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Friday, 30th NOV 2007:

The two small wheels of the hand truck bumped along the rough street slowly as the young by pulled his load haltingly. His path was on the street just outside the parked cars an up a slight incline which he struggled to overcome but I could see he was determine, he was wearing only a T shirt and some rough hewn pants; I could see his shoes but I suspect they were sandals. He was not a large boy for he was young, maybe 10 or 11 years old. From one handle of the cart dangled a small yellow plastic bag, presumably with some bits of food and it swayed from side to side as he pulled the cart, both tiny hands griping each handle tightly to maintain control of his load. On the metal cart squarely placed against the lower lip was a block of ice that was at least 100 pounds. The young boy moved slowly stopping every so often to relieve himself of the load he pulled. We, Isabel and I, were in a cab coming from the airport where we had just landed from Miami and now were in heavy stop and go traffic of Panama City. As we inched along I watched the young boy pulling his large block of ice and wondered how much ice would melt in the heat of the day as he journeyed to is destination. The traffic changed to green for us and we moved on, I wondering how the young lad was doing with his precious load, how much would he make in money for the great effort he put out, and where was he going? Alas, the many unanswered questions of the traveler.

We arrived at our bed and breakfast hostel that is located on the side of hill over looking scenic Panama. The building is part of an enclave where the US had a large military base, below us we can see a row of large housing for the troops with a mess hall in front. The owner is from Argentina and seems to have come to Panama many years ago, his hospitality is outstanding, especially when assisting us in tracking down our delayed luggage. Yes, this is the land of \please wait for me\, alas, rest, relax, be calm, and realize that the operational wheels here move slowly. As an American, I am used to a little greater sense of urgency; however, my two years working in Mexico did slow my personal molecules down a bit.

Having traveled for almost two days with several plane changes and a long 6 hour overnight stay in the New Orleans airport (the seats there are very hard) to catch the 06:00 AM flight to Miami to fly on to Panama City. Of course, expecting the delay of our luggage we were prepared with extra clothes in our carry on bag, so not a problem. Needless to say, showered and straight to bed for an extra long nights sleep.

Sturday,1st DEC 2007:

Going to be early was good allowing us to be up early to have breakfast and be off on our passage of the Canal tour. For sure this is the highlight of this area and the tour on the boat through the Western locks was great, and they served lunch too. This morning we met others also going on this tour, John from Australia who had just flown in from Cuba and a Dutch couple, Ata and CJ. This one thing about traveling that is fantastic is to meet and talk with so many others. Ata is an MD and John is retired from the Australian school system.

There is no way I can describe the Panama Canal engineering marvel. The French tried and failed but the US did the job through extraordinary engineering of the very early 20th century. Being a warm day we took the afternoon off and just relaxed.

Our hotel, La Estancia [, Casa 35, Quarry Heights, Cerro Ancon, Panama, (507)314 1417, cell: (507) 6651 6232] is terrific. It is perched on hill with a view of the Canal bridge and monkeys playing just outside the sitting room; the breakfast is very good and the manager is very helpful in giving directions, getting a taxi, or obtaining your delayed luggage from the airport. The clientele here are an interesting cross section of the US and Europe. Just up the hill is a trail/road to the top where there is a commanding view of all the area.

Sunday, 2nd DEC 2007:

Alas, another relaxed day with a walk down the hill to the main drag and to a very large \US style\ mall, ugh. We then took a cab, very inexpensive here, to a restaurant out on the embarcadero having diner while watching the blinking city across the water.

Each time we returned to the hotel, a good shower was in order just to cool off the wash off the sticky feeling. Our sleeping is good in the warm air where you can do little more than totally relax. Naturally we drink a good deal of water all the time since it seems to just flow out our pores.

We returned and climbed our local mountain in the early evening to view all of Panama City. This city is, on the one hand 400 years old but on the other many large new building, many still under construction, dot the skyline, erected over the past five years. Apparently, there is a very large effort to build many new buildings and restore the old city for tourism. Of course, the enlargement of the Canal to commence soon to accommodate very large ships, may have something to do with it too. Only if I had a million to invest this would be a good place to do it.

Following our little hike, we met up with two more sailing companions, Michael and Kathy, and went out to a good dinner.

Monday, 3rd DEC 2007:

This morning we took off on our City tour through the old city and out to the Panama Canal tourist center next to the Canal. There we saw a short movie about the Canal and wandered through the display as well as watch some large ships go through the Canal, what a sight to see.

After the tour we were dropped off at the mall where did some shopping in stores that seems to have just about everything you would see in the US. We found a great place for lunch and had a great crape which was enough to last us for quite a while.

Now we just stopped for a quiet afternoon of looking at email using the hotel wireless network and I working on my notes. Just then Bob and Paula Westbrook showed up from there several days up north so the chatting continued about our respective travels.

Tuesday, 4th DEC 2007:

My how time flies and we had yet another relaxed morning with breakfast of a cheese omelet, bacon, toast, coffee, juce, fresh fruit, and yogurt … not a bad start for the day.

In the late morning we were off to explore the old city of San Philipe, a very interesting mix of French and Spanish architecture. First we went through the larger Panama Canal Museum on the central square. The museum is in an old beautiful hotel building that has been wonderfully restored. The signage was really an entire book about the local history from the 1500s to modern times, but all is in Spanish (so I had better get going with my Spanish studies, of course, I have a good teacher in Isabel to help me). We then found a nice restaurant for coffee and postres after which we walked through the town to see a unique old church with a great gold alter. In the process we passed several very old churches that had long since burned down leaving only a skeleton of rock walls.

Now there are seven of us at our hotel who are going on the cruise and tonight is a celebration dinner, we are off to eat a nice Spanish dinner of Paella. Needless to say much of our discussion was about the weather and our sail.

An interesting fact about Panama is that you can see the sun set in the Caribbean and the sun rise over the Pacific.

Wednesday, 5th DEC 2007:

Today is the big day to board our sailing ship, Star Flyer, in the afternoon and be on our way. But first we shall walk about the very old extinct Panama City area that was sacked by the pirate Morgan in the morning. At 15:00 we head for our ship and at 18:00 sail off into the Pacific.