Week of January 11, 2004
We finally had to leave the marvelous mountains and head back to the Pacific. We found a virtually deserted beach called Playa de Las Lajas and settled in for a couple of days of seemingly endless beach, warm ocean and easy surf. The travel book purported there to be a restaurant and cheap cabins for rent but we found the better deal was to camp in Cindy and for Sherrie and David to set up their tent (and there was no restaurant). Not being as humid as other beaches, we quickly adjusted to the heat and rushed to relax.
The waves were such that Sherrie and I decided to try some boogie boarding and surfing, respectively. Sherrie mastered the boogie board and I am still negotiating a treaty with the surfboard.
The only negative about Las Lajas was that you need to make sure the price quoted to camp there was for 24 hours. We were told the cost to camp was $5 per couple and when it came time to pay (after we stayed for two nights), the cost was now $5 for the day and $5 for the night for Cindy. Needless to say, we now pay ahead of time to eliminate any possible confusion.
Onward south to Pedasi as a jumping off point to Isla Iguana, a National Park that boasts the largest protected coral reef in Central America. Unfortunately, we were forced to drive on a smooth, pothole free and flat road and Cindy could not take it so she blew out her front tire. Alas, with all of us pitching in, we were on our way in no time.
Outside of Pedasi, we found a little beach area called El Arenal where the fishermen of Pedasi beach and launch their boats. We were able to stay free at one end of the parking area and we even had our own armed guards. Well, actually, the police keep watch over the livelihood of the nearby town by stationing two police officers on the beach every night. But, seeing as we adopted them for the night, we will say they were there for us.
We had hoped to find a fisherman that would give us a ride over to Isla Iguana. Word spread quickly and we were off to Isla Iguana for a day of reef snorkeling and island exploring. Isla Iguana is a beautiful, small island that is home to thousands of frigates. When exploring the island, you walk beneath the canopy of frigate's nests and their occupants. You can also sit in a hammock and stare at nothing 20' ahead and watch the beach come alive in your peripheral view. Hermit crabs and red crabs run amok and the shadow of a frigate sends them ducking for cover.
Our water taxi driver, Poti, brought his adorable son who
quickly became our exploration guide. We hiked the 500' to the other side
of the island and enjoyed an extraordinary landscape. The only things
marring our view were several large craters left as gifts from the United States
as a result of their use of this beautiful island for target practice.
Fortunately, the island is taking back what is its own and the craters are
disappearing. Too bad the remaining un-exploded bombs have not been
We also used Pedasi as a jumping off spot to another
nearby beach called Playa Venado, a local surf spot that had been recommended by
several people. However, once we viewed the area, we realized the area was
very popular with the locals and we would have had to stay in campground that
looked like planned housing for tents. So, we shifted our focus to the
south and ventured down a dirt road that had a sign stating "La Playita Resort"
(meaning "little beach").
We were just about to agree to stay when the young man said he
wanted to give us a tour of the "resort". Within steps, we were
overlooking a beach that curved along a gorgeous bay like a huge smile and at
the head of the bay was a large rock outcropping with its base hugged by a
coral reef. (We had to hold David back because he was already digging into
Cindy to get his snorkeling gear and we had not even stopped moving.)
Another interesting aspect of this wonderland is that it is owned by a Panamanian jockey, Lester Knight, that has obviously done very well racing in the United States. You cannot miss the personal touches and the pride in detail in the construction of the walkways, bridges, staircases, buildings, etc.
Since we were now stuck in this place (sigh), we just had to go snorkeling. Two hours later, we were emerging from the clear water, regaling each other in the "this big" tales (as in the fish was "this big"). What a terrific find this place was. The best thing of all, it is not mentioned in any of the travel/tour books. SHHHHH! It is our "little" secret.
Gerson and I wandered over the small hill to Playa Venado and walked the beach for a bit. It did not take us long to realize that it was better in our sanctuary and we soon returned to camp.
OK, this is funny. I am sitting here typing this page when several macaws came flying in to join the ones that have made their homes here. At first, there was plenty of squawking and arguing and then out of the blue we kept hearing "hello, hello". Next thing we know, we hear this intruder macaw spouting an entire string of English words and while seemingly fighting with another macaw, shouts out "f*** off" and then "I love you". We are still laughing in disbelief. Someone is having fun teaching this bird a rather interesting vocabulary.