February 1, 2009 Sunday
Dick Niedert took us to a. Checkin was easy. We were able to see the Super Bowl into the second quarter a little ways. The flight to Chicago was short but the taxi and wait at the gate is the longest I can remember. When we finally got inside there was 4 minutes left in the game. We seen AZ score and go ahead but unfortunately Pittsburg won. It is a long walk to Continental where it leaves for Houston. It was tough sleeping as the lights were bright and the TV loud and there were announcements all night. Things were closed at 9:30 on for eating. Places like McDonalds are a lot cheaper and one could buy things for the flight there. We should of brought Edith's world perk as w e must not of had the number right. We will have to check it going home and be sure we save the boarding stuff.
February 2, 2009 Monday
The flight to Houston was fine and we had ample time. We had to fill out a customs form. It is a long walk in the new airport. Unfortunately our luggage did not show up and we had to fill out a claim form. We turned in our customs form and went through the nothing to declare line and stopped at the Tourist info for info on our hotel and a map and taxi prices. The taxi to our hotel was $10 in Zona 15 which turned out to be a long ways in a residential area. We finally got someone to answer the door. We were able to pay the taxi in dollars. We needed some food so we got information on a grocery store. It was a long walk back to the gated area we had entered by. Edith went back to the hotel as it was really up hill. We bought some vegetables and fruit from a guy with a pickup. I had to ask directions to the grocery store but found it OK. I found a little bakery and a lady who could speak English helped me and got a gallon of water and some things for me with Quezels and I gave her dollars. The hotel had our reservation voucher and there was no problem with it. It was a little farther back than I remembered but fortunately I had did a lot of looking but I should of had he address with me just in case. We have learned this lesson before but it is one that should always be remembered. We had some food and water and got some rest as the sleep is not good when flying.
February 3, 2009 Tuesday
Guatemala and Guatemala is very mountainous. We got a taxi who took us to TICA bus and I got our tickets and he waited and then took us to the Tikal Fortuna Hotel for our Caravan tour. This was $12 as we only had to pay the minimum once. It as a good deal. The elevation is about 5000 feet so it is nice and cool. It is jungle. This was dry season which is from November to April. The city is really in pretty good shape and seemed quite safe. The bus ticket to San Jose was $146.00 total and we left at 12:30 pm on Friday Feb 13th. We bumped into the tour guide Oscar and he put the hotel guys to work on our luggage and got us into a room. We did some looking around the area and had supper with the Caravan group and got some GUAT money. It was about 7.6 Quezels per dollar. It was a better rate at the bank. We ate at McDonalds with USA prices or a bit cheaper. They filled our Ketsup, brought our trays to the table and cleaned up. There are no refills on soda. They had a dollar menu. It was a very upscale mall. I sent an internet message after losing one so it was short. The cost was about $1 for hour. Later I found it was free at the hotel so I sent a longer travelogue from there.
February 4, 2009 Wednesday
We had the Caravan intro meeting with lots of info on GUAT and introductions. It got to long for my taste. It seems like a good group. There was a couple from Grand Forks ND that feeds cattle. We did a city bus tour and seen the embassy area and shanty town and old downtown. Overall the city was quite nice and progressive. We visited the Ixchel Textile museum. I went with the hotel guy but we could not get the luggage. It seems it got on TAKA and got to Miami and then the GUA but they would not give it to anyone but Continental so either TAKA OR CONTINENTAL was there but not at the same time. They said to come at 6 am and they would both be there. TO get more information just check the GUAT trip at www.caravan.com
February 5, 2009 Thursday
I went with the hotel and we finally got TAKA AND CONTINENTAL agents together after an hour and I got our luggage. I tipped the hotel guys as they had been to the airport several times. Our tour left for Chichicastiando for the historic church and market. It has a mix of Mayan and Catholic. Oscar is talking all the time. I found the fact that they were in civil war for years up to 1996 and they have a lot of coruption in there governments. It still is not good. We then headed for Lake Atitlan. It is nice but I sure would not call it the nicest lake in the world. It is quite large and surround by three volanoes that at present are inactive.
February 6, 2009 Friday
We took the boat to Santiago Atiltan where there was a church and market. A lot of masacures here with the civil war as it was the last strong hold of the rebels. A Priest from OK was killed by the army. The Priests heart is buried in the church and his body in OK. There was a man named Matismo a German who was abusing the locals and got to drinking and smoking cigars. He was attacked and mutilated and asked for forgiveness and told the people he would interced for them as it was obvious he was going to die. He is not a saint and part of the local celebrations which are Mayan/Catholic. After the tour we went to Panajachel for the afternoon and I got on the internet. Again more details can be found at www. caravan.com under the Guat tour.
February 7, 2009 Saturday
We were headed north for Copan the Mayan sitel but got in a big traffic jam with road work before we got to Guat city and then it took time to get through town. North of town it got dry but always mountains. We had lunch at Santa Fe at a nice place. I liked that place called Hotel Atlantico. We had to pay $3 to get into Honduas. We had private body guards which was really just a show as we did not have them on the way home. We stayed near Copan.
February 8, 2009 Sunday
We toured Copan which does not have a lot of real high buildings but lots of writings. It has a lot of Mayan infor and we had a good guide. In the afternoon we went to the town of Copan. I watched people in the plaza and visited the museum but it was 99% Spanish so I was only able to get some of it. Back at the bus I had a good visit with Fernando the bus driver and the two guards. Again you can see www.caravan.com for more details and look up info on Copan. It was warm at Copan which was our first warm day.
February 9, 2009 Monday
We headed for TIKAL. One couple meet a cousin they had never seen at our dinner stop on the river to the Atlantic coast. Boats can come up this far. The name of the town was Rio Dulce. The river goes to Puerta Barrio which is the biggest port in GUAT We had a nice dinner on the river. It is a long ride to TIKAL. There were some nice towns in the valleys and good agriculture. At our hotel about 60 km from Tikal there were
Macaws like we seen at Copan. There were also Crocodile in the lake and some deer. Again you can get more details at www. caravan.com under the GUAT tour. We got tourist police for guards. I found out from the bus driver they just are with us on the way north but not coming back which again shows it is just to make the tour people feel safe.
February 10, 2009 Tuesday
Our guide was on the bus so this was nice as we could all hear well. It was warm. TIKAL is in the jungle so you really can just see one building area at a time. If you climb up you can see others sticking out of the jungle. It is one of the longest lasting Mayan cities. The tallest Temple 4 is 210 feet. These are the tallest of any Mayan city. Having now seen all the sites I would say Palanque in Mexico is our favorite. Then Chiken Itza or TIKAL.
February 11, 2009 Wednesday
This will be our longest day with a 5 am wake up. We retraced our steps but did have a stop at Quiregua Mayan site and seen the bannana area of GUAT. It had the best Stiela and had the end of the Mayan calendar and probably the best place to understand the Mayan calander. We got to Antigua in the dark.
February 12, 2009 Thursday
We toured a coffee farm and museum of GUAT music instruments and a walking tour of town. We did the internet in the afternoon and then in the plaza ran into the American Legion rep for Mexico and Central America. We met a number of americans and find they have a gathering every THURSDAY in a cafe right of the square where people can meet and get info. The feed 300 kids each morning, have 14 college scholarships and have a 30000 book English library. He gave us a lot of info on taking the TICA but to Panama and gave us his e-mail if we have any problems. We had our farewell supper and gave our tips to the leader and bus driver. I had a lot of Spanish conversations with the bus driver which gave me an insight the others did not have.
February 13, 2009 Friday We were going to the airport on the 10 am shuttle the Fernando the bus driver would be doing. It was not the big bus. We found out he would be taking us to TICA BUS which was very nice as I figured we would have to take a taxi from the airport. We got to TICA bus about 11:30 an hour before they said. It ended up we did not leave until 3:00 pm or 2 hours late. We talked to some girls from Sweden. They spoke excellent English and one spoke some Spanish. They were headed for NICA so we would be together for awhile. Out of GUAT it still was mountains but a little drier and a bit poorer economically. It was getting dark when we got to El Salvador. The border officials came right on the bus which was really nice. We found with the group of 4 called C4 of Guat, Honduras, El Salvador and NICA that they were just looking for our first stamp into GUAT. We got a courtesy stamp when we went to Copan but no stamp; for El Salvador and NICA. We did get a stamp for CR. We were really surprised at how modern El Salvador was. We went to the San Bernito TIKA BUS station which has the hotel and is out of the main town.
February 14, 2009 Saturday
We were up at 4:30 am for the bus. Some noise with wake up call for people and people in next rooms. The check in for the boarding pass and luggage claim ticket went smoothly. We met a guy from Canada that had been at Playa Hunco where the shrimp were cheap to eat and the rooms not bad. It is south of San Salvador on the Pacific coast. I think it could be crowed on the week ends. It is possible the rooms might even cost more. The one fellow from TICA Bus spoke good English. On the was back we need to be sure to pay more for A/C. The internet is free. San Salvador uses US Dollar and things seemed very progressive. There were mountains with good farming in the valleys and up the mountain sides. We stopped for and it seemed strange with US prices and paying in US dollars. Things were reasonably priced. Coke was 60 cents for bottle. For the bus one wants to be sure to have the baggage claim stub as they check them. The room was $12 each. It was no cost to enter and leave El Salvador. It cost $3 to enter Honduras and $1.00 to leave. It was $9 to enter NICA. Got dryer as we got toward NICA. It is very poor economically in NICA. Aways in there are mountains but a lot of flat land between the mountains and ocean and some big farms and the biggest machinery we have seen. It was 1970's type machinery and towns in these area had some ag manufacturing, repear and other ag businesses. Things were a bit more prosperous in this area. We spotted the big lake as we came to Managua. The TICA bus station is gated and the hotel is inside and they have guards. Edith got the bag and I got the toom. That works very good and we got some supper at the snack place. They had ham sandwiches. We talked to a guy from Miami. He was surprised how much Spanish I knew.
February 15, 2009 Sunday
Left Managua, Nicaragua on TICA at 6 am. It was hot in the room, so when we go back we need to get A/C as it will be hotter. Internet was $1.00 for hour. The room was $13 each. The scenery was mountains and jungle. We caught a few glances of the big lake. Things were poor in NICA and the border facilities were very depressed looking. It was $2 to exit and we had papers to fill out and TICA took our passports. We paid $1. so TICA could get us in a special line forthere bus going into CR. We had a baggage inspection at CR but they skipped our bags. We met a couple from MT. They live in San Jose during the winter and have for several years. They had done a Spanish course and she claimed she could read a lot of Spanish which given she only had a couple of week course I know she can not read very much. They had been to NICA to visit. We met a CR guide and she was surprised how much Spanish I knew. She said where we planned to go was very nice. I made sure our bag was the last on on to get off a Liberia CR and talked to the TICA people about that. As we entered CR we seen th3e ocean. Things picked up economically as we traveled south. It did not take long and we were at Liberia. They stopped but did not say anything and I was not sure we were at Liberia. They stopped again and announced Liberia and we made a rush for the front of the bus. The driver seemed a bit concerned leaving us along the road side but I was sure Liberia was safe. Two taxis came roaring up and I told the TICA driver we wanted to go to Playa Flamingo. He said to go to the Liberia Bus station. The taxi wanted to take us to Playa Flamingo but I said the bus station. They wanted $2. I should of got them down to $1 but it was 95 degrees out and we are not used to the heat yet and I figured we were a mile from the bus station which we were. Also I was pretty sure we did not have a lot of time to catch the 12:30 bus which turned out to be true. At the bus station about 12 taxi drivers were screaming to take us where we wanted to go. I said Flamingo and they said $60 and soon came to $40. I knew we could take the bus for about $6 except I could not see any place to get tickets but I finally found it clear to the back on the side. She took US dollars which was a big concern since it was Sunday. I think I got a reasonable rate. We started watching for the Flamingo bus. We met a Canadian but it was his first time so he did not know as much as we did. Eventually the Flamingo bus showed up and we got in line. We got a couple of Cokes for lunch, there was a deposit on the bottles but my Spanish was good enough I talked him into letting me just bring them back which I did so I did not need a deposit. The bus headed to Playa Flamingo and started out pretty empty but added a lot of people as we went. There were all kinds of stores and car rental places. We went into the International Airport so that is why so many car rental places. Some people just rent a car for the 3 or 6 months they are here. We seen a big home building store. Eventually we stopped at a real bus station and they wanted our tickets to mark them. Edith had lost hers but I told them that and they let it go as I am sure they remember us getting on. We eventually were told to get off with a lady with two boys who was going to Potrero. It was at a town called Huacas. Here the bus went south and the road to Flamingo and Potrero go north. It is about 6 miles. I think the bus would of went south to Santa Cruz, etc and came back but I am not sure. The lady was going to help us but she called her husband and he showed up and she took off as she forgot about us. I started asking people in Spanish and found on young man who spoke English. He like me was self taught and eventually a bus showed up for Flamingo that also went to Potrero and he knew where Hotel Isolina was. He worked on a sail boat but went to another town for the rodeo for Sunday. We had a good visit and he got us off at the Hotel. I decided we would stay here for at least one night until we talked to Phil. Well the hotel was empty and I talked the gal down to $50 a night which is nearly half price and we got breakfast, pool, TV, bathroom, hot water, etc. I decided for that price to just stay there for at least a week. We found Phil and Carol and had a great visit and went out to supper. Later when we found out how high groceries are this was the way to go, no kitchen and just eat out. With the money we saved on not having a kitchen it makes eating out cheaper than cooking and no hassle. Tomorrow Carol will call the dentist and we will go to the bank.
February 16, 2009 Monday
Good Continental Breakfast, learned some Spanish at breakfast from Peter who does the cooking and serving. I met Phil about 9:30 and found Carol had a dental appointment for me at 10 am so we headed out. Allen speaks good English and did an x ray and said the teeth were good and he would put in two big posts and prepare the tooth on the right for the four tooth bridge. He could do better pins and glue it in but it would not be nearly as strong. He said $250 for tooth and $50 for pin for a total of $1100. He could do Ediths tooth with two pins for $150. This is still expensive but only about 33% of what it would cost at Salem so I decided to go ahead. We got an appointment for Tuesday at 10 am. I went with Phil to get groceries for Carol. He has a cell phone and it works good. We went to the bank and it was packed. I guess it was payday time and after the week end. It was about 1.5 hours wait. I put my card in wrong in the ATM machine and Phil waited in line to get it back. Eventually about time I got US dollars changed to Colons we got my ATM card back. I had to have my passport. The rate was 557 for $1.00 I was surprised at how much things cost at the grocery store. We found out things were not so bad until about 2 or 3 years ago. I then walked to Flamingo Edith washed clothes at the hotel. We then went to Phils and did e-mail. It costs them about $170 for insurance so owing there place the get by cheap other than groceries. Cable tv, internet, electricity, water and satellite tv are not bad. The have a house keeper. Phil says you can live on $1500 a month but obviously that does not include housing.
February 17, 2009 Tuesday
Phil picked us up at 9:30 and we went to the dentist. Edith had one dentist and I had Allen. Phil went to the post office with QSL cards and did some other business. Edith did not have a lot of root to anchor to so they did the best they could and it cost $40. I was in for 2 hours. He put in two big pins and prepared the tooth on my right side for the 4 tooth bridge. He used novacaine and there was little pain. I sure hate having to grind down a good tooth but it is the only way to hold the bridge good on both sides. He then made an impression and then the temporary. The bridge should be here in one week and two days or next Thursday. It looks like he is going to be gone Friday and Saturday and closed Sunday so if things get messed up it could be Monday. If it is we may just pay for it and leave and come back later. I paid $150 of the $1100. We stopped and got some snacks on the way back. I walked the beach and got 250000 Colones at the bank. It was hot and I was tired. I think the Novacaine had taken its toll. We eat at La Chola, Shrimp.
February 18, 2009 Wednesday
We found out most people living here that are from other countries can only stay for 90 days on there visa and then they need to leave for 3 days unless they have a special VISA which takes a lot of messing around to get. When the come back they get a new 90 day visa. If you are in business I think it helps in getting one. I walked to Flamingo and got 300,000 Colons and met the young mother with the two boys that were on the bus with us and got of at Huacas to get to Potrero. I went to all the real estate places and got lots of cards in regards to rentals. The tourist business is really bad this year. One can get a very reasonable beach rental. If things continue I thinik you can get one cheaper next year. Right now our opinion is that groceries cost way to much, restuarants are more reasonable but still it costs about $18.00 for supper for both of us by the time they add tax and service. If you get shrimp it is about $22.00. When we get hot during the day we go swimming in the hotel pool which really helps. We have the Continental breakfast and a light snack for dinner. The problem is that snacks are expensive. We eat at the hotel. The fish was reasonable but a lot of things were way to expensive. Edith had found a book exchange at the hotel and read and I studied Spanish.
February 19, 2009 Thursday
I walked to FLamingo and got US money and stopped at the tourist info place to get a map. Claudia was here name and she rents bikes and does booking and provides tourist info. I got the local bus info to Liberia. She said we should go to La Pearla for the 5-6 pm happy hour as people were very friendly. She had a package deal for Panama but in checking it the TICA bus is for both ways and that does not work as we want to got to David, etc. and also the Hotel does not have good reviews. She can only book TICA at San Jose. I got a laptop from Phil and got set up for wireless at the hotel for half price at $1.50 for day. We have a great signal in our Villa. I got caught up on the e-mail and send a travelogue. We spend the day out of the heat at it was 94 degrees. At 5 pm we went to La Pearla and met several Canadians and the owner Pearl. We then had Fried Chicken at La Chola which was the biggest meal and best buy yet. Back at Hotel Isolina I studied Spanish and Edith read. We eat at La Castillo. We hear and see howler monkeys each day. They
are very loud and typically there is a family high in the trees.
February 20, 2009 Friday
I walked ot Pan de Azul (Sugar Beach) It is about 3 miles. I walked via the road to the town of Potrero. We are on Potrero Beach but the town is called Surfside. They are getting ready for the fiesta which is a rodeo next week. I tried to get a map at a tourist place but it was looked but I found another office and got directions to Sugar Beach. There are many nice big housed on the mountain side. It is a hilly dirt road. I got a ride the last 1/4 mile downhill and the driver was very surprised that I was from the United States and spoke so much Spanish. The beach really was not that white. There is talk you can walk back on the beach but I think only at very low tide as there are a lot of rocks. I seen two Mot-Mot birds which are very colorful and have special tails. There is a picture on the web site. It is considered the national bird of
NICA. The road made a lot more sense to me. Back in Potrero the place that had a map was open. I asked about the monkey trail but it takes a 4 x 4 and no one is doing it for hire. I stopped at a grocery store for a coke and went back via the beach the rest of the way which is much closer. I spent a long time on the web trying to figure out where to stay in Panama City and get tours. It looks like maybe the best is to stay at the Canal Zone and not go to the city. The bus station seems to be close to the airport and on the canal zone side of town. We went out to supper and Edith got a nice sunset picture. I went to La Perla and met a few more people. It seems to be a big Canadian hangout but Claudia was there from the Flamingo tourist place. I studied Spanish. It was cooler or at least felt cooler as it was partly cloudy and the sun was covered some of the time.
February 21, 2009 Saturday
95 degrees today, most people at the hotel yet but it appears they were just for Friday night. It was the first time there were others at breakfast besides us. I got exercise on the beach walking to Flamingo and Edith did some laundry. At the end of the beach by Flamingo was a nice cool place up above under the trees and palapa and some benches. On the way back I seen Phil and Carols car was there so Edith and I walked back and had a nice visit with them. Some others who live here stopped by. There seems to be a lot of confusion about building permits and what you can and can not do. We did some research on Panama and at about 2:15 we went to La Perla for the music jam. No one was there so we had a coke which was $2 each and George showed up to play and two others came. They played until about 4:15 and Edith did some singing along. We had supper a La Chola. The grilled chicken was good and we got a big pitcher of ice water but the dogs were running around and begging for food and no attempt was made to get them out and the kids were running around playing hide and seek which was really no big deal but we did not care for the dogs. La Castillo seems a lot more professional and lots better service but the portions are a bit smaller and the price a bit higher. We then took the path home which ends up on the street where Phil and Carol live. We also found out for sure where George lives. I am starting to use Phil's computer to type in the daily diary. I studied Spanish. It was very hot today, clear sky and 95 degrees. George from Canada says it just keeps getting hotter. George says an in ground pool is tough if you are not here to take care of it. If you leave water in it is fills up with crabs everynight and gets green. If you drain it during the rain season the water table gets so high it can lift the pool out of the ground. A lot of people put it a foot in the ground and the rest out and drain it when they are gone in the rainy season and leave the drain plug out so it drains when it rains.
February 22, 2009 Sunday
Bigger crowd at Hotel Isolina on he week end and on the beach. They will leave later on. I walked to Flamingo and it was very hot. The howler monkies were close to the ground in the tree by the entrance and we got some close, good pictures. I paid for another 4 nights. It works out better to pay in US $ at the quoted $50 a night as in Colones they want the ask rate of 568 and I only got the buy rate of 557 Colons per dollar to get Colons. We ate at at La Prisas at Potrero and Edith got a chance to see the building of the seating, etc. for the fiesta. I studied Spanish when we got home
February 23, 2009 Monday
It started out cloudy but soon changed. I walked to Flamingo and got a map from the car rental place. They wanted $70 a day including insurance. I stopped and talked to Phil and Carol and we can take them out to supper tonight. They will pick up up about 5 pm. Phil said the central valley is higher and will get down to around 55 degrees at night. He was talking to TI5 on 80 by Lake Arenal near the volcano. It was raining and foggy there. He said the Tortuguero area has lots of wildlife. I spent some time with the map and Lonely Planet and have it figured out how to get there. I noticed the eve troughs have plastic chains in them which can be worked back and forth to get the trash out so they will drain. Tomorrow we will check with the dentist. It seems a key point is elevation as to being comfortable. It is hotter than we care for here along the coast. If one wants to be on the coast then one is going to have to be farther north. Higher elevations are good but you need to be sure to stay away from pollution. The bus times from Flamingo to Liberia are 5 am, 9:55 am and 11:20 am on La Pampa.. We took Phil and Carol out to supper but of course we have no car so they drove. We went to Brasilito to Outback Jacks which is a tourist place run by an Aussie. The waitress was from PA. I had Red Snapper which was very good. Phil and Carol have to take a dog to the vet so they will check at the dentist.
February 24, 2009 Tuesday
I walked to Flamingo and got $400 for Panama. Phil checked with the dentest and they had no news so we wait another day. We went swimming in the pool. I spent some time on the internet looking at various things and spent some time studying Spanish. We eat at Maxwells which is an American place. I got Word from Phil that my bridge for my teeth was in and the dentist will do it tomorrow at 5 pm
February 25, 2009 Wednesday
I walked over to Flamingo and talked to Clauda at the tourist info and based on her info I bought us bus tickets to San Jose for 9 am Thursday. We got together with Phil and carol and Carol was so kind to make us CD-s of our digital pictures. We had a nice visit. The dentist appointment would have been shoved back to Thursday at 11 am but Carol said we needed to get going and that we had plans to leave which was true. I worked on Spanish and finished up with the computer. Phil picked me up a little after 5 pm to be sure the dentist would not leave. There was a French gal he was doing dental work for. It took until 7 pm. Her husband came. Apparently she spoke mostly French and he spoke some Spanish and English. It appeared English was the best language between the dentist Allen and her husband and then he would tell here in French. She was crying and having a hard time. It was either implants of getting false teeth on the bottom It took him about 30 mnutes with me. He was particular and the bridge fits well I gave Phil back his computer. Phil said he would take us to Flamingo in the morning to catch the bus to San Jose. Edith said the pants of mine she had washed was gone.
February 26, 2009 Thursday
We gave a tip to Peter for his service and we talked to the housekeeping girls and they found the pair of pants. Phil came and brought us to Flamingo and we thanked him for so much help. They are really nice people. The bus was a little early and we were off to San Jose. We made a lot of stops to start out with. We took the route Phil uses to go the San Jose. We went south to Santa Cruz which is the government head for them, they call it municipalidad. We crossed the friendship bridge and got to the Pan American. It was pretty dry and quite a bit of ranching but fairly mountainous. We could see the cloud forests by St Elena as we crossed the bridge looking east. The Pan American had a lot of traffic and it got very mountainous and took a long time to get the last 100 miles to San Hose. We dropped people off at the airport and went to the Maracopa bus station. It was a small place and they backed the bus inside. We got our bag and got a taxi. I realized it was a private taxi which was a screw up but the fare was low and he got us to the bus station for David. The traffic was horrible. We got our tickets and got an official taxi. The traffic was a lot less and we got to our hotel Petit quite quickly. It was really old and the windows were rotten. We did meet a guy from FL We walked a block to Pizza Hut to eat as the hotel clerk said it was safe and it appeared to be and was. We got to bed early as we had an early 7:30 start to David.
February 27, 2009 Friday
The hotel was $40 and they called a taxi. He took us to the bus station and it did not seem to me he was going to the correct place which turned out to be true. It turned out the driver yesterday blew off our address and took us to the correct place, the new bus terminal for Copala but did not tell us. Our driver got the correct address and got us there in plenty of time It was a metered taxi and it ended up not costing anymore than the day before. We met two Americans living there that were going to David to renew there VISA for another 90 days. We sat close to Phil who teaches English in SJ. We had a long, interesting visit and found you can live pretty cheap in SJ. The scenery we fantastic, high mountains, we were up high a lot and lots of clouds on the mountains and some farming up some of the mountains and it was pretty green considering it was still the dry season. The border crossing was a pain. We exit CR and then walked about half mile to Panama and got our stub to buy a card for $5.00. We had to have proof of a ticket that we were leaving and our airline ticket worked. We got our touist card and then back to the original window to have our passport stamped and then had our luggage inspected and turned in out immigration form with nothing to declare and back on the bus which had pulled ahead. It must of taken a couple of hours and it was hot. The bus was hot as it had no air conditioning. Actually David is quite close to the border so we got there quite soon. We said goodbye to phil and got a taxi to Hotel Castilla and got a room. It went and found an Internet Café which took quite awhile and I had a message from Louis so I sent him one back as it was from yesterday. I then got the satellite phone and called Phil and to my amazement the were in David and would be by to pick us up in 10 minutes in front of the hotel. Edith and I got out front and before long they were there. His wife is nice, she is from Panama and her name is Yavi. I recognized Louis from CSVHF days. We found out they had driven down from Boquete where they live to meet us based on my email from the day before. We ended up being an hour late but it all worked. We had a great visit at supper. Louis said he would come and get us from Boquete in the morning about 10 am and they would show us around which was awesome and so nice.
February 28, 2009 Saturday
We got Edith a hat as she had left hers in Phils car at Potrero. Louis got hung up in traffic and showed up about 10:30. He showed us to old railroad going north, some pre-historic plants and told us a lot about Panama. We seen the swimming places in the river north of David. David is always hot but they have a huge amount of shopping and services and is the second biggest town in Panama. We met Yavi at there new house and she got us a room in Panama City after about 3 tries we ended up using the hotel they use there. We got the information on Bocas del toro and more on what they had been doing. It is there second marriages and they have been gone from Boquete while Louis worked at various things. They ran a boat in Hi and he worked for the military in the Philipines and did some work in S. Korea. More recently they ran the jet boat in Bocas and lined things up using the WEB and flew or drove down a couple of times a week to do the tours. They are now going to AL it looks like next week to get the 90 foot boat. After a sack we went north to the oldest part of Boquete. We seen where he had worked DXCC on 160 and looked over town and had strawberries and ice cream and drove way up in the mountains. The higher you get up to about 1800 meters the coffee gets better. Some of it is worth $100 a pound. The money is US dollars in Panama. We seen some farming under plastic and irrigation up higher. There a a lot of indigenous Indians they pick coffee and do this work. They have alcohol problems. There is a lot of rain call bajarique which means it does not hit the ground most of the time. There had been a big 40 year flood that happened last fall that did a lot of damage and took out some bridges and buildings along side the river. With the clouds floating around, the high mountains and rain forest and the bajarique it is very beautiful. Back down in town we had some coffee and pecan pie. We had a great visit about the places we all had been. They dropped us off and we spent the evening walking around town, got supper and got on the internet.
March 1, 2009 Sunday
Louis and Yarvi picked up up for church. It turns out Louis met Yarvi doing some work for her brother in law with sateliite for broadcasting TBN. I am sure I have seen him with Paul Crouch on TBN. It was mainly an English service with some interpretation from Spanish to English. We had communion and he had a great message. It was Penticostal in nature but very nice. They also have a Spanish service. We met a lot of people who were all nice. Louis things there are about 30,000 people in the whole area. They have built on the mountain sides and to the south of the original Boquete but is all a part of the town. I think it might be a bit less than this. Things have gotten a lot more expensive and as always lots sell by the square meter. It used to be $7 and now goes up the $80. There still is some for $30 but building costs have went up as well. Things are reasonable here but I would not call them cheap. To the south where Louis lives it is about 700 M and it hotter. As you clime to 1200 M and higher it is nice and cool. Jan to March is it windy. The get 4 M of rain a year with 2 meters coming in October and November. It is dry from Dec until May but not all that wet until October. We drove SE to the outback and the roads get bad. Obviously you could buy a lot cheaper here but the road is bad. You would have elec and water. Water is cheap here but elec is high. We collected a lot of plants for Yavi. We looked for MOT-MOT where they had seen them but with no success. We got back to town and had Peruvian food. I had sea bass with shrimp inside. We said goodbye to Louis and Yavi and wished them well on the trip to the US to get the 90 foot boat. Louis and I will work each other on 6 meters. They were wonderful hosts and made our stay in Boquete a 100 times better than if we had done it on our own coming there on the bus. We checked out the buses to David down town and got some pastry at the bakery.
March 2, 2009- Monday
After much debating we are going to stay her until checkout at 12 noon and enjoy the cool climate and I will catch things up on the internet as it is free and a good key board and fast. Edith can read and watch the birds on the patio. We have a good breakfast here. We will take the bus to David and go to the Hotel Castilla after we figure out the bus schedule for Panama City. We will want to get and early start tomorrow as it is 5-7 hours and we have to take a taxi across town and would like to take a tour already on Wednesday. I did confirm the address of the Apartahotel on the internet and we have the phone number and they it is near the Univ. of Panama. Yari has had some conventions there. After getting to David we decide to go on to Panama City and assume we could get into the hotel a day early. It was a 7 hour ride and we got in about 10 pm. There were always mountains on the Atlantic side and since we were always fairly close to the Pacific there were no mountains nearly all the time. Most of the way it was hilly with lots of trees and mostly livestock. We did see a few areas with nice fields, mostly sugar cane and quite large farm equipment and some good sized implement dealers. The road was 4 lane most of the way. It was exciting to go across the Bridge of the America´s and see the Panama Canal. We could see green lights on one side and red on the other and they stretched as far as we could see toward the Atlantic. The Albrook bus station is large and modern. We had no trouble finding a taxi and getting to the hotel. It is always important to settle the price before you get in. At the hotel they were able to get us in a day early. We asked about tours but with no English it was hard. Our understanding was to be down before 9 am. We understood there was no internet. We went to bed very thankful for getting into the hotel.
March 3, 2009-Tuesday
We had our Continental breakfast which was not much, tea, juice and toast. We talked to the desk about tours but we did not get very far. They finally got us a boat canal tour place but they did not have anything until Saturday and finally they said they had to move a boat on Friday. I said we did not want to wait that long but we would see. She said no one gave tours on Thursday but I had read on the internet that there are tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The hotel was not able to help with city tours even though they had a sign saying city tours and it was on there web site. I could not find an internet walking up and down the street and the Lonely Planet guide did not have any numbers. I finally though of using the yellow pages and get a bad number with Greyline tours but found a tiny add for Panama City Tours. The Lord was with us as he spoke English and would come to the hotel and we could have a 5 hour city tour and Meraflores locks tour today and on Thursday we could have an boat partial tour of the canal. He said he would be at the hotel at 12:45 so we went and go something to eat and was waiting in the lobby and he showed up early. His English was fabulous and he was very knowledgeable and funny. We seen the old city, the second city, the new city and the government palace, Chinese and French sections. We got a map at the government map office and then toured the Meraflores locks and visitors center and museum. He was our guide in the museum. It is extremely impressive seeing the big boats going through. We then went to the causeway which protects the Pacific side of the canal entrance. We also seen the canal zone administration buildings, cemeteries and housing for the canal and the train along the canal. Soon there will be a road along the canal. Also they is a big canal expansion. Back at the hotel we went to a pasta place our guide recommended. We were blessed!
March 4, 2009 –Wednesday
I called the place that wanted to give us a Friday tour. They hotel guy was telling them it was OK and I was saying it was not. He finally let me talk to the gal in English and we got it straightened out the we would not be going on Friday as we found a Thursday tour and did not want to wait until Friday. She had said no one gives Thursday tours which was not true and I had told her I had seen Thursday tours on the Internet. Today I did things on the internet, travelogue, and some planning for the trip after we leave here and worked on my Spanish. We may eat on the Causeway.
March 5, 2009-Thursday
We went on the Panama canal trip which I wrote up in the e-mail travelogue.
March 6, 2009-Friday
We got up before 5 am and caught a cab to the bus station and made the 5:30 bus which was really fortunate and got us into David early. We met a fellow from Nashville, TN going to Boquete. He did not know any Spanish and did not know anything about traveling in Panama. Fortunately for him there were some on the bus who spoke English and Spanish who could help him. He did get on the correct bus to Boquete. We got on the Cerro Punta bus which would drop us off at Volcan. Someone lost a package on the way up. Edith noticed two were set off with a lady several stops earlier and she only took the one. We lost the cap on our tire but they kept on going. The bus was horribly crowed and stopped a lot. It was a long, hot trip until we got to the higher elevations and then it cooled off. In Volcan we got off and called Jay HP3AK on the satellite phone and he suggested Dos Rios so we had some trouble stopping a taxi but eventually got one to take us there.
Jay stopped by about 5:30 pm and we went out to eat and then over to his place and looked at his photography and had a great visit.
March 7, 2009-Saturday. Jay and I went with Bill HP3DX to David for a ham gathering and had a good time. I met Louis there and he called and we used his phone to make a plane reservation for Bocas Del Torro. Jay took us to Cerro Punta and we visited a nice house some friends of his lived in. They were very nice. The night we visited Bill HP3DX and his wife. He has a nice hourse and station. We plan on putting up Jay’s Stepper beam in the morning if the weather is ok.
March 8, 2009-Sunday. Jay picked us up and we checked out and got Jays beam up. The wind came up and it was quite a struggle but we got the job done. I went in to print out our e-ticket and checked my e-mail and seen a message from Curt about Grandma. I did not like the looks of that and it was bad news. Mom had passed away about 3 pm in her sleep at the nursing home. I got ahold of Curt on the cell phone and we started working on things with a tentative date of Saturday for the funeral. Jay said he would take us to the airport and Louis suggested via e-mail that we get the Bocas Del Torro ticket changed to Panama City. Jay said he wanted to take us to David which was great. We got to the airport at David and found we could not fly out until tomorrow, Monday afternoon. We decided that was a better way than the bus. Jay to us to the Hotel La Castilla and which we stayed before. We paid a bit more and got two big beds and even a bigger room. It was nice. We went out to the lot and began to try and get the flights booked for going home. It was tough going as there is a long waiting period which does not work will on a satellite phone when you can drop the connection. The satellite phone did well and we got permission from Orbitz to rebook our flight since there was an immediate death in the family. Curt had called and said we needed to call Orbitz. We then tried Continental but the waiting period was to long so we called Curt and he did the calling for us and we were part of a conference call which was awesome and really paid off. It took a long time and just as we were going to make the reservation the call dropped but Curt finished it up which was a life saver. We had to fly to Guatemala City from Panama City and then rebook our original flight home with a total penalty of $300.00. This made for some extra flying but worked out by far the cheapest vs. flying from Panama City to Sioux Falls and dumping the original ticket from Guatemala City. They would not change the departure city from Guatemala City to Panama City. We did some more work on the internet making arrangement.
March 9. 2009-Monday We got some food for the flight and took a taxi to the airport. The flight was late and we got into Panama City late and had about a 45 minute taxi ride but we still had time. We got checked in and in the process found out the Leatherman did not get back in the check in luggage so we lost it. We got into Guatemala City about 9 pm and the Howard Johnson van was there to pick us up which was really nice. We got a 3:30 am wake up call and took the taxi to the airport. We got checked in fine and bought a bunch of food with our extra Guatemala money. We found out that International flights will not allow you to carry on liquids even though they were bought in the secure area so we had to eat more than we wanted. Domestic flights you can if they are bought in the secure area. It would have been nice to have had the cell phone at Houston and we will carry it in the future. We got into Sioux Falls about an hour late and again like going down they lost our luggage but on the return it was no big deal. I put in a claim and Elaine, Edith’s sister took us to her house as it was –7 degrees F real temperature, lots of wind and snow. It worked out fine as she had free long distance and high speed internet so we got a lot of arrangements made.
March 10th 2009-Tuesday Elaine took us to Salem and we continued working on arrangements for my Moms funeral. We got the cell phone hooked up. I found I had to use the cell phone number to get to Verizon to get it hooked up so that is a number to have along.