Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hasta Luego Panama......On To More Adventures

After five years of living the dream of early retirement in Panama, it's time to say, "Hasta Luego,".....or see you later. We have enjoyed our time here, made some good friends and leave knowing that we can always come back since after all, we are permanent residents. Panama has been good to us!  We've learned to speak Spanish, mas or menos, learned about living in a foreign culture where everything is different, and so much more. Panama has really opened our eyes to a world outside of the US that we never knew existed.  But now it's time to move on to explore more of this big world in which we live.  Thank you Panama for changing us and helping us grow and move out of our comfort zone. Now it's time to expand our gringo trail to other countries and see what we discover.

For most of my life the idea of throwing a few things into a bag and travelling the world sounded wonderfully exciting.  But although I had the interest, I never had the money, courage or a partner crazy enough to do it with. Now I have a crazy partner with more than enough courage for the both us but we still lack the necessary funding.  But where there's a will there's a way so we just had to find that way and perhaps we have?

It was about a year ago when we splurged on a month long trek through Europe that included a 12-night Mediterranean cruise, plus a side trip to Paris.  We visited Barcelona, Spain; Naples, Florence, Venice, Piza, and Rome, Italy; Istanbul and Ephesus, Turkey; Athens and Mykonos, Greece; and Toulon, France. We even opted for an overnight layover in Zurich, Switzerland for an added bonus on our way back to Panama.

We returned to Panama as two changed souls that longed for more adventures anywhere in the universe. But how could we do more world travel on Clyde's small pension?  A friend suggested house sitting and the rest was history. With many websites out there that serve to match up potential house and pet sitters with homeowners, we quickly set up profiles on several sites. Literally within two weeks we were offered our first sit in Ajijic, Mexico. The next month we did a sit in Costa Rica and after that Ecuador.  We were hooked and decided it was time to sell ALL and do this fulltime.

In the past year we've given away or sold much of everything.  We sold the house to a couple from the states looking to relocate here; sold our car to our friend Louise who first told us about house sitting, and donated our clothes and shoes to needy locals. Literally we are leaving here with only TWO CARRY-ON SIZED suitcases EACH. One will be checked in and the other will stay as carry-on.

So where in the world are these two crazy gringo's headed now?  When we leave here on Friday we'll head to Austin, TX for a three week house sit.  There will take care of a small dog, a large house with a pool and they are even letting us use their car. Clyde's daughter and her husband live just 15 minutes from our sit.  My daughter and Clyde's youngest son live in San Antonio while Clyde's oldest son lives in Corpus Christi.

Next we'll fly into Newark, New Jersey not far from where I spent my childhood to visit my sister.  For a few weeks I'll get to visit with some old friends, chill out at my sisters backyard pool and enjoy her company.

Then it's onto JFK Airport in Queens, New York for a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Because it's such a long, expensive trip we wanted to spend the maximum amount of time in Thailand.  We are allowed to stay there for 30-days as tourists and our house sit is not until the later two weeks of the month.  But the home owners will allow us to stop by, drop off our luggage, take a backpack and tour Thailand before returning to their condo for our sit with their cat.




This brings us into late August when we'll fly to Venice, Italy for yet another house and pet sit.  For the next three months we'll truly be living like locals in a tiny, Italian village.  Our temporary home will be the former bell ringers house right next to the church with a cemetery in the rear.  The town of Giavera del Montello is located just 25 minutes from Venice.  As the home owner comes home on occasional weekends our plan is to take weekend trips to Rome, Verona and other parts of Italy during our stay.


 
 

From Italy we'll transition to life in the UK and house sit our way around. This Christmas will find us in Storrington village in West Sussex, England through the New Year. 



I guess you can say we'll be ringing in the New Year with a bang, or a "banger" (a sausage since we'll be in the UK)  as we can be truly thankful for a year spent wandering around the globe.  So many places to see on a shoestring, making new furry and human friends along the way as we travel the world one house sit at a time........along the gringo trail.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Gettin Down And Dirty In Bocas Del Toro.......

Experienced four-wheelers after renting one on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, we thought we were ready for this, but we had no idea what was ahead. With a group rate we finagled the price down to a reasonable rate and we met the other two couples at the Flying Pirate. After some instruction on how to use the quads the real one-legged Pirate owner showed us a map.  With some 15 kilometers of trails we knew we were in for a long ride that would offer stops at a natural pool, the blue lagoon, a monkey trail and a hike to a lonely beach. We saddled up with six quads lined up and headed out for another adventure.  Clyde drove and I hung onto him for dear life (literally) as we made our way over sand, deep mud puddles, river beds, tree trunks and more.  Thankfully we had our other new friends to follow along with trail markers, although not nearly enough.  The trails were narrow, covered with brush, tree limbs and fallen trunks. The whole day was a series of, "oh crap," moments and wondering if  and when we'd turn the quad over, crash into a tree, sink it in the ocean or kill ourselves.
 
First check out this little video of the trails.
 
 
Look Closely As The Trails Were Much Rougher That They Appear
 
Quads Ready To Go And Still Clean

Flying Pirates Bocas Del Toro

The Box On The Back Of The Quad Had A Detailed Map
And Was Great To Hold Our Supplies And Lunch


Looks Smooth So Far
 



The Blue Lagoon

Cool, Clear, Salty Water With A Gentle Currant....Great For Floating









Our first stop was called, "The Piscina" a natural swimming pool of crystal clear water. Surrounded by tropical jungle it was a lovely setting to enjoy our picnic lunch and cool off from our ride.  Back on the trail the next stop was my favorite, the gorgeous setting of The Blue Lagoon. A series of coves, hidden corners, rock formations and fallen trees gave this place its ambiance.  The gentle current  moved us around, the water was clear, blue and cool and the waves of the Caribbean broke over  rocks in the distance.  What a peaceful way to while away the hours!











Back to reality we still had more exploring to do so back on the quads we went. We followed the trails as far as we could before taking the next part by foot. Our attempt was to hike to Christians beach which some said was the loveliest beach on the trail.  The trail seemed to begin with a muddy bog, through thigh high water, up into the jungle to walk over hard stones of barnacles. Next we made our way through grass as tall as me (no exaggeration either) where the bugs feasted on our bodies before we came out the other side. Eventually we did manage to find the beach and stopped for a while to enjoy the view.  But since it was getting late (around 3pm) we did need to make our way back along the trails with more things to see.  The final trail was called, "the monkey trail," and while we always enjoy seeing monkeys in the wild Clyde was tired, hurting and just wanted to get back.  We drove through a series of jungle heavily covered in tall, green ferns that hung over the trail making it hard to maneuver.  Clyde and I did get stuck in a ditch having to get off the quad and literally lift the back up and out of the hole. Eventually we did make our way out of the jungle trails and back onto the sand covered road.

This Is The Trail?

Take The Photo Fast So I Can Get Out Of Here!

Tiny Crabs Everywhere

At Least We Didn't Have To Go Up There

We Found Christians Beach





A Mural At Flying Pirates Bar, Grill And Quad Rental

 
You Know I'm Drunk When I'm Willing To Put A Parrot On My Head


Too Many Free Beers After A Long Hard Day Of Fun
 


The group of us all made it back alive with merely a few burns from the hot motor being doused with cool water, stings from tropical bugs, scrapes and other bruises. Covered in mud, sweaty, filthy with achy muscles we ended our day back at Flying Pirates for a well needed shower, some free beers and bought burgers for dinner. Although other companies rent quads in Bocas we thought Flying Pirates really had their act together.  They picked us up from town and took us to their other location to pick up the four wheelers. There was adequate training given on the vehicles and a long explanation of the trails and what to expect, or so we thought. Once again we were pushed way beyond our comfort zone as we got down and dirty mud boggin and four wheeling through Bocas del Toro, Panama......along the gringo trail.
http://flyingpiratesbocas.com/

Thursday, June 9, 2016

More Bananas Than People......The Banana Republic

As the propellers on the small plane revved up I began to laugh. It sounded like a child's toy instead of something used to take 50-60 people from one side of Panama to the other. Yet this was Air Panama, the second largest airline in the country. And I had to remind myself that it was only a short one hour flight to lessen my fears.  Less than one hour into the flight it began it's decent over fields of banana trees as far as my eyes could see. Some passengers made their way to the door while others just sat there, which confused us so Clyde inquired. Apparently we were not in Bocas del Toro yet but instead had landed in the town of Changuinola to let off and pick up a few passengers.  Once the plane was airborne again we had about eight more minutes of flying time.  I watched in awe as our plane made its way over water to land within a few minutes.  This is the only airport I've even been to where one can walk from the airport directly into the town just a block away.

Leaving On A Prop Plane

Rev Us Up

Tiny Airport In Bocas Del Toro


Bocas del Toro which translates to, "mouth of the bull," is on the Caribbean side of Panama. The picturesque little village is lined with waterfront restaurants, tourists shops, hostels, surf shacks and more. With few cars it's easy to get around on foot or water taxi, although they can be rather pricey.

Bombero (Fire Dept.) Boat

Always Have To Stop And Visit The Fire Department

An Oldie

Nicer Equipment Than We Have In Coronado
 


After nearly five years of living in Panama we finally made it there.   Although Panama is not a wide country is it a long one.  The drive to Bocas del Toro would take maybe ten hours and involve parking the car somewhere and taking a ferry onto the island. Clyde dreaded the thought of that drive so we never went......until now.

 Through the years we had heard both good and bad about Bocas.  "It's nothing but pot heads and surfers."  "The music and partying will keep you up all night long." "It's nothing but a bunch of dilapidated shacks, plenty of bugs and all night parties." There were a few people that made favorable comments about the place but those were not the majority.
 
 Posing With Sookie....Queen Of The Casa



Everyone knows that Clyde is friendly and has never met a stranger, loves to talk and share information and admits to being addicted to social media.  One day someone new to Panama asked a question on a Facebook expat board and Clyde responded.  Turns out the newby couple, Ron and Lara were from San Antonio, Texas where Clyde spent his teenage years and a friendly connection was made. Soon after that they invited us to come visit them in Bocas offering us a free place to stay, an offer too good to pass up.

Mustache Anyone?  Lara And Ron Being Silly

Outdoor Shower Near A Beach

Terry and Lara

 
Bocas Town
 


Ornate Carved Bench



He See's A Titty And Has To Touch It


Swinging At The Bar

On Island Time.....Notice The Shack In The Background
 That Would Sell For Millions In The US



Hippie Van Turned Table At Restaurant


Front Of Sign....Toro Loco Bar And Grill

Back Of Same Sign



Made From Bottle Caps, Old Credit Cards And Licenses, Keys Etc....


 


Ron and Lara landed in Panama with the intention of exploring several areas and decided to try Bocas first.  Within a month after planting their feet on the island they heard about someone in need of a house sitter and jumped at the opportunity. The large house sits on the island of Solarte surrounded by six to eight other homes and a shared pool.  All of the houses are "off the grid" which means they have no electricity and no water. Solar panels on the roof power large batteries to keep the lights on and rain water is collected and filtered for drinking and bathing. The large house sits in the middle of lush, tropical jungle overlooking the Caribbean.

Yep.....More Titties


Another Rough Day In Paradise
 



Lara And Ron's Hand Reaching For Titties





Notice The Sign "Cuidado de Perro," Beware Of Dog
He Looks Pretty Vicious


Plenty Of Off The Grid Waterfront Homes
 

 

When Clyde began telling me we'd be staying in an "off the grid" home I was a bit skeptical.  I wondered would there be electric and water or would it be like primitive camping? But in fact the home is just lovely, with lots of open spaces, plenty of water, fans and lights. While it would probably rent for $1500 or more per month, this lucky couple scored a free place to stay until the home sells. The only difference with off the grid living is that high powered devices like air conditioners, microwaves and hair dryers are avoided since they use too much power.

Our Home Away From Home
The Top Floor Is An Open-Air Screened In Bedroom And Sitting Area
 
After We Left They Bought A Boat
 


Ron And Lara's On Their New Boat



The Blue Coconut Bar And Restaurant



Clear Water Shows A Star Fish


Restaurant Dog Is Muzzled Because He Keeps
 Rescuing Swimmers Thinking They're Drowning


Water Hammock

Water Hammock And Rum And Coke.....Even Better!

Two In A Hammock With Rum And Cokes
Better Yet!

It's A Rough Life!


Our days were spent exploring the Caribbean, walking around the town and doing some of the touristy stuff that Ron and Lara hadn't done yet. A favorite hang out of theirs and ours is a waterfront bar and restaurant called The Blue Coconut.  With hammocks that hang in the clear water, nearby snorkeling and plenty of beer and food this place is a must-see.

Colorful Buildings In Bocas Town


Found A Rustic Pueblo Near The Beach





Caranera Beach Front Homes



Beach Front Hotel On Caranera







A big thanks to our new friends Ron and Lara who opened up their temporary home to us (with the owners permission of course) and showed us around paradise.  Had Clyde and I visited Bocas when we first moved to Panama our story might have turned out differently. We had a wonderful week relaxing, exploring and making new friends in the Banana Republic of Panama......Bocas del Toro......along the gringo trail.

Heading Out

Home Is Wherever Our Suitcase Sits