Diary/Photo Journal 

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.

XS Memories campground Mao doing his best road kill

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. 

Dennis coming to say
goodbye and the start
of the trek north
We are going to miss you guys
Farwell and may there be a
breeze in front of that sun
(Sherrie will know what I mean)

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.

Week of January 25, 2004

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...

Views of Panama City
view to Punta Paitilla from Av Balboa
view around the bay at low tide
view to the downtown and Punta Patiilla
from Casco Antiguo - note ruined building
on left foreground was Noriega's hangout
before the US invaded and bombed it

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.

Cathedral being

This tree survived
the attack by pirate
Henry Morgan

Various outer and
inner city walls of
the original
Ruined church
Excavations are
finding many graves

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. 

Wonderful restoration
in process
these 17th -18th century
buildings have so
much potential
Look at the detail

Cathedral and
Plaza de Indepencia - where
Panamanian independence
was declared on November
3rd, 1903.

Several of the original dungeons

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.

Iglesia y Convento
de Santo Domingo
Iglesia y Convento
de la Compania de Jesus
Iglesia de San Francisco

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 :-).

Our entertainment in the
parking lot as there was
this soccer field next to us
Again, Gerson and his
dinosaur abuse

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. 

The first time I had this problem was four months ago and it turned out to be a staph infection.  I treated it with antibiotics and the swelling and the infection subsided; however, a cyst remained that appeared to create a permanent alteration to my eyelid.  When you look pictures taken of me in the past few months, you will see that I tend to "wink" or "squint" at the camera because of the bulge the cyst had caused in my eyelid.

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.

Dr. Chanis lifted up my eyelid, drained the infection and cut out the gland that was housing the small cyst and Voila!  I no longer wink at the camera unless I want to.  The cost?  $125 from start to finish and the prescription eye drops? A whopping $6.  Needless to say, I am very impressed with how the health care works in Panama City.  Affordable, very clean, quick and confident.  The only thing I told the Dr. he could improve, is silencing the sound of the snip, snip, snip of the "scissors" he used to cut out the gland or "capsule".  That sound was worst than a Dentist's drill!

The cyst in the inside corner of my right eye
as a result of a staph infection in
my eyelid led to
"winking" and "squinting"
Gerson finally
connected :-). 

Fortunately, the
patch was only
for one day.
After the surgery.
I always had one eye
a little bigger than
the other but I am
glad to see the bump
or the cyst is gone.

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. 

Mark and Mardell
packed up and ready
for their trek into the city
We found a little stowaway enjoying our air conditioner. 
This white-wolf spider was about
the size of my palm and not too happy with being thrown
outside and back into the heat


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