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  • But I can't attach any photos because my phone storage was full so they are all on my camera.

    But I have videos which I am going to make all of you watch! Ships slowly going through the canal on a loop I think!

    We hired a van today and went to a view spot to check out the city. Then to the old city to walk around. It was so hot and humid that I went through two litres of water!

    The old part of the city is lovely and they are doing alot of restoration work.

    We also drove by the very poor part of Panama where you advised never to walk at any time of the day.

    Next was the Panama Canal and it really was exciting watching the huge cargo ships go through the locks. What an engineering feat.

    China and America are the countries that use the Canal the most and it can take between 8 and 10 hours for the ships to pass through the canal. It generates about $2.4 billion in income each year!

    Then to the biggest shopping mall in the Americas and the 14th largest in the world! And it was packed. So easy to get lost!

    Have to fill in time tomorrow before my flight so might go back.

    Then the farewell dinner and I am so overjoyed never to have to see some of these people ever again! Thank goodness for the nice ones who helped make it bearable!

    As the drinkers in the group go onto a bar in the old part of town the rest of us go back to the hotel. Wonderful air conditioning, wi fi and peace - what more could I want!

    Have the dreaded task of packing tomorrow.

    In one of the shots you can see the ships heading for the canal.
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  • Last morning to relax by the beach before the six hour journey to Panama City.

    Contemplated having a surfing lesson but decided to sit in a cafe with a stunning ocean view! Probably last time to chill on my Central American adventure.

    Luca I will have a surfing lesson with you and then we can surf together!

    Arrived Panama City after dark. Turns out our hotel is on the border of a really dangerous area where you shouldn't even walk during the day! What a great choice! Decide to get MacDonalds and head back to the hotel. Its a 5 minute walk in the wrong direction. I see the sign and a fairly well lit wide street so decide to go for it. There is a park on the other side with a man sitting on each park bench?! That can't be good!

    Get the burger and bolt back to the hotel. What a ridiculous decision to choose this hotel!!!
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  • Lovely day today - day tour with snorkeling and beaches.

    Its beginning to feel like this is what I do - get up, get on a boat, tear around the ocean checking out islands and snorkeling, have chicken and rice for lunch then a swim and a rest on a few island beaches! Then every few days I sit in a van for about 6 hours!

    Today we swam with reef sharks, turtles and schools of colourful fish. Visited some lovely island beaches and saw jumping dolphins on the way back to town.

    On one of the islands we saw lots of white face monkeys.

    And hows this for weird. We are out in our boat cruising up the coast when we see a motor boat with three guys and a horse! The horse is lying down with its legs tied and hanging over the side of the boat. Our guide told us the horse was drugged so they could transport it! No idea where they came from as there was nothing on the coast for miles!

    Have a look at the town lawyer's office! Combined with a coffee shop.

    Nice relaxed evening with home cooked pasta with the leftovers from last night - a pretty good meal!
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  • Santa Catalina to be precise. And our rooms have kitchens but no bathrooms!

    Long drive south. Dozed most of the way. Getting hot again now so out will come my over priced dress. I need to get the wear out of it as I have just seen the Australian conversion on my visa statement.

    I might have to live in it when I get back to Sydney.

    The group is making dinner tonight for something different.

    Our cabanas are very cute - all in different colours. Its like being in a dolls house. Mine is orange.

    The beach is ok - more for surfers. Black sand. Its about a 5 minute walk from the hotel which is in the middle of no where.

    I have a quick dip but the waves are too much hard work and I want to rest so find a place with a view and settle in. No internet though. It takes about half an hour to get served! Fries and a smoothie!

    Tomorrow we are going on a full day tour which is good otherwise I might go abit stir crazy here!

    No internet no tv no book and in the middle of no where without a bathroom. Not happy.
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  • These photos are from my waterfall hike with the group. The last waterfall was a very steep grade 5 hike in mud which I could have done but too slowly for the group so I headed back down the trail by myself.

    So the photos are the result of me being left alone in the jungle with my phone!

  • Chill day. Got up at lunchtime after abit of internet time. Lunch then a nap!

    Went for a walk in the afternoon - so peaceful and the light was lovely.

    Ordered dinner for 7.45pm and at 8.35pm still waiting! Chased up my glass of red and they said they had run out of glasses! I offered to wash one myself!

    Might fall asleep at the restaurant table!

    The dog photo is for you Luca - he came up in the jeep with us and his name is Scooter.Read more

  • I am going to tell you a story about Mr Tito and his coffee plantation.

    30 years ago Mr Tito, even though he knew nothing about coffee, decided to stop studying and grow coffee. Everyone told him he would fail.

    He found some land which had been used for grazing prepared it and threw down about 30 varieties of coffee tree seeds. About eight took.

    The machines needed for processing the coffee beans are expensive some costing between $80,000 and $200,000.

    So Mr Tito made his own machines from spare car parts, scraps from construction sites and bits and pieces! His processing machine took two years to make and ten years to perfect.

    The coffee is organic and no pesticides are used. As the coffee bean is toxic to the local birds fruit trees are planted to draw them in and they eat any worms and insects on the coffee trees.

    His coffee is world renown and has won best coffee in the world eight times! The plantation doesn't produce huge amounts and what is made is shipped as green beans to certain individual coffee houses in the States and Canada.

    One of the most fasinating tours I have ever done. Worth coming to Panama just for this!

    Photos

    Coffee beans which we watched being roasted. Light which the American market like medium for the French and dark for the Italians! Even though I am not a coffee drinker I tried all three. The dark was way too full on!
    Interesting fact - a light roast has less flavour but more caffeine - 90% to 100%. The dark roast which has a very deep flavour only has about 40% caffeine.
    The third one shows his hand crafted machine that can cost up to $200,000.
    The fourth shows three roasting machines.
    The large blue one is made from the tub from a washing machine! He charges other local producers a small fee for them to roast their beans.
    Lovely coffee trees. The berries are sweet and the beans are covered in a slimy substance.

    And finally Mr Tito drinks 15 cups of coffee a day!
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  • This country has been a pleasant surprise. Today we set off for Boquete and will be staying in Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort about 7km out of town.

    But not before I have two banana smoothies for breakfast! I think I have a smoothie problem!

    Lovely scenary on the way. We stop in town for abit to book tours, go to the supermarket and of course have another smoothie.

    Bit of a rough ride up to the resort on a huge open jeep.

    And then heaven greets us. Resort is gorgeous right up in the cloud forest and we are in lovely little cabins. Restaurant has really good food, a fireplace and serves smoothies! What more could I ask for!

    Photos

    The type of boat we have used all over Central America.
    We stopped at a view point to have a look at a dam and the wire fence was so high this was the only photo you could get!
    The cat photo is for you Virge!
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  • Fabulous day today!

    Some snorkling to see starfish and the colourful reef.
    Then a stop in Dolphin Bay to watch for - yes correct dolphins. We only saw two.
    Then abit of a look at the various islands and finally over to a small island with our bring your own lunch.

    The guide told us to go to the supermarket and put together our lunch for our island chill out. Couldn't find anything I would want to eat so ended up with white bread rolls and nutella! The tomatoes were rotten and the avocados rock hard. And the processed meat was just plain scary!

    The best part of the island was very crowded so we walked around trying to find a place that wasn't packed. Our tour guide was clueless even though he had been to the very small island dozens of times. And of course you can't set up under a coconut tree and they were everywhere ! We ended up in an awful spot where you really couldn't swim for fear of being hit by a floating tree branch!

    Eventually the guide went on a scout and found a proper place so we moved camp and then I just stayed in the water most of the time. Just so nice with the palm trees and blue water. If you are out of the water for 5 minutes you get so hot you have to go back in.

    On the boat ride back we went sloth spotting and amazingly saw a really active one eating lots of leaves. Normally they are only active at night. We were able to get really close and stare at his face. They are gorgeous creatures and move very slowly due to the lack of protein in their diet.

    Then back to town on the speed boat - central american style! Great ride as you can look at the mangrove swamps and the isolated houses. Some are shacks and others are mansions owned by retired foreigners. If you migrate there you don't have to pay taxes for 20 years but you have to invest some money which most people do by building houses.

    Dinner at another nice restuarant on the water. It had some things on the menu which we couldn't order due to where we were sitting!! Random!

    Then to finish off the day some gelato!

    In the last photo you can see I am taking no chances with the sun with my total cover up!
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  • Set off in the pouring rain for Panama.
    We have been told that alot of places in Panama don't accept credit cards and if they do expect up to a 15% add on.

    Border crossing was a slow process. Sometimes you can lose the will to go on! Alot of queuing in the heat and dragging your bags up and down rocky hills for this one.

    Then a boat to Bocas del Toro. This ride would not pass any safety standard! Really overloaded with people and baggage and they didn't have enough life jackets. So the guide said they had to get more before we could set off.

    Then the boat went way too fast for the conditions so every time the boat went over a wave it was like hitting cement.

    After hotel checkin we got on a public bus and went to Starfish Beach on the other side of the island. Intetesting fact about starfish is that if you take them out of the water even for a second they die.

    The beach was gorgeous - lovely blue clear water which was nice and warm, blue skies and palm trees.
    My new thing is palm trees - love them and taking lots of photos.

    Had the funniest lunch with the Panamanian version of Manuel! Everyone basically had combinations of fish chicken rice salad fries and plantains with different sauces.
    Over 10 of us so a bit of a memory challenge!
    Then he said he would write it all down so the pen and pad came out and he started to make varoius marks.
    Later the guide told us that he couldn't read or write but thought that a proper waiter should write things down so he pretends!

    Then when the meals came out it was chaos - sometimes he would say it was chicken when it was fish and the combinations were all over the place.
    At one stage he was wandering around with cokes saying he didn't know who they were for and put them on the table still chatting away.
    He was so charming and off beat it was the highlight of the day!

    In the end we said to just put the meals on the table and that we would sort it out!

    I would definitely go back! We saw him in town the next day and he gave us a very cheerful hello.

    There were lots of little cafes and bars along the beach some with really loud music so we found the quietest spot we could.

    So a great afternoon. Then avoiding the group dinner like I do most nights another like minded tour member (who has said she will never travel in a group again!) and I go to a great restaurant right on the water where every thing is home made. And it had great music! Had a very good spaghetti bolognese and a Chilean glass of red.

    Lovely day!

    Last photo is the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Most of the borders have the car wash contraptions and they spray trucks.
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