Colliding with the wall and a tourist boat in the Panama Canal kind of dampened our enthusiasm for our arrival in the Pacific. As the shock has worn off we are left with a feeling of being in no man’s land as we wait for parts and prepare for what we can do before our passage. The forever conflicting information about the Galapagos Islands and the exorbitant cost involved in visiting there has left us with a distaste for the hassle and drama. It seems that we would be relying on the whims of the ten or so officials who board your boat in a hope of disrobing your skeletons by checking every closet and nook. Even if they do think we’re good enough to wallow in their waters we would then be at the whim of the costs of the tourist operators as we wouldn’t be able to move the boat or explore in the dinghy. Places to hike are restricted also. All this information has left a bad taste and has spoiled the possibility of an exciting adventure worthy of the effort. We may still flit past and if need be make landfall to resupply fuel and fresh vegetables and then promptly vacate within twenty-four hours. Other cruisers plan to get ‘bargain’ last minute tours from Ecuador so they’re not exposed to the uncertainty of it all. That will be an option for the future.
Panama has benefited greatly from our extended stay and will probably be able to pay their next installment of their national debt with the profits of our spending sprees. Having experienced the Atlantic crossing we feel qualified to provision and design our comforts for the huge puddle before us. Still the unknown factors of a crossing excite and encourage us to be wary at the same time. The anticipation is building as we carry out some routine maintenance and prepare for the crossing.
After a few drops of water wiped all of the songs off my ipod, I had been left without music. Unfortunately the ship’s radio, whose speakers we utilised, packed it in at about the same time. My new earphones, very practical for bikini wad cooking because there’s nowhere to clip an ipod, and some new mini speakers have saved the day. Panama is a great place to shop for small inexpensive electronic items.
Some new cushion covers in a material aptly named, Pacific Blue, have brightened up the cockpit, my comfort for rolling seas has been almost guaranteed with my new red bean bag and our new kayak will provide hours of fun as well as an easy option to go forth and check the depth in unsurveyed bays with our hand-held depth sounder. I’ve been having lots of fun doing some ‘girl’ shopping also as I shopped for my wardrobe for school next year and other future ventures. Clothing is cheap and fashionable here. As I don’t usually consider myself a big consumer this trend is unusual but has filled in our days of waiting.
We were lucky enough to join an organised tour to a local Indian community. We had a long canoe ride up the Chagres River. The canoes were powered by Yamaha. The water levels were low so skilful navigation was required. The villagers themselves were well trained in entertaining tourists and dressed up appropriately for us. Their proximity to Panama City makes their lifestyle quite unique. Panama still has quite a few tribes who maintain a lot of their traditional culture blended in with modern day desires and necessities. Each group is identified by a particular mode of dress. Some wear these outfits in town as well. When I inquired about the indigenous people’s status in society I was told that it isn’t as good as it looks. They are required to pay a sum of about fifty dollars a year for each child to attend school and then to clothe them in a school uniform. This appears to be bureaucracy at its worse when you consider the remoteness of some of these communities. Their yearly income is restricted as many live in national parks. Economically and educationally, they remain to be challenged and behind the rest of society.
The anchorage here in Balboa is dusty and the water is full of diesel and chemicals from all the huge ships passing by to enter the canal at all hours of the night. We are treated to a nightly spectacular of fireworks as Easter nears. It’s almost more than Malta. We look forward to heading to Las Pearlas for some fresh calm water. We have the fibreglass repairs to complete there, as it is too rough here and we will catch up on some swimming and give the new kayak a workout.
So as the fireworks echo through the night we dream of the quietness of the Pacific blue. More pics below…