Friday, September 2, 2011

Panama to the Darien Forest....

We left Panama on beautiful sunny Monday 23rd June 2011 and sailed towards the Las Perlas Islands. The wind was not very strong and so after a few hours of sailing we had to switch the engine on to get us to an anchorage by sundown. Using the engine was something we wanted to avoid because after our visit to the rain forest we'd be leaving for our long Puddle jump of nearly 4000 nautical miles, with only the Galapagos as an option for refueling. We'd decided to give the Galapagos a miss because it would be far too expensive to stop there. We'd heard rumours that it would cost $150 for an agent, plus $100 per person, plus $50 for the boat per day...all that just to be able to refuel was just too much. Of course these costs would then allow us to stay in that anchorage for 21 days..if we wanted to see anything of the other islands we'd have to pay for a tour...we thought NOT.
Onions...we are loaded up and we go!
So anyway I digress, en route David managed to break the Titan winch handle....:-), man doesn't know his own strength....finally though, we eventually dropped our anchor in a lovely spot on an Island called Moga Moga. David lit up our charcoal braai and cooked us some chicken breasts, pork chops and whole onions. I'd been marinading these in different marinades. The idea was that we'd eat some of it now and some tomorrow and some the next day. We would be sailing again early tomorrow to get down to Espirito Santo Island where we were going to spend some time cleaning the barnacles off the bottom of the boat. David wanted to make sure that the intakes for the engines were clear of critters. So we knew we wouldn't have a lot of time for cooking.
Anchorage in the Las Perlas Islands
The evening is perfect, with calm mirror smooth water, sounds of bird life, the sun going down and wafting aromas of delicious food.... ahhhhhh yeah!

We awoke bright and early on Tuesday, lifted the anchor and set off in a good breeze. Unfortunately the morning breeze didn't stick around and so we ended up motoring the last 12 miles, dropping our anchor at 2pm. We then spent about 2 hours in the water scraping and cleaning the hulls. Fortunately the water temperature was a lot warmer than the last time we were here, but the visibility was still bad. After our shower to get rid of pesky shrimps that cling to your clothing and hair, we sat down to dinner and then enjoyed a Maitai cocktail and watched the sun go down, chatting about the trip tomorrow..the Darien Rainforest....So exciting :-)

Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny and with high expectations and happy hearts we lifted the anchor and sailed east. We decided that the river of choice would be the Sucio. We didn't want to see people. We just wanted to go up a river, drop the anchor and soak up the ambiance.
We sailed all day and arrived at the entrance of the delta....It was massive...miles and miles across and deep. We'd have to anchor behind a little island for the night and continue the next day. Out came the sundowners and I created a stir fry chicken dish out of the pieces that David had cooked on the Braai.

After a leisurely breakfast we set sail for our river of choice....soon the wind died and on went the engine, we motored up a wide calm river with trees that grew tall right from the waters edge. They were the tallest Mangrove trees I'd ever seen. Around every corner I expected to see know tall trees, vines, monkeys, parrots...all the stuff we'd been hearing about from others and reading about in books.....all we got was mangroves, mangroves and more mangroves....we eventually went down a tributary and dropped our anchor. Switching off the engines, we sat and listened to the silence. It was unreal. There wasn't a man made sound to be heard. Fantastic.
Mirror smooth and tranquil.

A panoramic view of our spot.
A close-up of the section to our port side.
As we waited the birds started calling again. We didn't see many birds, but we heard them. We heard the Howler Monkeys and some other type of monkey. We had a moth visit us. It's wings looked just like a dried brown leaf, quite amazing.
The moth..quite lovely :-)
We realised that to actually see the 'rain forest' we'd have to go further up the river, go ashore somewhere and go walking. We didn't have the time..we needed to be crossing the puddle. If we ever come back to Panama, we decided, we'd take a tour up into the mountains above the lake between the two ends of the Canal and we'd take a land tour from the city to the Darien Forest. We certainly weren't experiencing the forest right now. However, this spot that we'd chosen to stop in was wonderful. Peaceful....till the dawn chorus..ha ha what a racket it was just brilliant to hear the area wake up. During the night the cicadas had been giving it stick and David actually woke up out of a dead sleep and was half out of bed before he realised that it was cicadas he was hearing and not the fridge motor trying to run without the cooling water running..ha ha...It rained while we were, really, you say, you are in a rain forest you know...*grin* the heavens just opened up and the rain poured down...the Howler Monkeys groused and complained we smiled and enjoyed the idea of a salt free boat for a change. David said that if it wasn't for the bugs and horse flies ( one bit him) he'd stay a week.... :-)
Wonderful wonderful rain :-D
We could only lift the anchor at about 11am because till then the tide had been coming in at a rate of at least 4 knots. We didn't want to fight it..rather enjoy the morning and then motor out on the ebb tide...whoosh :-) This we did, finally leaving the river and entering the huge bay area. We set sail for the Marquises. Whoo hoo!!!!

Little did we know ...this wasn't going to be a milk run.

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