Travel diary: two months in Panama
Considering we’ve been more or less in one place for the last two months, time has flown by! We’re housesitting in rural Panama, and have spent far too much time behind computer screens working on our web development business, but have still managed to have a few adventures.
When I last wrote, we were leaving Bogota for Panama City. We’d spent a couple of days in Panama’s capital before heading to Colombia, but hadn’t really seen much, and we’d decided to have a luxury weekend in honor of our wedding anniversary. So we checked into the quite amazing Grace Panama hotel, visited the canal and the old town, and ate at lots of restaurants while we still could!
Unfortunately, the small town near our housesit is a little bereft of restaurants, but we set up a routine of going to the rather basic Cafe Dorado for lunch on Wednesdays and picking up pizza from the Italian place every couple of weeks.
We celebrate our birthdays in the same week in June, and planned to have pizza for Craig’s birthday and splash out on Cambodian for mine. Unfortunately, the plan was a failure of epic proportions.
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On Craig’s birthday, we returned from our afternoon walk with the dogs to find the power was out (a relatively common occurrence in our rural area). We decided to eat at the restaurant rather than getting our pizza to take away, reasoning that the pizzeria would probably have power and if it didn’t, they’d be cooking with gas or wood fire anyway. However, when we showed up at the restaurant, it was to find that all the signs had been taken down, the furniture removed, and all sign of life completely absent — so, no pizza for us. We headed home and I whipped up some pasta by candlelight. Let’s call it… romantic.
My birthday four days later was no better. Craig called the Cambodian restaurant to make a booking, only to learn it was closed for the low season and wouldn’t reopen until November. We headed to the Santa Fe hotel instead, where we were told the chef had left at 4pm. Low season strikes again! Back at home, Craig prepared an amazing stuffed chicken breast dish as a consolation prize — not quite what we had planned, but delicious nonetheless.
Apart from failing at birthday celebrations and working, we’ve also done quite a bit of hiking and walking the three dogs we’re looking after. The puppy, Coco, has grown considerably and has made sure we’ve gotten to know our neighbours a little bit, as he developed the habit of running away to spend time with them. He now has a large pen to spend his days in, but we like to give him some free time in the evenings. This means our evenings often end with a trip next door to bring him back! The other two dogs, Chacha and Willy, are generally no trouble at all, though at one point Chacha swam across a river and refused to come back, resulting in a long drive around to pick her up, and we sometimes find Willy hiding under our bed during thunderstorms.
We’ve seen a reasonable amount of my brother Simon and his fiancée Katie over the last couple of years, meeting up in Melbourne, Alcala, and London; now we can add Panama to the list! They found cheap flights to San Jose, Costa Rica and considered coming to see us in Santa Fe, but transport issues would have meant they spent a considerable proportion of their holiday on the bus. So, we decided to meet up in Panama City for a couple of days of canals and cuisine.
Our journey went ridiculously smoothly and Craig and I arrived in Panama City almost two hours before we expected; Simon and Katie’s flight was delayed and almost diverted to another airport. However, we connected eventually and finally ate the birthday meal we’d been dreaming of at Patagonia Grill on the recommendation of our friend Dan. Argentinian steak, NZ lamb, Urguayan wine — perhaps not the most Panamanian of meals, but certainly the tastiest we’d had in some time, and the excellent company made it even better.
The next day we spent the morning at the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal. Craig and I had been there two months previously, but Simon’s enthusiasm and a new introduction video meant we still had a great experience. Lunch was fish at the fish market followed by cocktails and conversation in the old town; we took our time walking back to the hotel via the coastal walkway, then had Thai for dinner.
We have three and a half more months here in Panama, and apart from a border run in a month or so, we’ll probably mostly stay where we are. We’ll spend time with our friends Avril and Derek, continue to eat hamburgers at Cafe Dorado, and bring Coco back from the neighbours once or twice a week. Should be fun!
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Have you been to Panama? What do you like best, or what would you most like to see here? Leave a comment below!