2011 - Panama

Aboard MV Discovery
8th – 10th March inclusive


Tuesday 8th March

Our first experience of re-visiting Panama was dropping anchor some little way off Flamenco Island – a something and nothing place with obligatory shops.  We took the tender and wandered around the port area but declined to take a taxi into Panama proper since we had been there before.

Jill bought a couple of necklaces for herself and Keren – Keri to choose first which colour she would like.

We took just a few photographs and then returned to the ship.

Brian and Ann went on an Eco Tour in the Lake Gatun vicinity and saw a sloth and some monkeys.  They just made it back in time for the evening meal.

After Dinner we went to the Discovery Theatre to see the singers and dancers performing songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s – it was extremely energetic and well received.  We then did the 10.00 p.m. Quiz but it was certainly not our best performance and we were nowhere near winning.


Wednesday 9th March

We got up at around 5.30 a.m. so that we would be up on deck in good time to begin the passage through the Panama Canal and to sail under the Bridge of the Americas.

We picked up an American lady who lives locally and she gave an ongoing commentary throughout our journey along the canal.

We had been given the web address of the site where the Canal Webcams give live pictures of passing traffic and we posted this on Facebook but nobody actually spotted us.  One or two people texted their families who managed to see them waving but it did not seem worth the expense or effort.

A few highlights were the crocodiles on the bank of the canal and the very friendly driver of one of the engines that pulled us through one of the locks – he wanted his photograph taken and duly posed over and over!

We were due to complete our passage at 6.00 p.m. but in fact made it through a lot earlier than this – it will certainly be a lasting memory and we have learned a lot about the canal and its construction as well.

In the evening we had booked to go to the Yacht Club with Brian and Ann.  Unfortunately the sea became very rough and choppy and several people felt quite ill.  Brian in particular was feeling very dizzy and unwell – he was tired too having got up so early.  In the event he only manage to stay for the first course of the Italian Menu before Ann escorted him down in the lift to their cabin.  She returned to finish the meal with us but we all three then went straight to bed as it had been a long and tiring day.


Thursday 10th March

We dropped anchor within sight of El Porvenir Island – one of the San Blas Islands.  Our first encounter with the local Indian people was at breakfast when a canoe carrying two men and two children was paddled right up to Discovery.  This was the first of many canoes  - we were never quite sure why they had gone to so much effort to come near our ship.  Certainly they’d come a distance and had to keep baling water out of their very primitive dug-out craft.  One suggestion was that they were offering trips to the island where they lived – but it would take a brave or foolish person to take them up on this.  Alternatively perhaps they hoped they would be given some money – we just weren’t sure.  There were five or six of them around the tender when we left Discovery at around 10.00 a.m. and they were still there when we returned.

We went ashore with Julian and Vera and wandered round the many colourful stalls where the matriarchal society representatives were selling all sorts of appliqué work.  Some of the women were smoking distinctive pipes and all of them wore unusual leg coverings and arm coverings too, in some instances.  Very few of them smiled at us and they seem to have acquired the worse consequences of tourism merely seeing us as sources of income rather than as people in our own right.  Near their hut-like dwelling there was a parrot in a tree and again we were asked for a dollar to take its photograph – I felt this was a bit much and took the photo anyway!

The island’s tiny control tower and airstrip were adjacent to the market stalls and there was nothing at all to prevent people from walking down the runway!  At intervals a small plane landed or took off causing quite a stir.

We had bought nothing and it looked as though it might stay that way – however just as we were thinking of leaving, we spotted some very unusual “feather paintings”.  One stall in particular displayed the work of Nathaniel and we were taken especially by a framed feather with a painting of his aunt.  He was asking $30 for it but when we prevaricated, he reduced this to $25 and we decided that it was so unusual that we would purchase it. 

At any given opportunity the local people demanded a dollar for taking their photographs and even when I had bought a pot holder for $5 the vendor insisted she be paid another dollar for a photo when I asked if I could take one – she was unlucky.  Nathaniel, however, was the exception and he was happy to allow me to photograph him holding his artistic creation.

We took the tender back to Discovery – arriving shortly after midday and therefore just in time for an early lunch.

After this, Jill edited all the Panamanian photographs whilst Adrian read on Deck 7.