Saturday, January 30, 2010

Portobelo and a quick hop in Panama City

Before heading toward Colon, where the Panama Canal starts, we decided to stop a few days in the small town of Portobelo, which was once the bigger port of the area where transited all the gold from Peru in departure for Spain. The choice for this port by the Spanish is quite obvious once you get there. The large bay is easy to access and extremely well protected against the wind and the waves. But this is not the gold that brought us here but the proximity with Colon and we were hoping to be able to get more firsthand information about the procedure to cross the canal. The information we got was not very good as the only marina in the canal vicinity is completely booked for the next two weeks and we were hoping to stop there to make the arrangements for the crossing.

But Portobelo itself offers many things to the visitors. A few groceries for sure but also an internet cafĂ© with very good speed. I managed to get some gasoline at Papito’s, which is basically the house of a guy who sells some gasoline. You show up there with your jerry can and he gets inside and comes back with a bunch of 1 gallon water plastic bottles recycled for the occasion into gasoline containers! Nevertheless, the gasoline looked and smelt OK to me.

One of the few attractions in Portobelo is to visit the fort on the north side of the bay just a few hundred meters from where we anchored the boat. The battery posted here was to protect the bay probably against the possible pirates who were roaming the area for some time. Another battery was posted just beside the harbor as a second line of defense. Here you can see Chocobo anchored in the bay of Portobelo. This is the smaller of the two catamarans on the picture and the one closer to the shore. When we started our trip we thought we had a big boat but this was before reaching the south of the Caribbean Sea where our tiny 40 footer is probably the smallest boat you can find in the area!

This is a weird beast we encountered in one of the vigils of the fort. If anyone knows what this is please send us an email to let us know.

Since we were kind of delayed in Portobelo and had to wait for the canal we decided to take our backpacks and go for a few days in Panama City where there was a few places we wanted to go to buy different kind of parts and other items. Panama City is a large city with more than 2 millions inhabitant (the exact figure is hard to get) with large buildings and some dilapidated areas where even the bravest of us all wouldn’t dare setting a foot. But many other areas are just fine at least by the Central American standards. This is also the “other” end of the Panama Canal where we are going to stop once our transit is complete. At the end we were able to do everything we needed to do in two days and stayed only one night before taking the three hour bus ride back to Portobelo. Two days later we went back to bring our SSB radio to an ICOM repair shop but came back the same day.