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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lost Days, Lost Dollars

It took forever to get out of Panama City but here we finally are at Isla Contadora in the Las Perlas islands. It will take us a few days to catch our breath and get back to that cruisin' feeling again after the mind crushing stress of city life. We are so not used to that anymore.

It feels like all we did was wait for buses, take buses, and spend money in between buses. John found boat parts and we did a couple of big shops at the warehouse stores. We got into a rhythm of getting off the boat before 8:30 (when it's easiest to catch a bus out of La Playita) to shop or run errands in one section of the city at a time. We shared taxis back from the big shops but most of the time we tried to bus both ways. By Noon the city buses (old U.S. school buses painted like low riders) are packed and you don't want to have to squeeze through the aisle with your hands full of shopping bags. So we did a little grocery shopping with each of our forays for other things in the city.

Panama City has at least three mega malls and we visited the Albrook mall last week. Very upscale, it was a maze of brand name stores like Nike, Hillfiger, Columbia, etc. But the Columbia store didn't even have a sale rack and $50 shirts have never been in our price range even when we were working. Who shops at these stores here?! We then discovered the El Dorado mall where I bought tank tops for $2 apiece. Most of the cheap clothing sold here is Made in China but it's possible to find some U.S. "seconds" in the local department stores. We even saw O'Neill board shorts for $2, but I know very few adult women who belong in board shorts and besides, Sherrell says they're too hot to wear out of the water!

We managed to track down an alternate laundry place thanks to Sarana's copy of the Lonely Planet. Here's the process: Load laundry bags into dinghy and ride to dinghy dock. Schlep bags up ramp, through parking lot, and out to main Amador road. Wait for and flag down bus (which is sometimes nothing more than an old passenger van). Disembark after 20 minute (.25-.50) ride to Cinco de Mayo Plaza. Walk up Avenida Central to the big Super 99, turn right on Calle 27, and walk about three blocks to Avenida 3 Sur. Lavanderia America is across the street (about a 15 minute walk from the bus stop). They have plenty of washers but only two dryers so doing it yourself can take awhile. Drop off service costs about $3 per load (wash, dry and fold) but this involves a return trip the next day for pickup. So ideally we would drop off the laundry, shop, go home by bus, and return the next day to get the laundry. Oh, and don't forget - daytime temps are in the mid to low 80's and we are wearing "normal" clothing to try to blend in better. John wears jeans and polo shirts and I wear capris with any kind of sleeveless top. We try to avoid wearing nylon shorts in town because none of the locals do. We go through a lot of clothes when we make trips into town!

Now for the fun stuff. We enjoyed a delicious cruiser potluck Christmas dinner at the Balboa Yacht Club. Sarana and Nakia both brought homemade dressing, Blew Moon made a broccoli salad, turkey and ham were provided, and I ate my fill of pumpkin pie. The following Saturday Houston and Gail went with us to visit the Miraflores Locks at the Canal. We arrived too late to see any big ship transits but we found the museum very interesting. NY's Eve we went out for dinner with Sarana and Blew Moon on the Amador causeway after which we did a bit of bar hopping until the fireworks at midnight. We stopped to watch an impressive display of flashes across the entire city front, with the best show coming from the Milleflores.

John sold our old solar panels (two 55 watt panels in parallel) and bought a new one (130w) to replace them, which meant making mounting brackets and moving the snap apart hinges which the brackets attach to on the dodger. He also finally found an oil pressure sender right there in a fishing store on the causeway. He installed that and it tested fine on our way here to Contadora. We spent one morning inventorying our two deep storage bins under the Pullman berth to try to get rid of a few things. And last Saturday I joined four other cruisers in a trip to Happy Copy to copy charts of the South Pacific. That was quite an undertaking since we were each contributing charts to be copied but not everyone wanted copies of all the charts. Thanks to Leslie on Carina and Michelle on Warrior for keeping track of that project! My next job is to take careful inventory of all our charts to see what else we might need just in case...

We're happy to be out of the city until the end of the month when we hope to receive two new steel propane tanks on order from the U.S. We'll kick back and explore more of the Las Perlas Islands until then.

Linda and John