Cold Beer and Cock Fights

Thanks to Sea G. Ryder for reminding me to post.  click here to visit

It’s Sunday morning on Isla Contadora and I am finally a little bored.  I have seen every beach, eaten at every eatery, and had my fill of rum.  I remember I saw a blurb about how the archipelago got its name and decided I should make an effort to buy some pearls.  I inquired at the office of my B&B Casa del Sol and off I went to meet a man with gold teeth on the beach.

Somebody had warned me not to go on Sunday afternoon as it was the day to drink but the man I was meeting said it was not correct.  Off we go into the beautiful waters of the Archipelago de las Perlas!

One of my favorite things about being out in the open water is speed and the air blowing on my face and through my hair.  Well “Goldie” did not see it that way.  I agreed to pay him by the hour having general knowledge about how long it would take.  I had a vision of arriving to a quaint island and picking through the shops for an hour and finding  a few rare black pearls for me and my besties then zipping back to the home island with my finds.

I did not know a boat could go that slowly and stay afloat.  When I agreed to pay by the hour I should have agreed to an actual amount of hours.  So after a one hour boat ride that should have been 20 minutes we arrive.  The island is a wreck and I ask him if I can walk to the shops.  He just laughs.  There are thousands of shells lying about and my hopes are high.

He gets me as close as he can on the jagged beach and I walk on waiting for Goldie to join me.  My bubble is popped pretty much on arrival to this dirty and barren place.  Two rows of shacks are erected from scrap and there is literally nothing else in sight.  I am beginning to believe that the row of quaint shops is not here.

Come to find out this is Goldie’s home island.  He is related to everyone and I am not exaggerating.  He starts asking around to see if anyone has any pearls but they do not.  We walk along the dirty path and he asks all his uncles, aunts, cousins and brothers if they have a pearl to sell.  Finally at the end of the path there is a hut serving some food and a bar with loud music.  There are some strange apparatus that I do not recognize.

I decide it is in my best interest to buy beer for Goldie and a few relatives so I do.  I thought if this was my last beer at least it was freezing cold.  I did not feel safe.  Oh Lordy I have to pee!  I ask for a bathroom and am directed into a shack with a bucket.  It’s time to leave.

There is a ruckus and we head over to see what is going on.  The apparatuses are being used to weigh the roosters to begin the cock fights.  In Panama they breed the roosters with a crazy wild pheasant to make them meaner and more aggressive.  I told Goldie I was unwilling to stay for the big event and that if we had no pearls to buy that I am done here.  Finally one of his cousins comes up with a small black pearl which I purchase for thirty-five dollars.  And we are off.  Slowly we putt putt putt off into the distance back to civilization.

I am on my boat now and do not have the ability to post pictures of the black pearl which is tiny and misshapen.  When I say “my boat” of course I am talking about the four hundred passenger steamboat on which I live and work most of the year.  The American Queen is a perfect specimen of beauty and luxury.  Next post probably about living aboard an American Icon.


Part One: The many faces of Panama

2015…what looked like the worst year of my life ended up a new beginning.

2016…begins with a new adventure.  Panama, one month, mostly on my own.

I woke with the flu for my 4:30 a.m. taxi.  This was nothing new.  I had been sick for 2 weeks since my trip to Palm Springs for business.  I was determined to go.  Nothing would stop me.  So I packed up my snot rags and got in the van.

Deciding previously that this trip would be a mix of hostels and luxury hotels I headed for the Hilton Garden Inn Panama City.  This was somewhere in the middle.  The bottom floor smelled of sewage and I had a view into the window of an apartment bedroom 3 feet away.  I returned to the front desk for a room re-assignment.  In bed for two more days I planned my adventure and worked on my Spanish via TV.  There is no application for Telenovela Spanish in normal activity.  Now, if I wanted to bitch-slap the ceviche chica bien dotada dramatically eyeballing mi Juan Pablo while yelling “Soy pregnate con trillizos” it might play…but I digress.

I did not have the opportunity to do all the things perhaps I should have in Panama City but I saw enough to know that it is large and diverse and for the most part safe.  If you will join me on another slight diversion…

People ask me when I travel alone to other countries, “do you feel safe”?  The short answer is yes because I’m not stupid.  The long and short…stupid people are not safe and smart ones are.  That is my entire statement on safety in Central America.

Here are the places I saw and the things I did.  There was nothing I did not enjoy.

Walk along the water front for good people watching and beautiful modern buildings. My only tip is to look for the pedestrian overpasses to avoid being smushed in the highway.

Casco Viejo and the fish market is wonderful for a morning walk (it is HOT in the afternoon).  Have ceviche and beer for ($4) breakfast and walk the entirety of Casco Viejo.  Beautiful old colonial architecture on the water.  Click here for map and more info!


Parque Metropolitano is lovely.  Just try to say the name of this park without thinking of Janet Nepalitano (whom by the way I saw last year at the Santa Fe Opera in a neoprene truck and a horrible blue pantsuit).  A large and stunning park smack in the middle of Panama City can make you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.  Toucans, sloth and other wildlife easily seen.  Click here for directions and more information


After Panama City I took the Metro to Albrook (the “other” airport) and boarded the bus to Santiago for a quick connection to Santa Fe.  More on the beautiful mountain region of Veraguas in the next post.  Santa Fe was my favorite place in Panama.  You will see why!  Hopefully up-to-date bus schedule info for Panama.


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