Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One Of The Seven Wonders.........

No matter how many times we see the Panama Canal we're still captivated by this modern marvel of engineering.  Just imagine coming up with the idea of cutting through the entire country of Panama, building an artificial lake, and creating a set of locks to move a ship from one ocean to another.  The American Society of Civil Engineers named the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the modern world making it a "must see" for everyone that visits the isthmus of Panama.

We recently had the opportunity again to show some new friends around Panama City, with our first stop being the canal. Making our way there by 9am on a Monday morning, the crowds were minimal and we had great views of three ships making the transit. If you recall it was last year sometime that Clyde and I had the opportunity to transit the canal ourselves on a 42-foot catamaran with two Australian couples that found us through this blog. See link below for full story of our adventure on the high seas!

The following are photos we took recently on our latest journey to the canal and other parts of the megalopolis known as Panama City, Panama. Come along with us through photos that tell the whole story.....along the gringo trail.

Warren and Colleen Visiting From Canada

A Ship Entering A Lock
Two Ships Going Into Parallel Locks

A Close-Up Of A Mule (train used to guide ships through locks) And Lock Gate

A Critter Spotted On The Hilltop
Perhaps.....A Capybara?

View From Ancon Hill

Another View of Panama City

Casco Viejo - The Old Part Of The City And Renovations

Casco Viejo In Panama City, Panama

A Young Man Helped Us Park On The Curb Like This

An Old Church

 View From Altos de Campana Overlook

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Walk Back In Time...... To Noriega's Forgotten Beach House

Our day yesterday took us from the Pacific Coast beaches of Farallon though the majestic mountains of Santa Fe, Panama. Just down the highway from our area lies several of well-known pricey resorts that cater to the tourist looking for an all inclusive Panama experience. 

Nearby the famous resorts sits the remains of what used to be the weekend getaway for former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.  After driving by the compound and asking a few locals for directions, we managed to find what was once a majestic beach-front dwelling.

Side View Into House
These Are The Stairs We Climbed To The
Second And Third Floor. They Didn't Look Safe, But We Made It Up
 Clyde Went First On All Fours, So I Followed

Made It Up But Going Down Was Even Scarier......
Clyde Went Backwards But I Sat Down And Scooted Down Step By Step

 These Were A Breeze Compared To The Other Stairs
Pole Dancing? 

Beach View From House

Notice The Three Levels Of The House

Another View

A Skylight Perhaps?
Waiting For A Drink At The Rooftop Bar?

Balcony Overlooking The Pacific Ocean
Another View Of Rooftop Deck
 And Another

An Island In The Distance With A Cross On It

Local Artist's Rendering Of Noriega. 
Perhaps He Was Commissioned To Do This Piece?
This Place Went On And On.....Even More Dwellings
Across The Road, Perhaps For The Help?

As we entered the eerie old place we had to climb over rocks, rubble and trash.  Our minds wandered as we imagined what life used to be like in Panama under the rule of the ruthless dictator. Surely it wouldn't be a place for foreigners like us to spend our retirement years, so we're thankful that he's safely tucked away in prison.  We bravely climbed up the rickety steps on all fours, and even made our way to the third-level, outdoor entertainment area for a view of the ocean.

It was eerie walking through this house wich once housed the notorious dictator who was later brought down by the United States.  During his reign, it was reported that many soldiers and civilians were put to death in this very dwelling and it's picturesque grounds.  Although we were walking among concrete ruins, we could still feel the awe of standing in the middle of what was once the upper end of luxury.

The Yard

And More Of The Outside

Notice The Barbed Wire On Top Of Wall

A Tour Bus Sat Empty In Driveway, But We Saw No Tourists
Maybe They Were On The Beach?

Across The Road More Houses And A Watertank

Just down the road from the Noriega home and fancy resorts is the "real life" Panamanian village of Farallon.  Dotted with small, brightly colored cement block homes with hammocks swaying in the tropical breeze, this showed what life here is really all about.  We noticed a few brave tourists that left the comfort of the resorts to experience the small town life.  With it's stores, churches, restaurants and other simplicities the town also featured several shops that sold touristy items as a means of support.

An Internet Café/Real Estate Office in Farallon, Panama
Hammocks And Other Touristy Items For Sale

Local Home

Massive Windmills Along The Highway
These Suckers Are HUGE!

After exploring the beach area we headed up into the mountains of Santa Fe. Located in the Veraguas mountain range, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees as we made our way up into the clouds.  Surrounded by national parks, streams, rivers and hiking trails it appeared to be a natures lovers paradise. But even in the dry season rain comes in the mountains and it poured hard as we stopped for a cup of mountain grown coffee at a local restaurant. But since it was already late in the day and our trip was not at all planned, we decided to head back home.  Although it would have been great to spend the night, I didn't even have my purse with me which meant that I had no contact lens supplies to take care of my eye care needs.

Mountains Of Santa Fe

And More Views

But we did snap some photos along the way and managed to borrow others from other online sources for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy them if you will and come with us on a walk through time......along the gringo trail.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Golf Course In The Mountains.......Who Knew?

Last weekend we spent a day hiking in the mountains of Altos del Maria with friends who live nearby.  Altos del Maria is a gated community that covers over 7000 miles of land that's scenic enough to be something found in a national park.  The terrain climbs well over 3000 feet above sea level as the lush landscape changes to cloud forest with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, observation decks, parks and even a mini-golf course, there's always more to be found. 

Friends Paul & Nancy Pose Near A Waterfall
Views and More

A Scenic Bridge Over A River

A Creek
Lovely Flowers
A Mountain Lake

The mountains of Panama are way to chilly for our comfort but still a nice getaway for a day of hiking to discover new horizons. Las Nubes Adventure Park is aptly named for the clouds that surround it yet seemed to be abandoned some years ago.  Situated near the famous "castle" weekend home of the Melo family, perhaps the mini golf once entertained their family before it was let go? Unfortunately for us the clouds rolled in once we reached the top making it nearby impossible to view the famous castle.  We could make out a bit of the outline ensuring us that there is indeed a castle there, yet it wasn't visible for us to enjoy.

Yep, It's For Real.....Or Once Was?

We're All Shocked.....Mini Golf In The Mountains!

And More Golf In The Background.....Nancy and I Stop To Play

Strange Fuzzy Flowers

The well-to-do Melo family are known throughout Panama.  They made much of their fortune through poultry farming and since Panamanians eat a whole lot of chicken, there's a huge need for it here. The family owns other businesses throughout the country some of which bear the family name and cater to the needs of animals.

A Swimming Hole?

Waterfalls Everywhere......

Just a note worth mentioning is that Altos del Maria IS a private, gated community that restricts access to the public, unless they have a reason for entering. But since our friends know many of the residents we gained legal access into the development with their help.

I think it's best to just let the photos speak for themselves of our day out cloud-tripping through the mountains.....along the gringo trail.