Category Archives: Panama

’09 Panama – redux

Bocas del Toro, Panama:
Monkey Cay‘, Cauchero on the Laguna De Chirigui which is 60km south of Bocas via Loma Partida (Split Hill). Bocas is basically an Archipelago in the NE corner of Panama. And the choice to hide out for 5 weeks while waiting for Canadian Immigration to
clear before I head to the cooler climes. Flight into Panama City and an afternoon to wander the streets – there is a striking difference within a mere block of the socio-economic strata. The Backpackers was run by Aussie & Kiwis, well structured and clean.
A rough 12 seater flight from the west coast to the east of Panama landed us at Bocas.

Warmly greeted by our hosts it was a frenetic 2 hours while we bought food etc for the 1st 2 weeks at Monkey Cay a mere 40 km by boat from Bocas. Our local shops (Tienda’s) are run by Panamanians and carry very basic Western foods. We saw fish at the nearest Tienda and a few days later I went to buy some only to find out they had sold out… no
worries, the Senora asked the other customer who promptly lifted out of his carry bag 3 fish at the total cost of US$1.50.

Days were spent paddling the Bay. Quite different to the Everglades as it’s one way in and turn around to exit the meandering rivers. New experience as seeing the same water and surrounding jungle from another aspect showed hidden sights. Cauchero has local Panamanians and a smattering of ex-pats. The latter’s homes are in contrast to the local structures; I wonder how much the intrusion will affect the economy and stability of lifestyle. An ex-pat suffered a degree of ostracism from the ex-pat community as he paid $2 more a day for labour. His argument fell on deaf ears when he said that he paid what the job was worth not what the ex-pat community had set. Sad tale when I realised that the Panamanians are paid $4/day.

Over the 4 weeks I not only explored but also found my limit in distance & time. I decided to hitch a lift with our Hosts to Bocas to do our shopping with the plan to paddle the 27km back (distance per mine host). The run back involved marking waypoints on the GPS for channel entries and visually noting striking features – like the extra tall sole Palm tree on an islet, it was the only Palm tree among the mangrove islets. So, shopping done and the return trip is underway. Unfortunately, the arrival time to Bocas was delayed by 3 hours, so I’m aware that I’ll be landing close to duck.

The on-water height from the 9m Punga to a Kayak showed within 30 minutes of paddling. My landmarks aren’t as apparent, so relying on the GPS I’m pushing across the main Bay leading to Loma Partida. Yet Loma Partida is behind a myriad of mangrove islets which need the picking of the correct channel to navigate in the shortest distance.

Needless to say between an increasing headwind, rising chop and a day getting longer by the minute my average speed has dropped from 2.8knts done to ~2.0knts. I’m way to west for the 1st channel which just adds to the trip, its then I realise that I’m tiring. Finally wending my way through the channels and Loma Partida is in sight. Time for a ‘loo’ break and show how poor my Spanish is… It’s now 6pm and I’ve roughly by the GPS (as the crow flies) 15 km to go. The knees are weak, back aching and shoulders don’t like me. Much to ‘n fro I finally manage to arrange a Punga to take me and kayak to Cauchero.

Water Taxi planing between the islets Cauchero comes into sight and there paddling towards us is D. Her stress levels were justifiably high as I’ve passed the spare hour ETA agreed to, we’re both relieved though. Thanks to the Taxi & $’s change hands, he’s heading back and it’s a mere 2km home.

Hindsight says “always check” Our host thought it was only 27km whereas his GPS was set for Nautical Mile – he just hadn’t noticed and thought it was kilometres. Mangrove inlets and bays need ‘big mobs’ of waypoints or a ‘bleeding’ good chart. Mind I thought I was fit!

The glass of Red when all was settled was welcomed!