Wednesday, July 01, 2009


The Boys

In April we had some very special guests - Our BOYS! Plus friends! We had all been planning this for a long time – coordinating our travels and their lives so that everyone could be here for the passage through the Panama Canal. We had to have 4 "line-handlers" plus a captain who drove the boat to go through the canal - so why not have our big strong kids? It’s so hard for them to get time away for work and to scrounge up the extra bucks for travel – but we love it when they do!

So here we all are on the Amador Causeway outside of the anchorage in Panama City with the city in the background. From left to right that’s Jonesy, our oldest son Ryan, me, our younger son Brett, and friends Josh and Stephanie. Those tall buildings in the background are locally known as "Cocaine Towers" - buildings that drug money built and are largely unoccupied. I was told that they launder the cash by borrowing money (clean $) from the banks to build these condos, then pay back the bank with the drug (dirty) cash.

One of the best things about having guests is that it gets us out of our routine. We go see the tourist attractions – not just the inside of boat yards and hardware stores. Everyone wanted to see some jungle wildlife so we hauled ourselves out of our bunks super early the next morning for an adventure. (Everyone except Jonesy – he wanted to do “boat chores” and I gave everyone the choice of jungle trip or boat chores. Which would you choose?)

Our local driver – Federico, took us for the long ride out to a nature observation site on the world famous Pipeline Road. This area, in the interior of Panama, is known for the large number of species of birds. As we were crawling along the dirt road to the facility, we passed quite a few “birders”. Real “birders” – folks who are totally into bird watching. They had all the gear; high powered binoculars, cameras, jungle outfits, made me feel sorta ill-prepared with my entry-level binos and only 2 bird identification books.

Anyway, we paid our fees ($20 per person) and picked up our own personal guide. He led us to the observation tower in the jungle. Great! Where’s the elevator? Oh. Stairs. So we tramped up the winding staircase to the top.

What a view! Our guide had a high-powered scope and he would find the birds or monkeys and then let us all look at them.

We saw toucans, and, um…well…um…yellow birds and blue ones and woodpeckers and beautiful butterflies. I guess I should have had Ryan (our family bird expert) write them all down for me because I’ve forgotten what everything was called. At the visitor center there were literally a hundred hummingbirds! We just hung out on the tower, scanning the tree tops, searching our bird books to identify what we could find and enjoying the view.

Finally, we decided to go down to the jungle floor and walk over to a lake for more bird life. The Panama Canal and Gatun lake were close by. Along the trail we spotted these 4” wide bare strips of earth. What were they? Looking closer we saw that they were ant trails! If you dropped a leaf in the way, the ants would quickly get together and move the leaf to the side, clearing the trail. Fascinating!

Right next to the “La Playita” (free) anchorage in Panama City, there is a Smithsonian Research Institute and a little visitor center ($2). We wandered around the grounds and saw a large number of iguanas in the trees. And – this sloth. He was just creeping along upside down along the arbor trellis. It wasn't a fence to keep him (her?) in at all - he's just wild and free. So, now I know…they are 3-toed sloths!

Next blog will be about the Panama Canal transit!

Everything's sweeter when the kids are along!!!
Nice to see you & Jonsey and your boys and that you are getting ready to cross over.
Miss you, Michelle & Terry
All that work raising three boys is finally going to pay off big time! Won't it be fun going through the canal with them, a historic family moment. Buena suerte! May it all go smoothly.
Beautiful family picture. So glad everyone could adjust their schedules for an exciting trip.
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