Escuela Buena Esperanza (Good Hope School) Bocas del Toro, Panama is very grateful for the supplies that the Rotary e Club Canada One Peace Initiative recently donated.
The school of 3 rooms is in a village of about 200 people. There are no roads, electricity or internet. Access is by boat only – mostly dug-out canoes which are hand paddled.
The government does send some pens and paper, but the Rotary donation of teaching aids and additional supplies was greatly appreciated.
Classes stop at grade six and very few children are able to travel to the next grades. The middle school is 1 hour by boat and fuel is expensive.
Neighbouring expats are hoping to raise the $1,500/year it would take to operate a boat for students.
Shopping for the supplies involved a boat ride to town to the one and only store that had school supplies. It was like a very basic dollar store and what they offered was limited. The staff were helpful and the proprietor generously contributed two packages of paper.
Our shopping was very well received and will go a long ways to help Roberto teach his students.
The kids love to sing and they proudly sang the Panamanian National Anthem for us.
Lots of smiling faces.
Thank You Rotary e Club Canada One, and all those who helped make it work :
Johanne, Roberto(the teacher), President Lynne and Nishchint Bajaj
I am coming to a point where I must say goodbye to an old friend and emotions are welling up.
It is a pair of friends actually, they are my trusty and often dusty TEVA – Omniums sports sandals.
They have served me so well and we have shared some amazing adventures.
Teva, the creators of my sandals, claim it is the Atomic Footbed, 20mm of Hi-tech composite that makes them so damn wonderful. But I know that it is much more than that; when you have shared so much together it becomes personal.
Together we have scampered up the mountain trail to the old logger’s cabin at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet in BC. The trip down was particularly tricky and my trusty friends held fast, through mud and over sharp rocks.
Much of their souls were left on the deck of another beloved friend, the sailing yacht Swan. Fiberglass non-skid decking of a sail boat is coarse and unkind to ordinary footwear. My Omniums were not ordinary footwear! They bravely held their place when the weather soured, keeping me forever safe and on board when seawater swashed over the decks and angles were a challenge.
Together we have ventured to some wonderful locations from the extreme to the sublime. I reminisce of the times I sported my sandals through the plush mossy highlands of Otovalo, Ecuador, or the rugged off-road trails of Omepete Island, Nicaragua.
Recently, a bath of sweat and salt water has rendered my dear friends rather odious. Stinky in fact, to the point of being rather offensive. Fear not, with a bucket of warm water and a generous dose of Central American All Purpose cleaner, it is mountain freshness once again. I can only hope that when the day arrives that I become this offensive, there will be friends near and dear that will know the proper remedy.
So when the time comes and the last mile is shared, what will be the fitting final resting for my tired companions?
A burial at sea? Tacked to a tree?
To be unceremoniously tossed onto a landfill somewhere seems so heartless and empty.
Omniums you have served me so well; I will sadly shuffle off to the mall, longing to discover a new pair of loyal friends.
Gazing out over what remains of a once great civilization, so many questions arise.
Pyramid of the Soothsayer
Many of the answers remain a mystery today particularly what transpired to cause such a rapid and dramatic decline to this once powerful civilization?
Founded around 700 AD the Mayan center of Uxmal was the home of approx. 25,000 people. It is said to be the most majestic of all the Mayan cities. There is much Mayan mythology about the city once being ruled by Dwarfs.
I found it interesting that this center was built where there was no cenote for water as is the case with other site.
Getting up is the easy part.
We were extremely impressed at how well preserved and presented this UNESCO location is and our 3 hour walk about was very enlightening.
Johanne and I have learned from experience that travelling light makes a adventure much easier to enjoy so we wanted to share some of the tips we have learned along the way. Based on what we see other people hauling around we are usually among the lighter travellers.
Luggage verses Backpack. This is easy, if you are going by airport shuttle to the all-inclusive your big luggage with the wheels will serve you well. If however you plan on touring cities and towns your wheels that rolled so smooth at the airport will leave you stranded at the curb.
Our backpack of choice is the Supercontinental from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Mine is the 65 liter model and Johanne’s is the 45 liter. Besides being a very comfortable backpack, the straps can be tucked away making it a very respectable carry case that will not get caught in the airport carousel.
The 45 liter version is actually regulation carry on and the 65 liter comes with a small day pack which we find very handy for tootling around.
2. Clothes. We are very selective about what we are prepared to carry and less is always more. Quick dry is a must and we look for quality well wearing tops and shorts. A small vest and a good quality compact rain jacket come along just in case. To get the most out of the limited space, roll your clothes up and use rubber bands. We wear a pair of long pants and a long sleeve shirt on the plane. “Remember to be respectful of local customs, in many countries you are judged by how you dress, so tidy up as best you can”.
Don’t forget to coordinate (OK I confess here, since retiring my eye for fashion has become slightly murky).
3. Foot Wear. Forget the heals, comfort and quality are the keys. Look for lightweight, comfortable walking shoes that dress up fine plus a pair of sport sandals (Doug loves his Tivas, as the are closed toed, water-resistant and durable). A cheap pair of crocs can be very versatile for beach and everyday use. If you have more than one pair on your feet and two in your pack, time to rethink.
4. Valuables. We love our thief proof fanny pack from PACSAFE. We also bought a wire combination lock and use it to secure the fanny pack to something solid in our hotel room. This really puts us at ease.
Mom always said “keep a little extra money tucked in your shoes”, and once again mom was right!
We do spread our cards and cash around so all would be not lost with one quick snatch. We also carry in my pocket a small change purse with our day money in it. We affectionately refer to it as our “mug money” .
The main page of our passports have been photocopied and laminated for carrying during the day and the passports stay locked up at the hotel. A money belt is also highly recommended, leave the purse at home.
5. Toiletries. We love these mesh bags inexpensive and very functional. Johannes is much bigger than mine! There stuff in there that I would not know how to use.
6. The Little Things
Clothes pins and a piece of line
Pocket size camera, we love our little Sony, it is quick, easy and most importantly inconspicuous
An e reader or tablet, leave the laptop at home, life goes on (trust me)
First aid kit with scissors, nail clippers, etc.
Please take a refillable water bottle, with backpack clip. There is already far too much plastic being thrown away
A collection of zap straps, you just never know
Shopping bags that fold into a ball, again too much plastic garbage!
Assorted ziploc bags for bar soap and things that may leak
Small LED flashlights
Our one luxury is our Scrabble board and a deck of cards
If we missed something please let us know, so that we can add it to our list.
Typically Johanne and I are just off the beaten path, so you will not find any all inclusive in our list of places to stay. We are happy when we find quiet, clean, safe and convenient. We appreciate the friendly, warm and helpful hosts and have had wonderful experiences at the following places:
P.S. We draw the line at a shared bath.
Rates Between $25 and $65
Little Corn Island- Casa Iguana: Amazing Location, good value and a very nice place for breakfast with Azul view. Our little casita hung right on the cliff and we slept to the sounds of the Caribbean surf.
Corn Island-Paraiso: Very relaxing property operated by young caring Dutch family. We enjoyed our time here very much. Just off the beach.
Leon-Hostel Mariposa: A delightful retreat from the bustle that is Leon. Short cab ride to town. A lovely French couple recently bought this place and are doing a great job of providing an enjoyable experience. The French cooking is a bonus.
La Boquita – MYRINaMAR B&B: right on the cliff with a spectacular sunset Pacific view sits this lovely retreat. Owned by two wonderful women who know about hospitality. We had the great fortune of celebrating New Years Eve 2015 there and were treated royally. Just 20 minutes from Diriamba on a very good road.
Granada-Casa San Fransico: Walk to everything in town, very peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy the mini pool, a yummy breakfast and check out the city view from the roof top terrace. The attached restaurant has great tapas. The owners Terry and her sister Nancy are very kind and helpful. Feels like coming home!
Laguna De Apoyo- Laguna Beach Resort: very nice well maintained property with small lake front access. Water toys included and the lake is so soothing. We spent hours playing in the soothing water.
San Juan Del Sur – Park Avenue Villa, the pool was essential in this hot town. The rooms are clean and the hospitality comes with a smile. A few blocks to the beach and town. We enjoyed the happy hour views from the breezy terrace.
Playa Hermosa –Playa Hermosa Eco Lodge is an easy surfer shuttle from SJDS, a very special place to enjoy the stellar beach. We stayed here three nights and loved it. (no other place to eat, but the food was fine). Muy tranquilo!
Popoyo -Hotel Popoyo: what luxury, we greatly appreciated the pool and the property. Good value. Wonderful poolside restaurant and comfie beds.
Managua- Hostal Monte Christi: this is where we start when arriving after a long flight, airport picks arranged. “Hola” to Calvin and Molly very gracious hosts. See also: ( A Helpful Connection in Managua).
Ometepe Island-Hacienda Merida: A bit out of the way down a dusty road but this is a surprise well worth the journey. Kind caring people, great meals and good value. (see also Escuela Billingue de Ometepe).
Ometepe , Moyogalapa – Hospedaje Soma
Here is a very nice little resort about a fifteen minute walk from the the ferry dock. It is run by a flock of Canadians and is quiet, clean and very friendly. Check them out on trip adviser (always outstanding reviews).
Johanne and I know for a fact that we are beach people. Being Card Carrying Aquarians we need regular douses of sun and surf. A day ocean side is very well spent playing in and out of the water like kids on summer break.
Here are a few of our favourite spots:
Isla Juan Venado
If you are looking for deserted that “NO OTHER FOOT PRINTS” experience, then here is how it find it.
Make your way to Las Penitas south of Poneloya and rent a kayaka. Paddle across the mouth of the laguna and come ashore at Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the vastness and undisturbed beauty. (pack a lunch because you may not want to leave).
The Corn Islands
The Corn Islands are a special place and well worth the effort to get here. Think small Caribbean Beaches with beautiful colours and warm soothing waters.
Take the surfer shuttle from San Juan Del Sur, Hermosa is about 20 minutes South. We found this to be a place worth staying a few days.
Ecuador has some of the most breathtakingly magnificent beaches we have ever seen anywhere. Of course only if you are into endless miles of uninterrupted sand with the Pacific Ocean doing it’s thing and offering a joyful playground.
Nude Beach – Somewhere North of Montanita
We would love to hear about your favourite beaches, drop us a line.
The day before yesterday arrived completely becalmed here on the rim, the air was still and the sun spilled champagne into the distant haze.
Another spectacular day was unfolding but this one somehow felt different. By the time coffee was finished, the temperature was headed for 30 degrees and beyond, wind velocity was ZERO. The days are usually so comfortable here 2,000 ft. above the lake because of the reliable breeze that fills in and cools the skin. There would be no breeze today so hammock yoga became the order of the day.
To achieve bliss through hammock yoga a practitioner needs only a well slung hammock, a great view, a good book and a tall, cool mango smoothie. It is time very well invested indeed.
We survived the steamy windless day intact to be entertained by the nightly electrical storms erupting across the sky.
Yesterday morning openned with the same pattern but we had a plan. We packed a day bag and made our way down to Paradiso. (Paradiso or paradise is a small backpacker resort with a private beach and restaurant right on the lake) .
We wound our way through their tropical garden and established ourselves in comfy chairs just footsteps from water’s edge. Within seconds we were soothing in the glorious laguna. The shore of the lake is ringed with soft and inviting sand yet within 12 steps it drops off into the aqua abyss. Imagine yourself free floating in space with a clear blue sky immersed in crystal jade water.
Floating in the laguna is one of our favourite past times and in one day we can easily pass many hours in the water just relaxing and soaking it up.
As the afternoon sun found its way across the crater we slowly pulled ourselves away from paradise, “maybe there will be wind up on top”? I exclaimed. We dried off and made our way home.
A beautiful dinner was prepared and the dishes done, a sudden gust forms “maybe there will be wind”?
We had just enough time to get the bathing suits of the line when the banana trees began bending in the storm. Tropical storms here are regular occurrence but this was exceptional. An eerie cloud engulfed the crater and we were now in its midst, the temperature dropped like a rock. Lightening back lit the scene as the winds hollowed and dogs huddled nearby.
I had never seen lightening that fractures and branches off hitting the earth in a dozen places at once. Massive bolts can even travel sideways across the night crashing into each other. Pure sci fi.
Next the thunder came tumbling up. It seemed to travel coast to coast from the Atlantic, over the jungle all the way to the Pacific , the spectacle was now complete and things slowly began to calm down.
From our comfy bed we could hear the gentle rains as we drifted in the cool soothing breeze.
There is stillness in the crater this morning so the hammocks are slung just in case.
This is a rather noisy place, full of rich sounds that are the inspiration for the latest record album of my imagination. Lay back close your eyes and we will give it a spin on the old turntable:
Nicaragua – The Soundtrack
The Local Bus – Several times a day it trumpets its arrival and departure with much fanfare and commotion. Only a rookie would miss the bus to town, just listen up and you will know when it is about to depart. Hop on and grab a seat if you can.
Canines- Five dogs reside on this property and their audio contribution only adds modestly to the overall neigbourbood canine chaos that can erupt at any time.
Mangos on Metal Roof- The Timpani arbitrarily booms whenever there is a gust of wind. Soon the mangoes will be ripe and will go directly to the breakfast smoothie.
The Beloved Wind- Whispering through the bamboo and tall grass it announces the arrival of soothing relief from the heat of the day.
Exotic Birds- An intricate harmony that adds layers rich colours and texture to the song.
Frogs in Pila*- This is almost impossible to define, try to imagine techno ducks from Mars in an echo chamber. They preform daily between 5 and 11 PM in the rainy season. *Pila a large concrete structure where rain water is collected for your shower.
The Magnificent Monkeys –From the volume of their deep guttural barks one would expect to see gargantuan apes hovering in the trees. Their mating calls echo around the crater randomly throughout the day frightening tourist and children alike. (When finally sighted they are not much bigger than a mature Canadian squirrel).
Mother and Baby
Cicadas and other Bugs- A cacophony of crackles, chirps and whistles that joyfully fill the spaces in between. It makes you contemplate what is really out there under that cover.
Rolling Thunder Review– Off in the distance you can hear the rumble as they barrel roll up through the countryside to rattle your eardrums and shake your foundation. WHO fans insert: “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
Silence- Those welcomed moments of eerie stillness that are interrupted only by the subtle swaying of retirement hammock.
I hope that you have enjoyed this musical adventure in Nicaragua.