Travelogue

Excerpts from my journal while in Panama.

11/12 14:36
Made it to Panama…balmy and warm. My taxi driver david was a great guy and dealt with my almost complete ignorance of Spanish. I feel a bit like a stupid american, but I’m going to try real hard to pick up some espagnol. The ride from the airport to the huge bus terminal was very cool. Panama City is HUGE. I had no idea. Huge buildings, huge roads, construction and high rises everywhere, people working and the raddest local transit busses. David was real excited to show me the mall as we drove by. While it wasn’t my thing, I could tell how important the franchises were as new economic status symbols. KFC, Hard Rock and even fuddruckers, they are all here. It’s good to see jobs and business thriving here, I just wish it was from more socially responsible corporations. Who am I to judge though? These people are excited about it, and I just ate at a “Brio” italian restaurant the other day. No use being a snooty hypocrite. Five hour bus ride to Guabala.

11/12 19:32
Hour four has passed and we are stopped in Santiago for a food break. The ride has been beautiful and irksome at the same time. It’s now well after dark, so I’m not sure how or even if a boat taxi to Morro Negrito is possible until manana. Worse, well worse if I blow it out of proportion, is that I can’t get a hold of Chefi, my taxi driver from Guabala to Chiriqui Marina. Still, I’m having a blast, learning une pequito esepangol, meeting great folks and taking everything in stride. I wanted an adventure, and I guess I’m getting what I asked for. Oh yeah, helped some americans use the pay phone in santiago…they were getting a bit frustrated. (Sidenote: It turned out there was no “Marina” or “Boat Taxi” but instead only a mangrove dock & set of bungalows 15 km from Guabala, a customs stop in the middle of the Western Panamaniam Jungle, also the american tourists were really an archetype of American travlers: midwestern, wearing panama hats, totally frustated with their surroundings, and slightly worried).

11/12 22:30
WOOHOO…stuck at the customs station in Northwest Panama. No ride, no clue. The narco customs agents have been pretty nice, and I’ve been speaking broken spanglish with one of them whose name is Alex. Apparently, the camp had no idea I was coming and my ride Chefi, still hasn’t shown, or answered his phone. I was able to reach the camp and speak with Marilyn…she definitely was not of any help. I feel like I’m in a weird central american version of a Kerouac novel. (Sidenote: Jeff the manager did know I was coming, but unbeknown to me, was the split in management occurring at the camp. Marilyn does not like Jeff).

11/13 7:00
Chefi came through last night. At around 11pm one of the customs agents called him again after I mentioned wanting to walk into the town (sidenote: there never was a town). They said…”Snakes.” What it really meant was that I was a gringo and it was a bad idea. I laughed, appreciated them looking out for me. It turned out to be much father than the 2-3 km mentioned anyways. I gave the gaurds ten bucks for cervezas, said thanks, and jumped in Chefi’s truck. The mainland morro negrito bungalows are simple concrete structures, but more than adequate. I slept well and slept hard. (Sidenote: I asked the camp staff later during the week and was informed…yes, the snakes are quite bad at night, and that the mainland snakes are very poisonous. I guess the guards weren’t bullshitting me, I felt stupid for questioning their intentions).

11/13 17:28
Woo hoo…first session back in the water was great. We surfed a spot called Snickers, a beachbreak nestled underneath a headland and thick jungle. The waves were pretty fun, nothing epic, but it was certainly great to get my sea legs back. Some other guests came in, just for about 2 days. Long way to travel for only 2 days? It’s been pissing rains and the squalls keep coming in. Tomorrow is supposed to be 5ft at 12 seconds, so I’m stoked to see what we have to surf on. Oh yeah, one more thing, my power outlet in my room does a good job of shocking me when I plug in my fan, but I’m greatful to even have a fan. (Sidenote: this was mitigated by using my handkerchief to hold the plug, and wearing my sandals, therefore preventing me from being the ground).

11/15 12:45
Wow, surfed three sessions yesterday! Morning beachbreak at Snickers, Emily’s after a hike, and evening sunset sessions w/ Doug and Jeff at Dillons, a super fun punchy right. After cooking lunch, Eduardo, Mary, Malcom plus myself walked to the big waterfall around the point. It started raining, but once we got into the jungle it was no big deal. The falls (cascala) were beautiful. Lava Rocks with double steps and pools between. I lost the lenscap to the canon DSLR, so I now need a new one when I return to the states. My surf at Emily’s was fun, but since I took out a shitty longboard I got worked a few time. All in all a fun little left peeler.

This morning our guests Mary and Malcom left for Bocas del Toro. They were fun to hang with, and maybe I’ll see them in the future. After breakfast, Doug and I walked a mile down the cove to “Chapels,” a fun little beachbreak. We surfed waste high glassy peelers alone for two hours. I like Doug, he’s a bit standoffish at first, but he’s a super nice guy with a cool background. Grew up in Cali, homesteaded offgrid in Maine for 20 years, and finally back to Cali and maybe here in Panama for good. Not sure if he surfed with the other younger guides, but he reminds me a lot of a sourdough Alaskan. I like hanging and sharing sotires with him in the mornings. For now though, Iguana for lunch…
(Sidenote: Malcom runs the Farm Team Surf company out of Norht Vancouver. Check it out on facebook or at www.FarmTeamSurf.com)

11/16 10:24
Walked through the jungle last night, well late afternoon. What a crazy place. I saw no snakes, but they’re definitely out there. This island is a special place, and I understand why the locals liver here. I walked to the end of the trail and ran into a few villagers houses, nestled on the hillside, above the mangroves and river mouth of the tabascana river. They truly live “in the jungle.” No power, but clean running water from the cascala pequina. I missed the waterfall but ran into Antonio, the local maintenance guy (he was walking back from camp to his home on the other side of the island). He walked me to the falls and wow, what a beautiful spot. Still amazed with this place. Some of the management issues leave something to be desired, but hopefully those things will work themselves out with time. (Sidenote: I was wrong about the power. Some folks have one or two solar panels on their homes).

11/17 7:37
Surfed beackbreak again this morning with Doug and Jeff. Down days at camp right now, but I’ve feeling very relaxed. This morning the waves are still super small, but clean, maybe I’ll go out in a bit. We just wacthed a pretty good size pod of dolphins come through going after baitfish. Must have been like 30 dolphins. Pretty cool to watch from the dining room.

11/18 9:25
Had a super fun solo session yesterday. The waves were shit but I had some good rides. Before surfing I did a little skin diving out by the rocks at Emily’s. Harrdest rain of the trip so far last night. Rain and howling wind…I slept better though, as it was definitely cooler. This morning I woke at 6 to pretty clear skies…finally. The waves are small but the ocean looked pretty damn inviting. Paddled out on the fish as the sun was coming up. The waves weren’t to impressive, but man was it a beautiful morning. I surfed until about 7, and as I was paddling in, the whole camp had this very ethereal look. Soft light was coming through and back lighting the trees and the camp. The low, rising sun came up behind the jungle, twinkling light off the mists between the hills and buildings. I wish I had my camera.

11/20 8:57
No log entry yesterday, just didn’t get around to it. Waves are muy pequina. Food supplies came in and so did new guests. Real chill folks from Sacramento. Sunburn has finally faded and we’re gonna hit the sandbar and see what we can find. (Sidenote: super fun session at the sandbar…think I got an ear infection from the runoff)

11/21 7:03
New guests are in and everyone seems pretty cool. We went and surfed the rivermouth yesterday…finally. Funky spot, but the waves were awesome waist to head high with inside zippers. Zippers? What the crap does that mean? Was i “frothing?” Surf terms crack me up. Good mix of folks…tetons to switzerland. Excited to surf rivermouth again today, and possibly fish with the new guide Brian.

11/22 7:12
Rivermouth was super fun yesterday. First little tubes in a long time. The spot reminded me of low tide buccaneers. Fast drops and walled up rides. We got back and relaxed a bit, went for a shitty beach break surf and called it a day. There was a birthday for Brandon from Jackson Hole, so we ended up offing a bottle of Flora de Cana (Rum) and talking late night about the world and whats going on with it. Always interesting to hear others political ideas and insights no matter how different or off they seem to me. In the end though, we gave a cheers to a good night, said good evening and got ready for surf in the AM.

11/22 17:36
Holy Cow!! Possibly one of the hardest rain storms I’ve ever experienced. The entrance to camp has a river six inches deep flowing through, this to add to the already crazy ful moon high tide, which dislodged our anchor and sent our boat adrift in the harbor. We got the boat anchored and hithced i, but now back in my room I’m still watching the rain come harder and harder, all sound being exacerbated by the tin roof overhead. I’m pretty sure our new camp river is how people get Cholera. The tropics are muy loco.

11/25 9:09
The last few days have been pretty great. I got a few good sessions at the beachbreak and this morning was phenomenal. The sun sat just behind a cloud and the rights had this amazing ray of orange light on the deep blue pacific water. Great waves. The session at Dillons was also pretty fun, with right hand peelers and only three people. Dillons is probably my favorite wave here so far. I’ve really enjoyed talking and sharing stories with one of the new guests, Chip, from San Diego.



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