Thursday, December 20, 2007

Island Life

Hi all - Toby Cassidy and their new friend Alex (daughter of the owners of our lodge) are watching Alladin so I can try writing more.

We are staying at the Lodge at Swans Cay which is at the far end of Isla Colon, at the opposite end from Bocas town. In the first 10 minutes we arrived in Bocas we saw more gringos than we had in a month in Boquete. Mostly young surfer types but lots of others too. It is about a 45 minute rough road taxi road out to here which is a point of land on a gate locked road with about 10 gringo houses and this one lodge on it. Ironically, this place is run by a very nice family from Durango Colorado! Their daughter Alex is 7 and she and Cassidy are fast friends. There is a very nice small private beach below the house which is shaded by coconut trees. About a mile walk away is an absolutely gorgeous beach with no houses in sight. The waves are very mellow, sandy bottom and the best - there is a fresh water pool 20 feet above high water mark! We went there today with Toby's new boogie board and the kids dug a channel from the pool to the ocean that became a rushing river that we could ride down with the board! Then we headed out to the main road (which is basically sand) and did some snorkeling and then had dinner at the outdoor seafood restaurant where Toby lost his 4th tooth (see photo)!
We are having a blast with grandpa Bill and enjoying the relaxing island life. Dave and I hope to go snorkeling without kids tomorrow and Bill is going surfing Saturday. No big Christmas plans - boogie boarding and swimming??!
Hope you are all taking some powder runs for us
The Meyers

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lodge at Swans Cay Bocas del Toro

update from Toby: Hello! I am Toby, I think you have met me before. I am having a great time in Panama, have you ever heard of Panama? This is where we are staying in the picture of the house above ok?! I hope you like it. Ive been having tons of fun in the ocean and have gotten a new builder truck with a trailer. Bye see you later!"
More from me later!

Lost and Found

We left Boquete on Sunday morning and headed to Bocas del Toro by way of the Lost and Found EcoHostel we heard about through a random post on the lonely planet travel blog. The owner is a great young Canadian named Andrew who picked us up in Boquete then drove us to Bocas the next day for less than a taxi ride would have cost us. Since the road in between is the most dangerous road in Panama, we were psyched to be in his care and not in an overcrowded bus with a maniac driver (the odd thing about panama is they are super laid and usually late, everywhere but behind the wheel of a car!). The Lost and Found is in La Fortuna national park, a seldom visited cloud forest park. We had to hike uphill through dense beautiful forest for about 15 minutes to reach it but it was well worth the walk. We saw lots of unidentified birds and transparent butterflies. The lodge is open air except for the rooms and had a great low key vibe. They have a pet kinkajoo that was rescued and a wild animal something like a coati mundi that visits at night and eats bananas from your hand (see photo). We hike out to see a gynormous (toby word) tree and then played risk under the metal roof to the sound a pouring rain! We met some super nice people and were treated very well (delicious dinner) by Andrew and his Panamanian wife Stephanie. The next day we headed to Bocas, up and over the continental drive and down towards the Pacific. The road is wild (and driven very wildly by most) and we could see the remains of many big accidents (usually big rigs rolling over in single vehicle accidents). It is the only way to access Bocas by road except from Costa Rica. The landscape on the other side of the divide is very different, as is the culture. The caribe influence is stronger and you begin to see africans. Im not sure what the indigenous tribe is on the drive, I think Comarca, but there are lots of very rough shacks along the road with naked children running about.

We got to Almirante, a very hot and depressing port town, around 1 and took a half hour water taxi over to Bocas Town. Within the 10 minutes waiting for our ride we saw more gringos (tending towards young and surfer/backpacker look) than in a whole month in Boquete. More on Bocas and our house in the next post!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Horse and Immigration, last week in Boquete

We just finished our last day of school at Habla Ya. For anyone considering language school it is a great place. It is relatively cheap, the teachers are fabulous (total immersion) and Boquete is a great, low key place to live for a short time (or long). The temperature is perfect here. Unlike in David, the city we flew into where we just spent the good part of two days trying to extend our tourist visas so we could stay beyond 30 days. The first day we went down after class with Carlos, the director of our school. Thank god, because we needed to have proof of a flight out of Panama and a bank statement showing we had more than $1,000 or actually have $1,000. They looked at our statement and didnt want to accept it because it wasnt from Panama! As if people on a 30 day tourist visa would have a panamanian account. We had heard of people who had taken 6 hrs to get it done (and they had 4 little kids!) Carlos squared away this and other problems and we thought we had breezed through the whole process easily when they came out and said the person who had to sign them had just left for the day!! Our kids were amazingly patient it the hot cramped little office and we hated to do it again but we had to! We left town at 7:15 this morning to try to be the first ones there - we were second, and got the process completed with another hour of forms and waiting. Could have been worse! We went with the other fellow from our class who is Swedish. It was his second attempt (the first was too early?!) and they sent him away saying he didnt need one after many phone calls to Panama City. He called his consul who then called him back after we were almost in boquete saying he DID need another so he has to go again next week just to leave the country!!
On Tuesday the kids needed a diversion so we splurged on a horse back riding trip in Caldera, a village slighly below boquete. Cassidy rode with me and toby on his own horse but led by the guide. The kids liked it but only lasted for an hour - it was pretty hot. Cassidy and my horse was 14 yrs old and decided at the top that he wouldnt walk down! So eventually the guide had to lead us to. very embarrassing!! Toby told us he pretended he was Almanzo from "Farmer Boy" riding across the prarie while he was riding.
Hard to believe it is almost Christmas. I try again to climb the Volcano tomorrow (hoping for no more rain!) and then Sunday we head to a jungle hostel between here and the Carribean for the night then over to Bocas del Toro (Islan Colon) to meet up with Grandpa Bill for a tropical Christmas.
Love to all!!
Shannon and fam

Monday, December 10, 2007

Climbing in Panama

There is a great little sport crag right on the edge of town. There are about 20 routes from 5.9-5.12b. They are short but steep; a bit reminiscent of the moderates in Rifle, without the posers, Front Ranger egomaniacs, and polish. They are well bolted basalt and the climbs either ascend the broken ends of columns (like this picture) or cross horizontal columns (desperate slopers) or climb columns vertically with stemming and friction. The approach is about 30 seconds from the road. The locals have done an incredible job cleaning and the routes are well done. There are a handful of climbers here but this crag demands power so they are strong. If we had a crag like this in Carbondale, 2 miles from town with a 30 second approach, we would all climb a lot harder. They are working on a new cliff nearby that climbs out of a huge cave. They are finishing a new 4 pitch sport route that they think will go at 12b and it looks like there is lots more potential. Eduardo and Marcol also guide here and those passing through can get out cragging without bringing their gear. I recommend the guides- they are strong climbers, low-key, and willing to tolerate my Spanish even though they speak good English. Amazing to find high quality rock here and to learn that the word "pumped" is exactly the same in Spanish.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Week 3

PHOTOS: Cassidy and our neighbor John at their property above Boquete picking oranges. The kids in their loft bedroom. A view of Volcan Baru (volcano) from John and Annes property.

We just finished week 3 of our stay in Boquete and language school. Things are going well here. It is really a very relaxing place to live. There arent a ton of activities for small kids except the public gardens and one very basic playground but fortunately there is nice space around our house to play outside a little. Dry season started last weekend but the weather hasnt heard the news yet. Still pours rain at night and some in the afternoons but mornings are usually nice. We are invited to a BBQ at friends of friends Sunday - American & Panamanian (Rick W's friend Kirt).
Our typical weekday is like this - awaken around 7 (roosters wake up at 5 but we all go back to sleep thankfully!). A quick breakfast and some cajoling to get the kids dressed and out the door and a call to our friendly taxista for a 5 minute ride downhill into town (too early for the half hour to hour walk depending on the size of the walker!). Class is from 8 to 12 with one 20 minute break during which we buy one of the only 3 donuts in Boquete for the kids to split! After class we usually have lunch at the little cafeteria close to the school where all our teachers eat. Lunch and drinks for all 4 of us - big, hot and delicious - is around $6 or $7 and is our big splurge for the day! If it is raining we usually take a taxi up to home and entertain ourselves there. If it is sunny we stay in town, go to the park or garden, do food shopping (usually every day) as it usually is in a foreign country we can occupy a good hour or more taking care of basic shopping tasks going one place for bread, one place for fruit and another for everything else. Ice cream cones are 30 cents and are a nice post shopping treat! Walking home with the kids takes an hour but there is lots to see on the way, beautiful gardens, colorful houses, dogs (!!) behind gates :), horses in back yards etc. In the afternoon the kids entertain themselves at home while we do homework and then we cook a basic dinner at home. Night falls dramatically at 6:15 every night so it is pretty easy to get the kids to sleep by 8!!
Two other cabanas out of the 4 by us are occupied by retired americans. Our kids are sort of their surrogate grandkids and they are very nice to us.
Next weekend we leave Boquete and head over Bocas on Sunday/ Monday where we stay until Dec. 26th and then head to Panama City to see the canal and rainforest.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Its December?!

Top is Cass in her new dress like the indigenous women and girls here where watching the independence day parade. It went on ALL Day! We only watched for 2 hrs but heard there were a total of 69 bands - lots of drumming!!

Above is Cassidy touching a Kinkajou at the animal rescue center we visited and toby looking at Macy, the Howler monkey in a diaper who was playing tag with them!

Left is a picture of the building our school is in.
We are tired after our first full week of school but happy. The town is great, weather is nice though today is the first day of dry season and we have had a fair amount of rain. But when it rains it usually only pours at night and mists during the day. Great temperture. We have met a few american kids here and had 2 play dates - one with a local girl who only spoke spanish and one with an american boy who was very wild (kicked out of school here already!) The kids like their school and we think their teacher is a saint but it is hard to get them to go in the morning. Dave went rock climbing (!!) yesterday witha guide and of course made friends with him and will go again for free. He was with 5 columbians so practiced lots of spanish. I hope to go climb the local volcano next weekend which the director of the school doesnt think is appropriate for women (!!!!). Tomorrow we are going bird watching (dave early, us a bit later to join him). Cant believe we are half way through our time in Boquete - I feel a lot of pressure to learn spanish faster and faster!!