Week of January 18, 2004
I cheated a little with the last page because we did not leave La Playita in a day as we initially intended. Nor did we leave in two days and our exodus on the third day slid us into this week.. Call it writer's privilege to play with the facts.
We drove to Santa Clara (1+ hour outside of Panama City) in hopes to stay at a campground that advertised RV hookups, a swimming pool and a sports bar/restaurant. We found XS Memories (with a name like that, you know it is owned by Americans) and we discovered all that was promised was true. XS Memories is owned by Dennis and Sheila Parsick and it is a very familiar place for North Americans and it was a great place to catch our breath.
As our luck would have it, we ran into a rather boisterous German who was shipping his vehicle to Ecuador the next day, the identical route we wanted to send Cindy. A rather raucous conversation ensued (with a German, what do you expect), and we were given names and numbers to call for shipping Cindy. As a result, we were saved a tremendous amount of footwork and phone work.
Sherrie and David took advantage of their couple of days near Panama City to dodge cars and buses around town and they visited many historic areas, a museum, the market district and of course, that famed ditch full of water called "The Panama Canal". All the while, we were desperately trying to locate two new tires for Cindy (thanks to the blowout and a second tire defect on the Dunlop/Goodyear tires that we purchased in St. Louis - DO NOT BUY ANY GOODYEAR TIRES - WE HAD TWO MANUFACTURER DEFECTIVE TIRES OUT OF FOUR). Goods and services are very hard to find, even around a metropolitan city like Panama City. We ain't in the U.S. anymore, that is for certain.
A profoundly sad thing to note is that David and Sherrie are with us no longer. We all knew that Panama City would divide us into our separate paths and David and Sherrie left to head back north to Costa Rica. It was a simple and somewhat quiet parting, all not wanting to dwell on the loss of companions, but I think all also looking forward to what lays in store in our futures. David and Sherrie will be exploring Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and we will be getting prepared to strangle shipping and customs agents.
So, that week passed with a little sadness and lots of scrambling to find a shipping company and tires for Cindy. We have to wait until the next week to confirm that we can ship Cindy February 6th and then we can explore what looks to be a diverse, interesting and fun city.
Panama City!!! The marriage of Latin America, Europe and North America has produced an offspring city that is spectacular. From the narrow, brick covered streets in Casco Antiguo, to the ruins of the original settlement of the 1500's, to the sparkling downtown and its reflective high rises, to its massive shopping malls, to its quaint and exquisite parks, to its miles of open markets/shops, to its beautiful ocean front views, to its children playing soccer everywhere, to its multi-lingual beat, to its very friendly people, to its crazy drivers, to its...
Panama City is home to over 700,000 people and is a modern, thriving center for international banking, business, trade and transportation. The city was founded by the Spanish in 1519 and the original ruins of the settlement are still visible and being lovingly restored.
The city became an important port to which the gold and other plunder from the surrounding lands came to rest and as a result, also created itself as a target for many attacks. In 1671, the city was ransacked and destroyed by the English pirate Henry Morgan, leaving the ruins that are visible today.
Three years later, Casco Antiguo ("ancient compound") became the next city center and is presently seeing a noticeable effort to restore the area to its original magnificence. More recently, the city center has developed across the bay and the new center comprised of dizzying glass edificios is in stark contrast to the 2-4 story, narrow, ornate, plaster covered and wood trimmed buildings.
Note that the Iglesia de Santo Domingo had a very important part to play in the securing of the location of the canal to be in Panama. Just inside the doorway (which we could not enter due to a rather large, well-armed guard eyeing us very astutely), is the Arco Chato, a long arch that has stood unsupported for centuries. It reportedly played a part in the selection of Panama over Nicaragua as the site for the canal because of the arch's survival was taken as proof that the area was not prone to earthquakes.
We found a hotel in Punta Paitilla, an upscale part of the city, that allowed us to stay in Cindy in their secure parking lot for $15/day. This site was perfect because it was central to all the running around we had to do for the shipping of Cindy as well as for flagging down taxis for the touristy stuff. It also did not hurt that we were within 100' of a four-story, two month old, mega mall that housed hundreds of stores from Europe, South America and the U.S. and still had room for a huge movie theatre complex and a roaring casino. So many bright lights, shiny new things, clean stores, ringing bells...woooowhooooo!!!
Our first opportunity for a movie was spent enjoying the final of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (loved, loved, loved it!) and then the next night we suffered through The Last Samurai (at least, we hope it was the last). Inasmuch as we love our journey, it was nice to be thrown back into the civilization that we were used to for a few days. Yes, I sometimes miss the gluttony of the U.S. and no, I did not buy anything (Gerson would not let me, the meany :-).
We did our research and found that the best deal to ship Cindy was to be had through a man named Walter at Euroline. For a cost of $1,950, we were to ship out on February 6th; however, the ship was late coming in and Cindy should be shipped February 9th (gee, something in Latin America was not on time, go figure!). This was a tad more pricey than we expected, but with Cindy's tall stature not allowing her access to the conventional 8'x8'x20' container, we have to pay a little more for a platform/flat bed, wherein Cindy will be placed on top of the enclosed containers. Cindy gets nothing but the best so she got the penthouse suite.
We also booked our flights to Quito, Ecuador, where we will spend a few days exploring the historic town before hopping onto a flight to Guayaquil, where Cindy will be arriving after five days at sea. I wonder if they make a Dramamine band big enough for Cindy?
We were feeling quite proud of ourselves because we had
accomplished all of the shipping details, toured the city and made time for some
modern fun, all in a few days. However, unfortunately, I was re-visited by
an old friend that seems to enjoy making my right eyelid swell as though I have
another eye lurking under the lid.
Well, the gland again became infected and since we had the time
in Panama City and we were located just around the corner from a
huge medical center, we wandered into an Ophthalmologist's office and had the
doctor take a look. Within five minutes, the good Dr. Chanis stated he
could take care of it right there and then, and within 15 minutes, the Dr.
completed the minor surgery to remove the infection and the cyst.
We wandered back to XS Memories for the week wait to ship Cindy. While we were there, we met another extraordinary couple that hail from Haines, Alaska. Unfortunately, we only had one day enjoying each other's company; however, in that one day (and a mad game of horseshoes), we found ourselves eager to someday head north to Alaska and visit their wonderland.