Diary/Photo Journal

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.

Cindy hidden
in the palm trees

Views to the
right and to the
left at Las Lajas


Sunset over Las Lajas and  Panama's own

David and Gerson
|watching the

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.


1) Louise paddling out      2) Now what?
3) She's up  
4) wa wa wa wipeout
5) Very cheeky surfboard tossing me off
 like that
6) Negotiating with the surfboard ("If you
just let me get up for a couple of seconds,
I will rub you with your favorite wax!")

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.

1)  Again?
2)  Yes, again!
3)  Wooowhoooo....two seconds to
stand up while falling over
(I count this as a ride, so there!)
4) Gerson showing me how its done
even when he forgot to attach the fins!!!

Blondie, the camp
dog, ceaseless

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.

Cindy's blown
shoe and
David earning
that cold drink

El Arenal camp
Views to left and right of beach
Gerson and I enjoying the view to
Isla Iguana
Officers Velasquez and Dominguez
Sunrise over Panama

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. 

Poti and his
son, Berto
our taxi to
Isla Iguana

Turtle nest
Red crab (they
are a lot of fun
to chase around)
Frigate and
view of the
frigates in flight

Isla Iguana view
to mainland with

Louise loving
the water

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 removed! 

We all agreed that the snorkeling was some of the best we had ever experienced with an abundance of a large variety of colorful fish and a substantial amount of healthy coral.  And, it did not dampen our appreciation of Isla Iguana that the water was the perfect temperature.

Berto guiding us
Sherrie finding
One of many
craters slowly

Views from lighthouse
 - to Mainland
 - to Gerson and that
color of the water!
 - Over the west side of 
the island
- David blissfully floating

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"). 

Expecting to be disappointed because a "resort" usually means a ridiculous luxury monstrosity that some North American built, we pulled along side of the fence and were a bit stunned.  OK, you would be too if you came within 5' of hitting a rather large and beady-eyed ostrich!  Turning our heads, we found ourselves eyelevel with emus as well.  Next thing, the gate opens and we are ushered inside with promises of our stay only costing $5 per RV/tent and an additional $3 per person, for the enormous sum of $11 per couple. 

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.)

Then, we were turned away from the ocean to stroll among the trees while being watched by macaws, peacocks, chickens (and I mean many different kinds of funny looking chickens), turkeys, pigeons, pheasants, emus, ostriches, monkeys and even a fawn.  As I said, we were rather stunned and we evolved into bewildered excitement.  Forget the resort part, this was staying in an animal sanctuary. 

Playita camp

Our sentinels
Ostriches outside
the gate and nosy
emus inside the camp
(check out the eyelashes)

Lala the spider monkey
She was rather fond of
ears, noses, fingers
shiny things bears and hair
(her bites were just nibbles)

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. 

Gerson caught dinner -
actually, these chickens
have big, feathery feet

One magnificent

Views of
the bay from
left to right

La Playita/Playa
Venado sunset

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.

Lala earned her own portfolio. 
1) Lala stealing food from Lester
2) Lala sleeping - doesn't she look innocent!
3) Lala hanging out with us at lunch
4 & 5) Lala and Gerson, what a cute couple
6) Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil all at once
7) Lala dropping in for a chat with Sherrie

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.

Playa Venado
popular surf

Gerson going
out spear
fishing and
his first spear

It was good
Military macaw

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.

Our own Bambi
Another type of monkey
A true sea hawk
Gerson trying to tell Pedro to get off the awning.  Pedro's response "You squawkin to me?!


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