At this point in the trip (the beginning) the Christmas decorations were still acceptable. Later on—say, around January 4—the remaining decorations seemed a little outdated, as it were. This scene (where are the camels?!) was at the Plaza de Francia in the Casco Viejo neighborhood of the city.
Dangling above the manger (see tufts, lower right), a camouflage-legged gentleman demonstrates the finer points of squeegeeing-whilst-holding-oneself-aloft in an unnecessarily dangerous display of window-washing prowess.
A slew of canal-bound vessels await the morning rush hour. Evidentally, the big boats go first in the morning. (I'd tell you more, but Sarah and I arrived in the second shift, after the canal trip. We could have gone, but then you wouldn't be looking at this nifty picture!)
The burgeoning metropolis of Panama City. It's hard to tell from this distance, but about half of the buildings are still capped with construction cranes. Billboards and cab drivers alike urge you to "Invest in Panama real estate!"
There was a pretty dramatic tidal difference. We happened to be walking around at low tide when Andre spotted this coralized (?) tree trunk washed up amongst the tide pools skirting Casco Viejo.
Thanks to this dude, and Tim's fondness for song, Andre had "Feliz Navidad" stuck in his head for four goddamn days. Fucker. He was pretty damn good though...
Casco Viejo is quickly becoming gentrified and as such has many juxtapositions of refurbished and decrepit buildings. It was a treasure trove for Andre's rust- and corrugated-iron-seeking photographic cravings!
More rundown-ness of Casco Viejo.
A bustling scene of con- and de-structrion. (I was clearly spotted.)
The whole neighborhood is reminiscent of New Orleans what with the abundance of porches and all. (The plant doesn't have anything to do with that... I just thought it was neato.)
No shame. (And no manners neither.)
There is no greater testament to the impact of the current generation than the disposable plastic cup. Centered in the frame, the sight of a plastic cup in one of its many natural environments (here on the steps of a cathedral) conjures up many provocative images. (Cups have been spotted stateside as well: click!)
The cathedral had these beautiful old wooden statues. Not the best choice of material, perhaps, but the weathered effect of aging is fantastic!
Sneaky candle shot inside the cathedral.
Jeremy had already been here. Here he is, pewing it up instead of feigning interest.
I don't know how long it takes air-dry a pair of jeans in Panama given the heavy humidity, but I know that sometimes even an hour on high isn't enough for mine. (Damp crotch-seams are the worst!)
Not a city for the casually-minded pedestrian, Panama boasts a great number these crippling sidewalk caverns which frequently appear without warning. The roads aren't great either. (Out of the cabs I was in, 80% had cracked windshields.)
A diablo rojo (a municipal bus) enthusiastically approved of by Ronaldinho. These roaring, Warriors-esque monsters were flying around every city street. Apparently they only cost a quarter, but none of us had the guts to jump on one and find out where they go. Every one of them is hand-painted with a weird mishmash of nonsense (Quick Draw McGraw, Snidely Whiplash, and a Brazilian soccer legend with dragons and a rural watermill?!). We also saw the Stone Cold Steve Austin and Harry Potter buses.
Outside of Casco Viejo there were a lot of little markets crammed into shady alleys. We saw one with toilets, boat propellers, and t-shirts on the way in, but walking back all we could find were pineapples, cucumbers and tomatoes (oh my!).
This was an over-the-window-sill shot of an indoor market. Who knows what they sold or how to get in?! (Not me.)
A local Panamanian casually walks past skulking white giant. (Note the Mel Gibson-themed bus in the background.)
In the main marketplace (Plaza Cinco de Mayo), this dude kept a vigilant ladder-top watch over his wares.
The city gets grimy pretty quickly when one strays from the main drags. Soon after this shot Andre and Sarah—obviously tourists—were warned to turn around if they didn't speak Spanish. (Forget all those beers. Cerveza Panama is where it's at.)
Ginger roots nestled amongst a bunch of weird red things for sale.
From atop the roof our Lonely-Planet-recommended hotel, a better shot of downtown Panama City.
And in case you didn't believe it was a hotel...
Diablo rojo from above. We later learned that the decals obstructing all but a sliver of the maniacal drivers' vision indicated the bus's probable destination.
Directions for using the "explorer of Internet." Let this one cycle through all three slides to enjoy the full extent of my unfair and pretentious amusement with poor translations.
Absorbed in his book, Tim is apparently unaware of something horrible and disgusting.
The view out of the Albrook "Marcos A. Gelabert" International Airport cafeteria. Despite the collected grease, the food was quite tasty!
A Panamax! As Tim would have you know, these suckers are the largest vessels capable of passing through the canal locks (with a mere 24 inches of clearance to either side!).
The rickety-ass plane that took us to Bocas del Toro. Not pictured: the children, dogs, and soccer field that formed part of the runway.
Couldn't figure this one exactly, but apparently people without small daggers in their feet are more than welcome to put their feet anywhere they choose.
A psyched-but-blurry Sarah digs her room in the beautiful Hotel La Coralina...
...which had a vertical shower head.
One of the hotel's many delightful hammocks. It was, unfortunately, a little soggy during the rainy rainy season.
And just above that hammock, Andre spied a barreling Caribbean point break.
Irresistible rain-sprinkled flower.
Gringa, one of three fantastic dogs living at the hotel. It was a rare occurrence to go for a walk unaccompanied by 1-3 happy pooches.
Unaware of what he would find around the next corner, Andre snapped shot of some roadside garbage. And then...
The dump! This was the landfill for the whole island. In this picture, the garbage level is a little low, owing to the bridge having been washed out for several days. Once back in place, there was a constant stream of precariously laden trucks. And then they set the dump on fire.
A closer, garbage-flanked view of the pitching barrel from several pictures ago. The spot was called "Dumpers." We had thought it was named for the heavy lip being thrown down onto the reef. Turns out, that was not the case...
Another hollow peak just north of Dumpers.
Sarah was complaining that she wasn't in enough of the pictures.
I only just figured out that this was a breadfruit. Had I known at the time, I probably would have buttered that shit up!
Despite the fact that Balboa apparently grows on trees, Cerveza Panama is still the best.
Christmas tree (a least color-wise) next to the road.
Playa Paunch. The break that would soon snap Andre's first borrowed board. There was a consistent head-high swell the entire week.
Holy shit. I'm submitting this little monkey with little girl to cuteoverload.com. Edgar the monkey, a free-range resident of the hotel, was definitely one of the trip highlights.
Lola the dog, in an uncharacteristically calm and reflective mood.
Fence posts left alone long enough, I've heard, will eventually turn back into trees.
One of many parades of leafcutter ants that we came across. According to Lynne these little dudes bring their leaf chunks back to their hill, let them rot, and then eat them. For some reason, they insist on traveling great distances to obtain said chunks. (Why not just put the hill closer to the tree?)
There are so damn many of these ants that they actually end up wearing a visible path in the jungle floor. You can see a yellow trail of them going down the center of the photograph.
To get to Bluff Beach, we had to wade through some tadpole-filled brackish pools. Stacey, the owner of the hotel, said the pools are nice to bath in, but personally I didn't want any of these critters squirming around where the sun don't shine. (The big one's got legs!)
The third and oldest of the dog posse: Sugar (Azucar?).
Lynne spotted this ominous cloud above the trees at bluff beach. (Andre's 50mm prime lens couldn't get the whole thing in one frame, but that didn't stop him.)
Ridiculously lush point at the southern end of Bluff Beach. (See if you can spot the rainbow!)
There was a lot of beach front real estate for sale. Cheap, but not too cheap.
As if Andre wasn't feeling bad enough about the borrowed board he snapped earlier that day, the road-side garbage provided a friendly reminder.
Well-fed buzzards relaxing after a long day at the dump.
The snapped board. (I got caught inside on a big cleanup set. Despite assurances that it happens all the time, I still felt like a big putz. It was a pretty heavy wave though...)
Each room came with at least one personal mosquito-eating gecko.
The little binoculars make Cranium's cranium look even bigger!
Ready for a bunch of outrageous monkey pictures?
Lynne succumbing to Edgar's flagrant abuse of his adorableness.
Jeremy and Edgar each offering to pick the other one up.
Edgar keeping Sarah under control.
Lousy little monkey took (and promptly tried to eat) my lens cap.
Presumably to encourage the nightly onslaught of malarial mosquitoes, large decoy insects were mounted in various places around the outdoor restaurant.
There were a lot of these on the road into town. Andre discovered that the best way to avoid losing a flip flop was to plow right through the center, thus avoiding the sandal-sucking mud on either side.
A sliver of no-trespassing land between the road and the sea.
Sarah wasn't at all scared by this citrus-y roadside snake...
These monkeys, on the other hand, were a different story. When Andre and Sarah first walked past them, Andre was convinced that there was some manner of hog pen in the jungle. This frightened Sarah, who had had firsthand experience with wild boar. Only as they passed it a second time did they spot the big primates in the trees. See if you can spot all three! (They're all named Waldo.)
Evidence of leaf cutter ants? Perhaps. If so, they're neat (though a little wasteful and not symmetrically-minded) little buggers!
Amidst the New Year's celebrations at La Coralina, a giant green insect found its way inside. (Rumor had it that if you poked it, you could see it's bright orange wings but risked a six inch bug flying into your face.)
Irresistibly photogenic gecko on a light.
Just before ten o'clock, a moderately sauced woman came around and insisted that we needed New Year's hats. (She was intent on celebrating Rio de Janeiro New Years, so she could get to bed two hours earlier.) Here, sick and about to crash, Andre and Sarah show off their head gear.
At first I thought there was another giant insect flying around inside. Closer inspection, however, revealed an adorable (baby?) hummingbird.
Inappropriate bug activities on the lamp above Chelsea's favorite table.
A couple of local dudes, one of whose glasses don't seem very effective.
The main town on Isla Colon was awesome! Very laid back and you could pretty much speak whatever language you wanted. The houses are simple and everyone seems to hang out on their front porches. It made Andre and Sarah jealous for that kind of community.
Jeremy, the only of the team who had the physical capacity for a proper NYE, stopped at this party. He told us of a man whose chest was so hairy, he simply shaved a tie out of it. Gross. (This was confirmed when Andre rented a surfboard from the same guy the next day. He was tickled when he heard about what a celebrity he'd become.)
The cheapest (and admittedly the only) Cristal I'd ever had. (Diddy ought to find a supplier in Panama!)
This beer on the roof is half empty. (Visible in the background is the charming rooftop deck where a romantic dinner for two awaited any hostel guest brave enough to drink 100 beers during their stay.)
Typical Bocas dwelling. Low maintenance and colorful (especially the clothespins).
The interstate-sign-esque label seems to encourage drinking and driving.
Satellite dishes above one of the town's main youth hostels.
More festive than creepy, Andre and Sarah found this neat graveyard on the island of Bastimentos (the Bastifreshmaker?). Most of the graves were above ground in these tile-covered tombs.
...and dog. The dog is resting in one of the area's unique longboats. I think the way this boat is decaying and becoming more jungle-like is really interesting. (Functioning boats to the right...)
Functioning boats. Dugouts?
This pedestrians-only causeway was the main road through the town on Bastimentos (and, coincidentally, the driest road Sarah and Andre saw on the whole trip).
A couple of Bastimentos boards.
A couple of days later, in this exact spot, we saw a person in a dragon/devil costume whipping little kids. The kids would try to sneak up behind the diablo and would run away screaming when he jumped around and started whipping their legs. The kids had sticks to protect themselves, but also seemed pretty psyched to show off their welts to one another.
Fossilized dog-prints in a sidewalk on Bastimentos.
A lot of the houses are built above the water on Bastimentos. Pretty sweet (although I'm pretty sure the toilet in the restaurant where we had lunch flushed directly into the same water).
Chelsea, in a characteristic pose.
In an attempt to convince himself that he was feeling better, Andre wandered around the hotel grounds take pictures of (you guessed it): plants.
The mega spider and her mate, just outside of Lynne and Tim's bedroom.
The highlight of the trip for Sarah was the uninhabited (though tourist-loaded) Zapatilla Cays. Tim was upset by the park rangers who came around to collect fees. Everyone else was upset by Tim's speedo.
I can't figure out how a coconut could have lodged itself onto one of those rocks long enough to sprout into a tree.
Further down the beach from the shark, was a large pile of human skulls. The Zapatilla Cays were turning out to be pretty treacherous indeed!
Remembering a traumatic experience from his youth when he and his brother spent an entire day trying to open up a coconut without success, Andre ventures to give it another go. Using the end of this log and his keys, he attacked the thick, fibrous husk with wild abandon and...
Got the coconut out! From here it was an easy poke with the keys to get the coconut milk out. And everyone partook of the sweet refreshments. And there was much rejoicing!
Big old crazy tree back in Bocas Town.
We had heard about a fantastic pizza place in town called Alberto's. We were told that there was a sign on the main road that had directions for how to find the place. This is that sign. (Jeremy, Sarah, and Andre did manage to find the place. And yes... the pizza was fantastic.)
No shirt, no shoes, no problem!
I still have no idea what these waxy little fruites are.
Two seconds earlier, this cat's head was totally thrown backwards over the chair.
Here's a whole bunch of little fishes and some garbage!
Evidence of NYE festivities.
Good advice. Bad spelling.
And if you thought that the crazy old tree from several pictures back wasn't crazy enough, there was a hanger in it too!
The lovely Chelsea posing for a picture.
Portrait of the Artist in His Father's Sunglasses
These guys are giving Tierney and Tierney a real run for their money in the inappropriate apostrophe department.
Chelsea: "Oh how cute! They all washed their pants on the same day!"
Cheap-as-shit, comfortable and fast-drying. The original: Jumbo flip flops.
After snapping one of the hotel's boards, Andre thought it would be best to rent one from somewhere else. Unfortunately, that ended up in this tiny (5'11") P.O.S. Nifty design though! It probably could have been an early 1990s Olympics logo.
Jeremy, looking "scary and German" in front of the hotel's Pinzgauer.
And the Pinzgauer in all it's glory! This thing had a hand-operated accelerator and scared the shit out of all of us every time it backfired. It was, however, the most stylish ride into town we could imagine. A local native agreed and jumped in the back with us when we slowed down for a puddle.
Though it smelled delightful, the airport Christmas tree had several out-of-tune carol-playing ornaments.
Packed and ready to go, Chelsea pointed out the matching color scheme of all our luggage.