Archive for the ‘Expedition/Travel’ Category

The Panama Canal. Ships go in and ships come out!

Posted: October 7, 2017 by bernardbarbour in Expedition/Travel

I remember learning about the Panama Canal when I was in Elementary school. “Bernard” my teacher would yell I as buried my head deep in my history book. “Yes ma’am” I’d snap back out of my adventure fantasy of being there when the Canal was constructed. I’d see myself hacking away through the jungle, slowly with a troop of many finding our way from sea to sea.

As we stand here today watching huge ships of types sizes and from all over the world transcend the Canal, frankly, I’m still amazed.

But, of course there’s more to see than the Canal. So afterwards, we spent the rest of the day sightseeing, souvenir shopping and just taking it all in. Enjoy the pics.

Advertisements

Our first night in Panama, quaint and quiet. The ocean waves ever so gently, just enough to lull you to sleep. Fireflies bring magic to the darkness. Thunder rolls and lighting flashes off in the distance. Silhouettes of Islands. No wifi, no cell phone, just stillness. No turtles laying eggs, no raccoons to over turn the trash and wake you in the middle of the night. Stars peak through the clouds and soft rain all night. Three dogs appear in the morning and come to rest on our cabin porch, have they been guarding us all night? It’s early, time to watch for whales. We see them, playing in the sea off in the distance. They wave, we wave back. Humpbacks I suppose. Hunting for sea shells, gathering coconuts, we walk. Flocks of parrots fly overhead. Not another human in site. Suddenly, a truck, a moped, a guy on a bike, all make their way past us, they came from out of nowhere and are heading nowhere. Looking odd, where can they be going, I see nothing but deserted beach. Making plans for the next stop. Our friends come over, we look at maps. I’m not ready to go, but we must. What would my family and friend think? Dropping off the grid to live in a cabin by the sea. Whales, playing with dogs, looking for seashells all day. No wi-fi, TV, no bad news or good news for that matter. Time to go. We drive out onto the beach. The sand is hard, you can drive for miles. Ocean on the left, jungle on the right. This is life.


A euphoric feeling overwhelmed us as we crossed the border into Panama, our last Central American country. After going through the usual and customary process of getting stamped out of Costa Rica and into Panama we felt a calm and relaxing feeling come over us.

Costa Rica was amazing and we began to think how much more could Panama bring. Scott wrote this story I’d like to share with you about our experience in Panama so far, meanwhile I’ve posted a few pics. Enjoy and thanks for following, More photos and updates coming soon.

by Scott Woodhams @ Life all Out

 

We are so completely enamored and humbled by the people and experiences we get to enjoy along this amazing trip!

Last night was no exception. We found a beautiful property in Panama, that is situated along side a river that spills into the Pacific Ocean. We met the owners of the property, who also run a quaint restaurant that serves gourmet food. The chef has had countless write ups about his culinary skills, and the open air restaurant is visited by many exclusive clients, including the President of Panama.
We had the privilege of enjoying an absolutely amazing meal, with so many fresh, and new ingredients. The flavors culminated exquisitely, on out pallets, to make our taste buds leap with joy!

My favorite was the Ackie, a Jamaican bean/nut style garnishment, on the fresh salad. A-mazing!

After dinner, one of the owners, and souix chef, offered to serenade us. We were absolutely stunned to learn that he is native Panamanian, and is self taught. He has performed for the President and many other dignitaries. He has invitations to take the lead in a production featuring a famous symphony, who invited him in person. His style and range is amazing. Although the songs are in Spanish, we could feel the emotion of each word.

By the end of the evening, he had sang a personal performance exclusively for the four of us, as we ate like Kings (and queens), while the rain poured down outside, adding to the quaintness of our evening.

We learned so much about the Panamanian culture, and had local jokes translated by Roberto.

This remarkable evening came to an end, with us feeling so much closer to and understanding the local culture. People everywhere are so amazing! I’m so thankful, we get to meet, talk, and form our own opinion of other countries, rather than having some slanted, ulterior motive driven media provide it to us. Viva Panama!

 


Well it didn’t happen that way, but our day got so mixed up it seemed like it could happen.

 

We broke camp saying our goodbyes to our new friends at Swiss Palm Garden, Inka and Jorg were great hosts. We had a fantastic time getting to know them, going out to eat Italian and a lot of talk about the old country Switzerland. This Swiss couple had a lot of interesting life stories to share, especially Jorge, entertaining us thoroughly. Sailing the high seas from Florida to Spain, not once, but two times. One of those times he picked up Cuban refugees, but that’s a story for a different blog post.

 

Their campground was a welcoming rest with a pool, gardens, fast wifi and two great dogs to pal around with. Just what an overlander needs, a little normalcy. We also met up with a German couple we saw some time back when we where in Nicaragua near Lake Apoyo and met another couple Heather and Scott of Tin Can Sprinter Van, also heading to Argentina.

It was also a great time for Scott and I to work on replacing the AC/DC converter in our rig that has been out of service for almost a month. Fortunately, we had some friends visit from the States, and they bought us the parts we needed to get the job done. Thanks Jefferson and Keith!

20170925_113215

With the weather looking good, our route was to take us down the Pan American Highway with a detour to Manuel Antonio Park and a quick stop to see the famous plane at El Avion.

 

This is not your typical restaurant. El Avion is built into and around an actual, real, historical airplane! Not only does El Avion have great food, great views and great décor, it also has a really interesting history.

Have you ever heard of the Iran-Contra Affair or the name Oliver North? This plane played a big part in the history of this scandal. This C-123 cargo plane was built in San Jose in the 1980s, and after the US government purchased it, to be used by the Contras. This was all part of a bigger scandal that involved Oliver North and the illegal selling of arms to rebels in Nicaragua. The plane that eventually became El Avion had a sister plane which took to the skies on its mission first, and was shot down.
The capture of passengers from that plane is what started to unravel the Contra scandal, and because of this, the second plane never took off. This sealed its fate as a dust-catching, mostly-forgotten relic in a San Jose hangar….until some enterprising and economically-conscious entrepreneurs came along and gave the plane new life. While this plane has never and will never fly, it managed to make the long journey from San Jose to Manuel Antonio – but of course it was not transported in one piece. The owners of El Avion purchased the plane for about $3,000 and decided to put it to good use by recycling it into an unforgettable restaurant. It had to be disassembled for transportation, and the large plane pieces were brought over by land and by sea. Many pieces had to be brought by ferry, as they were too big to get past some of Costa Rica’s smaller roads and bridges.

 

 

We got there too early for lunch, and the restaurant was closed, but we did get some good eats from the bakery. Now onto Manuel Antonio Park.

Manuel Antonio National Park, is a small National Park in the Central Pacific Conservation Area located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, just south of the city of Quepos, Puntarenas, and 82 miles from the national capital of San José. Established in 1972,  it is the destination of as many as 150,000 visitors annually and well known for its beautiful beaches and hiking trails. In 2011, Manuel Antonio was listed by Forbes among the world’s 12 most beautiful national parks.

As expected we saw a sloth, many monkeys, huge iguanas and some bold raccoons. Although Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest national park, the diversity of wildlife in its 3 square miles is unequaled with 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Both brown-throated three-toed sloth and Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth are a major feature, as are three of Costa Rica’s four monkey species — the mantled howler monkey, Central American squirrel monkey, and white-headed capuchin monkey, black spiny-tailed iguana, green iguana, common basilisk, white-nosed coati and many snake and bat species are also common in the park. Included in the 184 bird species are toucans, woodpeckers, potoos, motmots, tanagers, turkey vulture, parakeets and hawks. Dolphins can be observed there, as well as the occasional migrating whale. Scuba diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking provide opportunities to experience the tropical wildlife that enriches Manuel Antonio.

It was certainly a day in the history books for us as the most mesmerizing wildlife encounters and a beautiful beach.

Stay tuned and keep following. Soon we’ll enter our last Central American country, Panama and face the Darien Gap!


So much to do, see and experience here in Costa Rica. We thought the best way to explain this, is to show you in pictures. Enjoy.


Hello fellow travelers out there on the Pan Am. We’ll be arriving in Panama soon, you know what that means, we’ve got to get around the Darien Gap to continue the expedition into South America.

MapDarienGapWithComment

 

Therefore we are hoping to share a 40 foot container from Colon, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia some time in the beginning to middle of October 2017. We have a Toyota Tundra with a pop up truck camper and are 23 feet long. We have not selected a broker as of yet so we are flexible. If interested, please comment or send us a private message to tndancelover@gmail.com. Thanks

20170912_100501.jpg


Where do I start? I guess at the beginning, so get a cup of coffee or a beer because this is going to be a long post. Starting with the mornings events and working my way backwards is going to be the best way to bring you up to speed. We woke up to the realization that last night there was an earthquake here at Ostional Beach. ” I thought you were goofing off shaking our camper last night” Scott said jokingly. “No, that wasn’t me!” I retorted. About that time our host Gilbert Araya walked up and asked if we felt the earthquake last night. Honestly Tammy and I hadn’t, must have been asleep, but Angela and Scott certainly did. “It was a 2.8” Gilbert grinned, “A baby” he added. “But it certainly stirred up a lot of howler monkeys in the jungle just across the street,  you could hear them for an hour after the shaking” he added. No damage, so all was okay. Welcome to Costa Rica, earthquakes and tremors are a way of life here.

We were staying at Ostional Beach, the number one beach in the world for nesting sea turtles. We couldn’t miss Ostional as we have participated in turtle conservation in Mexico and Florida, and feel very passionate about sea turtles. The night before we went out on the beach to see many turtles come up to nest. Tammy was overwhelmed by emotion actually getting to witness this. As Gilbert, our guide, we were with the number one sea turtle conservationist in the world, it was a memorable experience and very educational. There’s nothing like watching a mother sea turtle labor up on the beach, dig her nest, lay the eggs and then retreat to the sea. It was magical.

We had only planned to stay at Ostional Beach for one night, but the morning of the second day it rained and stormed all morning. When we got on the road to leave we realized we were trapped by ragging waters on both ends of the town. The day we came to town these now rushing and ragging waters were just a small creek we passed over. Not now, there was no way we were leaving. After telling our new friends Gilbert and his wife our goodbyes, we were back in 20 minutes, setting up camp again.

 

The day prior we stayed at Cabanas y Finca Canas Castilla, which was a great introduction to Costa Rica. Quite magical in it’s own right, we had spider and howler monkeys right over our camper everyday. We also had the opportunity to do some hiking and met a family traveling from California to Argentina. Please follow them, like and share their story http://www.clunkmonkey.com. We were truly inspired by Malia, Tim, Kalia, Wyatt and Carson…..and their little dog too, Max.

We also experienced a power surge from a 220 volt outlet. Thinking it was a 110 outlet, we connected and 10 minutes later “zap”, the damage was done. While we still have power going to all the electronics in our camper, our converter will not charge the 12v battery. So we are working to overcome this issue now. Stuff happens as they say.

I’m sorry I’m leaving out some details, but I promise I will revisit this part of our “Tales on the Pan Am” and update. Just trying to stay ahead of the curve at this point, as we don’t always have the best internet in which to post. Thanks for following.

 

 

 


 

Our trek from Rancho Los Alpes near Leon to Laguna Apoyo was  scenic, easy and uneventful. After saying goodbyes to our new friends, Michele from New Zealand, Axel and his family, Alma and her parents Jim and Gina, we hit the road. Getting a much later start than we anticipated we still made it to Lake Apoyo well before dark. We found a route around the city of Managua, bypassing the traffic which added a little extra time to our travels. Stopping for lunch, getting gas and keeping things moving it didn’t take long before we found ourselves driving higher in elevation. With the temperature dropping and the forest getting thicker, our excitement grew. Suddenly there it was, a huge blue lake surrounded by forest. It was obvious we were in the crater now. Tiny villages dotted our path as we made our way, as children and adults waved eagerly. “Hola” we hollered. Check in at Paradiso Hostel was easy, setting up camp not so much, but as usual we made it work. Meeting many folks from all over the world here is just half the fun. Today we’ll hike up to  Volcano Masaya and peer down into an active volcano. Stay tuned for pictures and thanks for following.

 


We tried, walking every street, going in churches, courtyards, stores, restaurants, coffee shops and more. But we found that Leon Nicaragua is just so big, beautiful, vibrant and sprawling that we’ll need more than a few days to discover it all. 20170831_123136.jpg

Leon’s markets are full of colors, smells and merchants that are eager to have you have step inside for a look. The churches are all wonderful in their own unique way, and each zocalo has it’s own flair of people watching and kids playing. We certainly enjoyed Leon and hope to return someday.


21271129_10212679113065367_3502152566356950564_n.jpg21105939_10212679270949314_1953497855196360532_n.jpg21106577_10212679270309298_1284031878338301116_n.jpg21231323_10212679269309273_3759584749433768822_n.jpg21106598_10212679264269147_678436305200850130_n.jpg21151622_10212679235188420_4601443116712025802_n.jpg21106893_10212679221228071_1620608994273497843_n.jpg21193032_10212679145066167_5370642452404795370_n.jpg21106761_10212679133505878_7352614003253346672_n.jpg

It’s been a super busy week for us, more than we can keep up with. While I’d normally try to post most of our adventures, we’ve had more than a few days without internet. So for now, I’ll just surmise  how our week has been.

 

We left Copan Ruins and headed to D&D Brewery and farm.  From there we crossed the border into Nicaragua and spent two days at Somoto Canyon. We are now at Rancho Los Alpes outside of Leon. We’ll be here for several days. Thanks for following and I’ll be sure to get all of our adventures updated soon. Meanwhile enjoy the pictures.