Like usual, the whole magic of winter disappears after Christmas. The short days, frosty mornings, and cold toes begin to wear on you. You can’t help but think of sitting on the dock at the lake on those sunny summer days with a cider in hand; remarkably you forget all about allergies and mosquitoes. So many Canadians plan sun destination trips down south, generally to Mexico, Cuba or the DR. This year, however, out destination was Panama!

After planning the trip in May of 2015, all four of us were counting down the days to our departure date, January 31st, 2016 – two weeks of sun and warmth. Erin and I were staying for 2 weeks, Leigh was there for 7 days and Brian was there for 10 days.

We arrived at the David District airport after the sun set which happens routinely at 6 pm – an odd sensation for us Northerners. John and Colleen, the best neighbours/tour guides ever, picked us up.

We grabbed some groceries and then drove down the narrow road with deep ditches and lots of homes. It seemed everyone was out enjoying the cool evening. We passed bikes, kids and dogs who all stayed just out of way which was unnerving at the time, these dogs have better street smarts than texting adult humans in Ontario.

When we drove up to the beach house, I was in absolute shock seeing this stunning house even in the dark. Erin was not accurate in her description. We all felt pretty lucky that we were able to stay at this amazing beach house for a majority of our visit.

The weather everyday was a sunny 30-35 degrees and we had a plentiful supply of pipa (young green coconuts with the most water). The black volcanic sand beach along the raw pacific ocean  was the most beautiful sight. Our first few days were uneventful and mostly included boogie boarding, pool time and lounging…and one terrible night of playing “battle shots” with local “gin” which 50 cents a pint, just don’t…don’t do it. What a mess.

On a side note, during our last day at the beach house, after Leigh left, we felt pretty confident in our abilities and saw a nice break in the waves which were fairly tame. We ventured a bit too far out and of course we managed to be in exactly the wrong spot which was less than a second before the wave broke, so Brian and I got snarled in a 4 foot high wave with our boogie boards tossing us around and Erin, who was just a bit further out, nearly got swept out in the riptide after watching Brian and I disappear under the water. We all survived, had a good laugh and continued to boogie board.

Back on shore, we watched the pelicans make multiple passes as they drifted over the waves looking for fish. Every so often you could see large black objects, often times it was stingrays surfing the waves.

The 12-hour days had us in bed by 10 pm most nights, but we made sure to catch the sunset each night as we strolled west along the beach chasing the little crabs while seeing what the ocean washed up during the day. Undoubtedly, the crabs also find the sand much too hot on their feet during the day.

TGI seems to apply everyday to most Panamanians which is an excellent way to live life most of the time. I’ll explain further.  Basically, we attempted to book a day trip out to the mangroves to fish and see the area. It started off well enough but it turned into a huge let down that cost us $100 which is an extraordinary amount in a country where people are paid $2-3 per hour.

“8 am, meet me at the restaurant”, ok…we arrived at 8 am…9 am rolls around and we finally see Alexander, the local bar owner, on the back of a truck as he waives for us to follow another vehicle and exclaims that he has to go to work, “have fun!” As you can imagine, the rest of the day went just as expected.

Sure, we saw a few monkeys…

Some beautiful sights…

But this was our catch of the day for which we drastically overpaid. Even if we had got to go for a boat ride, it would have been worth it, but after a hour long hike to see the monkeys, to our surprise we were ushered back to the docking location.

It was an ordeal afterwards as well trying to explain customer service and that we weren’t paying the full amount, but we managed to get the price down and didn’t end up making our point but also leaving without bad blood. Most people aren’t out to screw you over, but let this serve as a word of warning to not overpay for anything.

We stopped trusting the local bar owner and instead went off with John and Colleen for the remainder of the trip. We went to visit the macaws inland where there was rain storm.

A local land owner feeds the birds every day at 4 pm. The rain kept some of the macaws sheltered in the trees, but a couple swooped down to take the peanuts.

John knew a local with a monkey so we stopped by to play catch and be entertained by this character in his orange tree.

We then visited a cotton field.

And met some of the cutest locals around.

All-in-all, the beach house visit was amazing. We did a few day trips to Boquete, Macho de Monte, and Cangliones de Gualaca which I’ll write about in separate posts. Stay tuned.

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