06.05.2008 - 06.07.2008
So ive been here for a couple of days and still no bags...
I went to the canal, and is that place awesome! There are three locks, and they are building another to handle bigger boats. Mad tonnage! They actually have like stadium seating to watch the boats go by - mad funny. As a engineer and curious guy I think its pretty sweet that the same system has served the world since 1913. I saw a panamanian car carrier filled with 6,000 cars - tonnage unknown go through and was raised the 9 meters in a matter of 15 or so minutes.
To break it down real simple the canal is needed because the pacific and atlantic are at different heights, and the boats need to be raised or lowered to go from one end to the other.
Im in this part of town called casco viejo which is essentially the old panama city, not to be confused with the old old city or the new city. This sounds like a joke but its not. It looks like world war three in this bitch because just about every building is only a face. The exterior walls are in place everywhere, but they all looked bombed out. Nothing is inside. I though this was because of the US invasion but it was really because this place was a real dump and in 1996 it was declared a UNESCO world heritage sight. Therefore they have to keep the facade of the buildings, but the interiors need to be gutted and are unsafe. They are fixing them up and people are moving back to casco viejo, but slowly. Its rich mixed with poor. Rich, poor, rich, poor - not what the rest of the world does. Its usually poor in one area, rich in another. Its a good balance.
I bought a bar of soap, and a toothbrush and other than that all I have had was the clothes on my back. The airlines have been screwin around with my bag so I said eff it and bought a pair of swim shorts and threw everything else in a garbage bag and headed to San Blas. So let me just give an example of what its like to spend a day in the life of big B:
I started out at 445 to catch a jeep to san blas. I didnt know what to expect, what the jeep looked like or who was driving - a little sketch. A pickup truck with a covered box in the back pulls up and the guy tells me to get in. There is for some reason a pick axe in my seat. I thought I was being shipped to a concentration camp for bad touristas, as we drove off to 6 spots in the heart of the ghetto, one of which i was convinced was a brothel. Of course nobody speaks broken english or even slow spanish - only a million miles an hour. We drive 5 hours through the worst terrain I have ever seen, across mountains, through waist deep mud, fjord a river, and end at a place with one hut. I tell them i need to go to "hostel island." This obviously makes no sense - I was 4 hours from civilization, no real road, and there def is no power out there. I had no plan, but needed a place to stay. Nonetheless my driver points me to some guy who points me to some guy who points me to a boat. Its a dugout canoe, and i get in. We paddle with another guy maybe a half hour to an island and some guy greets me. I tell him one day, and then I see other gringos. A pair of israeli guys, who tell me im absolutely nuts to go there alone with no plan and no spanish. Mind you these guys just got out of IDF, and have been battle hardened...
San Blas is home to an indigenouse people (the Kuna Yala) whose women dress in these fantastic colors, and are covered in beads, and are like two feet shorter than everyone else. Words cannot describe the place I was at. I stayed in a hut with a hammock for a bed, and they cooked fish for me that her husband cought that day with plantains (it was so good!) over a fire with the fish wrapped in palm leaves. Just like you see on TV. It was me, these two israeli guys and the Kuna family that lived on the island.
These islands were sick. They are an archipeligo off the Atlantic coast where the DEA and Coast guard arent allowed to operate so at night the Colombians run drugs between the coast and the islands, it was supposed to be dangerous, but i saw no need to bust out my judo skills.
So lets recap -
5 hour jeep ride through a river, waist high mud
Dugout Canoe to remote island
Island diggs with hammock for bed
Fresh fish cooked over fire
I joked with the Israelis that Isla Ajuga (needle island) is the best damn all inclusive ive heard of at 20 bucks a night you cant beat that with a ten foot pole...
On the way back our driver Arigoberto was driving twice as fast as the guy who took me there. He says he quit his job as a medical technician to go four wheeling everyday. He bought me beers, soup at the only restaurant along the way, and then showed me his .38 special. He says he carries it for protection, but I think hes just really the most badass dude ever. I told him about my .38, and the Baja car and we were instant friends. That guy roosted all over Panama... He was awesome! He also showed me his other truck - a 1978 Chevy full size with a 350 small block, edelbrock intake, holley double pumper, hooker headers, 4.54 gears, and a detroit locker diffs - this guy is serious!
Going to Bocas Del Toro, maybe David, maybe Boquette tomorrow.