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The culture, customs, and language of the Panamanians are predominantly Caribbean and Spanish.

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Walking the Pan-American Highway

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Every few months or so, I see a few interesting folks walking the Pan-American Highway.

For those who don't know, according to Wikipedia:

"The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads nearly 48,000 kilometres (29,800 miles) in total length. Except for an 87 kilometre (54 mi) rainforest gap, the road links the mainland nations of the Americas in a connected highway system. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world's longest "motorable road".

The Pan-American Highway system is mostly complete and extends from Fairbanks, Alaska in North America to the lower reaches of South America. Several highway termini are claimed to exist, including the cities of Puerto Montt and Quellón in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina. No comprehensive route is officially defined in Canada and the United States, though several highways there are called "Pan-American".

The Pan-American Highway passes through many diverse climates and ecological types, from dense jungles to cold mountain passes. Since the highway passes through many countries, it is far from uniform. Some stretches of the highway are passable only during the dry season, and in many regions driving is occasionally hazardous.

Famous sections of the Pan-American Highway include the Alaska Highway and the Inter-American Highway (the section between the United States and the Panama Canal). Both of these sections were built during World War II as a means of supply of remote areas without danger of attack by U-boats."

I'm on this highway at least daily and every so often I see a few interesting folks, non-Panamanian, usually American, sometimes Australian or European.  They're biking the highway in pairs with bicycles loaded down with their gear, traveling on motorcycles and oftentimes just walking.

I think the most interesting one I saw was late 20-something guy walking along with a donkey packed down with his gear.  The first day I saw him he was in between Penonome and Anton.  The next day I saw him nearing Rio Hato traveling in the direction of Panama City.  Ok, I thought, I just have to stop and ask.

I pulled off the road onto the shoulder and stopped about 25 yards in front of him.  "Hi!" I shouted.  He replied.

"I just have to ask," I said.  "In 2 minutes, what's your story".

Well he proceeds to tell me that he's been walking from the state of Washington for about 1 1/2 years.  He picked up the donkey in Mexico to help him carry his stuff and he was going to keep walking to Panama City. 

I told him we lived just a few miles off the highway.  He was welcome to bring his donkey, rest a night, clean up, eat, etc.

His response, "Well I'm in kind of a hurry."  He couldn't say it with a straight face and I cracked up.  "Oh really?", I asked.

He went on to explain that he needed to get to Panama City within 8 days so he could fly to the Middle East for a friend's wedding.  He was hoping a farmer would take his donkey for a month or so and then he would be back to continue on his trip.  I gave him a granola bar and wished him luck.  Now that's a free spirit.


Posted by on 11/27 at 01:58 PM
Living in Panama

Another visit to the pediatrician

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So during our visit to Bocas last week, my daughter Lila cut her foot on one of the many starfish while playing in the water.  There was actually a small puncture wound with about an inch long slice.  No big deal.  When we got back to the house that day, we cleaned it up, put on a bandaid and off she went.

Well yesterday we noticed it looked a bit infected.  There was redness down to the middle of her foot.  By the afternoon it had reached her ankle.  Decided it was time to make the phone call to our pediatrician in the city.  He recommended an antibiotic that I could pick up at a local pharmacy but suggested that we make the drive in the next day if it hadn´t improved.

Today, it hadn´t improved.  In fact it looked a bit worse.  So we made the drive into the city, my daughter and I, with me promising McDonald´s, candy, new toy, anything to get her to stop crying.  We finally pulled up to the doctor´s office on Balboa Avenue and she had pulled herself together.  We waited about an hour in a small 4 room office for our turn.  The doctor prescribed a stronger antibiotic and some cream.  The doctor´s visit was $45.00.  That´s without using any insurance.  The medicine totaled less than $20.00 and we were on our way.

While some things are more difficult to accomplish while living here, we´ve had nothing but positive experiences with the medical field, both with our interactions with the professionals and in the cost associated with visits and medicines.  More importantly, cutting your foot on a starfish, not a bad problem to have.


Posted by on 11/13 at 07:05 PM
Living in Panama

Visit to Bocas del Toro

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Took the kids to some friends´ house on the islands of Bocas last weekend.  We drove to the city (1.5 hours) then caught an Air Panama flight (1 hour around $150 round trip) to the main island in Bocas.  Our friends picked us up and we drove about half hour through the jungles of Bocas to their house on Starfish Beach.  What an amazing place.  We were there 3 nights.  It rained only at night and it was a bit cloudy during the day which is actually perfect weather to me. 

During the day, the kids played in the crystal clear water.  The tide change is maybe a couple of inches (vs. our beach where it can be 16 feet or more) so it was perfect for the kids.  We loaded all the kids up in the boat to explore the area.  We stopped at a beach a short distance away where every few feet there was another beautiful starfish.  As my daughter learned, they'll cut your feet if you're playing tag in the water and you step on one.  But otherwise, they're pretty harmless.

We went dolphin searching and found a pod of 4.  Really gorgeous animals.  Headed into town and saw a parade marching through town.  As always, my family wasn't wearing shoes.  But in Bocas, that doesn't really matter.  It is truly a laid back Caribbean town.  Full of shops, restaurants, hippies, backpackers, Americans, Europeans, Panamanians and of course bars.

So that evening we headed out to the bars.  As I told my friend, "one drink only".  Well after we had shared a few rounds of Panama Jack shots and enjoyed a visit with some friends who live in Bocas in a cabin on the water, we decided it was time to head out on the town for "that one drink".  It helps that our friends know Bocas so well.  We hit a few of the hotspots on the town including one bar where the boardwalk is built over a shipwreck.  We were warned, if you jump in, be careful of the shipwreck in the water, the cuts are really awful.

The next day we went out on one of those speedboats.  I think it's supposed to be only for lakes but we went waverunning and there were definitely a few times (mostly when we were airborne for 3 or 4 secs) when I wished I had put on a life jacket.  Then headed up a few of the rivers and canals that divide several of the islands.  I think I can honestly say that the canal from Starfish Beach to Chianginola is one of, if not the most, beautiful place I have ever seen.  Truly unbelievable.

We're planning a trip back in January.

Posted by on 11/11 at 10:10 AM

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Vacation rental information, travel tips and advice, and general observations about life at "The Crossroads of the World" from an American and a Canadian on the ground in Panama.

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