Catching Up

6 Feb

So we left Las Olas Friday morning via a short cut cross country and north to Volcan. Our iPad, equiped with a ‘data sim’ works like GPS so we can track ourselves when travelling and make sure we’re not lost. Got to Volcan, and took the branch road to Paso Ancho, a small community a few miles away. That was the location of our next planned stay for 3 weeks. The maps show several local streets, and Google maps has the property we were booked for shown on their map as well.
Well the problem became, we had a rental car, 4 door Toyota sedan, and all the roads to reach the place were on ‘dirt roads’ as the owner called them. He failed to mention they could only be traversed by high clearance vehicles like SUV’s or 4 Wheel drives. The car bottomed out, and scraped along the ‘street’ covered with orange to grapefruit sized rocks, and up to basketball sized boulders semi-buried in the sand. Those ‘humps’ combined with pot holes of similar depth made it unreasonable to travel or risk serious damage to the vehicle.
Needless to say we called and cancelled our stay, forfeiting our deposit. I am not mentioning the name of the property so as not to encourage others to find it. And so we returned to familiar surroundings, Boquete.
A quick note about rental cars….several international rental brands at the David airport, the Thrifty in Boquete, and the independant we were currently renting from….no one has anything other than sedans. Have never seen even a pickup or van anywhere. While a high percentage of locals own trucks, SUV’s, 4 Wheel, etc. because any time you leave paved surfaces you are on rock and often not very level or smooth surfaces. They don’t seem to have ‘crushed rock’ as we see in the US on unpaved roads.
Fortunately when we got there we searched our contact list of rental properties, and the first one we tried was available. We drove out to complete arrangements and unload. Then returned to town (about 4 miles) to get groceries. We made a quick stop before going to the store, and when we tried to move on the car would not start!! Finally able to get ahold of the rental agency owner, and he came to help but no joy! He couldn’t get it to start either. And he had no other car available for us. Three brand new vehicles had arrived that day, but no paperwork, license plates or stickers, so they could not be legal on the street.
Bill, the owner, apologetically drove us to the casita for the night, and brought us a brand new Nissan the next morning. Thus ended that ‘not so little’ adventure. Even tho there are several other details I’ll pass over. We are settled in our 1 BR casita, up in the hills SW of town and are quite comfortable. The owners, Rick and Cheryl MILLER live next door, have an ‘almost 12’ daughter, and younger son.

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Leaving Las Olas Resort

6 Feb

Been off line for a few days. Will detail more as I add ‘posts’. Picking up where we left off, the 31st was our last day at the resort. I promised some more pictures of the place so here they are:

View at main building and outdoor dining terrace.

View at main building and outdoor dining terrace.

Exterior view of some of the gardens.

Exterior view of some of the gardens.

The Lobby Desk

The Lobby Desk

Some of the bar area.

Some of the bar area.

One entrance to the restaurant, and part of the outdoor dining area.

One entrance to the restaurant, and part of the outdoor dining area.

Some of the indoor dining room.

Some of the indoor dining room.

"Lending Library", books, videos, games!

“Lending Library”, books, videos, games!

The Exercise Room

The Exercise Room

We found another beach front restaurant, ‘Benny’s Place’, about a quarter mile west of the hotel. It was closed on Tuesday when we saw it, but went back on Wed. afternoon for dinner. Met the owner, Benny of course, who was very friendly and welcoming. There were a few locals at a table talking when we arrived. And after placing our order a truck arrived with some new equipment for the place. Otherwise it was pretty deserted too. There’s another Panamanian ‘tipico’ (typical Panamanian food) place next door, and several A frame thatched roof shade covers for beach users. Not sure but they usually ‘rent’ these out to families who bring their own food/drinks and toys for the beach experience.

Benny's Place. A nearby beach front bar and restaurant.

Benny’s Place. A nearby beach front bar and restaurant.


Benny's Place too!

Benny’s Place too!


Benny's Place toward beach.

Benny’s Place toward beach.

Dinner was nice…shrimp in garlic sauce et al. Tried to get a photo of the sunset, but doesn’t really show the true red sun color.

Last sunset at Las Olas! Doesn't do justice to the actual 'red' sun as it actually was.

Last sunset at Las Olas! Doesn’t do justice to the actual ‘red’ sun as it actually was.

Here’s a picture of the beach for our last walk on the beach, a quick swim, load up and leave for a place near Volcan.

Last morning walk.  Calm sea!

Last morning walk. Calm sea!

Found this ‘story’ the other day and thought it appropriate to include here, as others wonder how we’re doing and adjusting to a ‘different world’:

Walking down the street in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, last week, I watched as a guy tripped on a step that jutted out into the sidewalk. As he recovered his balance before falling, the guy’s immediate reaction, which I heard from across the street, was to ask, “Why would someone put a step there?”.

I have asked myself a lot of those kinds of “why” questions over the 28 years I’ve been traveling around the world. In Mumbai, I wondered why the construction guy I saw on the bamboo scaffolding 20 stories up on the side of a building under construction that I passed wasn’t tethered to the structure in some way. I could guess as to why the scaffolding was bamboo lashed together with rope. Bamboo is strong and readily available in India. Maybe they ran out of rope and so didn’t have any for the construction worker. Who knows.

In Cairo, I wondered why it took five people to change one light bulb in our hotel room. No, that’s not the start of a stand-up routine. No kidding. When we called to inform the front desk that the light bulb was out in our room, they sent up five guys to change it. One guy carried the replacement light bulb in a basket. One guy seemed to be his supervisor. Maybe one of the guys was new and being trained. I can’t imagine what the other two were doing there…

In Panama last year, I wondered why five guys were digging a ditch by hand when a back hoe was sitting right there next to them. I could make some guesses, but any guess only raises more questions. Maybe they ran out of gas for the back hoe. (How could they let that happen?) Maybe the thing had broken down and couldn’t be repaired until new parts arrived on the scene. You could conjecture from now until the end of time and never know or understand why five guys would be digging with shovels rather than using their backhoe.

Returning to the step on the sidewalk on Ambergris Caye, I can imagine the guy who built it asking the guy who tripped on it, “Why wouldn’t I put the step there? That’s where I needed a step.” I’m sure it made sense to him at the time…just like it seemed a reasonable course of action to the Indian construction worker to work 20 stories above street level without a harness or to the management of the hotel in Egypt to send five guys to change a light bulb (seriously, that’s not a joke I found online).

You and I question things like that, but, as we move around the world, we learn to keep the questions to ourselves and not to let them distract us too long. We’ll likely never understand why people do the things they do under different circumstances in different places. And (here’s the important point) we don’t need to. If that bothers you, you may not be cut out to take your life offshore.

It’s hard for us Americans. We want to help. We want to make things better. We want to fix things. And, most of all, we want to understand. We want things to make sense to us.

But, when we begin spending our time in new places overseas, things won’t always make sense to us. And that won’t always be because they’re being handled incorrectly. Often it can be because we aren’t seeing the big picture or because we don’t share the same perspective.

Maybe you’ve heard this story before, but it helps to make the point…

An American goes on vacation to a little fishing village in some undeveloped country. Each day as the American takes his morning jog along the beach, he sees a local fisherman go out for his day’s fishing. After his run, the American goes to a restaurant on the beach for breakfast. He hangs around and, eventually, sees the fisherman return to shore with his catch. The fisherman sells most of his fish to the restaurant owner and heads home with a few fish in a bucket for him and his family.

The American watches this scene again and again, day after day, and wonders why, after selling that early catch to the restaurant, the fisherman doesn’t go back out to fish some more. There’s still a lot of day left. Finally, one day, the American decides to stop the fisherman to give him a business lesson.

Tourist: “Mr. Fisherman, I’ve been watching you for the last week, and I’ve noticed that you don’t go back out for more fish after you come in from your first outing.”

Fisherman: “Yes, I come in when I have enough to sell to the restaurant. I don’t want the fish to spoil.”

Tourist: “Yes, great, but if you went back out after selling your first load of fish, you could make a lot more money each day. Eventually, you could save up enough money to buy a bigger boat with a cold storage to keep your fish on ice so that you could stay out longer and catch even more fish.”

Fisherman: “Yes, but…”

Tourist, interrupting: “And once you were able to bring in bigger catches and even bigger fish in your bigger boat, you could eventually save up and buy a second boat and hire another fisherman to work for you.”

Fisherman: “Yes, but…”

Now the tourist is on a role, getting excited about the prospects: “Then, with a second boat, you’d earn even more money. Eventually, you could have a fleet of boats.”

Fisherman: “Yes, but…”

Tourist: “Wait, I’m getting to the good part now. With a fleet of boats, you would be making enough money to hire a business manager. He could run the business for you, leaving you more time to spend with your family, more time to relax. Doesn’t that sound like something you want to aspire to?”

Fisherman: “Yes, but I like fishing, I catch more food than we can eat, which is why I sell the extra fish to the restaurant. Then I go home and spend every afternoon with my wife and kids, relaxing…”

Watch out for that sidewalk on Ambergris Caye.

Lazy Day at Las Olas

30 Jan

We have our room and settled in, so just have to enjoy the day. Started with a walk on the beach followed by a short swim. Got a picture of a paddle boarder surfing a wave.

Remember to click photos for a larger view if wanted!

Not much surf. Change of tide and quite calm this morning.

Not much surf. Change of tide and quite calm this morning.

After breakfast we went out under the palapas above the beach for some shade and cool breeze. Spent the morning reading and watching surf and the few visitors. Took some pictures of the resort building areas that follow:

Here’s a view down the outdoor 2nd floor hallway to the rooms.

View down hall one direction!

View down hall one direction!

And here’s the opposite direction.

Open outdoor hallways face the parking areas. All rooms 'view' toward the ocean.

Open outdoor hallways face the parking areas. All rooms ‘view’ toward the ocean.

Here’s some photos of the resort. Note the kids play area….quite family oriented.

This walkway goes to the activity areas, restaurant, bar and lobby.

This walkway goes to the activity areas, restaurant, bar and lobby.

Looking out to the Pool.

Looking out to the Pool.

Outdoor terrace area. See the kids play area in distance. Quite family oriented here.

Outdoor terrace area. See another kids play area in distance.

Another view of the pool area.

Another view of the pool area.

Took a picture of the sand at the water line. Tide was going out so 'wet' sand not very wet. Some small sticks at high water line, but beaches are very pristeen.

Took a picture of the sand at the water line. Tide was going out so ‘wet’ sand not very wet. Some small sticks at high water line, but beaches are very pristine. The coconut was a bonus find.

An Early Move!

29 Jan

Some brief instructions: When the first page loads, check the right column for the Post Archives where you can choose to see earlier posts, including back to our first trip in Sept. 2011.

So as we finished breakfast yesterday morning, Sabine came over to be sure we would be out before 11AM. We thought our reservation was through the 28th, checking out on the 29th. But no check out was yesterday. So I got online and extended our beach trip by a day, packed up and left.
On the drive down to David, we stopped at the Chiriqui Storage (perhaps the only storage type facility in western Panama and maybe all of Panama) to reserve a unit we had looked at last week. Have that secured now for storing some items we don’t want to take to the US and bring back again.
Stopped at the Rey grocery in David to stock up on some items for the few days at the beach (so we don’t have to restaurant for everything). The beach is quite remote and since there are rarely any road signs or street names anywhere, you can imagine how much information is out there in remote areas. Thankfully, the iPad cell service gives us GPS type maps and a ‘blue dot’ where we are. Biggest issue was getting out of David with all the traffic, etc.
Got to Las Olas resort early afternoon, and got settled in. The resort, located at La Barqueta, about 40 minutes south of David, is largely deserted. We’ll be gone before another weekend happens. Its a nice facility, friendly helpful staff, but a little ‘shop worn’. Needs some TLC, but what place with 47 rooms and constant traveller turnover doesn’t. They have a Convention Center, restaurant, pools, terraces, palapas on the beach, and the Pacific Ocean which averages about 82 degrees year round.
Despite, or maybe because its summer (heat) here, its pretty quiet here now. Here’s some pictues of the beach for now and I’ll add some of the resort next time.

First look at the Pacific from our room

First look at the Pacific from our room


Here’s a video link:

Up the beach...palapas in front of main building

Up the beach…palapas in front of main building

Further west past hotel

Further west past hotel

Small fishing boat out front

Small fishing boat out front

Cleo tried the pool. Simply barefoot!

Cleo tried the pool. Simply barefoot!

We took a walk up the beach this morning, as its cooler then. This is known as a ‘black sand’ beach, and the sand gets hot in mid-day. The sand is fine textured, and formed from volcanic deposits. While not ‘black’ it is a darker gray. The name of the bay this area is on is Bahia Charco Azul. My translation would be Blue Charcoal Bay, but nothing like that comes up in the translator we have. There were no rocks (or agates), and only a couple parts of shells visible when we walked. The water was great.

Surfers up the beach.

Surfers up the beach. Only 5 of them plus 2 from hotel, and us on the beach as far as you could see either west or east.

Here’s another video with a closer look from the beach:

Cleo had a visitor on the terrace this morning.

Cleo had a visitor on the terrace this morning.

A closer look!

A closer look!

A final chuckle!! While doing this post, I checked the spelling on the Google Maps. Cleo had somehow gotten our location fixed at our old Salem address…so when I searched the map for the beach location it ran a travel map with directions (via ‘blue line’ on roads) to show the most direct route here. The summary at the bottom said:
3 days, 6 hours, 51 minutes travel time (4,470 miles)
Light traffic via I-5 South
Enjoy! And now you know how to get here…..the hard way!

EcoTourist Economy

26 Jan

Los Establos Plaza, where we almost daily have mochas and you have seen pictures, has a number of businesses which cater to tourists. Several others are located across and along the street, and they are a strong magnet to attract visitors from around Panama, as well as from foreign countries. There have been several German ladies staying at Isla Verde recently. The Habla Ya Spanish Language School located here has host families for students to come and live and study. This past week there were probably 20 to 25 foreign students, Scandanavian, though not exactly sure which country. About 2/3 girls and rest boys, in their late teens to early 20’s. They wore uniform sweaters with logos which suggested they were part of a cruise group. They were attending morning lanquage classes here. Habla Ya also has a similar setup in Bocas del Toro near the Costa Rican border on the Carribean north of here. They apparently also have some locations in South America as well.
Among the offerings are zip-line tree top treks, eco-tours, coffee finca (farms) tours including roasting facilities, white water rafting, kayak trips, trail hikes w/waterfalls, bird watching, quad trail rides and rentals, ocean fishing, and off shore island tours. Here’s a few pictures of some of that at the ‘plaza’.

Boquete Outdoor Adventures
Adventure Tours
Habla School
Habla School

Weekend Special – Car Show & Other Stuff!

26 Jan

Walked down for coffee late this morning, and while Cleo waited I went on to shop for a few groceries. As I passed the Central Park I was surprised at the larger crowd. When I got closer they were grouped around several cars. Apparently a Car Show was in progress. We had seen 3 cars in a row go by last night with Costa Rican licenses and thought it unusual, and perhaps several in a family travelling together. Most of the cars displayed were from Costa Rica. Its not like seeing a car from another state in the US. It is a very involved process and paper work system to bring vehicles across the border from Costa Rica. Rental cars are strictly not allowed, with few exceptions. The car owners were dressed in monogrammed shirts for Chiriqui (local Panama ‘state’), so that added to the confusion too. But people were enjoying the event regardless of how it came to be. Here’s some pictures:
Car Show
IMG_0361

Car Show

Car Show

Car Show

Car Show

On our Thursday trip into David we stopped at the shopping center closest to the road back to Boquete. You’ve seen the Rey grocery store there. I took Cleo to Arrocha department store (much like a Nordstrom’s but without clothes and add a pharmacy). They have most of the first floor with womens cosmetics, etc. There was a large housewares section I didn’t remember seeing during my quick pass through before Christmas. So Cleo browsed the sections to help decide what to bring with us when we come back and what we can get here and avoid the shipping hassle. We didn’t even go up to the second floor. At Christmas time it was largely kids toys and Xmas Decor.
Here’s a couple pictures of the main floor:
IMG_0356

Arrocha

Some Local Photos

24 Jan

Here are some more pictures from our walk down into town center. They show some more of the diversity in houses in town. These do not show some of the larger luxury homes also around here. Many of those are in gated communities, and dominated by expats, and range up to several millions of dollars.

What you see here is kind of representative of general population houses in Boquete, and lived in primarily by Panamanians. However, the Americans, Canadians, and other foreigners also live in very nice homes in town. This first house is across the street from the Reception Office here at Isla Verde.

This is a 2 story wood frame home on a very large lot with well cared for landscapiing.

This is a 2 story wood frame home on a very large lot with well cared for landscapiing.

Here is a view further on up the street. You can see some of the first home, and another large home beyond. If you click on the photo you may see the cyclone fence topped with concertina barb wire loops. Security is a big issue everywhere. While there doesn’t seem to be a lot of crime, if you leave something out, it may not be there when you return. The first wood frame home also has a different fence with large pipes and sharp angled tops. Decorative metal grills on doors and windows and fenced properties are the norm.

Up the street from Isla.

Up the street from Isla.

We walk by a new (since we were here in Sept.’11) restaurant, Casona del Cuzco, a Peruvian Seafood Grill.

A Peruvian Seafood restaurant.

A Peruvian Seafood restaurant.

And right next door to it is a partially completed new house. I don’t think anything has been done to it since we were here in 2011. I did see a contractor type leaving it the other day and locking the fence. But there doesn’t seem to be any activity.

Waiting for someone to finish!

Waiting for someone to finish!

And here is one last nice smaller home along the way. Actually next door to a hostel lodging place which seems to be quite popular. The hostels here are mostly inexpensive hotels. Most have private baths, etc. And maybe shared kitchen facilities.

A very nice smaller home. Have never seen anyone there.

A very nice smaller home. Have never seen anyone there.