for the locals. They will row out in whatever floats and just sit beside your boat and stare at you…for hours. They don’t ask for anything, they just sit and look at you like you are a spaceship from another world. The children are irresistible and the offering of a few candies makes them friends for life. There is also a wonderful trail thru the jungle that opens up onto yet another of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
This small perfect jewel of an Island is home to a few of the very lucky. One of those is our friend Daniel who arrived here from Peru 4 years ago. He now owns a piece of this private getaway and was kind enough to invite us to spend some time with him at this very private retreat. Along with our friends Aaron and Lyla on S/v Blow Me Away and Worth his wife Natalie and daughter Kayla we celebrate Gary’s Birthday (Gary from S/v Sea Feather). This island is home to a variety of nature’s unique wildlife including lime green frogs, snakes and green chickens??? Must be something in the dirt, turns everything green, including us with envy… a beautiful spot to stop and relax. This is also just a short hop from Zapatilla’s Cays which offers some of the nicest white sand beaches and snorkeling to be found anywhere.
This is a glorious retreat from Bocas, a short one hour sail away. With beautiful long sand beaches for Doc to run and play, crystal clear water with more starfish than you can count and shells a plenty for Kaija. She was thrilled to find this amazing Triton Trump shell, you wanna talk ‘pucker factor’…check out the face on this guy. This beach is a favorite with backpackers and it is not uncommon to see their hammocks strung between the palms. This is a must see if you ever get to these parts.