Saturday, August 09, 2008

Gandoca & Heading Back

We caught the morning bus to the end of the coastal road at Manzanillo yesterday. From there we walked into the Gandoca Reserve. The reserve stretches to the Panama border. I think the beaches there are about the nicest places I've ever been. This shot (click for full view) does not convey the real beauty of the spot I stood in while taking it. A 360 degree pano would do a little better. There are incredible rock forms getting pounded by surf in the direction where Shar is looking in the photo.

We're leaving Puerto Viejo Monday. We expect to be back home Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Ciao!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I sat in with (left to right) Rani, (me in the background) Carlos & Junior last Friday at Parquecito.

Rolf had us over to his place for a barbecue at his place last Saturday. Before dinner I noticed a couple of chestnut mandibled (the largest, but not the most colorful, of the 3 toucan species seen here) in tree in the front yard a couple hundred feet away. Rolf got his scope out. I put our camera to the scope eyepiece and shot this before the second of the two flew away. People in the U.S. have forgotten what meat tastes like. Animals that spend a few years wandering around eating whatever is in season, taste much different than factory produced meat raised on feed (corn, fish meat & meal) that they never were evolved to eat. The night ended with Juana getting us up to dance Salsa & Tumba.

Rolf & Juana are spoiling us by putting us up in a 500 square foot room with 200 square of balcony added. We protested at first but now we love it. It's much different than our digs in San Blas where our shower consisted of a pail ladling out from a barrel of rainwater from the roof. Sharle says she may choose Asian tapas & all-you-can-eat sushi tonight.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I played with ex-pat keyboard player/singer Jimmy & my rasta friend/conga player Lenny at Salza Brava the other night. Tonight I'm going to sit in at El Parquecito with Calypso master "Junior" Emilio Alvarez. It's a little intimidating, I've played with him several times before on previous trips, but I've also seen him tell people to sit down when he wasn't happy with what they were doing. It's an honor to play with him. I am not aware of any young people doing what he does. He's approaching 70 and tells me he has 24 children. (There's a picture of him with his youngest on a blog entry from last August.) I told him I try to steal some of his chops. He said to me "Keep trying, you'll get it!" When he gets going he seemingly throws in notes randomly in the middle of a solo playing rythm & melody at the same time. It's good & amazing, & he makes it work. He always plays with Rani--a quilongo player (sort of a wash tub bass, but with a wooden box instead of a wash tub). Rani's rythm & intonation are impeccable. I told him, I don't know how he does it. He said, "Mahn it jus' like de' trombone you see!" Tonight's percussionist will be bongo player, Carlos. The three of them are going to tour Spain this October. Last month they were in Mexico & reportedly made it on U.S. television.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


We took the bus up to Cahuita yesterday & walked into the park until we found a little spot where could have a snack & swim. I took this photo there. (Click it for a full view.) Along the way we saw a troupe of howler monkeys and a two-toed sloth that three of the monkeys climbed right over as though he/she were not there.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Panama Petroglyphs

A couple weeks ago we visited El Valle in Panama. One of the attractions there are some petroglyphs on a rock overhang along a stream. I've found little info on the indigenous folks who made them. I stared at them for a while & decided I could discern no obvious meaning. I do have a hypothesis however: I suspect they may be a plan for a worm hole. The message may read something like "Okay the white people are here. If any one comes along and understands this, here's where we went."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Puerto Viejo

I've done a little editing, & additions to my last post if you want to check.
What I like about Puerto Viejo is some things never change here. I seem the same people year after year: the guy calling "patty patty" (pahtee, pahtee) from his bike with his cooler full of warm freshly made pattys--a spicy Carribean sort of empanada type thing, the old man selling coconuts on the park/beach front, the girl doing trencitas (hair braids) on the street, the guy selling fruit on the corner, the same guys sitting around from time to time. I recognize them & now they recognize me with a "hello" or "buenas." This place is also a magnet it seems for tall lanky European twenty-something blondes, who stroll the beach alone or in pairs by day, & sit in threes or fours at Chili Rojo, or E-Z Times at night, or sit with a Rasta who they are obviously buying dinner & whatever for.

We swim at Playa Negro (Black Beach). The water is calm but good for body surfing. Most tourists prefer Playa Cocles a little east of town with it's wide white sand beach. The ocean is rough there though, & there are rip currents--not good for swimming IMHO. Playa Negro is usually pretty empty, and less than a five minute bike-ride from our hotel. There are pictures of it in earlier years psot on this blog.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

San Blas Reflections

Now that I have the time I'm gonna' do a little talk about San Blas.

The Booby (El Pato):
Within minutes of arriving on Uktuptupu we noticed this bird. When we had the chance we asked Alberto our Kuna guide/boat driver what the name of the bird was. He said he didn't know, but explained to us in Spanish (which I actually understood) about the story of the bird. the Kuna speak their own language to each other but many also speak Spanish. Alberto seemed intent on teaching me Kuna. Every time I spoke to him in my very limited Spanish he would tell me howto say it in Kuna. The next day I asked the 73 year old owner of the hotel, a Kuna named Juan Garcia, about the bird. He's one of the few Kuna who speak English. He didn't know the name of the bird either, but here's my recollection of what he told me in English:
"This bird every year he come and fly (making motions with his hands indicating a a flock of birds flying to the north) he no live here. He live somewhere. This bird (makes diving motion with his hand) in water. He eat fish. The fish big and (makes hand motion to throat) he choke. They find him in canoe and bring him here. My son-in-law take the fish out of bird and he stay. Every day he come to cocina (kitchen) and get three, four fish."

Around Ukuptupu the call the bird "el pato"--the duck.

BTW-Ukuptupu is an island of about 20 by 30 meters of sand ringed with stones. All the buildings are on piers surrounding the sand.

When we arrived at Rolf's in P.V. he looked at the picture on our camera and said it's a booby. He got his Birds of Costa Rica and decided it was a brown booby. Mystery solved.

Mariscos (Sea Food):
I believe the last itme I ate a lobster was over forty years ago on a vacation trip to Maine with my dad and it was somehow obligatory. On Uktuptupu meals were included with our stay. At our first day's lunch, which was conch, we were informed we'd be eating lobster for dinner. The lobster here are a different (clawless) species than those that live in the cold north, & they grow much faster. Richard, the young English gentleman who was one of our companions on the island, informed our hosts he didn't want lobster. Towards the end of that afternoon's excursion to Dog Island, Alberto said he was taking the canoe out to check other nearby Kuna canoes for fish. Shar & I asked if we could accompany him & he agreed. He went to three different boats around Dog Island calling out in Kuna, "Oohah Ooah" (Fish fish!). The canoes held catches of huge crabs & lobster but no fish. On the way back to Uktuptupu, he shouted to other canoes & islands we past, "Oohah Ooah." Folks just shook their heads. No fish. Richard was forced to eat lobster for dinner. During the meal Shar asked if he was allergic to shellfish. He replied no, he just understood that lobster was overfished & being depleted, and "I wanted to do the right thing--I didn't realize it was going to cause such a problem!" Shellfish appear to be plentiful here at present. I hope the fishery doesn't get overexploited. I'm currently reading Carl Safina's Voyage of the Turtle, which is an excellent overview of the current problems of ocean fisheries.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Home away from home

Coming here to Puerto Viejo always feels welcoming. We have already run into about a dozen people we know, walking around or biking around the town. We are slowly slowing down to the local pace.
Steve told me he thought the picture he posted of me looking at Molas made me look big. Hard not to look big next to those tiny women. You really can see the workmanship if you click on the photo.
The day after this was taken, our community trip for the day was to go watch the visiting basketball team from the neighboring island get trounced by the 8-10 year olds from Wichub Huala. Looked like the whole town had come out to watch the game. We're thinking these kids have Olympic potential.
If you don't get a personal email from me, it is because I seem to have lost my list of addresses I sent, so can only respond.

Monday, July 14, 2008

San Blas Pix

Click on these images to see larger views. I had a real hard time selecting which shots to use to upload from San Blas. I don't have access to image editing software at the moment, & these are ancient machines with slow
connections. There's a shot of the 400 San Blas islands (most of them uninhabited) taken from Dog Island where we snorkeled at the site of an old shipwreck. Then there's a snorkeling shot showing fish & corral on the deck of the wreck. I also shot a lot of underwater movies which I won't be uploading now. Finally there's Shar (feeling quite tall--the Kuna are second only to the Pygmies of Africa in being the most diminutively statured folks on the planet) shopping for molas. Ciao for now!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

San Blas

It is difficult to convey how beautiful our stay in San Blas was. Each day we went to a different small island where only one Kuna family lived, swam, snorkeled and relaxed. I think I may be spoiled for snorkeling anywhere else after the fish and coral and clear water we were in.
The Kuna women are constantly sewing on the molas they sell from their houses and even out on these tiny islands. I always appreciate purchasing crafts and artwork from the makers and artists so this was a real treat for me.
The place we stayed, Ukuptupu, included our meals. We had conch twice, octopus, crab and lobster twice. Oh darn, lobster again for dinner? These were all more plentiful than fish.
I'm sure I`ll never be anywhere like this in the world. We enjoyed it thoroughly and are so glad we made the trip out there. It made our whole Panama leg of the trip worth it. Pictures will follow later.

San Blas to Bocas

We just got back from the San Blas Islands this morning. I thought the pilot reading the newspaper during most of the flight was a nice touch. The San Blas experience was truly amazing! As long as the Kuna maintain their independence, there's a chance the place won`t be trashed. My card reader is packed away in my backpack so I can't post any pictures now--hopefully I can soon.

We met interesting folks from England, Denmark, Israel, France etc. too. It seems most of the folks we run into are travel writers of one sort or another--working for guidebooks, magazines or whatever. They must all be writing about each other. I certainly hope I don't make it into any of their pages.
While waiting for our next plane we went to see Miraflores locks. We had had no intention of doing so, but several Panamanians told us that if we saw NOTHING else in Panama, we MUST see the locks. (Seems they're quite proud of it.) So since we had 5 hours to kill we caught a cab, & checked it out. It is an amazing feat of engineering. We're waitng to catch another plane to Bocas del Toro. (Another archipelago just east of the Costa Rican border on the Caribbean.) We'll spend a day or two there--then we'll take a water taxi up the Rio Changuinola to where we can walk across an old railroad bridge over Rio Sixaola into Costa Rica, & catch a bus to Puerto Viejo on the Carribean. Ciao!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

BTW, please forgive any wierd spellings etc. in my posts for the next few weeks--even though this about my 8th trip to Central America, I´ve yet to get the hang of Spanish keyboards. We´re getting up at 4:30 in the morning tomorrow to catch a small plance to the San Blas Islands in the Comarca de Kuna Yala. Shar is now wishing she had written out our will, since it´s been thundering & lightning-ing today & she says she´s keeping my leatherman handy for when she gets fed up with me laughing about just how close the lightning got to our little plane. Little does she know my plan is to be pouring rum for the pilot. I´ll tell him to do a roll, or nose dive when she comes after me with the knife.
We spent a day in Santa Clara. I am sorry to say that place seemed to combine some of the worst of Latino & American culture. The beach had weekend ATV types using people on foot as markers for an obstacle course. There were also jetskis which I´ve never seen in C.A. The funky hotel we stayed at blared music till late hours, the people in the next room to us (which was open to us above the sheet of 1/16 in. plywood separating the two rooms) blared cartoons on the TV all night. On the neighboring beach, guys with those rigs with 150,000 watt sound systems and 36 in. bass speakers in the trunks had a competition of booming reggae-tone. Some sort of cultural experience. We left and found digs a few miles to the east at Playa Palmar Surf Camp. Cheaper and infinitely nicer. Beautiful place, nice folks. The locals (or whoever they were--I never figured it out) sat around with us last night singing and passing guitars around. They wanted blues & 70s American & English rock & roll! I come here to do latin music! One more casualty of US imperialism. The oldest of the guys there explained to me that he learned all this music from "Zonians," US guys he used to surf with when the canal was the US.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Panama July ´08

Click on these pix for larger views. Here´s Shar talkin´baskets with Wounaan women in San Antonio on Rio Chagres. We also picked up quite a bit of their work there. There´s also the shot of the blue crowned mot mot in the back yard of where we stayed in Gamboa. The place is a mecca for birders. (If I get access to a machine with image editing software I may do something about these pix.) We left Gamboa today & are in El Valle. We´ll hit the Sunday public market here tomorrow, & then head over to the Pacific for a couple days. Ciao!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time to fire up the blog, see if I remember my passwords and how to post. We leave for Panama and Costa Rica soon and will post as the technology allows. -Sharle